Thursday, December 29, 2011

Potty Training, Take 1

Potty training is one of those huge milestones that every mother looks forward to, but at the same time also dreads.  I know I am not looking forward to it.  Yes, diapers are not fun, but neither is leaving your house with your child wondering if they are going to have an accident at any minute, running to find the nearest public bathroom only to have them touch every germy thing in site. "Agh, don't touch that toilet seat!"

And since I have not even begun with my 19 month old child yet, I know it will be an ongoing issue that I'm sure I will be re-addressing again and again.  This is why this post is a 'Take 1' because there will without a doubt be a 'Take 2' blog post coming soon!

As moms, we all wonder: "What age should I start potty training?",  "What method do I choose?"  "Do I use the reward system with M and M's?" and gender issues such as "do I teach my little boy to potty standing up or sitting down?"

As moms we want our children to be done with the diapers for ease, cost and to move on to the next developmental milestone.  But also because preschools out there are requiring a child to be potty trained before they can enter their program.  So moms frantically run to the book store to find the best method, only to find over a hundred different books (parenting and children's) on the topic and no idea which one is the best.

As a counselor, the only thing I have ever recommended to my clients on the topic is this: Don't start them too early! They will tell you when they are ready and do not push them into it a day sooner.

Yes, there are those stories you hear of 18-month old children potty training completely.  Or those children who were trained in 1 day.  Or you hear moms tell you to try cloth diapers because children feel how wet they are more than disposable ones and will want to be trained sooner.  Well, my child is in cloth diapers and I am here to tell you she is not potty trained yet.  Yes, she knows when she has sometimes gone, but she is no where near ready to be diaper free!

As far as age goes, most recommend starting girls around 2.5 years and boys around age 3.  But these are averages.  Some before and some later.  But most are trained and dry-free around these times.  If your child is developmentally delayed in any way (speech, motor, physical, social) then it may take longer.

What's so bad about starting a little sooner?

Well, for one you will be met with a lot of resentment :)  I've heard one too many stories of stubborn toddlers not wanting to comply at first and then it is a huge uphill battle from then on.  It can backfire like no tomorrow.  They refuse and then you don't have a fully trained child until age 4 or 5.

Another problem with starting too early comes from the old Dr. Freud term 'anal retentive'?  Yep, it came from potty training and even though this doctor is ancient in his ways, it still holds a lot of truth.  Maybe they won't all end up with Obsessive Compulsive personalities but children forced to train too early know that their only power at times is not going to the bathroom (second to refusing to eat food).  They have little control over their lives, but gosh darn it, they can still refuse to poop if they don't want to.  Holding it in and then getting constipated and ending up at the doctors office.  Not fun for mom or child :)

One other thing to be cautious of is that some children develop fears of going to the bathroom.  Fears of pooping scare them.  Some also become afraid that they will fall into the toilet so they avoid using the grown up potty.

Also, remember that when you start training, any big things going on at home such as the birth of a new sibling or a move to a new house can cause set backs.  If you start training your child and then have a huge new event in their lives, they will regress and forget everything they learned. I've heard this happen a lot (and not just potty training regressing but they can revert back to thumb sucking and pacifiers).

Case in point, it happened to one little girl I used to nanny for.  Her mom wanted her trained before the next sibling was born, and who can blame her?  So she bought the training in One Day book and it was a success at age 2!  She was happily trained, but then her baby sister come home from the hospital a few weeks later, and back to diapers she went.  It took another 6 months before she was fully trained again.

Okay, now that I've had my soap box, what method do you choose as a parent?

Well, I am not an expert in the matter, but I know that most methods generally fall under 3 categories: The one day method, the wait until the time is right method and the 'let them run around bare a few weeks until they get it method.'  I personally think that you should go with whatever method fits you and your child.  As long as it works and it doesn't put too much pressure on the little tot.

Method # 1) The One-Day Method

This book was written a long time ago, so it may be a little out dated but there are lots of parents who still swear by it and other books by the title exist as well.  It involves getting a doll that wets to teach your child how to go, as well as giving treats.  I've heard mixed reviews but would definitely read the ones on Amazon first to see if it's worth it to you.

Method # 2) The most common method in North America is 'Wait Until The Time is Right' and the main book on the topic is by Dr. Brazelton (he wrote the famous Touchpoints book).

This method (and this book in particular), stresses that age is not the deciding factor, but developmental readiness.  It also has a checklist to go by so it takes out the guesswork of wondering if your child is ready or not.  It is a slower approach and uses a calm, empathic manner with your child. It also has gender specific issues like should your little boy learn to sit down to urinate or stand?

Method # 3) Going Diaper Free

This is one of the newer methods that is a variation to the old 1970's approaches from the first method of training in one day.  It basically involves having your child be diaper free while at home, watching and waiting for your child to show the need to go.  Once they act like they need to go, you whisk them to the potty and praise them for going.  To read more about it, Baby Center has a great article about it here.

Okay, so I think that about sums it up.  Any one out there have great advice on the topic???  There are also a lot of great children's books out there and videos that will have to be in another post.  For now, here's a starter that I bought as a joke in college but believe it or not, it's one of my daughter's favorite books to read! Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Special Needs Toys

I came across a really great review of toys for Special Needs kids on the Time To Play Mag website today.  I know, Christmas is only 4 days away (and Hanukkah is going on as we speak) so not a whole lot of time to shop for these.  But they are great ideas for future gifts, birthday party gifts and for those times when you just want to give because you're feeling giving :)

They are great for those with decreased motor skills, sensory integration disorders, pervasive developmental disorders (Autism, Aspergers, PDD NOS), and other special need little ones.





Sunday, December 18, 2011

Identifying Feelings

With Christmas around the corner, it's not too late to get your little one a last minute gift- a feelings gift that is.  I know, I know, I posted my favorite feelings gift idea last year, but my child has finally reached the age where tracking feelings is actually something she is acknowledging now and it's so exciting to start teaching her all about them!


How do you start with the whole 'identifying feelings' lesson? Let's start with a feelings lesson first and then talk about how to teach them with toys.

In teaching your child feelings, you can start at any age, even if your child is 10, it's not too late.  I started with my child around 6 months of age, but it was here and there.  Now that my child is 19 months old, she is really starting to understand them!

My first 'ah-ha' feeling moment with my child was during her bath time the other night.  She had learned how to take her bath toy, and put it under water and then squirt the water out of it's mouth when she squeezed it.  She was giggling so hard at her new found skill!  So I tracked her feeling, "you are sooo happy, you are laughing out loud!"

And that my friends is how you track feelings. See how easy that was?

As a goal during graduate school training, my professors taught us to track a feeling at least every 5 minutes in our 45 minute sessions.  So in normal every day life, it's become an easy habit of mine to use with children and it actually is one of the easiest techniques to learn as a parent too.  It's so easy because you're not having to come up with good response to their questions, sum up their play, make statements to increase their self esteem, set a limit, etc.  You are basically stating what feeling you see. And that's it!

Here is the step by step guide on how to do it:

-Observe your child in their everyday routine such as: play, doing homework, interacting with their friends or siblings

-State exactly what you see them doing and name the feeling you see

-No need to explain, or go into detail about how you came up with the idea.  Just state what you see.

-If your child is young and is not sure what a feeling means, you can go ahead and teach them what it means. I'll give you some examples below.

-If your child is older, they may challenge you and say you are wrong about the feeling. If that happens, go ahead and admit you were wrong and state the feeling they said they were feeling.  When children do this, it shows feelings are personal and sometimes people get them wrong, plus it starts them getting to identify their own feelings!

*Remember that in teaching feelings, to make sure they get the message that it's okay to feel all feelings (even anger and sadness).  What is not okay is the behavior that can come with them such as aggressiveness, etc.

Here are some examples:

"You just threw your toy on the floor.  It looks like you are feeling mad right now."

"I see a smile on your face, you are feeling really happy!"

"When you jump up and down and laugh, it shows how excited you are"

For a young child in teaching them about them: "You are crying because your dropped your toy and it broke and you feel sad now.  Sad is a feeling we feel when we cry or when things break, and we are not feeling happy."

A great way to start teaching your children about feelings are the Kimochi dolls.  We have the cloud and the ladybug.  But they have several others to choose from that can represent different feelings. They each come with a little feeling doll that has a picture of the feeling face as well as the word on the back of it.

The ladybug doesn't like change and comes with the feelings: Happy, Brave and Left Out.  The cloud has a head that spins around where one side is smiling and the other is frowning and comes with happy, mad and sad. The huggtopus is an octopus that teaches boundaries and comes with frustrated, happy and silly.  The cat deals with negative feelings (cat fights) and comes with happy, cranky and curious as well as bandages to heal hurt feelings.  You can also buy a bag of extra feelings to use with your stuffed kimochi.

There are a ton of ways to use the kimochis in play. The toys come with a 48 page book on all the different ways to use them with your child.  If you're deciding on which one to buy, I would start with the Cloud first as it's pretty neutral and cute.  You can show children the feelings it comes with, discuss what they mean and how some people stuff feelings inside and don't let them out, while you physically put them in the Cloud's pocket.

In using the Kimochi, with older kids you can ask them to role play situations with each feeling, put on a puppet show, etc.  With younger kids, you can ask them each day to show on the Cloud what feeling they are feeling now, show them how moods change by moving its head around to show the different faces.  With little tots who are not as verbal, you can ask them to show you how they are feeling at the moment since it has the expression on each feeling doll.

I am so excited to start using this with my little girl!

Here are some of my other favorite feelings toys/books:
This feelings chart Mood Swings (amazon) is a flip chart where you can ask your child to choose how they are feeling that day.  I love having it set out on my desk at home:

My favorite feelings story is Today I Feel Silly (amazon) . It's a cute story of a little girl (but little boys will also enjoy this book), and each page shows all the different moods she feels. The last page has a picture of her face and a scrolling wheel that changes her facial expressions.

There is also a book called The Feelings Book which is a cute board book with funny faces and silly situations like "I feel silly and want to eat pizza" kind of pages. It's more for younger kids and is a fun way to introduce feelings.

This last feelings toy is an old game for older kids called The Ungame (amazon) where the playing cards have questions about feelings, life situations and family issues:

Another great resource for books and materials is on  They have a lot of books on individual feelings if you are needing something specific for your child.

Let me know any ideas of how you've been teaching your littles about feelings.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Toddlers love transitional objects, pacifiers, blankets, stuffed animals, or even something like a wooden spoon.  Transitional objects are otherwise known as 'lovies', 'blankies' or my favorite term for them from the movie Mr. Mom, 'woobies.'  I think this stage of loving on an object is adorable.  Now, I know some of you out there may think they are not so cute when your child demands them 24/7 and will not leave the house without it and if they leave it somewhere, screams bloody murder until you drive all over town to get it.

But they are great soothers.  They may not go to bed without it, and may need it to soothe them when they are upset or when their mommy and daddy are not around and they need something to comfort them.

Toddlers and children need that little object to get them through the rough spots.  And I personally think they are great ways to help them soothe themselves.  After all, it's not that different from adults needing a cigarette or biting their nails when they get stressed.  Or, how about the soothing feeling we get from a warm cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) every morning or relaxing with a glass of wine after a long day.  Or for me, a nice spa pedicure!  We all have self-soothing objects or rituals that help us cope, just like our toddlers and children do too.

My child currently loves her little blankets which she carries around with her everywhere.  And when we are reading her stories before bedtime, the minute she gets her little blankie in her hands, she rubs it over her face and is already half asleep.  I swear they are like magic in getting her ready for bed!  I have tried to get her to love on a stuffed animal so I gave her my old one, and I am of course convinced she loves it as much as I did, but so far not so much. She hugs on it, but doesn't notice when it's gone.  We're working on it :)

And what about the dreaded paci's?  We have limited our child with having it only during sleep, or when she is upset from getting hurt, or the occasional card ride where she won't stop crying and it's the only thing that will calm her down.  Our pediatrician said they are okay to have until around age 2, then to start weaning her from it.  I guess we may have to go the Paci Fairy route when the time comes :)

And since it's the holiday season, what better time than to search online to find some great lovie objects for your little one:

Bernhardt Bears: (White, pink and blue options, 27.99$ on Amazon):

North American Bear has some really cute options for Lovies with 20 different animal choices such as dogs, monkeys and elephants (11.99$ at Amazon):

Or if your child is into soft minkie fabric blankets, here is one by Swaddle Designs (17.83$):

And if your child is like me and a stuffed animal lover, here is a super soft Gund animal (Amazon 10.99$):

How about your kids, what object is your child attached to??
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Testing Limits

Lately my little Toddler has been testing limits with me big time.  Every time she does it, I am reminded by the lesson my old grad school professors taught me:

"Children will test more limits (aka 'act out') with their parents more than with anyone else"


Because they feel safest with their parents to test limits.

I remember back during my days as a babysitter, the parents would come home from their nice evening out and hear how wonderful their children behaved and wonder how on earth their holy terrors did not fight with each other or have a major meltdown.  They would complain to me all the time how perfect their little ones were with me or their grandparents, but when they were with them, they were constantly arguing, bickering and throwing tantrums left and right.

I was always explaining that kids act out more around their parents because they felt safer to do so, and they would get this look on their faces like, "oh, well, that's nice but it still makes it hard to deal with EVERY day."

My child will have her mini meltdowns with me but when I leave her with family, they tell me she was just perfect. Hmm.  Sounds familiar.  And I am crossing my fingers that when my child starts smiling and tries to bite me when she doesn't get what she wants, that she only does that with me and doesn't attempt it at her Mother's Day Out.  So far, no reports of biting, so it makes me think she is seriously testing the limits with me.

And to top it all off, tonight during my counseling group session with my 4-7 year olds, they were testing limits with me all over the place. I was having to set some 'final limits' too which I never have to do.

Things like, "if you choose to paint on the floor again, then you choose to put the paints up for the rest of the day."  And the little girl looks at me, smiles and starts painting on the floor as she watches me, just to see what I would do. Nice, huh? I set the final limit and I had to take the paints away from her.

Let's just say she was not happy, but I went home realizing that the playroom is normally a safe place for these kids to play.  Play therapists set very little rules in the playrooms, which allows children to freely express themselves as much as possible.  Just a few rules to protect them from getting hurt or hurting the toys like throwing them against the wall, etc.

So I realized that after a few weeks of the children being shy as the new ones in group, they are now starting to feel safe and test the limits.  It's hard constantly setting the limits, but I know I am teaching them appropriate boundaries and most importantly. I am following through and being consistent with them, which shows that a big grown-up adult cares!

What to do with your children at home?  Just keep setting limits as you have, follow through, be consistent and be grateful that they feel safe enough to test you.  After all, that is how children learn.  They have to learn right and wrong from us and what better teachers than their parents :)