“Mommy, I did it!” Trevor appears in the bathroom doorway, beaming proudly at his mother. Suzanne looks up from her vacuuming, hardly daring to hope. “You used the potty, Trevor?” she says, turning off the vacuum cleaner and hurrying toward the bathroom. “Let Mommy see!” Suzanne moves past her son to take a look at the bathroom. The scene she confronts is not quite what she’d expected. Toilet paper is draped around the sink, toilet, and potty. The books Trevor was looking at while sitting on the potty are strewn across the floor. Trevor has urinated, Suzanne notes—but on the floor next to the potty rather than in the bowl.
Suzanne takes a deep breath. This is the third such accident in two days, and if there’s one thing she doesn’t like to do it’s clean up after one of these messes. She knows, however, that a positive response is the only productive one, and adjusts her expression before turning to her son. “Pretty good job, Trevor,” she says in an encouraging voice. “You tried to pee in the potty, and you almost did it. You just stood up a little too early.” She gives him a quick hug.
“Now, help me clean up, okay? Let Mommy show you. . . .”
Whether your child is eighteen months or three years old, eliminating into a potty rather than a more convenient diaper is likely to seem quite strange at first—a big-people’s ritual with no obvious benefits aside from a parent’s praise and perhaps a small treat.
It is amazing to consider, then, how hard young children try to comply with their parents’ need to potty-train them, simply out of a desire to please. At times, their efforts may disappoint, irritate, or even puzzle you. But try to keep your child’s stage of development in mind as you respond.
His attempts to cope with this new self-care concept, his natural anxiety over redirecting a natural body function, and his efforts to follow quite a complex sequence of actions are bound to lead to errors now and then. Do your best to applaud his efforts and maintain a sense of humor as he masters this difficult new skill.