You Can Lead a Toddler to a Potty…

My three-year-old daughter has just started using the potty. We’ve been inviting her to try it for over a year-and-a-half, but she’s just starting to take to it. She was willing to sit, wipe, and flush, but wouldn’t release anything. She’d even started changing her own poopy diapers, including dumping the poop into the toilet, wiping herself (including her knees which often got dirty during the diaper removal), and attempting to put Desitin on herself. I’d go to try to help her, and she’d say, “I did it already!”
I’ve wondered over the past few years whether I was screwing up somehow waiting so long for her to potty train. There’s so much pressure sometimes to “do” parenting. If I’m not telling the kids what to do, actively teaching them something, or reading to them, I feel like I’m slacking off as a mom. I know that it’s good for them to play independently, and it’s good for them to have space and time to figure things out for themselves, but my anxiety always makes me uncomfortable sitting back, waiting, and letting things happen.My anxiety also makes me extremely ineffective at actually doing parenting when I try. I’ve tried in the past to encourage my daughter to use the potty before, letting her run around in underwear or naked, but then I kept getting stressed out that when she’d sit on the potty she wouldn’t release anything. I couldn’t just accept that this was part of the process, and it was okay for this part to take awhile.Knowing that I get stressed out when I try to get my kids to do something new makes me really unwilling sometimes to even try. My son is six years old, and is not reading or writing as well as some of his friends. I try to work more with him, but I’m afraid to do it more than a couple of times per week because if I try to do it more often than that, I start to get stressed out, he starts to get stressed out, and we’re both kind of a mess, which I figure is pretty unproductive.

I confess that I will go out of my way to try to prevent my kids from complaining. This seems like a really passive way of parenting, and maybe my kids will end up being somewhat spoiled for it, but I know that if I hear a lot of whining, especially if I’m already tired, I’m likely to overreact, yelling louder and longer than necessary, and possibly getting physically rough. I’m terrified of hurting my kids, even though I’ve never done anything that would probably be considered child abuse. I’m just afraid of the power I have being bigger than my kids, being the authority figure, and not being in control of my emotions every second of the day.

I guess that’s one of the many challenges we have as parents. How much do we lead our kids to new experiences, how much do we let them take their time, and how do we accept whatever the results are? There are so many stupid charts about children’s development and when they’re supposed to achieve milestones. I’m more afraid of damaging my kids’ feelings of self-worth than whether they read or write at grade level. Maybe that means my kids won’t go to Harvard (I hope not, that place is expensive), but hopefully my kids will feel empowered enough to figure out what they want to do, how to get what they want, and be confident that they’re wonderful people who matter.

How do you balance helping your kids learn with letting them figure things out for themselves?

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4 thoughts on “You Can Lead a Toddler to a Potty…

  1. misia17 July 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm Reply

    The best advise I’ve seen on this subject was in the blog The Daddy Complex: (warning: not child-friendly language included).

    “Latest Parenting Trend: The CTFD Method

    I know many people want to stay current with the latest parenting trends—attachment parenting, minimalist parenting, Tiger Mother parenting, et al. Well, I’ve stumbled upon a new technique that will guarantee your child grows up to be an exemplary student and citizen. It’s called CTFD, which stands for “Calm The Fuck Down.” And that’s not a message to give your kids. It’s for you.

    Using CTFD assures you that — whichever way you choose to parent — your child will be fine (as long as you don’t abuse them, of course). To see it in action, here are some sample parenting scenarios and how CTFD can be employed:

    Worried your friend’s child has mastered the alphabet quicker than your child? Calm the fuck down.
    Scared you’re not imparting the wisdom your child will need to survive in school and beyond? Calm the fuck down.
    Concerned that you’re not the type of parent you thought you’d be? Calm the fuck down.
    Upset that your child doesn’t show interest in certain areas of learning? Calm the fuck down.
    Stressed that your child exhibits behavior in public you find embarrassing? Calm the fuck down.

    Yes, using the CTFD method, you’ll find the pressure lifted and realize your child loves you no matter what, even if they’ve yet to master the alphabet. You’ll also learn that whether or not you’re the best parent in the world, as long as you love your child, they’ll think you are and that’s what matters. Plus, CTFD makes you immune to those that prey upon the fears of new parents, like pseudoscientists and parenting authors.

    To use CTFD, just follow these simple steps:

    Calm the fuck down.
    There is no second step.

    So, ignore all those other parenting trends and stick to CTFD. You’ll be glad you did and so will your kid.”

    • flawson July 29, 2013 at 10:11 pm Reply

      That is the best parenting advice I have ever heard or read. Hell, that’s the best advice for living. Thank you!

  2. Shakespeare's Mom July 31, 2013 at 11:24 am Reply

    Thank you so much for your honesty in this post! I’m struggling with potty training twin two-year-olds right now and you have made me feel so much better about it. I absolutely love the last line – that you want your kids to “feel empowered enough to figure out what they want to do, how to get what they want, and be confident that they’re wonderful people who matter.” That’s what I want for my kids too, and I think that just the act of putting those desires into words shows what a caring mom you are.

    Also, the CTFD method mentioned in the previous comment is HILARIOUS. I try to be pretty laid-back in my parenting, but god knows I need a reminder sometimes!

    • flawson July 31, 2013 at 11:28 am Reply

      Wow, two kids simultaneously, you go, girl! Maybe that will work in your favor, perhaps they’ll be competitive about who does it first?

      I love the CTFD method so much, although I’m changing it a bit to CTFO, “Chill the Fuck Out.” Rolls off the tongue (in my head?) somehow.

      My six-year-old had a huge meltdown yesterday, and I wished so desperately I could tell him to CTFD. Maybe in a few years.

      Take care, and thank you so much for reading.

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