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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 14, 2009

Toilet-training child requires patience


By Monica Quock Chan

In countries like Mongolia, infants are encouraged to do it. In other places, like China, kids are allowed to run around naked to speed up the process. One popular American book advocates throwing a party for the child. Meanwhile, pediatricians recommend waiting until the keiki themselves are ready and willing.

Yes, it's none other than potty training. The panic usually starts when parents realize their diaper-clad toddler is required to be toilet trained by preschool. Most children meet the deadline, but there are bound to be plenny soiled clothes, creative cajoling and patience-building moments between now and then.

At 20 months, our firstborn was showing signs of readiness. Encouraged by our own parents, who had trained us early on, we began the process.

Popping our daughter onto the toilet insert, my husband and I realized that the seat was still too wide. My mom then relayed how I had actually fallen into the toilet when they were training me. It was time to invest in a floor potty.

As for rewards (aka bribery), we had heard that M&Ms achieve wonders, but were worried about starting a sweet tooth. Stickers worked for a week. Eventually she responded well simply to praise.

At 26 months, baby brother was born, and progress diminished. Grandmama stepped in to the rescue, even taking a photo of our daughter standing proudly next to a bowel movement. Was Grandpoppy ever surprised when he reviewed the photos on his digital camera.

Our daughter soon mastered No. 2, but No. 1 still required vigilance. (Parents are instructed to respond to accidents with a calm, "That's OK; we'll try again," but I wonder what they really say when their toddler states with conviction, "I no need go potty!" then soils his or her clothes for the third time that day.)

Our discussions with other families began to center around shi-shi, doo-doo, and related topics we wouldn't have dreamed of talking about pre-parenthood. Going out in public required us to know where the nearest restroom was at all times, various conversations interrupted by literal potty runs, and a change of clothes (or several). Finally, at nearly three years of age, the training was almost complete.

Now we're preparing for the final step: keeping dry at night. It's once again time to ready the laundry machine, and realize that the key to this, as with so many aspects of parenting, is patience, patience, patience.