Q: My 26-month-old daughter will go on the potty happily every hour when told — we’re using your “potty bell,” and it’s working extremely well — and produces every time. As a result, she’s having very few, if any, wee incidents. However, we still have to catch her before an impending bowel movement — she usually begins releasing gas — and rush to get her to the potty. She will sit and poop on the potty, but at day care (three days a week), they can't watch her every second; therefore, she often poops in her pants there. How can I can get her to tell us when she needs to go poop?
A: You're not describing a problem; rather, you're describing a process that some kids "get" more quickly than others. Eventually, but only if you don't make a big deal of this — in other words, only if you don’t slip into anxiety and impatience — your daughter is going to get it.
The good news is, she's cooperating with you as opposed to resisting. That means you're doing everything right and just need to hang in there, keep on keepin' on and all that. In that regard, I’m glad to hear that you’re using the potty bell, because that’s going to help your daughter begin anticipating her need to use the potty and establish good potty habits.
For the new reader, the potty bell is simply a timer that the parent sets to go off at 60- to 90-minute intervals. When it goes off, the parent simply tells the child — authoritatively, mind you — “There’s the potty bell. That means you need to go sit on the potty and wee or poop. Tell me when you’re done.” Using the potty bell usually circumvents any resistance the child might otherwise muster.
Two suggestions. First, at this age, or by this age, usually, a child is pooping fairly reliably at around the same time or times every day, usually 15–30 minutes after a meal and/or 30 minutes after waking up in the morning. If that's true of your daughter, then set the potty bell to ring on that schedule. Anticipate! Be proactive, but be careful not to begin micromanaging.
Second, once you’re over the hump at home, this new skill should transfer quickly to day care, but they ought to be anticipating her bowel movements as well. I bet they take place right after lunch or snack.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions at his website, www.parentguru.com.