My Daughter Screams for her Diapers - How Can I Potty Train Her?

Question: My Daughter Screams for her Diapers - How Can I Potty Train Her?

A mom writes:

"My little girl will be 3 years old next month. She tells me when she needs to go to the bathroom and can take her own clothes off. She can even take her own diaper off when she's done going to the bathroom. When I mention going potty, though, she screams and throws a fit and will not sit on the potty. She will go get a diaper for me to put on her so she can go in it. We have even tried putting the diapers on top of the dresser where she can't reach them, but she got a chair and tried to climb up to get them. What can I do to get her to go on the toilet?"

Answer: The simple solution to this is: Get rid of the diapers.

If she's shown all the signs of being ready for potty training (and it sounds like she's probably there) and she is actually bringing you a diaper so she can immediately go in it, then she knows what she's doing. She knows how to go and she's aware, now she just needs to stop going in one place and start going in the other.

You need to be the link that puts this chain together. If she demands a diaper and you get it for her, then she will continue to demand a diaper. If she brings you a diaper and you put it on her, then she will continue to bring you the diaper. If you put the diapers out of reach and she tries to get them but can't and then you get one down for her, she will continue to climb to get them. As long as the diapers are available and you keep giving them to her, there is absolutely no incentive for her to go outside of her comfort zone and try the potty.

You've got to get rid of the diapers completely and be consistent. You can't say, "No more diapers!" and then hand her one every time she wants one.

If this is a frightening prospect because you've been using diapers at night and you want to continue to do so, another option would be to keep the diapers but put them in a place that is truly out of reach and out of her sight like a cabinet with a safety lock.

Still, it is your reaction to her behavior that will be the determining factor in whether this works. When she comes to you demanding a diaper, you must very calmly and firmly tell her that she can go in the potty and that diapers are for night time only. Then don't give in. Even if she cries or throws a tantrum, remember that you've given into her demand in the past, so she'll probably hold out a while to see if you will give into it again.

It's essential that you do not express anger or frustration during this time. She will respond to your calm, collected, self-disciplined attitude much better. If she has an accident, and you should expect plenty of them, do not punish her or react in an exasperated manner. Simply tell her that now she needs to clean it up and help her do this (though let her do most of the work). Use phrases like, "You'll make it next time," and "You really tried hard, I bet next time you'll go in the potty." Instill self-confidence in her and convey that you believe in her future success.

I'd also like to say a word about using diapers at night with a child who is reluctant to let go and finds it hard to make the transition. While most kids do fine going back and forth between a diaper or Pull-Up at night and underwear during the day, some don't. For those kids, it's a much better option to just go with thick training pants and a protective covering, less fluids at night and a double-sheeted bed. The inconvenience of a wet bed now and then will be made up for with a less confused child, no mixed messages about where it's OK to go to the bathroom, and potty training success during the day.

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