Author of Dry All Day-Potty
Training Skills Workbook
Simply being aware of the
fact that children learn to use diapers for toilets, and may
later be resistant to changing the habit is critical. Parents
armed with this information early on may make different
choices before the habit becomes too ingrained.
Disposable diapers and wipes
are a modern mom’s lifesaver! I can remember as a child seeing
dirty diapers soaking before my mother bleached and washed them
for my baby brothers. (And I can remember, too, sticking the baby
with the ducky diaper pin while learning how to ‘help’ diaper
him!) Today children remain comfy between changings and tape or
velcro® has replaced painful
diaper pins. We love our modern conveniences!
This is exactly what the
disposable diaper manufacturers are banking on. They don’t sell
diapers, training pants and wipes, they sell convenience. There is
nothing wrong with convenience, per se, except that children are
staying in diapers longer and some parents are having more trouble
and stress during toilet training. The manufacturers know this,
and they have found a way to help: Diapers and training pants are
While most kids do indeed
train at a reasonable age (2 – 3 ½), many kids have formed what I
call a ‘diaper habit’. The diaper habit is where a child is fully
capable of using a potty or toilet but simply prefers diapers.
the Diaper Habit
Have you ever heard of a 4-yr
old child who asks for a diaper to go poop? Or the child who could
stay in a dirty diaper all day without a care? Did you know there
are children who refuse to use a potty and will withhold urine or
stools all day but when the worried parent puts the diaper on the
child will let loose within minutes? Some children were using a
toilet for weeks or months until they had a painful experience and
end up going back to diapers. This is very frustrating to the
parent, but it is clear the child is fully in control of his
bodily functions and is making a choice.
Generally speaking, habits
form in about 21 days, and take at least that long to break. An
infant is not really aware of diapers; he just eats and eliminates
as needed. However, as the child matures he also becomes aware of
his bodily functions. At around two the child will begin noticing
smells at diaper changings and may become interested in body
parts. By three if the child is still in diapers he may just flat
out like them and resist the potty. Think of it from his
perspective: Diapers have been working just fine, why all the fuss
about using a toilet?
Children are not the only ones
who may fall victim to the diaper habit trap. Moms may have become
dependent as well. No mess, no leaks, no reminder schedules for
bathroom visits, especially when there are activities and
schedules and older siblings to tote around. You may be buying
what you believe to be training ‘underwear’ but they feel like a
diaper to the child. What’s more, if you have not changed your
cleanup routine after an ‘accident’, your trainee will not be
motivated to change his behavior. Without experiencing clear
consequences after an accident it will take much longer to train.
When and Why You Will Work on Toilet Training
Children in some countries
never use diapers, and are usually fully trained by age two. But
this is America. Our children are just as capable at two, but our
lifestyle is very different, and our options are greater.
Disposable diapers and training pants are convenient, comfortable
and widely available. Cost is often not even a consideration for
many parents, and if diaper manufacturers had it their way, we
would all be rearing our children in diapers until Kindergarten!
The average age for achieving toilet training is rising and
diapers are getting bigger.
Simply being aware of the fact
that children learn to use diapers for toilets, and may later be
resistant to changing the habit is critical. Parents armed with
this information early on may make different choices before the
habit becomes too ingrained.
One father of a late trainer I
interviewed said his son used diapers well into Kindergarten. They
got through Kindergarten because the family’s nanny wore a beeper
and was called in to change his son frequently. One day he asked
his son why he continued to use a diaper, he simply replied "Well,
Dad, it just feels good". This family was not interested in
pushing the issue, but they were surprised at how long it went on.
The boy did stop using a diaper before first grade began and is
now a healthy, well-adjusted sixth-grader.
However, not all parents of
late trainers are content with the situation. Many really want and
need their child to train. Some older kids are held back in the
two-year old room at daycare until they stop having accidents.
Some three- and four-year olds never get to attend preschool and
not all Kindergarten teachers are willing to work with the child,
who may be held back.
The age that is right for your
child to train is any age you believe is the right one. It’s just
a parenting decision; there is no right or wrong as long as the
child’s best interests are considered. Some families don’t want to
push and let the child train himself. Other families have
successfully used the infant toilet training method to train their
baby before age two. But most families, I have found, expect their
child to train at around 2 ½ or 3 and really want diapers to be
gone before 4. You must be dedicated and prepared if your child is
resistant, but he will respond to your strict guidance.
If you believe your child may
have already formed a diaper habit (he is resistant or rebellious
to using the potty), consider these tips:
Make it clear that
diapers are going away forever. If you can get your child to
‘buy in’ and want to trade them in for big kid underwear, that
Plan a 4-6 week timeframe when you can commit to a less hectic
schedule as accidents may happen for several weeks.
Try keeping him naked
at home. Some naked kids will seek out the potty more than with
underwear on, which they may be using like a diaper. With
nothing on their bottom, the ‘diaper habit’ is not being fed!
Dress your child in
regular cotton underwear only. Plan for accidents. Have several
changes of clothing. You can even get your trainee his own
‘potty training backpack’ so he can carry his own load.
For special times
when you don’t want to deal with an accident, resist the
temptation to use diapers or training pants. Instead opt for
child-sized incontinence pads to absorb an occasional wetness,
which allows your child to remain in his underwear.
Enlist the help of
someone close to you that can help take over for a few hours
each day or enroll in daycare. This may help dispel any toilet
battles and give you a break.
- Another idea is to
form a potty training playgroup, which I call Tag Team™ toilet
training. Kids learn from each other and get guidance from an
adult (authority figure) other than their own mom.