Q&A: Potty Training Problems

What to do when you and your husband have different ideas about toilet training.

Potty Linzie Hunter

Q. We're introducing our son to potty training. I'm trying to ease him into it, but my husband is really pushing it on him. He makes it a demand rather than asking if our son wants to go. And if our son does poop in his diaper, my husband makes him feel guilty. I feel I'm more realistic -- our son is only 2 1/2 -- plus I'm more informed on the subject. But I'm frustrated because my husband doesn't seem to listen to me. How can we resolve this?

A. Oh, I hear you, sister -- we're potty training our younger boy as I write. (Well, as I write, his dedicated daycare teachers are on potty patrol; my husband and I take over tonight!) And one thing I can tell you -- and that your husband needs to understand -- is that toilet training is a process. With some kids it's an overnight process. With other kids? It's a proooooooocess. The best thing you can do as a parent is to avoid, at all costs, turning it into a battle of wills. If there's one thing toddlers have in spades, it's a strong will. Sure, you will eventually win, but you'll end up bruised and bloodied by the end. Your job is to explain to your husband the whole concept of the battle of wills. Tell him that easing up on your son isn't the same as giving up and isn't tantamount to coddling. Instead, it's a new and much more effective strategy. That said, neither of you should let it go completely. Just lay off the insistence and the demands. You'll get there.

And you're right: You're not lagging behind if your 2-1/2-year-old hasn't yet fully embraced his Thomas the Tank Engine underwear. But on the other hand, that age isn't too young to train, at least not physically; you may have noticed, for example, that your son stays dry during naps and does know when he's gone. That shows you that he has some measure of control over his bladder and bowels. Your husband probably knows this and that's why he's being so impatient to close the deal. But impatience does not work. In addition to physical readiness, you need emotional readiness, which is much trickier. The kid has to want to do it. And some kids, the really stubborn ones (and I've got two of those, lucky me!), the ones who aren't necessarily people pleasers, won't potty train to make you happy.

    Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the February 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.