Thursday, November 05, 2009

The wide, wide highway

My parenting philosophy lies somewhere between child-led development and my way or the highway. I know that sounds pretty extreme so let me give you an example.

Potty training started out great for Danny. We were pretty hands off about it ... just let him run around naked this summer and put the little potty out where he could find it. He got it quickly, initiating potty visits, removing his own clothes, teaching himself to go standing up and even getting out of bed at night to go. And he never soiled himself. Ever. Then the accidents started about the same time Danny hit a wickedly defiant streak. I backed off, but was quite anxious (read: REALLY PISSED OFF) about the setback. It still seems like a pretty huge backslide to me. About a week ago, I suggested that Danny go try and poop. He said no, but I gently insisted since he was making, um, noises. He sat and declared "No poopy." We went back to cleaning the playroom. He then stood there and pooped in his Pull Up right in front of me.


It dawned on me then that he knew exactly what he was doing. It wasn't a matter of being distracted and forgetting. This was behavioral and it was time to set down some very clear and strict expectations. Everyone says punishment shouldn't be used for potty training and many of you will disagree with me on this. But we've started yanking privileges when he soils himself. The first time we explained this to him, he hung his head and solemnly and sadly repeated, "No George." We told him no TV, no Curious George because he soiled himself. An accident at the park this week meant we had to leave right away and, no, we would not be getting that free Harris Teeter balloon I had promised. We still reward and praise for dry days and quietly discourage wet accidents, though we've had very few in the past week. It would be different if he hadn't already shown us he could and would use the potty.

Once the kids reach certain milestones, it's often hard to tell whether we did something to cause the breakthrough or if it was just a confluence of the right time and tactic. It would be really nice to know so that I could conserve energy.

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