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  • Forcing Your Toddler Into Potty Training Can Wreak Havoc in His Bowel Movement

    Remember learning how to use the toilet is different for every child.
    by Rachel Perez .
Forcing Your Toddler Into Potty Training Can Wreak Havoc in His Bowel Movement
  • Having a potty-trained toddler is a milestone for both child and parent. And it becomes a point of pride for parents when it happens early on. One mom's story became viral because she started potty-training her 5-week-old baby. Vietnamese mothers do the "whisper," so their toddlers don't have to wear diapers by 9 months old. 

    Janet Lansbury, mom and early childhood expert who wrote Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting, however, says your toddler does NOT need you (or an adult) to train him to use the toilet. And before you start imagining the gruesome mess at this idea, Lansbury's point is this: Parents tend to rush their kids when it comes to the toilet learning process, one that is different for every child.

    The age of 2 is the stage when kids say "no" to everything. As Lansbury points out on her website, toddlers have "a developmentally appropriate need to resist parents."

    "If parents have an agenda around toilet training, healthy toddlers are inclined to push back, even if they might have been otherwise ready to begin using the toilet," Lansbury argued.

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    Lansbury believes that kids will eventually learn it at their own time — when they're physical, cognitively, and emotionally ready. And when is that? Lansbury cites child specialist Magda Gerber's three types of readiness: 

    • Physical — There are bladder and bowel capacity and muscle control.
    • Cognitive — Children know when they need to eliminate urine and feces and are fully aware of what they are supposed to do.
    • Emotional — Children are ready to let go of a situation they are used to and comfortable with (urinating and releasing feces into a diaper whenever they feel like it), and also let go, literally, of these waste products, which they perceive as belonging to them.

    The parent's job is to be sensitive and attuned to these cues so you can "facilitate" (not impose) his toilet learning. 

    Introducing the toilet too early can result in severe consequences. "The subtlest nudge toward the potty or being diaper-free can cause holding of urine or feces, delay toilet learning for months or even years, make toddlers feel ashamed, lead to severe constipation," Lansbury emphasized. 

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    Yes, constipation. The studies conducted by pediatric urologist Dr. Steve Hodges found that the age of toilet-training — too early or too late — could cause of constipation and lead to poop accidents. It happened to Suzanne Schlosberg, mom of twins who co-authored the book, It's No Accident, with Dr. Hodges.

    In her vlog, Suzanne says she potty trained her kids at 2 years old because she was tired of changing diapers. A year later, one of her sons was diagnosed as "severely constipated."

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    The book she co-wrote with Dr. Hodges talks about the signs of constipated she missed. They list down the following red flags: 

    • Extra large poop; very firm log-shaped or pellet-shaped poop
    • Chronic poop accidents, pee accidents or bedwetting
    • Recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) and extremely frequent and/or urgent peeing
    • Infrequent pooping or pooping more than twice a day
    • Belly pain
    • Itchy anus or poop stains
    • Toilet training troubles 

    "There is no magic age for toilet-training...You can train the child at any age as long as they're ready," Dr. Hodges said in his website video. "It's also important that we don't force potty training and treat constipation immediately when it arises," he advised. 

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    Lansbury agrees and suggests that parents let their kids lead the way to ditching diapers. Let them participate in nappy changes and other self-care routines. Toddlers love their newfound independence, so offer them choices. 

    Ask your child if he wants to wear nappies or just underwear. Observe him, and if you see that your toddler might need to free his bowels, ask him if he'd like to use the potty. Having a little potty for your child can help in case he wants to use it. Don't impose if he says no. 

    Modeling proper toilet use is also crucial. Maintaining a positive vibe towards potty-training is essential. "Never force or even coax children to use the potty," Lansbury stressed. "This sensitive and complex area of development needs to remain free and clear of power struggles," she explained. 

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