Imagine yourself in the body and the mind of your potty-going child. Your child’s inner world looks and feels very different from the one you know. Sometimes your child gets all mixed up. Sometimes his head knows what’s right while his body is doing the opposite.
Accidents are likely when your child is busy. Your Potty Weekend was finely focused on potty-going behavior. Your child had on-going reminders. The entire day revolved around making pottying fun and easy. Now, real life adds hundreds of distractions – an interesting video, a bug he’s never seen before, or the last bite of a cookie. Young children have difficulty stopping whatever it is they are doing, even if that thing will be waiting there when they return. It isn’t rational but it’s the way children think.
Accidents are likely when something is different than expected – dad uses different words when he gives a potty reminder, the potty chair is in the wrong place, or your child is startled by the dog. Your child shifts his intellectual and emotional focus to comprehend the changes and whoops…he forgot what he seemed to know so well.
Accidents also happen because your child has an immature sense of time – how long will it take to finish something, how long will it take to get to the potty, how long will it take to take off clothes. Potty-age children frequently underestimate time.
The reasons for accidents are as numerous as hours in the day. It’s a wonder children ever manage with all the possibilities. Your child may be sick or in a bad mood. You may be sick or in a bad mood. Using the potty might seem such a bother today.
Whatever the reason, accidents happen. Expect them.
What should I do when my child has a potty accident?
What do you want people to say to you when you make a mistake? “Why did you do that – you know better!” “That’s it, lady – no birthday party for you!” “I told you that would happen!” Blame and humiliation are counter-productive in potty training. Negative emotions discourage future success and prevent your child from finding a better alternative.
Your child still needs you as a supportive partner keeping her focused on her goal. You want your child to be a potty pro – resourceful when faced with the unexpected, motivated despite obstacles, adaptable in imperfect conditions.
1. Check your emotions before you speak or act. You may be tired, discouraged, frustrated, angry, confused, desperate, worried, and just plain over-it. It’s okay – you’re normal. Hold that thought and call your potty-support friend later. You’re entitled to complain and scream a little, just not at your child. Your child cannot and will not learn while you’re in an emotional state.
2. State the situation in neutral terms for your child. Simply describe what happened. For example, if you’re out shopping and see your child standing in a puddle with a nervous look on his face, you can say “I didn’t know you needed to use a potty.” This helps your child focus on what happened instead of any negative emotions. Keep in mind – your child literally may not know “what just happened”. He hasn’t processed it yet. He’s wet, physically uncomfortable, possibly embarrassed, and is wishing he could close his eyes and make it all go away.
3. Find a solution. Problem solving aloud helps your child become a problem solver too. “Let’s find a bathroom where we can change your clothes. Not to worry, I always bring extra clothes for you just in case we need them.” Or, “We don’t have extra clothes with us today. That’s okay; we’ll drive home to get some.” Sometimes, even the all-wise, all-knowing parent has no idea what to do. Here’s your chance to be a truly great role-model. When in doubt, stall. Just say, “Hmmm, I wonder what we should do now?” Let the world stop around you until you think of something.
4. Be positive. Leave your child with the hope that he can be successful. Let him know you are confidant that he will succeed too. Laughter is also powerful medicine for mistakes – just be sure you laughing with, not at, your child.