I would like to know the best way that I can get
my child potty-trained and to get my child to enjoy potty-training. I
also have another question on how to get my child off the bottle at
night time. My child does not take the bottle through the day she drinks
out of a cup, but when I send her to bed at night, she will cry if I do
not give it to her.
You sound like a caring and concerned parent.
Thank you for sending your questions.
I have one question myself. Why is it that you see
the night-time bottle as a problem to be solved? What difficulty does it
cause for you or for her, as you see it? If you're worried that she will
never give up this bottle, you can relax, because children do
grow up, all on their own, at their own personal rate of growth.
Have you read my article "Ten
Reasons to Sleep Next to Your Child at Night"? Please take a
look at this, because if your child is sleeping alone, the bottle is
very probably a security object which helps her to cope with loneliness
or night-time fears. Security objects act as a substitute for the
parent's presence and reassurance. If she can sleep next to you at
night, her need for a substitute object will very probably disappear
quickly. A general rule of thumb is that each and every
"troublesome" behavior will remain until the child's
underlying, legitimate need is met. The parent's task, then, is not to
force the child to move toward more mature behavior, but to enable
the child to do this, by seeing that her genuine needs (especially the
need for love and reassurance) are met as they arise.
If she is already sleeping with you, I would
recommend patience until she is ready to give it up. Forcing a child to
let go of a source of security before he or she is ready really doesn't
accomplish anything. The need will still be there, and will simply be
transferred to something else that may be more of a problem for you. We
can't force a child to grow up any faster than they are already doing,
nor should we feel any need to do so. As I discuss in my article on
learning disabilities, we can't speed up a child's rate of growth any
more than we can force a rose to bloom faster.
Re the potty problem, same advice. When she's
ready, she's ready. If you are being pressured by relatives or friends
asking you about this matter (which is not really their business), try
to ignore this well-meant but unnecessary interference. All you need to
do is have a potty seat available for her and - in a respectful and
gentle way - explain what it is for. When she's ready, she'll use it.
Even after that point, remember that stressful situations may "set
her back". If she asks for a diaper though she has already used the
potty for some time, honor that request. Trust her to know what she is
ready to take on during any given day. Who knows more than the child
what she is capable of doing?
Remember that each child has a built-in rate of
development, and what is "normal" for one may not be
"normal" for another; in fact, there are wide variations for
potty-training, giving up bottles, and every other milestone. Any
comparison to other children is unhelpful and can cause unnecessary
worry for the parent. As Epictetus wrote almost two centuries ago,
"There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying
about things which are beyond the power of our will."
The educator John Holt had an interesting analogy:
he cautioned parents that "children are not trains". What he
meant was that a train must reach each station on time, otherwise, it
will arrive late at the final destination. A child, however, can arrive
"late" at any or all of the "stations" or milestones
of development, but can quickly catch up later. For example, a child I
know about didn't learn to read until he was twelve, but later graduated
with honors from Harvard (fortunately, he had been homeschooled, so he
was never hindered by a "learning disability" label!)
Believe me, "this too shall pass", and
faster than you imagine. My "baby" just turned sixteen. All
the "problems" we thought would last forever just vanished one
by one as he grew older. Your little girl will grow up - and looking
back on this later, you'll be amazed that you thought you had to help
her do this! All she needs from you is the joy you feel as you watch her
grow and mature.