Child's Temperament Affects Potty Training
Temperamental Differences, Not Parenting Style, May Explain Toilet Training Difficulties
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Temperament Linked to Toilet Training Difficulty continued...
Timothy Schum, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the
Medical College of Wisconsin, has conducted several studies on toilet training
and says the results of this study aren't surprising.
"I think people have suspected that children who have
difficult toilet training may also have difficult temperaments, and this study
lends some support to that theory," says Schum. "Parents need to be
aware that children who have these temperamental traits may take longer to
"Temperament traits can't be changed very much, but if you
are aware of them, as a parent, you can become more tolerant," says
Constipation Is a Common Problem
The study also showed that constipation was a common problem
among all the children, but it was much more prevalent among those with toilet
training difficulties (78% vs. 55%).
Although the study was not able to determine whether
constipation was the cause or result of difficulty potty training, a related
study in the same journal showed that constipation often precedes toilet
training problems and may cause children to refuse to have bowel movements on
Schum advises that parents and pediatricians closely monitor
children for signs of constipation during toilet training. Rather than waiting
for a child to complain of pain associated with bowel movements, he recommends
that parents take notice of what their child stools look like. If they become
hard or unusually large, it could be an early sign of constipation.
"They should preemptively improve the child's diet and make
sure they are getting enough liquids and fiber so they don't progress to the
painful part," says Schum.
If it does become painful, the child should be evaluated and
treated for constipation by a pediatrician.
Understanding Potty Training Difficulties
In addition, the study showed that many difficult toilet
trainers were likely to hide stools or dirty underwear and ask for pull-ups or
diapers in which to pass stool.
Schonwald says that when a parent encounters that type of
behavior it may help them to understand that it means that the child already
has a lot of the developmental skills necessary to toilet train but isn't quite