Ways to Foster Honesty through Conversation

Listen to your kids

Listen to your kids (Photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi)

Good Afternoon and Happy Halloween,

So many newsworthy events have been happening lately.  The East Coast weather is on everyone’s mind, the elections are in their final days, and the holidays are just around the corner.  These three things don’t usually have much in common, but as I started thinking about this week’s post all three came to mind for the same reason: talking to your kids honestly.  There are numerous situations where you just wish your kids would stop asking questions, or you hope that they don’t notice something, or you thought they had forgotten about a certain topic.  Unfortunately, this is not usually the case.  Today I would like to offer strategies that help you talk to your kids in a comfortable way when you are in an uncomfortable situation.

Communication During a Crisis

The goal of communication during a crisis situation is get the most information out with the least amount of effort.  There are dozens of different types of crisis situations.  You may have time to prepare and plan, or you may have to act at a moment’s notice.  Being mentally prepared can help in all crisis situations.

  • Talk in an assertive but non-threatening way using the simplest words possible.
  • Keep your voice at the lowest volume possible when giving directions.
  • Give directions in short clips instead of a long train.
  • Give information about the situation that is honest and to the point.
  • Allow your kids to tell you their feelings and ask questions, if there is time.
  • Identify with their emotions in yourself, “I am also feeling scared.”
  • Give them honest reassurance.
  • Model behavior that shows leadership and logic

Communication about Adult Matters

Kids are smart and curious.  They want to know about the goings-on in their parents lives.  Over the past several months there has been lots of conversations about the elections, the economy, women’s rights, finances, health care, etc.  Kids are barraged with ads on TV, mail at the house, conversations they overhear, and billboards all over town.  It is not surprising to me that they are interested and curious to know more about these topics.

  • Decide what information is appropriate for your child to know.
  • Allow them to ask questions in an environment that is non-judgmental and honest.
  • Allow them to have opinions that differ from yours.
  • Ask them follow up questions to further the conversation.
  • Talk about adult topics in simple ways.
  • Relate information back to their personal experiences like earning an allowance, being sick and seeking medical care, incentives that are important to them, etc.
  • Talk to them about what it means to be president and how our country is different from other countries in this way.
  • Encourage conversations about character and what it means to be a leader.
  • Practice the, “no thanks,” conversation to have with phone and door-to-door solicitors.

Communication around the Holidays

Holiday time is usually very stressful.  Tension and anxiety are high, positive communication breaks down and behavior tends to follow.  Lots of families have had a tough year financially.  Hosting guests for the holidays and the spirit of giving can add to the feeling of being overwhelmed.  Having a plan in place to talk to your kids about these things now can save you time and frustration later.

  • Talk to them about budgets and money.
  • Reinforce behavior with conversations and reminders of expectations.
  • Practice conversation starters to use with guests as well as follow-up questions.
  • Practice honest ways to show appreciation towards others, especially in uncomfortable situations.
  • If you give to charities, talk to your kids about why you choose that charity and why it is important to give to others.
  • Start conversations about family traditions, what they mean, and how they got started.

Building a relationship with your kids that is both open and honest is a huge job.  What it boils down to is showing what honesty looks like through your actions towards them and others.  Kids are going to ask lots of questions either way, having those questions directed towards you is the goal.

I would love to hear from you! 

  1. How do you teach your kids about honesty?
  2. What are some situations where you felt you did or did not handle the conversation correctly?
  3. How do you mentally prepare for uncomfortable conversations?

Also, I have started an account on Pinterest just for my readers.  I invite you to check it out and follow me as I add helpful pins for all areas of parenting.

Good Luck,

Katherine

First Day Back

Good Morning,
For many kids, this week marks the first day back to school, the end of summer, and the return to a schedule.  For me, this week marks my return to this blog.  Over the past several months I have taken a break from writing.  While there were many reasons for the hiatus, mainly I was burned out and wanted to pursue other ideas I had regarding my business.  Now, the time has come for me to get back into the swing of things and return to writing.  I will not be posting everyday, as that is what killed me last time, but I will be posting bi-weekly.  I have lots of topics I want to cover so let’s get started!

Going back to school is tough.  We have created a giant ritual around back to school.  To me it is like a volcano churning until just the right moment.  Shopping for new supplies and clothes, getting classroom assignments, and figuring out which classes friends are in.  The whole thing is tough.  There is so much physical, mental, and emotional effort that goes into the ritual that by the time school actually starts you’re exhausted.

Let me offer a few tips to make this time of year more enjoyable for everyone.

  • Plan ahead (seems obvious, but it is the first to be forgotten)
  • Get your kids to help (make lunches, pick out clothes, etc.)
  • Plan for problems (allow extra time and be mentally ready)
  • Make lists (for everyone in the house)
  • Get enough rest/down time
  • Make a schedule and stick to it
  • Get excited with them
  • Jump right in!

Now that you are somewhat ready for the chaos of back-to-school, look for more ideas on academic motivation, building a routine that works, and getting a head start on holiday preparations in the weeks to come.

Good Luck,

Katherine

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Traveling with Kids

Kid on a leash

Image by cote via Flickr

Note:  This week I will be re-posting two blogs.  I feel that the topics covered will especially help families during the Thanksgiving holiday.  See below for the second post.  I’ll be resuming my posts next week.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Morning,

With the holidays approaching, I think now is a good time to start the discussion about traveling with your family.  Many people know that Thanksgiving travel is the busiest of the year, and with the holidays and crazy travel come a mountain of stress.  It is well worth the extra time upfront to gain confidence and control on the back-end.

Plan ahead
The weeks leading up to your travel are the most important planning period.  Getting laundry ready, snacks bought or prepared, deciding on luggage, and setting out all the things you will need are essential for a low-stress, successful trip.  Make lists to help you remember who is taking what and in which suit case.  Write down everything so that nothing is left or overlooked.

Seek advice
Check out this and other blogs and websites for tips and tricks to make your trip go smoothly.  I will be posting links to great sites at the bottom and sprinkling a few in the blog as well.  Ask friends, family, and school staff for help and advice regarding your child.  The DadLabs site has tons of great video blogs about traveling with the kids.

Car travel
If you are headed to the in-laws via car, you will want to consider several things.  Keep plenty of snacks and drinks handy for the kids to have while riding.  Make sure their seats and travel clothes are comfortable and can go the distance needed to get to grandma’s house.  You might want to travel during nap or sleep times like early morning, late evening, or in the afternoon so that the kids are naturally tired and more likely to sleep.  Plan stops along the way for stretching your legs, bathroom breaks, snacking, or running around.  It is very hard for young kids to sit for long periods of time.  Honestly, it is hard for most people.  Incentivize your trip by giving them treats, money, or toys to play with when you reach certain mile markers, towns, or minutes.  Check that all electronics are working properly before you leave home.  Extra batteries, cds, and movies are smart to have on hand.

Plane travel
Traveling via plane to your destination is somewhat of a different story and requires some different planning strategies.  Many experts say to travel early in the day.  Planes are often less crowded and more likely to take off and land on time.  Make sure your child has a good night’s sleep the night before your travel day.  This will ensure your child is well-rested and well-behaved for the flight.  It also allows them (and you) to better handle rough situations and chaos.  Take snacks, toys, blankets, or whatever your child needs to feel safe and comfortable on the flight.  Be reasonable with these items, ultimately you will be the one carrying your child and all the stuff they bring.  If your child gets motion sickness, you should speak with your doctor about some possible remedies.  I do not recommend self-medicating your child without the benefit of your healthcare provider’s wisdom.

Packing
Take the least amount of clothes and extras as possible.  The less you have to carry and keep track of, the better.  Bring a bib or two that covers your child during meals that you can easily wipe down.  Jeans and dark-colored clothes are easily worn for a few days.  Bring two pairs of pajamas in case there is an accident.  One or two pairs of shoes should be sufficient.  Remember that you can always buy things that are disposable, like diapers and wipes.  Ask friends or relatives to borrow large items such as a stroller, crib/playpen, high chair, and car seat.

I encourage you to take some time planning your trip and considering the needs of your family.  They deserve a vacation just as much as you do, so make it easy on yourself and enjoyable for them.  There are lots of great websites out there that talk about traveling with kids and lots of great products that help parents.  If you know a site or product from which others may benefit, please add it in the comments section below.  I wish everyone safe and enjoyable holiday planning and traveling this season!

Sites that you will want to check out:

Up with kids
15 Holiday Travel Don’ts

How to travel like a kid…

If you found these tips helpful subscribe/like/pass along this blog.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Picky Eaters

Good Morning,

I will admit that before I started working with families I held the belief that kids would eat just about anything if it was presented correctly.  While I still hang on to this belief somewhat, I now know that natural tastes are as individual as snowflakes.  No two are the same.  I have worked with parents who lose sleep over their child’s eating habits and are constantly calling their doctors for ideas to incorporate more variety into their diets.

While it is difficult to answer all questions regarding picky eaters, I would like to give you some general information as well as some helpful tips to manage your particular picky eater.

Age Appropriate Eating

  • 0-1 years:  Help create a healthy digestive system by introducing lots of greens and fiber into the diet.  A slow transition from baby food to adult food or new foods can help.
  • Toddler-hood:  Exposure to foods that are common in the house or that mom and dad are eating will get your child accustomed to eating these foods.  Allow your child to try some of what you are eating.  If they do not like it the first time, try offering it to them again at a later time.
  • Picky eaters usually get better after the age of 4.  If they continue as picky eaters at the age of 9, they will very likely be picky eaters as adults.

Helpful tips

  • Kids WILL eat if they are hungry.  Allow for time between meals and minimize snacking.  This prepares your child to eat properly, and as a bonus they will eat healthy foods!
  • Some kids are picky eaters because their parents are picky eaters.  If you think something is unappetizing, you are not going to feed it to your child.  This is natural.  It also speaks to the importance of exposing your child to many kinds of foods.
  • Involve your child in meal preparation.  Measuring, counting, mixing, watching the timer and some cutting can be a great way to get your child involved with the meal and excited to eat the outcome.  This is also a great way to spend some extra  time with your child.
  • Start a garden.  Encourage your child to get dirty and grow their own garden.
  • Have reasonable expectations.  Your child will not like everything you give them and may not like the same foods that you do.  They will not like everything the first time it is introduced.
  • Listen to your gut.  Many parents get scared and give in to unhealthy diets and junk food because they are told that their child is underweight.  Giving your child high fat and high sodium foods will up their weight but in an unhealthy, potentially habit-forming way.  If you believe that your child is eating what is best for them (variety, quality, and quantity), stick with your gut.  You know your child better than anyone else and should make the final decision when it comes to their well-being.
  • Take your child out to eat.  Watching other people eat is a great way to get hungry.  They may be so excited about getting out of the house that even the same foods presented in another setting will be appetizing.
  • Have a playdate and a picnic.  The saying “monkey see, monkey do,” couldn’t be more true for kids playing and eating with their friends.  Nothing is so important until a kid sees their friends playing with it or eating it.  Have a variety of snacks available to your kids and their friends at playdates.
  • Play with your food.  While this seems counter-intuitive, kids want to learn about food using all of their senses.  Touching, smelling, tasting, and seeing foods give kids an opportunity to make their own decisions about what they eat.  If you are introducing a new food, relax a little and allow your child to play with it before eating.  Remember, many young children end up with most everything in their mouths at some point.  You can take advantage of this!
  • Have fun with food.  My grandmother used to cut our sandwiches with cookie cutters.  I have no idea if they tasted good, but I ate them because they were fun.  There are lots of ways to make food look fun.  Try adding fruits and veggies to make faces, stripes, shapes, dots, etc.  Allow your child to help “decorate” their plate before they eat.

The road for a parent with a picky eater seems long.  It takes time, patience, and consistency to get over bumps in the road.  Give yourself (and your kids) a break when you want to force feed your kids veggies.  Remind yourself that you are in charge of your child’s well-being and giving them junk when they will not eat is not a good parenting decision.  Nor is it the most healthy choice for your child.  If you would like more specific recommendations or just need some support, please contact me directly.

If you found this post helpful please subscribe to this blog by hitting the Sign Me Up button at the top right of this page.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Tech Gadgets and Kids

Good Morning,

Holiday shopping has begun and the most popular gifts are always the newest tech gadgets.  Electronic games and portable players are on the top of most kid’s wish lists.  While tech toys and games are commonplace among children, you need to manage a balance between face time and tech time.  How do you find time and enforce this balance?

Many parents use portable games to ease their child’s boredom and keep their behavior in check.  I agree that for situations when you expect a kid to sit and behave for an extended period of time, like on an airplane, a game or movie is nice to have.  At other times, when a conversation or family time is the goal, leave electronic games and devices at home.

Keep control over tech devices by:

  • Starting with a plan that the family follows.
  • Determining when you want to allow kids to have tech devices and gadgets.  Stay consistent.  Put these times on your daily calendar/schedule where kids can see them.
  • Using gadgets as an incentive for kids when traveling.
  • Never replacing good parenting with tech gadgets. Gadgets should not be present at the table or any other family gathering.
  • Taking gadgets away as a disciplinary method if behavior needs to improve or if grades drop.
  • Keeping the conversation going about tech use and expectations.  Consistency and control are key here.
  • Purchasing age appropriate tech gadgets for your children.
  • Talk to your kids about internet safety and online use.

If you have not had a conversation with your family and partner about tech use, now is the time.  Don’t let your kids’ lives be run by their phones, gaming devices or iPods.  Remember that you are the authority and should always be the gate-keeper for more or less time with their tech gadgets.

Sites to check out:
Technology and Our Kids with Jennifer Jolly
(video)
Kids and Tech: How Much is Too Much?

A Study on Media Usage and Kids from Kaiser Family Foundation

Antisocial Networking?

If you have found this information helpful please subscribe/like/tweet/pass on.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Morning Routine Check-Up

Good Morning,

Katowice - Przedszkole nr.6

Image via Wikipedia

As I mentioned last week, now is a good time to review your routines.  I was talking with some moms last week as they were discussing how their children liked their preschools and their teachers.  One of the moms mentioned that things at school were going great, but it was hard to get her child out the door in the morning.  “He cries and doesn’t want to go, but once he is there he is fine and goes right into playing with the other children.”

For this mom, I had the following advice:

  • If your routine isn’t working, change it.
  • Remind your child of the expectations in the morning.
  • Have things ready the night before (lunch and breakfast, clothes, school bag, sports equipment, etc.) to take the guess-work out of the morning.
  • Only leave enough time to get ready and get out the door.  There is no need to rush, but stay focused.
  • Keep the routine consistent.
  • Realize that it is not that your child does not want to go to school, rather they want  you to give in to them.
  • Keep your discipline consistent and have consequences for not following directions.

If this is an issue that you are also experiencing, I encourage you to employ the ideas above.  Look to see where your child usually breaks down and eliminate that area.  Make the morning fly by so that there isn’t time to think about putting up a fight or crying about going to school.  Your situation may differ from the one presented here so contact me to get personalized strategies for your family.

Sites worth checking out:
Nighttime routine 
 
Manage Morning Mayhem

9 Steps To A Great Morning Routine for Kids

If you found this advice helpful please subscribe/like/tweet/pass on.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Taking Stock in the Middle of First Semester

Mathematics homework

Image via Wikipedia

Good Morning,

Here we are at the end of October.  The holidays are just around the corner and we are into the second half of the first semester in traditional-calendar schools.  How would you say your child is doing?

So far you should have been to parent-teacher conferences and established a working relationship with your children’s teachers.  You may have already volunteered at the school or taken part in planning a classroom party.  If you have not done these things, it is not too late.  In the middle of the first semester is an ideal time to take stock and set up a plan for the rest of the school year.  Here are the areas to review and ways to make the most of this school year.

Routines
How are your routines?  Are you getting out of the house on time and with all the things you need?  Are there any areas where you can shave off even a few seconds to make things go more smoothly?  Take a look at this morning routine blog to get some ideas.  How is your nighttime routine?  Are your kids getting to bed on time and getting enough sleep?  Have you established a homework and after-school schedule?  At this point, sports should be scheduled and planned for the rest of the school year.

Academic Status
Many parents sit with their kids and help with homework.  If this is the case, you should know where your child struggles academically.  Many kids say they do not need help and therefore parents do not know the state of their skills.  Sit with your child a few days a week.  Go over their homework with them and answer any questions they might have.  One way to break the ice in this area is to approach them after dinner, while they are doing their homework, with some ice-cream in hand.  Be sure to take some mental notes so you can follow up later.  Doing this over the course of a few days (or weeks) will ensure that you are seeing the correct struggles, and not just one tough assignment.

Communication with Teachers
If you have been to parent-teacher conferences, you have a good idea where your child stands regarding the year’s expectations.  If you have not had the opportunity to organize a one-on-one conversation before now, call and schedule a time for you to meet and talk about your child.  Bring up any concerns you have.  You should see if what you experience at home matches what happens at school.  Ask the teacher for a basic guideline for the rest of the school year so you can prepare mentally to help your child.  If there are areas where your child is struggling, now is the time to ask for help either from the teacher or a private tutor.  Many teachers offer private tutoring after school as a way to make some extra money.  This is an easy way to get some personalized help for your child by the person teaching the materials daily.  If you do not love your child’s teacher, ask around for a reputable tutor.  It is well worth the time and money to ensure your child understands the material presented in school.

Behavior
Every time a friend or acquaintance returns to high school for their reunion, I hear the same story.  People haven’t changed and everyone fell into the same cliques and petty behavior.  It is the same for your child.  They return to the same group of kids every year.  You can expect some of the same unwanted behaviors year after year as well.  If you are one of the hundreds of parents looking at your child’s behavior issues and thinking, “I thought we were over this,”  or “I thought they had outgrown that,” not to worry, there is still time to get that issue resolved.  If your child’s behavior concerns you, talk to their teacher or the school’s psychologist, nurse, or counselor.  If you can admit that you have not been the most consistent with behavior expectations at home, now is the time to get on the ball and take control.  If you need help, contact a Family Behavior Coach, such as myself, in your area.  It is never too late to reach out for some support.

The unfortunate truth is that after Thanksgiving break students and teachers relax academically.  The end is in sight and a long two-week break sounds great.  Be prepared for this letdown.  Rev up your support of your children in order to finish the semester strong.  This will allow all of you to transition to the spring semester with confidence and a plan in mind.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Preparing for a New Baby at Home

Good Morning,

Lately, it seems as though many of my friends are having their second or third child.  While very exciting, this is also a stressful time for them and for their families.  Even though they have nine months to plan and get their new lives organized, it is never too early to begin adapting to the coming changes.

Here are some ways to plan for bringing home a new baby when you already have kids at home.

Communicate
Talk to your child from the beginning about what it means to have a new baby.  Allow them to ask questions and respond with honest answers as well as correct language.  This is a huge time of change on multiple fronts: physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Be ready for some difficult conversations.  Keep the dialogue going throughout the pregnancy about the growing baby inside.  If you are adopting, the conversations should be tailored to fit your specific situation.  If you are not sure of the situation yet, be honest about that and explain as much as you know or are comfortable sharing with your other child.

Invite them to be involved
Involving your other children with the planning process of bringing a new baby home will help them feel loved, supported, and respected during this time.  If you are preparing a room, have them help paint, clean, and arrange the furniture.  If they are not able to help, have younger kids draw pictures to go in the nursery or help pick out paint colors and decorations.

Set your routine
By the time you bring a new baby home, the routine with your other children should be set in stone.  Morning and nighttime routines should be played out as usual.  Discipline methods as well as eating schedules should stay the same.  Keeping changes to a minimum will help your other children stay on track and prevent them from being overwhelmed.  If your child will be staying with friends or family, you should practice the plan for the day of the delivery.  Schedule a few sleepovers or pick ups/babysitting by the person who will be taking care of your other children.

Stock up on favorites and treats
Having a well-stocked fridge, full of everyday foods as well as favorites, will make it easy for you to maintain your family’s meal schedule.  If they are happy and eating, chances are good that they will more easily accommodate your temporary absence.  Adding a few treats to the mix will keep your kids focused on continuing their good behavior.  If your other children are artists, having a well-stocked supply is a great way to keep them entertained/occupied when you need to be with the new baby.  Definitely stock up on art supplies and toys.  Occasionally unveiling some new toys will also keep their attention for longer periods of time.

Brush up on social skills
For many toddlers, the concept of sharing has not yet developed.  Practice this, and other social skills with their friends, before the baby comes to ensure they know how to behave appropriately.  Practice using gentle hands and a soft voice with dolls and pets already at home.

Make it fun
Check out books from the library and rent movies that tell stories of families with new babies.  Spending extra one-on-one time together is another great way to help your other children feel special.  Remember to continue to schedule one-on-one time after the new baby comes.

Make the most of this transition for your family by planning and sticking to the routines that already work.

Sites you should check out:

Prepping My Daughter for a Sibling
Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling

New Baby Sibling

Tips On Helping Older Siblings Adjust to Life with a Baby

If you found this blog helpful please subscribe/like/tweet/share

Good Luck,

Katherine

Family Participation

Good Morning,

Life is full of phases and transitions.  There are always factors at work changing our bodies and behaviors.  Young adults feel these factors more strongly (e.g. puberty).  Although everyone has generally gone through the same phases, it is easy to forget and struggle to connect to your child during these times.

When I was in third grade, I didn’t want to hang out with my family as often as I did when I was younger.  I had new friends at a new school and wanted to fit in and be part of their community.  I begged my mom to drive me to sleepovers or to the mall with friends so I could walk around, talk and look at boys.  I wanted nothing to do with family dinners or weekends shopping with my mom.  Does this sound familiar?  Let me give you a few ideas to help find a family/friend balance with your child.

Don’t Demand
One of the easiest ways to stifle participation with the family is to demand it.  Forcing your kids to talk or hang out with you and the family is the last thing on their list.  However, this phase in their life should be recognized as just that: a phase.  Ultimately, demanding merely creates resentment and anger towards each other.

Find a Common Ground
Pick activities your child enjoys and do them together.  This will help bridge the gap.  Get them involved by asking them what they would like to do, eat, see, whatever.  Give them a budget and ask them to plan a family night out, activity, or class involving the entire family.

Respect Their Decisions
There will be times when your child chooses their friends over their family.  Respect this decision and move on.  Do what you had planned anyway and have a good time without them.  Do not guilt trip them into coming along or brag about the fun times you had without them.  Remember that it is normal and natural for kids to want to spend time with their friends and fit in with their peers.

Invite their Friends
Inviting your children’s friends to join your family is a great way to get your child to come along.  They may want to talk with their friend and somewhat avoid the family, but at least you are together.  This also allows you to meet their friends and get to know the kids with whom they are spending time.

Start Early
Start a precedent early in life by scheduling family time and planning activities together as a family.  If kids are accustomed to hanging out with the family and participating with the family, they will already find value in spending time together.  Do not try to start family time when you see that they are breaking away from the family, start early.

Start an Activity Together
Finding an activity that no one has experienced is always fun.  Everyone starts on equal footing. Take a class, start a sport, travel, or volunteer together.  These are great ways to spend time while trying something new.  I have a few friends that started Martial Arts at the same time their children began taking lessons.

Family Dinners
Many families enjoy eating dinner together.  However, it may be difficult to get everyone to the table at the same time.  Have a dinner out once a week (or month), allowing each family member to take a turn picking the restaurant.  Planning a weekly menu is another great way to spend time with your kids.  Get them involved with planning (and eating) meals.

Question Jar
Having fun and interesting conversations at dinner will get your kids interested in sharing and participating during this time.  Skip the “how was your day” and fill a jar with questions the family can ask and answer.  I love Table Topics and have given them as gifts to parents several times.  There are lots of great websites to find conversation starters as well.

Game Night
Even at the age of thirty, I still love family game night.  We used to play Catch Phrase growing up…we still tell stories of funny situations.  Family Game night can be a board game, putt putt golf, a battle on the XBox , or a jam session on Rock Band.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as you are playing together.

Talk to Them
Sometimes all it takes for your child to participate is some words of encouragement.  Tell them how much fun they are and how great it is spending time with them.  Talk about fun times you’ve spent together and ask when you can do that again.  They may not know how important it is to you that they participate in family events unless you tell them.

Allow your child to have some leeway about when they want to spend time with the family.  Don’t force them, but encourage them and plan things that they enjoy doing.  Helping them find a balance between friends and family will bridge the gap during these growing years.

Check out these great family sites:

Family rock climbing with the The Kid Project
100 Family conversations at Aha! Parenting.com
Surviving family game night at An Exercise in Narcissism

If you have found these tips helpful subscribe, like, or pass this blog along.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Potty Training

Defecation in the sitting position, as used in...

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Good Morning,

Every week I hear moms talking about potty training.  When should I start?  When will I know if it is time?  Which method should I use?  There are hundreds of books out there about this topic, and the tips they offer are from one end of the spectrum to the other.  There are no guarantees that any general advice will work for you or, more importantly, your child.  Each situation is different, and may require a more personal analysis than is possible in a blog (or even a book).  However, I can provide some simple ideas to incorporate into any method that you try.

You are not alone
Every parent on the planet has been through potty training at some time.  Now is a great time to ask around for tips and tricks.  Your friends, pediatrician, kid’s teachers, and any care provider with whom your child interacts may be a good source of advice.  Ask questions to determine if they have seen an interest in potty training from your child.  Also ask them to help you in this process.  The more support you and your child get, the better.

All kids are different
This statement is always true, but especially so in this situation.  There is a very large window when kids are ready and willing to potty train.  Finding that time can be tricky.  Do not be disappointed if your child isn’t interested or trained as quickly or as early as your friends’ kids.

Cherry-pick your favorite methods
As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of books written on this specific topic.  Borrow a few and check out a few from the library and use a mix of the methods that you like best.

Go with your gut
You know your child best, and can read their signs better than anyone.  If they are ready, act on that.  If they are not, give them time.  Listen to your gut and listen to your child.

Don’t force it
It may take a few tries to get your child excited and willing to attempt sitting on the potty.  Give them an opportunity to sit on the toilet.  If they are not crazy about the idea, try again in a few weeks.  For many kids, this is the last hold out going from baby to toddler.  Be patient.

Talk it up
Talk about being a big kid, using the potty, and have other people in your child’s life do the same.  This will help get your child’s attention.  The more reminders they get from lots of people, the more they will want to try it.  Go potty with your child and talk about what is happening.  Encourage them to try it!

Pick out undies
Take your child to pick out their first underpants.  There are tons of underwear on the market and finding a pair with their favorite character or in their favorite color may be enough to get them to try.  Practice wearing the underpants and getting used to how they feel.  If you can’t find the ones your child wants, make your own.  Print out a picture on transfer paper and iron it onto a plain pair.

Bring out the incentives
Now is the time to get out your best prizes, stickers, treats, whatever.  Let your child know that this is an important event and there are great rewards for giving it a good try or doing a good job.  A friend of mine put some trucks just out of reach, but within eyesight, of her son while he was going to the bathroom.  He wanted those trucks so badly, and had to sit and look at them every time.  It took a few days, but then he was potty trained and playing with his new trucks.  Praise your child both verbally and with a token when they accomplish the goal.

Start small
Like any lasting relationship, you have to start with an introduction.  Do not expect great things to happen overnight.  Potty training takes time, a commitment and understanding between you and your child.  Accidents happen and there is always tomorrow or another chance.  Remember to praise when necessary, but also to keep your cool and always be prepared with an extra set of clothes or underwear.

I would love to hear your tips and tricks on potty training.  Are there books or websites that are worth passing along?  Do you have a funny story that might encourage others to keep at it when things aren’t looking good?  Chime in!

More great sites to check out:

Great potty reviews on Real Mum’s Blog
10 steps to follow at This, That and Everything
Lots of great information at everyday health

Good Luck,

Katherine