Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Help your child choose to loose the diaper Q: My daughter is 3 and is still in diapers. She has used the potty once or twice but she immediately asked for her diapers and has shown no interest since. It is a problem because I hate to send her to play with other children and make their parents change her diapers. Also she is enrolled in a preschool for the fall that will only take children who are trained. My husband and I have offered her all kinds of rewards for using the toilet, and she shows interest in getting the rewards but then doesn't come through. I have asked her why she doesn't want to use the potty and all she says is, “I don't know." We are pretty much at our wits' end over this. What do you advise? F.V., Naperville
A: The reason we use the term “toilet choosing" instead of “toilet training" is that the child really does have to choose to use the toilet. Trying to pressure children into giving up diapers usually leads to power struggles, rebellion, and, as a result, even more delay. The good news is that all healthy children will eventually choose the potty over diapers. Even though it is inconvenient that your daughter remains in diapers, pressuring her will only delay the moment when she will choose to use the potty. We suggest that you also avoid rewards, which are actually a subtle kind of pressure and rarely work well. There are a few positive strategies for encouraging your daughter to make the transition. Regularly invite children over for playdates. Children at this age are great imitators of other children and if her friends are all using the potty, she may too. Substitute pull-ups for diapers, so that she can experiment with the potty on her own. Buy her some pretty underwear and let her wear it if she wants. She may decide on her own that she would like to keep it dry and clean. Even though it may seem at times like the proverbial pink elephant in the room, try not to focus on this issue. Children mature on different timetables. It is important for your daughter's emotional development that you give her the space to make her own choice to use the potty. Then when she does make the transition, she will also experience an increased self-confidence that will carry over into other areas of her life.
Should I force my child to go to summer camp? Q: I have enrolled my first-grader in day camp for the first eight weeks of the summer. I didn't ask him, because I assumed he would want to go. When I mentioned it to him, he said he absolutely did not want to go. He has a 3-year-old sister and I didn't think it would be much fun for him to spend the summer with her and me. I think it would be much better for him to be with his friends at camp. But he seems very adamant about this. I have tried offering him things he wants, like a scooter, but he continues to refuse. I hate to move on to threats to remove privileges, but that's about the only other thing I can see to do. Can you suggest a way to get him to go? H.B., Aurora
A:There is no reason to pressure your son to do something that is really quite optional and recreational. Since you are available to be with him, there is no compelling reason he has to go to day camp. If you make clear that it is his choice and then ask him to keep an open mind and try camp for a day or two with the understanding that if he doesn't like it he doesn't have to go, he may soften his negative stance. Perhaps your son is feeling that his sister is getting all of your attention while he is at school and he feels that going to camp will continue to deprive him of your company. You could suggest that after camp you will be sure to spend some “special time" with him. If your son remains adamant about not wanting to attend camp, perhaps he would like some focused activities that require less of a time commitment, such as art, music, or sports lessons a few times a week. If all else fails, you will have the opportunity to spend a lot of time enjoying your son this summer. Help. My 5-month-old needs to be held day and night Q:I have a 5-month-old son. He is my third child. I am having two problems, both connected I think. For the last five weeks or so he has wanted to be held pretty much all day. Needless to say, I can't do that and at times he just cries and cries. When I nurse him, he falls asleep but only takes quick cat naps because when he wakes up, he can't get himself back to sleep. This can go on all day, I can get nothing done. I am lucky if I can get my other two children lunch. I am exhausted and resentful by the end of the day and too tired to do the things I need do. I have some outside help for a few hours a week, and my husband is supportive, but I need to break my son of this habit. I am a firm believer in not letting babies cry-my other two children are very secure and confident, so I know letting him cry is not the right thing. The night is not much better. If he wakes up he needs to be held to go to sleep. Some nights he sleeps 10 hours, and some nights he is up after five. A.B.R., Evanston
A:It sounds as though you are pretty swamped with caregiving responsibilities. But your 5-month-old is being a baby and acting his age-he is not trying to manipulate you or to make your life miserable. Not holding him simply makes him more miserable and more desperate for the comfort he wants. Wanting to be held is not a bad habit that needs to be broken. If your baby wants to be held, then he needs to be held. For whatever reason, he is feeling upset and he is turning to you because you are the light of his life and his best source of comfort. If you need your hands free more of the time, you could put him in a baby sling and carry him that way. We are convinced that if you respond to the needs he is expressing and hold him as much as possible, soon he will feel more confident of your love and more comforted and he will begin to spend some pleasurable time enjoying his toys.
Here's your chance to get some answers to your pressing parenting questions. If you're trying to figure out how to handle some aspect of your child's behavior, send your question to Chicago Parent Q&A, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302; or e-mail it to SPedersen@wjinc.com. The Piepers will respond to three questions per month. Sorry-they are unable to respond to questions that they do not answer for publication. For more answers to questions from readers since January 2000, visit our Web site, www.chicagoparent.com. Click on “Past Issues" and then “Smart Love." For a more complete understanding of the Pieper's philosophy and psychology, read their book, Smart Love: The Compassionate Alternative to Discipline That Will Make You A Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person.
Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D., and William J. Pieper, M.D. are the authors most recently of Addicted to Unhappiness: Free Yourself from Moods and Behaviors That Undermine Relationships, Work and the Life You Want (McGraw-Hill), which helps parents and other adults improve their own lives. They also wrote the best-selling parenting book, Smart Love: The Compassionate Approach to Discipline That Makes You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person (Harvard Common Press). The Piepers have spent more than three decades practicing psychotherapy with infants, children, adolescents and adults; counseling parents; and supervising other mental health professionals. The parents of five children, the Piepers live in Chicago.