Parent Coaching: Potty Training Setbacks With A 5 Year OldMay 18, 2021
“… you're completely right. When we address it in the moment, it doesn't have the same impact because then all those defenses are up. So we have to address it and have this conversation outside of the incident.”
This week on the 3D Parent Podcast, I will be coaching a parent through some struggles with potty training her daughter. We will discuss some of the events leading up to this, her daughter's history with potty training, and any changes that may be relevant to this setback. Then I will help Gini develop a plan for her and her daughter to tackle this struggle in a way that will allow her daughter to master this skill on her own.
Some topics we will go over include:
- The two main reasons children struggle with mastering potty training
- The two most common stressors in a child's life
- Ways to help remove the guilt and shame around accidents and how to create a plan to help your child master going to the bathroom on their own
I hope this episode is helpful for anyone with a child that is struggling to learn to use the bathroom on their own. Please reach out if you have any further questions!
Things You Will Learn
[0:56] Before we dive deep into the episode, I just asked Gini to give us a bit of a background into herself and her family. On today’s episode we are going to be diving into the history of her current parent struggle, identify the root cause and come up with some solutions for her to try.
[3:13] The topic Gini has brought for today’s coaching session, is her five and a half year old daughter has started having potty accidents, both urine and bowel movements, for approximately 2 months now, and she is just stumped on how to help her daughter work through this.
[5:00] Initially this was super frustrating for Gini, especially since potty training took so long initially with her daughter, so things they have tried going back to has been sticker charts, and giving her a treats if she makes it 5 days, but the longest she has gone without an accident is 2 days. They have tried letting her clean herself up, without really having a reaction to the accident, and that doesn’t seem to have an effect on her. Some other things to note is she recently started in a Spanish immersion school, so her teacher only speaks to her in Spanish, and the longest stretch she has gone without having accidents is approximately 4 months. The regressions seem to happen fairly frequently.
[11:57] As Gini and I chatted, I found Gini to be very insightful as to why her daughter might be struggling with staying consistent in mastering potty training. As Gini pointed out, there has been a lot of change in only the past 3 years, they’ve moved a few times and they had a new baby. Outside of a sudden death or illness of a family member, the two biggest stressor for children are a new sibling and a move.
[12:59] There are really only two main causes as to why a child may be struggling with mastering potty training. The first is a physiological cause, so a UTI or constipation, which can actually be very confusing. The second is the behavioral or psychological aspect.
[13:42] First, it is a good idea to address the physiological aspect and just have a discussion with your pediatrician regarding the accidents and let them rule out any physiological issues that may be contributing to this. A staggering statistic actually shows 88% of children with constipation do not show obvious signs. They may still be having bowel movements every day, but not completely emptying, which can lead to pee and poop accidents due to the pressure on the bladder.
[19:03] The first thing I would encourage you to do is apologize for the times when you’ve gotten frustrated with your daughter. I would encourage you do this at a time you’re feeling really bonded with her, and just make what I like to call a “no buts” apology. And after that, I would encourage you to “touch the bruise,” because even though your daughter is putting up a front and pretending like these accidents aren’t bothering her, they are. So just acknowledge that this is hard for her, and then you can empathize with her and approach this from a team perspective to work together to make this better.
[21:59] It is best to address this issue, or issues like this, that may be embarrassing for your child, outside of the actual incident. And address it in private, when it is just the two of you hanging out. By preserving her dignity, you are allowing her the opportunity to open up and be more vulnerable and communicate openly with you.
[23:07] The next step is sit down with your daughter and make a plan of action to work through the situation. This is really good to get her involved in, so sit with a sheet of paper and just brainstorm some ideas. Ideally, this plan should involve something she can execute independently so you don’t need to constantly be involved, and her buy in with this is key!
[25:00] Part of making this plan will involve normalizing accidents. Build accidents into the plan so she can feel prepared in case they happen and make sure the plan is again, something she can do pretty independently. This may look like creating a small changing station in one of your rooms. Lay an extra set of clothes out for her and walk her through the process. Then tell her to report back to you regarding her accidents, and reassure her it is okay, she isn’t going to get in trouble for having an accident, but you need to work together to figure out what is causing the accidents.
[26:47] The next thing you want to do, and you want to share this with your child, is keep a log of her accidents and see if there are any patterns to her accidents. Gini mentioned that a lot of her accidents seem to happen at school, so she came up with a quick plan to discuss the situation with the teacher and provider her with a small bag she can keep in her desk that she can grab and take with her to the bathroom if she needs to change.
[32:16] I also just want to provide some general rules of thumb when it comes to accidents. First, punishments are a big no no. There have actually been studies done that show punishing accidents may cause more accidents.
[32:40] Gini had a great question about punishment versus consequences and where do they fall on the spectrum. I do think there are things I would call natural consequences, so because she is having accidents we have to do laundry more frequently so she will have to help with that more frequently. However, telling her she has to start doing the laundry herself is more of a punishment. We really want to work to maintain that team element, so we don’t want to necessarily add more tasks for her to do, but help her realize this is going to happen more frequently.
[37:50] Interestingly enough, rewards for ongoing issues like this that have long-term goals in mind, actually have the same effect punishments do on the outcome, so they will actually lead to more accidents. This can actually lend itself to kids training themselves to numb themselves because they are constantly dealing with disappointment and frustration of not getting that reward. Rewards can also lend themselves to a power struggle.
[41:06] The last piece of this puzzle, once you have everything in place at home and at school, the final piece of this is for you, the mom, to back off. I know this is way easier said than done, but it is so important that you give your child the opportunity to learn to master this for herself, and that means that even on days when there are accidents and she doesn’t tell you, you need to let her start to navigate this herself.
Aha Parenting: 4 Year Old Having Potty Accidents
It's No Accident: Breakthrough Solutions to Your Child's Wetting, Constipation, UTIs, and Other Potty Problems by Dr. Steve Hodges
Quotes From Episode 18
“Anytime that you overstepped or made a wrong move, take responsibility. This is so great in terms of modeling to your child what it is like to actually take, you know, apologize and make amends in a way that's not conditional and feels good and very connecting and bonding.”
“Beaven: And what's your what's your gut? Knowing your child, why do you think she might be hiding it or lying about it?
Gini: My original reaction would be to say that because she doesn't want to take care of it. But it probably actually is more that she's embarrassed to talk about it after all. It is uncomfortable and she may be experiencing a little bit of fear, of kind of feeling embarrassed or maybe fear of punishment or fear that I'm going to get mad.”
“ … you're completely right. When we address it in the moment, it doesn't have the same impact because then all those defenses are up. So we have to address it and have this conversation outside of the incident.”
“I talk about on my podcast when we're parenting to look at our kids with a degree of curiosity. Almost like a scientist would be observing a test subject. That's also a similar kind of way in which you want to kind of approach this with your daughter …”
Let's work together! I provide 1:1 support for parents motivated to make positive changing in their parenting and gain confidence and increase fulfillment in their role as parents. If this sounds like it might be what you've been looking for, book a free consultation today.
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from The 3D Parent.