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Child's Temperament Affects Potty Training

Temperamental Differences, Not Parenting Style, May Explain Toilet Training Difficulties

Understanding Potty Training Difficulties continued...

That way, parents can recognize the things that the child is learning and doing right rather than focusing what they're not doing, and it gives parents an opportunity to work on those items in a step-wise fashion.

For example, if a child asks for a pull-up it means he or she is gaining control of their bowels, but may not be ready to use a toilet. Schonwald says the parent may then suggest that the child take the pull-up and take it to the bathroom to have a bowel movement but not use the toilet.

"That takes off a lot of the pressure," says Schonwald. "Then when they start feeling more success and they do it in the bathroom; it becomes a lot more manageable."

Strategies for Potty Training Success

Experts say these findings show that recognizing a child's temperamental traits can help parents overcome common toilet training difficulties.

Schonwald says children who have a hard time staying on the toilet may have a problem with persistence and may need a special toilet time activity to keep them interested.

Other children who don't want to go into the bathroom may be reluctant to try new things, and the parent may have to find a way to make the bathroom more welcoming, such as scheduling brief play times in the bathroom.

Schum says it's also important for parents to remember that no two children are alike, even within the same family, and what worked for one child may not necessarily work for another.

In an editorial that accompanies the studies, David R. Fleisher, MD, of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, says more research is needed to learn about the many psychological, physiological, and social factors that may affect potty training success.

But he says it's clear that toileting skills are acquired through several distinct and simultaneous processes: toilet training and education by the parents, and toilet learning by the child.

"From a child's point of view, 'poo-poos' can be nice or scary," writes Fleisher. "Parents need to understand that toilet training differs from training in most other areas of behavior because they cannot oblige their child to perform bodily functions their way."

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