Getting Unstuck
October 22, 2015 · Posted in Discipline, Parenting, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments (2)

If you are squeamish about scatological concerns you can stop reading now. If, however, you can take on the tough topics of pee and poop, tushies and penises, read on:

At Soho Parenting our approach to toilet training is gradual, developmentally informed, and child-centered. We encourage parents to start this process somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four months. We suggest they buy a potty, let their toddler be naked and show them by example and clear instructions how this natural process works. Toddlers slowly learn to master this basic body function and have the opportunity to take ownership and pride in this new skill. We teach parents that only a small portion of toilet training is physiological. The lion share of toilet training is the emotional work of growing up and tolerating imperfection. Parents need to introduce the concept, provide the materials, give the support, but accept the inevitable ambivalence that young toddlers have about “letting go” in this way.

For many families, toilet training moves along in fits and starts but without too much difficulty.  Often though we meet parents whose children have come to an impasse in the whole process. Three, four and even five year olds can become embroiled in a long and grueling battle with their parents over using the potty. These children are often using the potty regularly to “pee” but are only “pooping” into a diaper. Having learned to hold their poop for days on end, these children seem to have decided that they just are not going to do it. Whether there has been too much pressure or not enough structure- a “window of readiness” seems to have passed. The child has dug their heels in and the parents have all but given up. They have tried bribes and threats and manipulation and even shame and nothing is working. Parents know that their child “can” do it and just “won’t “ and they often come to us with a mixture of worry and fury.

Catherine Lloyd Burns’ book “It Hit Me Like A Ton of Bricks” a memoir of a mother and daughter poignantly and hilariously  depicts this very struggle and  Burns attributes much of 3 year old Olive’s ultimate success to the advice form Soho Parenting.

“Olive and I are going to a gastroenterologist referred by her pediatrician. She has been taking five tablespoons of mineral oil a day for three months and she’s still constipated.  She can’t make a poopy for days at a time and then when she finally does, it is so enormous, it is no wonder she screams in pain.
 The doctor appears and says, “You must be Olive.”
“I are having trouble making a poopy,” she tells him. He ignores her and interrogates me: her diet, allergies, her delivery, when did the problem start, when was her last bowel movement. Olive wants to talk too, “Well, I drink mineroil,” she interjects, but he is not interested.
 “Is she toilet trained? He asks me instead .
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers.”
“She’s not toilet trained then?”
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers, I repeat. She is a little bit toilet trained.”………..
“There is nothing wrong with her. I want you to give her Senacot for two weeks, and she needs to be toilet trained.” I will never tell Dr Spillman any of this but Olive gets Swedish fish for pooping, period—in her diaper, in her bed, on the potty, anywhere- and she gets a present if she does it on the potty without her diaper. The candy is bad for her teeth and it isn’t really working anyway.

She hasn’t pooped for six days…It is time to pull out the big gun. Lisa Lillienfeld. She costs two hundred dollars but she is always right. (Those of you who know and love our own Lisa will know how happy this last line made her.) She tells me I have to potty train Olive.
“The longer kids go, the harder it is for them to do it. I think Olive needs you to help her get to the next level. Take away her diapers and make a weekend project out of it, stop with the presents, and just do it. Tell her you have complete confidence in her. I really think the whole thing will be resolved when she gets out of diapers.”
“I really do. I think she’s having trouble going there on her own so you have to help  her.”

That night, after her bath, I tell her that tomorrow we’re going to do a project. No diapers all day and we’re going to work on using the potty. She seems excited about the plan and even reports it to Adam like it is wonderful news. We cancel all of our plans for the weekend so we can stay inside and potty train.

In the morning I take off her wet diaper and when I don’t put on another one she freaks out. She starts kicking and screaming and climbs down and gets a diaper from the shelf and tries to put it on herself. She begs for a diaper.
 “Honey remember what we talked about last night? We’re not using a diaper today. You are going to use the potty whenever you need to make a pee or a poopy.”
“Nooooooo! I want my diaper. I want my diaper.”
“Lovey just for today, okay? We’ll see how it goes. We really think you are ready and can I tell you something?  I would never ever ask you to do something if I didn’t think you were ready.”
“No. I want a diaper. I want a diaper! I want a diaper! She is working herself up into a major lather.
“What are you afraid of, honey? You already use the potty sometimes, we’re just trying to get you to use it even more.”
Through her tears she says’ “ I’m not ready. I’m not ready!”
“Olive honey everyone thinks this is going to help with your poopy trouble and we’re going to try it and see how it works. I know you can do it. I promise you can do it.”
“No I can’t!” she cries. Finally she lets go of the diaper and she cries in my arms. After breakfast she announces she needs to pee and she does. She keeps telling us what happened, “I peed in the potty.” She is very proud. Then she needs to poop. So she does. And she poops five more times, in the potty, before the day is done. It’s done and she is cured. All they need is a little help. All I need is to act like I know how to help her. It’s a confidence game, a charade.”

Burns’  depiction of Olive and her mommy’s toilet training travails reminds us all of how hard, and ultimately, important it is to help our children when they get stuck, by firmly, confidently and lovingly and patiently leading the way to the next level. Children respond with relief and pride to having mastered something they had convinced themselves they couldn’t do.  Parents do too.

Bookmark and Share
Toilet Teaching
September 30, 2014 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments Off on Toilet Teaching


I just did a toilet training workshop for 30 parents of 2-3 year olds. We had a lot of laughs, since no matter how old you are potty humor is still pretty funny. But when we got down to business, it was clear that the idea of “pushing kids” as being psychologically damaging is still alive and well in the 21st century.
Parents are nervous to take the lead, be the teacher, and guide their children to understand how their body works and how to use the potty. In the effort not to “push,” parents don’t take action but rather the talk, talk, talk, cajole, and talk talk, talk, talk some more. “Sally is in underpants, do you want to wear underpants too? “ “Do you want use the potty?” “Big boys use the potty!” They hope against hope that these toddlers will just come to their senses and agree. Anyone who has toilet trained a kid knows – you can’t just talk them into it.

You need to put in the time. Naked time, reading stories on the potty time, hang around the house time. Explaining time, cleaning up accidents time. Laughing about butts and poop and penises time. Your approach to potty training should be one of guidance and comfort, but expectations as well. For instance, “that time the pee pee went on the floor, but next time I want you to do it in the potty.”

As one mom asked, “Oh, so you just keep teaching!?” Correct, teaching it is!

Bookmark and Share
A Mom’s Guide To Toilet Training
August 18, 2011 · Posted in Parenting, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments Off on A Mom’s Guide To Toilet Training
A mother in an ongoing group here at Soho Parenting has culled a year’s worth of toilet training advice and her own experience and sent it out to fellow toilet training compatriots. It seemed like a good idea to post since it has such great tips-troubleshooting advice and the story of her daughter’s journey to underwear!
The gist of all this advice comes from Soho Parenting and you can read their posts on toilet training on their blog. First and foremost, I have to say that the anticipation of full-fledged potty-training was worse than actually doing it!  We didn’t take the all-or-nothing approach, which worked for us because it helped ease us into it.  The first thing we did was purchase little a potty chair, a potty seat, and a step-stool.  We did this BEFORE we started full-fledged potty training so Vivian could get used to them.  She played on them and sat on them when she felt like it but we didn’t push her.  We always asked her if she we wanted us to take her diaper off and she always said “NO,” until one day she said, “YES!”. We started the transition from diapers a few days later.
Anyhow, here’s the scoop.  We started on a Monday and Vivian spent the entire week naked from the waist down – but ONLY while we were at home.  When we went out, we visited the potty to check it out and get her comfortable for next time we were there in undies. The naked/diaper back-and-forth was not a big deal.  I just explained to her that we were now going to be naked at home and put a diaper on when we went out.

This first week was MESSY, but it helped Vivian really understand her body and the process.  She VERY quickly learned that when she started to pee, she needed to run to the potty.  At the beginning of the week, she would start to pee (yes, on the floor or carpet), then scream, “go
to potty!!”, hold the rest in, run to the potty (sometimes with a trail of pee behind her), and finish peeing on the potty.  By the end of the week, she was running to the potty just in time.

The second week was less messy.  We started underwear at home and wore it out to select places — on walks, to little gym, and on short errands.  We “tried” to pee before we left the house and i just told Vivian to tell me when she needed to pee.

By the end of the second week, she was wearing undies all the time. She has had 2 accidents (just pee) so far and they were both times that she was just having too much fun to stop and run to the potty.

Okay so now all about pooping.

The best thing about doing the naked/undies thing (no pull-ups) is that they don’t have the option of pooping anywhere but the toilet.  The first week Vivian popped once on the potty, once on the floor ON THE WAY to the potty (no joke), and somehow was able to time her other poops for after her nap when she was still in her crib and wearing a diaper. But by the second week, she was on the potty every time. The little potty was the best at the beginning because it was more comfortable for her, but now she prefers the big potty. We put a little box of books and magazines in the bathroom and she now LOVES the whole process. She loves to read her magazines and I try to sit on the floor in there with her when I can — she always does much better this way.  The more I tell her to relax and take her time, the better she does.  And I give her TONS of positive reinforcement during the process. Biggest advice here…patience, patience, patience. She
pooped in the trunk of our car in the travel potty after blueberry picking on thursday and I think it took her over 25 minutes to finish! it’s hard, but the more you can relax, the easier time they will have.
A few other things….we didn’t do any kind of rewards, just a lot of positive reinforcement. Some ongoing challenges that we’ve been having are wiping and washing hands. She likes to run away down the hall without doing either, but this really only happens when i’m not in the bathroom to remind her (and she IS 2 so of course she has to fight me on something!) I know some people are kind of grossed out by these little potties, but I have to say, I have found them REALLY helpful. Vivian can now go to the potty by herself — and while she can get up on the big potty by pulling up the step-stool and climbing up, the little potty has been great for when she’s in a rush and can just plop herself down.  the little potties are also great at the beginning forwhen they go #2 b/c it is really important that their feet be supported so they can relax. We also purchased a travel potty (coolgear travel potty – ) and it is AMAZING. I don’t know what I would do without it.  Now I just bring wet-ones and wipe the seat down if we are in a public toilet. I know every little kid is different, but this has all been very helpful for us!
Bookmark and Share
Pull-ups Reconsidered
October 1, 2009 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments Off on Pull-ups Reconsidered


I am going to trash pull-ups. Please don’t feel bad if you have or still use them, but pull-ups are a major marketing ploy and terrible for the environment. Pull-ups are also confusing for children. Think about it–how is a two or three year old child supposed to understand that what feels like diaper, looks like diaper, IS a diaper –is really hybrid diaper/underwear? The diaper companies have capitalized on and fueled the trend of parents waiting until their children are three to toilet train. We don’t need to wait so long. Pull-ups, in many cases, have extended and confused children’s toilet training.
As soon as your child indicates their awareness of the peeing/pooping process – usually around two years old – let them be naked to feel and see what happens. Move from diapers, to nakedness, to underwear and skip the whole pull-up stage. You will save time and money and give your child a much clearer sense of what you are expecting from them.

Bookmark and Share
Buy Our Book, 'A Mother's Circle'
Facebook  RSS

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 346

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 346

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 346