Alpha Mom » Amalah http://alphamom.com parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 27 Nov 2014 03:23:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Breaking Bad Family Mealtime Habits http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/breaking-bad-mealtime-habits/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/breaking-bad-mealtime-habits/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:14:20 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35307

Hi Amy!! Have been following you forever and love your Smackdown advice. Please be merciful with my situation:

When I was home on maternity leave last winter with a colicky newborn I got into a bad habit with my toddler: *whispers* I started giving her most of her meals in front of the TV *hangs head in shame.*

At the time it didn’t seem like that big of a deal because it was the polar vortex winter of doom and I spent a lot of time pacing with and nursing a screaming infant. But now the screaming infant is a pleasant 10-month-old who eats nicely in a high chair and my toddler (now just turned three) just can NOT sit still and eat at the table.

I work part-time and she attends a home daycare while I am at work and is able to sit and eat properly there, even trying new foods, etc. Daycare lady reports no problems. But at home she will not sit in her seat, runs around the kitchen, and is generally disagreeable. Usually she asks to be excused and bring her plate to the couch to watch something. By that time I’m usually frazzled enough to be all: fine! She kind of zones out in front of the TV and will peacefully eat whatever’s on her plate. For what it’s worth, she’s a picky eater and kind of small/thin for her height but nothing outside the realm of normal.

I knowww what needs to be done, I just need advice and support about the terrible few weeks (months?) it will take to get there. I even bought Ellyn Satter’s book and I totally understand/agree with/want to emulate her advice. I am worried that I will repeat the same mistakes with my younger daughter and we will never have the lovely family dinners of my dreams. Is that unrealistic with two young kids anyways? My husband shares my concerns but works kind of late so it’s usually me and the girls for most meals. He will be totally on board with any plan of action.

So basically this isn’t a question about my toddler, it’s more about me. What are the actual words that need to come out of my mouth? I am prepared to have her skip some meals (dinnertime is the worst and she does much better at breakfast and lunch). Can she never eat in front of the TV again? Should I cut TV out all together? Help! I need some tough love.

K

PS I am a children’s librarian. Not even kidding. Oh, the irony!!

PPS This might sound defensive, but also wanted to note that we don’t watch crazy amounts of TV at our house — we do a good amount of reading, crafts, playing, running errands, normal stuff. TV is kind of now tied to dinner, which makes it … worse? I don’t know.

So before we get to the Most Righteous and Proper Smackdown-ing, let me be clear that I am only sympathizing with you here, not judging. We’ve ALL done stuff like this. We’ve ALL introduced (and then ignored) a less-than-ideal habit, usually out of exhaustion or desperation. And I’d bet that 99.9999999% of those bad habits we cave to are either food or sleep related.

I’m the biggest Satter Method tub thumper you’ll probably ever meet, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never made mistakes or fallen face-first into the very behaviors she warns about in the very first chapter.

When we first decided to go Full Satter, we were basically in your shoes. I had a picky, stubborn 3 and a half year old and a pleasant, agreeable baby. Our particular bad habit was short-order cooking for the 3 year old and caving to his super-limited list of acceptable food items — night after night of boxed macaroni and cheese or PB&Js, usually. I considered it a dietary success if I was able to hide some of the baby’s pureed vegetables in his pasta sauce or a smoothie.

And like you, I kneeeeeewwwwww. I knew this wasn’t ideal, or even really “okay.” He was living on salty cheesy carbs and little else. And he kept getting pickier and pickier, more likely to freak out at the sight of something unfamiliar on his plate, and I could already see the baby’s good eating habits starting to head down a similar path. Why was his brother getting THAT while he was expected to eat THIS?

I read Ellyn Satter’s book, read a few pertinent sections out loud to my husband, and we agreed to ditch the short order cooking and embrace the “division of responsibility” instead. (It is our job to put food in front of him. It is his job to eat it.) We went pretty much cold turkey. He got the same food we ate, presented in an accessible format and portion size. If my husband worked late and I did make a “kids’ meal” separate from ours, it was still comprised of “off-list” foods. (Challenging things like…chicken nuggets! Meatballs! Frozen peas! I was the MEANEST!)

He refused to eat dinner for a few days, yes. Just straight up would not eat a bite.

“Okay,” we said. “Clear your plate, you may be excused.”

Then we turned our attention back to our meal and his brother.

Note that nine times out of 10, he was already up from his seat and pitching a fit. We did not institute the “fine, don’t eat, but stay here at the table with us” rule until much later. Baby steps! Telling him to clear his own plate and reinforcing the idea that his meal was over once he left the table was a really effective place to start, and helped curb a lot of the control-based battle-of-wills temper tantrums. He felt like he “won,” but he really didn’t, because WAIT NOW I’M JUST HUNGRY. AND EVERYBODY IS IGNORING ME. CRAP. NOW WHAT.

So if your daughter gets up and wants to eat in front of the TV, tell her no, we eat at the table. If she gets up, her dinner is over. She can take her plate into the kitchen and then play quietly, but the TV. Stays. Off. Full stop. Maybe have some music playing quietly instead, and use that as a secondary excuse — we are all enjoying this music and we won’t be able to listen with the TV on. (And yes, I would insist on zero meals in front of the TV, at least for a very long time, or until you’re confident the “expectation” of eating there has been broken. I wouldn’t cut out TV completely, just reframe it as an activity completely separate from food, meals and snacks included.)

If she decides that no, she’s not sitting at the table, not eating, no no NO, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it ISN’T YOUR JOB TO MAKE HER EAT. No more caving, no more frazzled “FINE!” Let her make the choice to not eat. Do your damnedest to not give a crap about that choice. You did your job. She will not starve. There’s nothing to be frazzled over because you a freaking Zen Master of Calling Dinnertime Bluffs. If she continues to throw a tantrum over the TV, respond however you typically respond to tantrums (simply ignore, time out, go to her room, etc.). Consistency is key here, across the board.

My son caved by night four or five. He was really hungry and finally aware that we were not going to back down and give him something else. He ate an entire plate of fish sticks and carrots. Hardly a nutritional masterpiece but at the time it was HUGE.

Fast forward to now. I have three children who all sit (mostly) politely at the table and (mostly) eat the same family meal.  (Our 3 year old recently went through a big “I don’t like this I’m getting up I’m driving you crazy” phase — we got through it basically following the advice I just gave you, paying particularly close attention to the NOT GIVING A CRAP Zen Master mode and ignoring him completely once he bailed on the meal.)

Family meals are absolutely a realistic goal, and one that I really believe is worth fighting for. Dinnertime is pretty much the one time of the day when all five us can really be together, and focus on each other — rather than the TV or our phones or homework or housework or breaking up sibling squabbles. I genuinely look forward to dinnertime now, instead of dreading it because of the merciless whims of a picky or defiant child.

Last night I made salmon with a barley/fennel/brussels sprouts risotto. (Two of them had seconds on the salmon, one had thirds.) The night before was Thai chicken meatballs in a slightly spicy curry sauce and rice noodles. (My formerly most-picky eater asked for more noodles, but was completely fine with me dumping more curry sauce on them first.) This morning I made chicken tikka masala in my slow cooker. Tomorrow night I’ll probably make them a frozen pizza or something so my husband and I can have a later, romantic dinner together. And that’s cool, because they know the next night it’ll be back to dinner as usual.

So chin up! Stay strong! It’s not going to be fun at first, no, but oh my God, IT WORKS. AND IT’S SO WORTH IT.

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Potty Training Sans Peer Pressure http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/potty-training-without-peer-pressure/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/potty-training-without-peer-pressure/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:07:37 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35282

Hi Amy,

I’ve been a loyal reader of your blog and the Smackdown since before I had my almost 28-month old son, (who incidentally, seems to be a clone of Ike, awesomely crazy hair and all). Any time I need to win a parenting argument with my husband, I just quote you FTW!

I know you get a million potty training questions, but here’s another desperate one. My son goes to daycare fulltime during the day and will pee in the potty all day there. He wears pull-ups, and has a whole impressive routine where he marches into the bathroom himself, climbs up onto the big boy toilet (no potty seat!), pees, wipes, gets down, puts back on a pull-up and pants, then washes his hands. All. by. himself. MAGIC! I swear, this woman is a miracle worker. He still won’t poop in the potty, but he’s starting to sometimes try to. I think he still doesn’t have as much control there, so we’re not rushing it.

The problem is that he won’t use the potty at home. Like, outright refuses to. It’s probably our fault because we were kind of lazy about it at home at first, but now that we’re actively trying, he won’t do it.

He’ll often tell me he has to use the potty when we’re out, or over at grandma’s (though there I think it’s just an excuse to go use the upstairs bathroom, which is usually forbidden), but at home, nope, no go. He’s an incredibly stubborn kid (plus really big and strong at almost 35 pounds), so there’s really no forcing him to do something without it getting ugly really fast. Plus, I don’t want him to have negative associations with our potty.

I’ve tried regularly telling him we’re going to the potty and trying to get him to go with me into the bathroom. Nope. I’ve tried asking him if he needs to use the potty. Nope. I’ve tried bribes with gummy bears (a treat he doesn’t usually get), which worked the first few times, now nope. An offer of a mini cookie worked once or twice, but again, it failed after a few times. We haven’t tried a sticker chart, but I honestly think he’s not going to get the association. I’ve tried telling him we’ll do something in advance and it usually leads to him thinking we’re going to do it now, then having a meltdown when we don’t.

So, where do we go from here? I want to have him working towards being fully potty trained, but I don’t want to undermine his good work at daycare by souring him on the whole thing at home. Should we do a no-pants weekend and try to do a 2-3 potty training marathon at home? Are there other techniques we’re missing?

Thank you!

Hmm, this IS a different flavor of potty stubbornness. Peer pressure at school is often a huuuuuge help, but usually we assume the effects will carry over at home, at least a little. I’m assuming you’ve spoken with the Miracle Worker at daycare about this? Maybe asked for her take or advice on the situation? Because yeah, I don’t want to undermine what she’s doing. But at the same time, given everything you’ve already tried, the only remaining suggestions I can think of would likely involve some changes at daycare as well.

Because I’d suggest ditching the pull-ups. I assume that’s what he’s wearing at home? And I assume his daycare prefers he wear them just in case, or because pooping on the potty isn’t quite 100% there yet? But I don’t know. In my experience, pull-ups can really be more of a hinderance than a help for some toddlers, particularly if they continue to wear them after having repeated, sustained success at using the toilet. They’re a nice backup for us adults, but they can ALSO send a really mixed message to a toddler. “Yep! You’re a big kid who uses the potty…buuuuuttttt it’s still kinda optional, because nothing really dramatic happens if you decide to just go in your pants.”

(I remember buying the ones with the disappearing design on the front to indicate wetness. I cannot even express how little of a crap [PUN!] my child gave about those dumb stars or moons or whatever.)

Since he’s proven himself to be capable of using the toilet at school and when you’re out, and not really receptive to positive rewards or incentives (those are NOT bribes), your best bet is to call his stubbornness bluff and let there be some natural consequences by his refusal to go at home. In this case: wet pants.

When I first start potty training, I typically go from diapers to a no-pants, bare butt stage, just because the whole “getting to the potty on time and getting your pants down” is more of a stage two for kids just starting out. Since your son has mastered that at school, I’d skip the no-pants weekend and buy him some underwear. And then dress him as he usually dresses for school. I would ALSO talk to his daycare and see if they have any super-strong resistance to him wearing underwear there, just so everything stays consistent.

I know the poop thing isn’t super consistent yet, but he IS trying, so maybe underwear will help him in that department. At least there’s not a HUGE difference between stripping off a soiled pull-up and tossing it in the trash vs. sending soiled pants home in a plastic bag. (And let’s be honest, we’ve all gotten those Bags o’ Disgusting sent home at some point — multiple points! — even AFTER our child was technically trained and in underwear full time. It shouldn’t be anything his daycare doesn’t deal with on a regular basis.)

This was the advice, by the way, we got from our own preschool Potty Training Miracle Worker. She recommended no pull-ups (though the slightly absorbent cloth training underwear was okay for just starting out). And when our little ball of stubbornness decided to train for a week…and then promptly untrained for a solid month, she advised us to keep him in underwear and then — when an accident happened — to NOT immediately strip off the wet clothes. Basically wait until it bothered him.  Or until he wanted to go somewhere or do something, and we could point out that nope, we can’t do that with wet pants, sorry.

He STILL tested us at home for about two days, but only to a certain point. He’d initially tell us that nope, he was clean and dry and fine even when he was so clearly, obviously NOT. But then, when we didn’t argue or move to change his clothes, he’d only make it about 20 minutes before giving up and taking everything off. At which point I’d promptly dress him all up again in underwear and pants (so no consequence-free puddles on the floor, or anything). Then it was 15 minutes, then five. Finally he was like, SCREW THIS, I WILL JUST GO SIT ON THE STUPID TOILET.

Every kid is different, of course, but I will say there’s no way we could have finished training that stubborn child using pull-ups, and maybe your son will be similar. Same deal if he’s wearing diapers at home, since your letter wasn’t clear if daycare and home are different — it’s time to banish the training wheels, so to speak.

Keep it SUPER POSITIVE, by the way — don’t purposely add to any distress over the wet clothes by shaming or scolding. Be as matter of fact about it as you can. When you pee in your pants instead of the potty, your clothes get wet and it’s not very fun or comfortable. I mean, it’s a fact we all have to live with.  Let him choose when to remove the wet clothes, but hold firm on the expectation that he will get dressed again and he will wear underwear again — there are no diapers or pull-ups left in the house anymore, another fact of life that no amount of stubbornness or tantrums will change.

(Hopefully he won’t just strip his clothing and underwear in a fit. If he does that, and has an accident on the floor, make sure he knows he’ll be expected to help clean it up, every time.)

Good luck!

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Your Toddler’s First “Real” Christmas http://alphamom.com/family-fun/holidays/toddlers-first-memorable-christmas/ http://alphamom.com/family-fun/holidays/toddlers-first-memorable-christmas/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 21:25:10 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35276

Hi Amy!

I have a somewhat seasonally appropriate question for you (since Halloween is over the only thing we could possibly be thinking of now is Christmas, right?)

My daughter will have just turned 2.5 when Christmas day rolls around (she is exactly 1 year younger than your youngest, Ike!) so I think this is the first year she’ll really understand what’s going on around her. Last year she was thrilled to eat Christmas cookies and get fun new toys, but really didn’t get the bigger picture. She doesn’t know anything about Christmas or what is to come– at this point she doesn’t even know who Santa is.

Basically, my question is: What is the best way to introduce everything to her? My husband and I are very subdued and practical people. While we do celebrate holidays, we tend not to make big deals out of them. We live modestly and certainly within our means. So we don’t want to go overboard with this Christmas stuff, but we also don’t want to be Grinches about the whole thing. We want to be sure she has fun and enjoys the holiday, but we don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with focusing only on presents or overdoing the special events etc.

Do you have any age-appropriate tips to get my daughter excited about and involved in her first real Christmas, without overemphasizing the hectic, crazy, and materialistic parts?

Thanks! 

Honestly, there’s really no need to overthink this one, or to suddenly CHANGE ALL THE THINGS about the way you like to celebrate holidays. Keep doing Christmas the way you do Christmas. It sounds just lovely, honestly. Cookies, some pretty decorations, and a couple presents — what’s better than that?  At 2.5 years old, she’ll still likely be too young to really remember anything specific about this Christmas, so think of it more as building a gentle foundation of nice fuzzy-but-vague happy-time memories for next year, when she’ll see a Christmas tree and suddenly start talking about cookies or having a fire in the fireplace, so you know she’s starting to connect the dots.

That’s not to say that having a child means NO NEW TRADITIONS or anything. But you can still keep it simple. A new set of Christmas jammies to open on Christmas Eve, followed by a holiday TV special like Olive the Reindeer or Charlie Brown, or just playing some holiday music and reading a special Christmas book at bedtime. She’s probably too little to help with tree decorating, but she can help pick a tree out, either at a lot or a farm. Make it a fun outing, even if the whole purpose of it goes over her head at the time. Bake cookies and let her pour in the chocolate chips or “decorate” some sugar cookies. (They will be the ugliest, messiest, most precious cookies you will see. Take a million pictures!)

We started the Mall Santa Photo tradition right from the very first Christmas, first as kind of a joke (tiny confused bored-looking baby + cheesy Mall Santa = hilarious), and then it sort of…stuck. Now we do it every year and the kids genuinely look forward to it, and I admit I love looking through our collection of goofy photos every year and seeing how much the boys have grown. Some kids are (justifiably) weirded out or scared of Mall Santas, though, so again, don’t feel pressured to drag her to GO SEE SANTA!!! if you’d rather not. Read her books about him instead, if you’d like the Santa story to be part of her Christmas at some point.

My almost 3.5 year old STILL doesn’t know who Santa is, though, if you ask him. He was your daughter’s age last year and was still mostly confused about a lot of what was going on. He loved our Christmas tree, the cookies, and dancing to a musical Charlie Brown tree over and over and over. That was really enough for him. I’m looking forward to this year, just to see what exactly he’ll remember or if it’ll be all new, all over again.

We bought him exactly one present for Christmas morning (besides some trinkets and treats in his stocking), but thanks to friends and relatives his bounty under the tree was still totally ridiculous for a small toddler. So don’t worry about being grinches if you stick to just a small number of presents. Two years old = two presents, plus a stocking is more than enough. Ike got tired of opening gifts last year so I let his older brothers open them for him. Let your daughter take a break as well, or open gifts slowly, one at a time, rather than a big videotaped frenzy where she’s not allowed to play with or even look at one present for very long before you’re egging her on to open the next one. (I admit we’ve done this. Then I watch the video like, “CALM DOWN CRAZY PEOPLE. GIVE THE POOR KID A MINUTE.”)

One final tradition to consider: Taking your daughter to a toy store to buy a toy for Toys for Tots or an Angel Tree every year. Do it this year just because it’s a kind thing to do, and each year she’ll slowly come to understand what you’re doing, and hopefully it will temper the GIFTS GIFTS GIFTS ME ME ME stuff with a little real-world experience in giving without the expectation of getting anything in return.

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The Postpartum Visitor Guilt Trip http://alphamom.com/your-life/postpartum/postpartum-visitor-guilt-trip/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/postpartum/postpartum-visitor-guilt-trip/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:35:08 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35211

I am 32 weeks along with my first baby. My husband and I are from the Midwest; he is in the military and we are currently stationed in the Southwest, about 1,400 miles away from family and friends, which sucks but we are doing the best we can with it.

My mom and in-laws were talking about coming to visit us a little after our daughter was born but we ran into a few problems: my mom is terrified of flying, and a couple months ago told us she may not be able to come because her fear of flying was so strong (which I told her I completely understand). It turns out my MIL has the same extreme fear and would not want to fly unless FIL was with her. He’s not able to make it because he has too much traveling for work.

My husband and I talked about it and decided it would maybe be a better idea if we had no one come visit us. To clear this part up – my daughter will be born the end of December, my husband is getting out of the military, so we will be home for good by the end of May. We thought it would be a little easier on everyone else if we just waited till we came home for everyone to have an equal opportunity to see her at the same time. There are other reasons too: we do not have the room for people to come stay with us, my family cannot afford a hotel room, it will still be the holiday season when they visit and plane tix will be expensive. There were a couple of friends we’ve already told this to and they completely understand our reasons.

My mom, however, is extremely upset and is taking this decision as “I don’t want her around” which couldn’t be furthest from the truth. I tried explaining all this to her and she says she just doesn’t understand and is devastated that I “don’t want her here.” I don’t want her to be upset and to understand and respect my decision. I was wanting a little advice on how to better explain things to her. And my question is: Is this right for me to say/do? Am I truly being cruel to my mom?

Sad

Holy guilt trip, Batman.

Let me get this straight: Your mom already told you that hey, that hypothetical visit we were talking about? Probably won’t happen, because of a fear of flying. So you know, heads up that you probably can’t count on her 100% for postpartum support/help. You graciously explain that you understand, it’s okay.

So then you and your husband talk things over and come up with an alternate plan that works for you and your current living situation, AND a plan that doesn’t put any guilt or pressure on people who don’t want to fly. And your mom freaks out over a trip that she already told you might not happen and is now twisting your words and intentions for maximum Bad Daughter Guilt.

You know what? Whatever. This is my least favorite Mom (or MIL) Move and I am fresh out of patience for it. I sense you could explain and explain until you’re blue in the face and it won’t make a bit of difference, because your mother has gone Full Drama Queen. You are not being cruel; she’s being more than a tad ridiculous.

Sure, it’s understandable that she’s disappointed that she’ll need to wait a few months to see the baby in person. It’s a bummer, but it doesn’t really make sense for her to go so overboard when the trip was already kind of iffy. And her disappointment doesn’t make it okay for her to make you feel like crap. Sure, I completely understand that some folks are deathly afraid of flying, but…what did she expect you to do? Buy her a ticket and then just sort of hope she’ll get on the plane? (Or even better, hope that she doesn’t spend the rest of your pregnancy making you feel guilty about the plane trip and the anxiety and the stress of it all.)

I also can tell you from years of Advice Column Experience that there are a ton of daughters out there who would straight up FREAK OUT over their moms using a fear of flying as an excuse not to come see them after giving birth, and would insist/beg that their moms find some way to conquer their fear (therapy, Xanax, etc.) for the sake of the baby. You gave your mom a pass on that and, after further reflection, decided it was probably for the best. I see nothing wrong with this.

Maybe this isn’t the first time her fear of flying has caused her to miss out on something momentous, and rather than realize that “hey, this is an irrational level of fear that needs to be dealt with somehow,” she’s deflecting blame onto you. Maybe she’s got a victim/martyr complex and thinks you’re “punishing” her for something she “can’t help,” but…you’re not. That I feel like I know for sure. Your reasons for no postpartum visitors are sane, sound and perfectly reasonable. I assume you guys are used to bridging the temporary distance with frequent phone calls, photos, Facebook, Skype, etc. This really isn’t the end of the world. This isn’t because you “don’t want her there,” it’s just the way things are right now. Cramped, far-flung, and soon to be in a massive state of flux. The same no-visiting rules apply to everyone, and no, that doesn’t mean your mom isn’t still super special and won’t be missed. But this is you being the grown-up, making grown-up decisions about how you and your new family would like to spend the first few months together.

What’s important is that YOU feel good about this decision, independent of how ANYBODY else feels or what they think. You no longer need to defend it to anyone. Stick to your guns. Stop trying to re-explain things. Change the subject when she starts guilt-tripping you with “I don’t understaaaaand” and such. Maybe one last, “Mom, this isn’t about us not wanting you there and you know it. Stop making me feel guilty about this decision, because it’s final. Moving on.”

And then file this little tantrum away for future reference, once you’re all moved back home and in regular, closer proximity to her. I’m guessing this pattern of behavior will repeat, as will your need to recognize it, stand strong and not let it get to you.

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If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

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Two Year Old Bedtime Anxiety http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/two-year-old-bedtime-anxiety/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/two-year-old-bedtime-anxiety/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 14:28:13 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35204

Dear Amy,

I have one two year old, who, up until this point, has been a fantastic sleeper. He has always slept alone in his crib with little to no protest from 7:30pm until 6:30am. He naps for an hour and a half each day too. Amazing, right?

That is, until two weeks ago. He started daycare full-time a couple months ago, so his napping is now public! And then two weeks ago, we left him overnight for the first time with my sister and her kids for a couple nights. And since then, he’s been a little more difficult going to bed on his own, but not impossible. It’s just gotten progressively worse. These past few nights, if I try to bring him anywhere close to his crib, he will scream his head off and claw at me to stay in my arms. So he wants to sleep in our bed beside us. A week ago, when this happened, I would wait until he was in deep sleep and then carry him to his crib and he would sleep for the rest of the night. Now, he won’t even get in deep sleep. The moment I try to carry him, his eyes flip open and he starts to cry. I’m at my wits end. What do I do to revert him back to his good sleep habits?

We have tried to remove one rail of his crib so he wouldn’t feel trapped and thus keep him in his bed, but that hasn’t worked. He loves it during the day and will roll around his bed and laugh and play, but nighttime! He still screams! I’m totally at a loss, I have never felt so out of control of my usually great sleeper’s sleep habits!!

Thanks!!

Sounds like separation anxiety, which is a very, very common nighttime/bedtime issue around age two. It’s especially common if said two year old has recently had a big life change — moving, new sibling, etc. — and I would probably count a new full-time daycare routine and a solo, multi-night visit with relatives as possible triggers as well. (Not to make you feel guilty or anything — big life changes are part of life and often unavoidable. Things happen.  If it wasn’t Thing A that brought this phase on, it would have been Thing B or C or D, if you know what I mean.)

By two years old, children are really, painfully aware of all sorts of stuff that can freak them out before bed. Bedtime means Mom goes away for a really long time. Bedtime means the dark. Bedtime means the possibility of bad dreams, or of their imagination (which is still kinda new and not something they 100% understand or can control yet) running wild with thoughts of monsters and scary things. So they fight bedtime tooth and nail.

It’s a fine line to walk — you don’t want to establish undesirable habits but you also need to acknowledge that your toddler is not doing this on purpose or to be “difficult.” He’s really genuinely afraid, and while WHAT he’s afraid of (be it parental abandonment or monsters under his crib) isn’t real, his FEAR of those things is very, very real to him. You need to comfort him, but continue to set limits and find ways to help him process and deal with his fears independently.

Some tips for toddlers with bedtime separation anxiety:

1) Loveys or security objects. If he doesn’t have a special blanket or toy, it’s not too late to introduce one. Or re-introduce something he’s had since infancy like an old swaddling blanket or a stuffed animal that’s always just been “around,” watching over him from a shelf. Talk about the object as if it’s very, very special and that it’s only job is to make him feel loved and safe. Put that new imagination of his to work, but in a happy, positive way.

2) Nightlights, light-up crib aquariums/musical toys, toddler flashlights, etc. There are a TON of great, soothing-type toys to help with bedtime anxiety. Even if his fear isn’t the dark, specifically, something like a Moon in My Room, Constellation Turtle, or just a really cute nightlight he can keep in bed with him might be worth introducing to his bedtime routine.

3) Play music. When my oldest went through a bit of bedtime anxiety (lots of runaway imagination/fear of bad dreams, mostly), I created a playlist on an old iPod that we’d turn on for him every night. It was a mix of soothing, quiet songs from toddler/preschool favorites like Raffi, Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes and would close out with instrumental-only songs. (The Vince Guaraldi Trio, in our case.) We played the same songs in the same order every night, and after a week or so the final songs were like toddler melatonin — he was OUT by the end of the playlist.

I think it’s important (since it doesn’t sound like co-sleeping is your personal jam) that he start out the night in his own room. I know this is a super tough call, because you’re trying to simultaneously respect his separation anxiety fears while still removing yourself as a sleep crutch/bad habit. You can try starting bedtime earlier, incorporating relaxation techniques (stretching, deep breathing, the relax your toes/knees/butt/tummy game), and then hoping that one or more of the above suggestions is a soothing enough distraction for him to enjoy in your absence. If he wakes up really scared and hysterical (bad dream, for example), bringing him to your bed probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, provided it doesn’t become an EVERY NIGHT thing.

This WILL be a short-term, NOT FOREVER sleep hiccup, most likely. Lots of kids’ sleep goes kaplooey around this age for a million different reasons. Try to treat it like any other developmental-based sleep regression: with a mix of “coping the best you can so everybody gets as much sleep as they can” and  “sticking to your guns over deadbreaker bad habits that could become long-term if you’re not careful.”

 

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Total Eclipse of the Potty Training http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/uti-or-potty-training-regression/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/uti-or-potty-training-regression/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:45:24 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35167

Hi Amy

My youngest son is 2.5 years old (my other two children are a 14 yr old boy and 4 yr old girl) and up until 2 weeks ago I thought we had cracked potty training, but then he started to pee. Indiscriminately. He pees in his clothes, he pees on the floor, he pees on the furniture. I am at a loss as to what to do. He is still using the potty or the toilet to have a poo, so I am assuming that this regression is behavioral but I have no idea what triggered it, or how to tackle it.

I would be grateful for any advice.

Thanks.

K

Call your pediatrician. Like, today, right now. Quite often, these sorts of all-out, totally nuclear potty regressions are NOT behavioral at all, but are a sign of a health issue. My guess, since this is so pee-centric,  is that he’s got a urinary tract or bladder infection, or had one quite recently. (These infections often go away on their own, but the resulting potty-regression symptoms can last for days or even weeks afterwards.) Call his doctor and schedule a urine culture ASAP.

A UTI or other infection would make him feel like he has to “go” all the time, thus making it difficult for him to determine when he ACTUALLY has to pee. And when he DOES have to pee, there’s a terrible, immediate urgency that doesn’t allow enough time for him to make it to the toilet. Plus, it might burn or sting when he pees, so he holds it in and avoids going, which makes the infection gets worse and it’s just a big ol’ mess of accidents. He doesn’t WANT to have accidents, so he’s making it to the potty to poop, but the pee problem might just be beyond his control right now.

I speak from first-hand experience here. I too misidentified one of these random, total-eclipse-of-the-potty-training regressions as behavioral, and futilely attempted to fight back with sticker charts, incentives, making my kid clean up his messes, etc. It only got worse, and pretty soon he was avoiding the potty all together, for pee AND poop. You can imagine how much fun THAT was.

He never ran a fever, never complained that anything hurt. Eventually, after GOD KNOWS HOW LONG, there was some visible redness. We took him to the doctor, who misdiagnosed the redness as some surface irritation and gave me a topical cream. It didn’t help anything and we were referred to a urologist, who couldn’t understand why a damn urine culture hadn’t been run on this poor kid, because yeah. It was a UTI. Not even a really bad one, but uncomfortable enough to torpedo potty training back to square one. (I’m guessing the infection had come and gone a few times, given the timeframe of accidents.)

We left with some antibiotics and a warning that the potty problems might stick around for awhile longer — once a toddler has a scary/painful experience they tend to hang on to the fear/avoidance. We were to increase his fluid take and the number of trips to the bathroom, overruling any and all protests that he didn’t have to go. I think it was about another week before everything went back to normal. But it did. One day, the accidents just stopped, and everything was fine.

Anyway, yeah. Rule out a physical cause before treating it like a behavioral problem. If the culture comes back clean, there’s still the possibility that he DID have an infection that cleared up and now it’s just a matter of him forgetting about the “unpleasantness” of the symptoms and getting back on track. Give him TONS of water and non-sugary fluids. (Note that cranberry juice, the go-to recommendation for us laaaaaadies to prevent UTIs, has not been shown to be all that effective for children, or in treating an active infection. Water is the best thing for your son, if he indeed has an infection of some kind.) Set a timer and get him to try going as often as you can. If you go out, make sure he has frequent opportunities to go so he’s not holding urine in.

If there really isn’t a physical cause, time and patience are probably your best bets. Maybe something happened in a bathroom at daycare or a friend’s house that scared him (a falling toilet seat, a weird painting, the dreaded auto-flush!), or he had a nightmare, or maybe he’s seeking negative attention and needs some extra one-on-one time or lots of positive praise and feedback. Maybe he needs frequent reminders/prompts because he’s getting too distracted or is just plain waiting too long because he doesn’t want to break from whatever he’s doing.

(This is also A Thing that happens. You think you’re “done” with potty training and put it on a mental back burner. You go from constantly thinking/asking/obsessing over your kid going potty to not really giving it much thought at all, overconfident in their ability to handle things themselves. Meanwhile, your kid is used to your reminders, still kinda needs them, and starts having accidents. Ahhh, parental hubris!)

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Mealtime Battles: How to Keep Your Toddler at the Table http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/how-to-keep-your-toddler-at-the-table/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/how-to-keep-your-toddler-at-the-table/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 16:27:26 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35141

Hi there,

I just discovered your (god-sent) website and I’ve just bought the Satter book you recommended. Now my one issue is how do I keep my 20 month old daughter seated in her high chair when she refuses to do so after 5 minutes? She will try to stand up and get out, and despite me insisting she stay seated etc, she refuses. Don’t even get me started on her food intake. Pathetic. Any ideas? Do I keep her strapped up with her screaming away?

Thanks
Noelle

Since you just purchased the excellent How to Get Your Kid to Eat (But Not Too Much), let me give you a little reading roadmap: Give Part One — Basic Principles of Feeding (chapters 1 through 6) a quick speed read. Pay closest attention to chapters 2, 3 and 4. These will give you a good overview of Satter’s methods, the Division of Responsibility, the amount of day-to-day food intake your daughter actually needs (it’s less than you probably think), and help you understand why many of the things we parents do at mealtimes backfire on us so spectacularly.

Then I want you to skip ahead to Almighty Chapter 9 — Is Your Toddler Jerking You Around at the Table?

The answer to this question is pretty much always “yes.” I’ve yet to meet a toddler who wasn’t a total jerk at the table at least once or a billion times.

To quickly answer your main question, no, do not keep her strapped in her high chair and screaming at mealtimes. One of your primary goals at this age is to make mealtimes pleasant. Both for her and everybody else at the table.

At some point, when she’s an older toddler, you can start holding her to higher behavior/table manner standards and explain that “okay, you don’t have to eat but you do need to stay here at keep us company while we eat.” At 20 months, though, this firmly falls into the PICK YOUR BATTLES category, and I think you’ll all be happier if you don’t pick this one. For now, anyway.

The more you insist she stay seated, the more appealing getting up will seem; the more IMPORTANT it will feel to her. And screaming at the table is definitely a big manners no-no. So…don’t argue with her or engage in a of battle of wills, either about food intake or the specific location of her butt.  Let her get down, then turn your back and continue with your meal. Don’t give her any attention, unless she comes back to the table and expresses an interest in maybe sitting back down or eating something after all. Make it clear that her behavior has zero impact on you at all. You will continue to eat and enjoy being at the table, #sorrynotsorry that she’s missing out.

And here’s where the crazy talk starts: I highly suggest you straight up ditch the high chair. I know, I know, that sounds completely counter-intuitive but hear me out. If we’re being honest, the high chair’s primary purpose at this age is containment, both for your child and your child’s messes. But she’s old enough to fight against that containment and has turned the high chair into a game and/or a battle of wills. So. Fine! Ditch the high chair, and she’s lost her main source of protest/misbehavior leverage at the table. Ditch the high chair, and it’s essentially Game Over.

Get her a booster seat that fits on a regular chair at your table, or one of those Kaboost things that goes underneath. Make it seem fun and very big-girl like for her to get to sit next to you at the table. Don’t buckle her in or anything — the idea is to give her one less thing to fight about at the table, so show her how little of a crap you give about the “getting up after five minutes” game.

But then practice the act of getting up from the table and coming back. “Oh, I left your cup on the counter over there. Can you go get it and bring it back to your seat?” Praise her when she returns. Teach her how to pass the salt and put a napkin on her lap. Serve the mac-n-cheese in a big bowl and let her practice spooning out her own portion. Basically, involve her in the meal-at-the-table experience as much as possible, making it all as pleasant as possible.

She will probably still insist on getting up and wandering away before you’d like her to. She will probably still not eat as much as you’d like, either. But once you stop playing this particular game with her, you can go back and give Satter’s book a more thorough read, and introduce other strategies (proper meal and snacktime spacing, optimizing her nutrition via the few foods she eats, chilling the eff out overall, etc.) that will make mealtimes more pleasant and less of a power struggle over…well, whatever thing your toddler has decided to turn into a power struggle this week.

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In-Law Appreciation Day http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/grandmother-appreciation-gift-ideas/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/grandmother-appreciation-gift-ideas/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:30:01 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35133

Hi Amy,

I have a five month old and have devoured your previous advice columns (happily cloth diapering with GMD prefolds and flip covers, thanks!). I read the columns about crazy in-laws with amusement and sympathy, but find myself with somewhat of the opposite problem. Maybe answering a question about a great in-law relationship will be something different to think about?

My mother-in-law takes care of my son once a week, driving an hour each way to our house. The arrangement lets my husband be a stay at home dad four days a week while still working part time as I work full time at a job I love. It’s a perfect setup for my husband and me both personally and professionally, and I have no idea how we would be able to replicate it without her. I worried that we would have problems with parenting preferences but she has been incredibly respectful of our wishes and (not surprisingly) fantastic with our son.

So what can I do to thank her for being so great and make her time taking care of my son easier? Her birthday is coming up and I’m trying to figure out what we can do to show our appreciation and also anything we could do to make taking care of the baby more fun. When he gets older we look forward to getting tickets for them to museums or the zoo or other fun trips, but he’s 5 months old. We’ve offered to buy any food/snacks she wants and the only thing she’s asked for in the house is diet soda. Somehow supplying two cans of diet soda per week doesn’t seem adequate… So do you or the other readers have any tips for what would make a care-givers day?

Thanks!

Wow. What a breath of fresh air through the in-law zone of the question queue! Look, everybody! It CAN happen! It CAN work! It DOES exist! Let’s all ooh and ahh over the mythical unicorn-in-law.

I bet your mother-in-law already thinks her current schedule and time with the baby is pretty fun. Outings will be nice down the road, but right now, a whole solid day of sweet, squishy baby time is probably her jam. Goodness, I just officially said goodbye to the baby stage of parenting like, five minutes ago and I’m already itching to get my hands on somebody else’s baby for a fix. (A temporary fix. That I can hand back after a couple hours. And then go home and sleeeeeeeeep.)

That’s not to say a nice show of appreciation isn’t in order, or anything. She’s obviously more than happy to help out and spend time with her delicious grandson, but you certainly don’t want her feel like you’re taking the arrangement for granted. Which again, I bet she doesn’t. Your letter is clearly aware of how lucky you are and dripping with a need to let her know how much it all means to you. I bet real life reads like that too, in more subtle ways. Like nice cold Diet Cokes.

Here are my top grandparent/caregiver appreciation ideas, and then I’m pitching this one right into the comments for further brainstorming.

1) Photo books. A customized “Grandma and Me” photo book would be a very sweet memento of their time together, particularly if she takes photos of your son during her day with him that you could include. Get those photos off the phones and memory cards and into a book, complete with text or a dedication where you and your husband can express how thankful you are. (Plus a photo book can be displayed if she wants, or tucked away on a shelf if she’s not one for “clutter,” unlike a framed photo or wall collage that she might not really have space for.) (Editor’s note: we have reviewed some custom photo book options herehere and here.)

2) Personalized jewelry. Spend some time on Etsy and you’ll be amazed by all the cool and creative jewelry ideas you can find for grandparents. Lockets, photo pendants, charm bracelets, initials, birthstones, — even lines from her favorite baby book or lullaby — you name it, you can find something that fits her style and will perfectly commemorate her special relationship with your son. (Just be warned that a lot of jewelry on Etsy now uses an overly loose interpretation of “handmade,” so research the shop a bit to make sure you’re not just buying something mass-produced overseas with a ridiculous markup. Personalized or custom-made products tend to avoid this problem, though.) (Editor’s note: Our friends at Cool Mom Picks have written about some of the most unique jewelry for moms.  We recommend looking through their archives.)

3) A letter. Oh, write it down! Tell her! Even if all you get her for her birthday is a nice sweater or Amazon gift card, whip out some nice stationery and crib from your letter above. Thank you for driving an hour each way. Thank you for providing the perfect setup for my husband and I both personally and professionally. I have no idea how we would be able to replicate it without you. Thank you for being respectful of our parenting wishes and thank you for being so (not surprisingly) fantastic with our son. 

Another suggestion for general relationship strengthening, from my personal experience, is to remember that just because she’s a grandparent doesn’t mean she’s stopped being a mother. A mother who also wants to spend quality time with her child. Make sure your husband stays mindful of this and doesn’t let his relationship with her devolve into a employer/hired caregiver arrangement where he simply relieves her of duty at the end of the day, or doesn’t really have any interaction with her beyond her babysitting duties. Maybe he could drive out her way and take her out for a special birthday dinner, just the two of them, or some other mother/son outing he thinks she’d enjoy. I think that would be a lovely way to both thank her for being an amazing grandmother, and also for being a great mom.

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When Daddy Leaves http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/coparenting-after-heartbreaking-split/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/coparenting-after-heartbreaking-split/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:08:37 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35033

Hi Amy,

I am the proud mama of a beautiful 5 month old little girl who is the light of my life and the joy of my days. I never thought I would get to be a mother and now that I am, I can’t believe how right it feels. Every aspect of my life is made brighter by her presence in it. And yet (and you knew that ‘and yet’ was coming because you are the Alpha Mom). I have a problem that I just cannot solve on my own. That problem is baby’s father. I am not married, Amy, and to my great distress, baby’s father left us about two months ago. He is younger than I am and baby was a big surprise to us both. This is not the first time he has left- when I found out I was pregnant, he left for three months. Left far enough that I didn’t know where he was. He came back when I was six months pregnant and I was so relieved. I was so grateful and relieved and elated at having him back, at having his support through what turned into a very difficult pregnancy that I didn’t listen to that small voice in my heart that said ‘be careful!’ and ‘you were broken when he left you last time, can you handle it again if he does it to both you AND baby?’ Amy, I wish I had listened to that voice and been more guarded. I love him. I love him so much. But those last few weeks we were together, I was miserable because he stopped talking to me. He stopped joking and laughing and playing with our precious daughter. And I told him to leave. I told him to walk away if that was what he was thinking, if he no longer wanted to work at us. I never thought he’d leave. I really didn’t. He left that morning. And that voice was right. I am broken again. And I have a bright-eyed, joyous little girl who can’t understand where her daddy went.

All of that is awful and heartbreaking and sad but my problem, Amy, is I don’t know how to move on. He is over all the time to see baby. He wants us to do things together as a family so baby gets to spend time with both of us. He hugs me tight and offers to help me out. And it’s killing me. He is the kind of love that, once it ends, I need not to see anymore. I need not to have contact with. Because I do still love him. I do still wish we could work it out and be a family- a real family- together with our beautiful daughter. I feel like I am living in this limbo where I almost have my relationship but in fact, I don’t. I don’t want to be angry and contentious and make baby having a relationship with him hard, I want him to spend time with her and to be a huge part of her life. But I also want him back…and if I can’t have him back (I shouldn’t have him back), I need him to be gone. How do I do both? How do I move on and heal and hopefully someday find someone who does want us both, who wants to be my partner (maybe even my husband?) and who wants to be baby’s full time dad? How do I stop wanting the ex when he is always around? How do I stop loving the father of my child? I want to be strong in this, for me and for baby. How do I be strong in the face of overwhelming and helpless, hopeless love?

Sincerely,
Heartbroken

My dear, I am so sorry. I can’t even imagine.

This man is not your love. He never was. He never will be. Your great, true love — the one who deserves you — would never, ever abandon you during your pregnancy, and then come back only to rinse-and-repeat the process again when you have a newborn. No. He is not your love, his is not your future.

This man is, however, the father of your child and thankfully appears to be making an effort to remain in her life. Which means — while he is not your future — you cannot cut him out of your present. For your daughter’s sake, you will need to find another way to deal with the heartbreak. A way that DOESN’T involve removing him from your lives or pushing him away (for THIRD TIME, Jesus).

You know all this, of course. I can tell that you do, in between your sad, heartbroken sentences about helpless, hopeless love.

You are not helpless. Or hopeless. And again: This man is not your love. He deserves access to his daughter and I suppose your respect over his ability to sack up and take responsibility for her (in the face of what was a pretty huge freakout over impending fatherhood). He does not deserve to take up space in your heart and head and dreams of the future and make you feel rooted to a dead, dysfunctional relationship.

Start by arranging father-daughter time that does not involve you, that doesn’t conjure up painful fantasies about what Might Have Been. He can spend time with her — there’s no reason why you should feel like you need to do things all “together,” so he gets to play house and while simultaneously torturing you. Since I’m guessing he KNOWS how you feel and KNOWS that every family outing is giving you hope and keeping you emotionally tethered to him. Is he punishing you for calling his bluff and telling him to leave? Is he just a jerk who enjoys toying with you? I don’t know. I sense there might be some mind games going on with this “He wants us to do things together as a family so baby gets to spend time with both of us. He hugs me tight and offers to help me out.” stuff and I don’t like it. I’m not sure I trust this man’s motives. He wants to spend time with baby, that’s awesome. He can do that without you around. You guys are officially no longer a 2-for-1 deal.

The next time he comes by and wants to spend time with his daughter, instead of accepting a hug, hand him the diaper bag and tell him you have to run to an appointment. Preferably, I would like the appointment to be with a therapist who can help you talk through all of this. Because you would benefit very, very much from therapy right now, both to deal with the crushing rollercoaster of a year you’ve had and your (still raging, postpartum) emotions. You need a safe space where you can grieve and be sad and also totally freaking ANGRY at him. Rage and yell and cry and talk, then leave it all there behind on the couch so you can go home and be civil to him and bid him “goodbye” without feeling crushed by the sight of him leaving again, always with the leaving.

If you need more time to find a therapist, however, make that first appointment with your hairdresser, or get a manicure. Just get out of the house and away from him and the invasive fantasies about “oh, maybe he’ll change his mind and it can be like this all the time.”

No, it can’t. He probably wont change his mind, but EVEN IF HE DID…gurl. No. There will be no third strike here. No more times for him to prove to you that his default setting for “THIS IS HARD AND I DON’T IT” is to simply pack up and walk out the door. If anything, he should still be on your watchlist: He needs to prove to you that his recent dedication to fatherhood isn’t temporary and he won’t get bored/antsy and start flaking on your precious little girl. You are now, unfortunately and unavoidably, the guardian of her heart. You will not let him break hers too.

I also recommend getting some legal advice in regards to an official custody and visitation schedule, as well as financial child support. Here’s a brief overview of the some of the issues to think about when unmarried parents break up but both retain legal rights to the child. Not only would having something official and in writing simply be a smart thing to do for your daughter’s sake (especially given his flakey track record), but it will hopefully help you reframe the relationship with him and bring some closure to the romantic side that is no more.

You are strong. You can do this. Your future and your great, true love are out there. And you will, with time and help from a good therapist, be able to see that you can find that future even with this man there in the present. On the periphery, the co-parent sidelines.

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Potty Training Realism http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/potty-training-accidents/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/potty-training-accidents/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:53:57 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35004

Hi Amy,

Stumbled across your blog and I love all the advice and antidotes. Here is my problem:

My daughter, 20 months, is two weeks out from potty training ‘boot camp’ I’d say for the most part she is doing great. She can tell me when she needs to go and after the initial 3 days we have been fairly accident free. I say fairly because we might go 2-3 days accident free and then have 4-5 days in a row with an accident a day. Usually the accident is poop, but we have the occasional pee (with no signs of caring/noticing she had an accident) Also so far every accident has been at home and not while out. So, are we on the right track? Does it indeed take several weeks/months to ‘fine tune’ or did I train too early? I have tried googling and I have gotten many horror stories about regression, training too young leads to dysfunctional bladder and frequent accidents mean they just aren’t ready. If she is indeed not ready, do you just walk away from the toilet completely or do you put them back in diapers and still take them if they tell you too? As a first time mom surrounded by other first time moms I just don’t know what is a realistic expectation. Any advice is welcomed.

Thank you!

Every kid is different and every potty training story/situation is different, but yes, I think you are on the right track. This is all quite unremarkably normal. I’m sure there ARE toddlers out there who complete the “potty train in less than a day” or “potty train in three days” boot camps and absolutely never, ever have an accident again or any regression/backsliding/issues-with-poop-but-not-pee-or-vice-versa, but I really think most toddlers continue to need practice, and continue to have accidents due to forgetfulness/distraction/old diaper habits.

Real Mom Talk: I potty trained three boys using the three-day method. It usually ended up more like five days before we had a for-real “breakthrough,” and HOLY GOD YES, we dealt with the occasional accident for WEEKS and MONTHS afterwards. My last kid completely faked us out after the first week, then went a solid damn MONTH without a single success before snapping out of it. (And yet that still wasn’t the End of All Potty Accidents. Two and three year olds like to keep you on your toes, sometimes. Usually right when you’ve stopped carrying around a change of pants and underwear in your purse.)

Basically, the fact that your daughter is “fairly” accident free means that she’s “mostly” there, which is about all one can usually hope for two weeks out from the initial breakthrough day. Particularly when we’re talking about kids on the younger side, and kids who did not just magically wake up one morning determined to self train. So no, I don’t think you need to put her back in diapers or stress about training her too early. You just need to adjust your expectations about how independent she’ll be regarding the potty for a few more months. Probably three to six more months before you can really and truly backburner the potty issue, given her age.

(And for all the early potty training terror articles out there, the main concern is that we adults tend to forget how tiny a toddler’s bladder is, and hold them to an unrealistic toilet schedule. We tell them to “hold it” because it’s inconvenient for us to drag an 18-month-old to the potty every 20 minutes, even though an 18-month-old simply HAS to use the potty every 20 minutes because her bladder is small and her muscles aren’t fully developed yet. The problems develop when that 18-month-old learns to hold it past what her body is ready for, and then ends up with a urinary tract infection. I’m not a huge proponent of super-early training in general — mostly because it’s so much more about the parents being trained than the kid, and I’ve yet to read any real benefits of it, particularly for the child — but at 20 months I think your daughter can avoid any of the scary things you read about as long as you 1) don’t expect her to hold it, 2) don’t push for staying dry at night or long car trips, and 3) continue to praise her success while not shaming/losing patience over the occasional accident.)

Since she’s having accidents at home and not while she’s out, that suggests she’s simply forgetting or getting distracted. She’s remembering while she’s out because it’s important to her to NOT have an accident while she’s out, and/or it’s more important to YOU so you’re probably being more proactive about making sure she has frequent potty breaks and opportunities. So on days when she’s just chilling at home, have a potty timer. It goes off, you remind her, or if it has been awhile since she went, just insist she sit and try to go. I would probably set it for every hour or so, and if a couple hours go by without peeing, start setting it for every 30 minutes instead.

As for the poop, well. That’s one of those things. The Halfway There Kid, is what we usually call them around here, and it’s super duper common. Kids master the pee before the poop. Since she’s doing relatively well on the pee (and will likely only continue to improve with more time and practice), discontinue any rewards you’re giving her for that, and them implement an incentive program focused just on pooping on the potty. Watch for any sort of timing or schedule (and for those telltale Poop Faces, or anytime she suddenly runs behind furniture) and ABOVE ALL, make sure she isn’t holding it in or getting constipated. A constipated, potty-training kid will drag the Halfway There process out for AGES. So. You know. Make sure she’s getting lots of fiber.

Don’t worry! She’ll get there. Eventually. It’s a process. A very messy, damp process.

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