John Rosemond: Potty training isn't going well at day care

Syndicated columnistJuly 1, 2014 

John Rosemond, nationally syndicated advice columnist

Question: My 26-month-old daughter will go on the potty happily every hour when told (we're using your "potty bell," and it's working extremely well) and produces every time. As a result, she's having very few if any wee incidents. However, we still have to catch her before an impending bowel movement (she usually begins releasing gas) and rush to get her to the potty. She will sit and poop on the potty, but at day care (three days a week) they can't watch her every second, and therefore she often poops in her pants there. How can I get her to tell us when she needs to go poop?

Answer: You're not describing a problem; rather, you're describing a process that some kids "get" more quickly than others. Eventually, but only if you don't make a big deal of this — in other words, only if you don't slip into anxiety and impatience — your daughter is going to get it.

The good news is she's cooperating with you as opposed to resisting. That means you're doing everything right and just need to hang in there, keep on keepin' on, and all that. In that regard, I'm glad to hear you're using the potty bell because that's going to help your daughter begin anticipating her need to use the potty and establish good potty habits.

For the new reader, the potty bell is simply a timer that the parent sets to go off at 60- to 90-minute intervals. When it goes off, the parent simply tells the child (authoritatively, mind you), "There's the potty bell. That means you need to go sit on the potty and wee or poop. Tell me when you're done." Using the potty bell usually circumvents any resistance the child might otherwise muster.

Two suggestions:

1. At this age, or by this age, usually, a child is pooping fairly reliably about the same time or times every day, usually 15 to 30 minutes after a meal and/or 30 minutes after waking in the morning. If that's true of your daughter, then set the potty bell to ring on that schedule. Anticipate! Be proactive, but be careful not to begin micromanaging.

2. Once you're over the hump at home, this new skill should transfer quickly to day care, but they ought to anticipate her bowel movements as well. I bet they take place right after lunch or snack.

By the way, George Harrison wrote a famous song that applies to this process: All Things Must Pass. I know, bad joke. I'll try to do better next time.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website,

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