Positive Discipline for Toddlers – a beginners guide

Positive discipline or Gentle discipline, means believing that no child is bad. Yes, they have bad and good behaviors, but those are signals to us the adults. We are to guide them and help them do better during those moments when they ‘misbehave’ or do not behave as we would like.

Now, providing this parental guidance with calmness, respect and firmness too, when your toddler is acting irrational, or silly -that’s the hard part, in my opinion. And that’s what positive discipline asks us to do!

If you choose this method of discipline, you will need to dig deep, often, to find your patience, and to keep your cool when your toddler is pushing the limits.

But the benefits that keep me interested are:

– teaching your child how to respond in crisis, something many of us still struggle with, (for example anger is not a bad thing in itself, it’s what you do next that matters)

– not damaging a child’s confidence and self esteem during the disciplining process

– removing shame from the discipline process (I feel shame is used to hold women (& some men) down in many ways. It becomes a huge part of our narrative and it starts from a young age).

 

The options for us adults to use as tools during positive discipline are as follows per wiki:

• Positive reinforcement, such as complimenting a good effort;

• Negative reinforcement, such as ignoring requests made in a whining tone of voice;

• Positive punishment, such as requiring a child to clean up a mess s/he made; and

• Negative punishment, such as removing a privilege in response to poor behavior.

Now I share with you some notes from my experience with using gentle discipline when my child is not behaving in a way I would like. With emphasis on the last couple of weeks (age 3), below.

I’m that hands-on Mum because I have flexible working hours since I work for myself, but also out of choice. I believe anyone – stay at home mum, working mum, etc can be a hands-on mum if they choose. It’s simply making a decision to be intentional about the way you raise your children.

I have just spent a month alone with my toddler – miss3yo and baby. Setting limits and reinforcing them has been at the core of our daily interactions:

⁃ to maintain some order,

⁃ for her own benefit (yes, I’ve read that they actually want limits)

⁃ also for my sake. When there is a battle of wills between mum and child it can feel very frustrating and tiring – I have experienced this and honestly my aim is to avoid it. It’s important to own the adult role and if possible do that in a way that feels positive for mum and child

I’m using these tips daily myself and it’s constantly being tweaked and I’m constantly learning. I don’t have all the answers. I have days when I call friends for over-the-phone reinforcements and tips too. But after getting through the difficult days, I vowed to share with others, what I’m learning. And that’s what I’m doing below!

Ok let’s get into it:

1. I have realized that the secret ingredient to positive discipline is ME. Let me explain: I cannot control my child’s behaviour (they can’t control it either sometimes, either), but I can control my behaviour. How I react. I must work on my responses and that starts with my thoughts and my energy levels. Being rested as much as possible helps. Reminding myself that my child needs my help navigating this period, also helps.

2.I use positive reinforcement. I was reminded recently that we often give more attention to the behaviour we don’t like in our children and that actually sends the wrong message. For example when I do this cheeky thing, I get Mums attentions I will do it some more today! We are encouraged instead, to find the positives daily and explain why we are pleased by the behaviour. High five for bringing baby’s nappy. I am proud of you for tidying up without being asked etc

3.Don’t be so surprised if your toddler does not behave well all the time. We don’t even behave well all the time as adults. They will have good and not so good moments since they’re just learning how to regulate their emotions and express themselves correctly. Expect that. Honestly, I wake up in the morning knowing I will need to put in limits and guide etc. I prepare myself mentally.

4.If you truly understand what they can and cannot do at this stage, it will help you be more realistic and manage your expectations for their behaviour on a daily basis.

For example, a 2 year old will likely not be able to fully tidy up to the levels an adult would. There will be some things left here and there. With you coming down to their level you can help, but disciplining them for not fully ‘completing’ tidy up to your adult standard, without your help, is highly unfair. Your expectations were too high.

5.Take it easy on yourself. There will be hard days. Speak to your significant other or friends. Get some alone time when you can. Take some minutes at the bathroom to get yourself together, if you need to.

6.Try to prevent the so called ‘bad behaviour’ if and where you can. Is your child hungry, over tired? Feed them and get them to sleep. This one is particularly relevant for during the holidays when we go visiting or guests come and stay late at our homes, delaying bedtimes or causing us in our enjoyment of company to miss our children’s hunger or tiredness cues.

7.What about naughty corner/time out? I am still trying to understand fully how gentle discipline says this should work. I know we are not to lock them away because we want to avoid shaming them and actually during these moments we do not want them to feel like we’re pushing them away. So face the wall, for example would not be advised under positive discipline. Sometimes they are seeking our attention for a reason, sometimes it is not logical for them, either.

Time in, means we kindly or rather calmly invite them to sit in a separate area not too far from us, ideally where they can still see us. We wouldn’t usually talk to them during this time. Not as punishment, but to give them some time to cool down or removing them from hurting themselves/or others. You can say that I’m just giving you time to cool down and when you’re ready I am here to talk to you. We should do this calmly. And then when time is up re connect with them.

8. Give warnings and use consequences.

So if you do that again, then there will be a consequence (you can say what the consequence would be). If done for second time, you give another warning. If done for third time – well it’s time for the consequence – you won’t go to your friends house to play tomorrow.

That’s how positive discipline is panning out for us these days. The points I can remember anyway.

Maybe with practice one gets to the point where doing all this is easy, I can put my hand up and say I am not there yet. I am still very much taking baby steps with gentle discipline, everyday. Sometimes I feel it’s working, other times, my Nigerian parenting finds a way to slip out. I just try to start again the next moment of discipline. One thing I will say is, I believe in the principle. Lol. I don’t feel guilty during difficult interactions and it seems logical.

If you feel guilty after spanking or you’ve noticed your child look scared as you move toward them when they do something naughty or you just want to do things better. I urge you to be open minded and pick what you can as a starting point for positive discipline. You won’t regret it!

Feel free to leave comments below or DM me on Instagram if you have questions. Also we started a daily Positive Discipline Journal, to help us track how we’re doing. Join on Instagram using that link highlighted.

 

Potty training: Positive & No Pressure Method (Part II – how to begin)

As promised, this is part II of the potty training series and will into details of the actual training process and ours and other mums experience of the training process.

With the Potty Without Pressure (PWP) method, the biggest thing is that your child is already showing an interest in using the potty before you take them out of diapers and begin the training process.

You may choose to wait till you see the interest in potty use, start the Potty Preparation stage (explained in Part I of the potty series), and then move on to actual training. The other option is to start the potty preparation stage in order to purposefully expose your child to the world of potty/toilet use and arouse that desire to try it in them.

In any case, with this PWP method, potty use is not something you just start as a surprise to your child, the ground work of preparation must have been done first!

Miss3yo Potty Training Process in summary?

My daughters potty-use curiosity peaked when she saw peers at school and PoPPLagos using the potty. She would see potties being carried around at PoPP in particular and ask me ‘is XXX potty training’? And I would say – ‘yes’. You know when you can just see the wheels turning in their little heads after they ask you a question, lol.

Also at school, some of her peers were trained or potty training and their toilet set up meant she would see their potties lined up in there, every time she had a diaper change. The world of potties became more ‘real’ for her and she started connecting it with peeing & pooing and something children her age did.

I started the potty preparation steps from about 19/20 months. I actually also tried to get her to sit on the potty which she was happy to do, but she had no interest in actually doing number 1 or number 2 in it. This meant I had to wait longer to start training stage, but I continued with the preparation steps.

One day after many potty discussions that week, she simply said, ‘I don’t want the diaper anymore’ or something to that effect. My friend whose daughter was already trained was there, so I looked at her like does this mean what I think? She said – ‘yes, time to start’! The next day was a Friday – no work for me, so we stayed home and did three days at home. On Monday she went to school and I told them to support my efforts, which they did. Now school is outside of the house where we had trained, so she was re-training to the school setting. That’s a slightly new process that everyone has to be patient with! It may be the same if your child is trained at school and you have to mimic their efforts at home – you need to let them get used to the process a gain. She was 2 years and 3 months old.

For nap times and sleep times, I continued to use diapers. She dropped all her naps, so it became only diapers for night time.

Night training we achieved four months later. I forgot to put the diaper on at night and she woke up fine and dry. And we continued. There were a few accidents here and there so I learned to: limit water drinking before bedtime, insist on peeing before she goes to bed and sometimes wake her up to ask if she needs to pee at night. In the summer with my being pregnant came potty regressions. Again this is normal and very common. I focused on not shaming over these accidents (however frustrating it got), just encouraged the right behaviour and put reminder measures in place so we could catch the pee in the toilet before it happens on the floor or bed.

 

Potty training – the actual steps

Let the training begin:
Day 1 – 4
– I would suggest dedicating a long weekend 3/4 days or if possible a week, at home to the process.

– You don’t go out, you just stay home and have you child run around without bottoms on if the weather permits, just their top on. This is to remove the difficulty in taking anything off anytime they need to do a pee or poo.

– You give them plenty of water in a bottle, it might be easier to have the potty right there beside wherever your child is playing initially so they dont have a long way to travel. So sit close o the potty.

– Give them a bottle of water or diluted drink so they are drinking lots of fluids and will feel the need to go often.

– Encourage them to sit on the potty every 30 minutes. A mum reader suggest every 45 minutes for boys.  – –

– While on the potty you can sing, read, let them watch cartoons, put music on, let them draw/scribble – anything that would keep them seated for a little while till pee pee comes.

– You will need rewards – some stickers on a wall chart, or sweets. You know your child best – something they love and would be a treat. You can also praise them with clapping, high-fives and a song, as a reward. I suggest hyping them up for sitting on the potty alone for a stretch of time, even if nothing comes out, then perhaps more hype and a song or reward if pee or poo comes out.

– For nap times or sleep times consider putting diaper on after they fall asleep.

Day 5 – 8
– You may at this point introduce a big boy or big girl pant. Or a thomas or peppapig pant. If you haven’t already. If you feel your child is getting into the routine earlier, introduce the pants earlier – day 2//3. There should be something that makes this pant quite special, so giving it a name like ‘big girl pant’ can make it seem very special even if it’s not a cartoon character themed one.

– Now help your child pull down the pants before they use the potty.

-You may start to leave longer gaps before you make them sit down – e.g. 40 mins for girls or 55minutes for boys.

– If you start leaving the house, go out with the same potty to keep things consistent. Whatever you do, do not go back to putting on diapers or pull-ups for your child again during the day when they are awake. Just keep going with the pants, if you’ve come this far.

– Just have them wear their pants, no pull-ups or diaper for going out. Keep the momentum going.

– You will need plenty of change of clothes and pants, a bag to put wet/dirty clothes, hand sanitiser, and can bring your stickers/rewards along too. And continue whatever songs/celebration you did while you were at home.

When accidents happen:

Please prepare yourself for accidents – there will likely be many. Your child will wee/poo on the floor, on themselves and on you! Do not expect this to be some magic process, although for some it can be quick. Remember your child is learning a new routine and will need lots of practice. You in turn need to show patience. Choose a room that has no carpets, so that you’re not tense about accidents that definitely will occur.

When an accident does happen, don’t make too much noise or fuss. Clean up and then explain that you will try for next time to put all the pee or poo in the potty.

What else do I need to know:

Standalone potty vs toilet booster seat: Buy a standalone potty and use this because it is made to seat your child’s body comfortably and it’s very convenient to place it in the room. However one or two Mums report that their child didn’t seem to like the potty. In this case you can put a potty child booster on an actual toilet and use that instead of the potty.

You may even choose to have both set up in your home. Eventually, you want your child to start peeing on the toilet (+ booster), so you don’t have the extra step of emptying the potty anymore. This may be a few months down the line when they can hold the pee in a little longer to get to the bathroom, take clothes off and sit.

Be open to your own family potty training quirks: You will soon find your own rhythm with potty training. Your own style suits you and your child best, and may look slightly different to the notes outlined above. I’ll give you an example – I could not get my child to sit on the potty every 30minutes. She moves around a lot (kinesthetic -tactile – see yesterday’s instagram post) and she just could not! That meant I had to keep asking her if she needed to go and also meant quite a few more accidents in the first days. But I deliberately did not fuss for each accident, just kept explaining that when she needs to go she is to tell me or run to the potty (it was two three steps away in same room, but I said run for emphasis on quickness). So she would then quickly sit on potty and sometimes miss the potty, but at least she knew what she should be doing. By the end of the weekend at home, she had more in the potty than on the floor and we counted it as progress.

Praise & rewards: If they work for your child use them, but they may not work. We mostly used a song and dance routine as offering sweets would have likely meant battles with having to keep giving them even if potty hasnt happened.

Special potty vs cheap potty: Some Mums have reported they bought a flashy potty, with flush and flushing sounds or music. Again if you think this will help make the process easier for your child – why not. But it’s possible to use just a basic potty, too. I used a cheapie Ikea one with an insert you can remove to throw out pee/poo and wipe clean. The baby bjorn one is the same – also has an insert. I think this makes cleaning a bit easier, so consider  this design when buying your potty essentials.  I found that helpful. I also had a potty inside the car (cheap one from GAME), a booster one on the toilet in her room and an easy fold one for public toilets. Looking back now, I didn’t use the foldable one that often because it was fiddly, but depends on your OCD levels for public toilet use. I have found lining the public toilet seats with toilet roll or paper towels works.

Pants: Consider buying basic ones that are comfortable and plenty of them, too. Especially for the early days when there might be many accidents and you may need to throw some out! Consider buying a pack of  character or more interesting ones, too, to add to the fun of it all.

 

Some other real mum experiences with potty training from Mummyfix Instagram page:

bolanle_hqFor us , showing excitement and cheering Teni has helped a lot , we do a sequence of activities when we go potty I.e. Potty->empty in toilet-> cover seat -> flush -> rinse potty -> wash hands and give ourselves hi fives! Also have a song.We also go potty every morning as part of her routine

akosuakate During my time in early childhood classes in college, we learned that a child needs have three things to be potty trained. Needs to be cognitively ready (understands the process and reasoning), needs to be emotionally ready (have they any major life changes, moving, new baby? Things that could set them back emotionally), and needs to be physically ready (can the child’s pull down their own pants? Take off there own diaper? Get up and down off the toilet on their own?). Out of my seven children, a few of them were probably trying to closer to three years old, if you were potty trained closer to two years old. I never rushed it. This should happen naturally, the child should show interest, and you should try to keep it a positive experience for everyone. For some kids, you can reward with one m&m after each time they go on the toilet, this helped for one of my children. I started placing all of my children on the toilet right around a year old, just to get them used to it a few times a day. I always made it into something happy and exciting (clapping, using exciting voices, saying bye-bye when you flush).

nneka_thefirst3rd try at commenting…ok i potty trained my son just before he turned 2 (22-23mths). I had another baby on the way and just couldn’t imagine buying and changing diapers for two kiddos. My biggest tip is to read the book: “oh crap! Potty training” by jamie glowacki. Everything I did was from there and it worked like a charm! I dedicated a full week to potty training…as in no distractions, no diapers (diaper only at night or naps), no outings, no work. He had shown some signs of readiness. I let him walk around completely Nude from the waist down and watched him like a hawk. Lol. I didn’t give sweets to reward him but I made EVERYONE (and I mean every one) give him high-fives every time he used the potty. He was so proud and so happy to get highfives that he would announce it loud and eagerly run to the potty. There were accidents (both poo and Pee) and he was embarrassed but I responded with hugs, kisses and encouragement that he was doing great!. During my one week, if I had to go out, I still didn’t put on a diaper. I tried to make him Pee before we left and I had a portable potty for the first few weeks (my mother in law thought I was crazy but became a believer very soon!). I didn’t use training pants. After our one week boot camp, we went commando (no diaper and no underwear under his shorts) for like a month and then I just got regular underwear. Another big tip is to get every one to buy in and support the process. I made hubby read the book and I explained to grandma that no he can’t wear diapers and no he won’t be a nudist because he’s running around naked! It worked and it’s still my crowning achievement all summer before 2nd baby arrived!!!!! Just read the book and follow through!

rukky_inikayI think i started potty training before 2 then stopped because #dudewasnotready Tried again at 2 and he started getting better…but would tell you after he already pee-d or pooped.#frustrating Then I realised he won’t go to the loo if he’s got training pants on so we went cold turkey and transitioned to boxer shorts and it got better for about 6 months then we moved and #regression. At this point I decided I cannot come and go and kill myself and that one day one day before he turns 18yrs old, he would be potty trained. Now retrospectively I see that over the past 6 months he has improved greatly. He uses the toilet himself now and hardly has accidents. However, I haven’t got around to waking him up at night time to use the loo. So to summarize this my long epistle, I have a boy and he’s 3yrs old now and with my experience I would say start potty training a boy between 2 and 2.5yrs old and if you feel you’re getting frustrated then just stop and start again after a few months.

 

Hope this is helpful to someone who is about to begin the potty training process. Feel free to ask me questions below in comments. If you prefer to be anonymous, you can contact me via the contact form on the site or DM on Instagram. More Mum discussions on potty training here on this Insta-post.

Potty Training: The Positive & No Pressure Method (Part I – when to begin)

Miss3yo was a year plus when I started collecting information on what it to expect and how to prepare for potty training. I thought other Mums may like to know too, so I shared it on Instagram. Many Mums contributed to the discussion with helpful tips and we were able to start our own potty journey armed with these wonderful tips. I hope to pay that forward to you guys with this guide.

So, thank God for time and progress, we went through it, she is both day and night trained now. The write ups from before are still relevant, but I will fill in all the gaps and add some snippets from our experience, too.

 

What does a Mum need to know about potty training?? Here it is:

If ou know your child is ready and you just want tips to get started on the actual potty training, click here. If you want to know if they are ready or just get a bit more information on what to expect in general, read on below.

Age guide

‘They’ – the experts, typically say:

Girls are ready at about age 21/2 – 3 (but could be before or after).

Boys are ready at about age 3 – 31/2 (but could be ready before or after).

This is just to give you some indication. In knowing when exactly to start your child, it is better to check their cognitive skills against the readiness signs below. Do not use age to determine when to start!

It is best not to compare with their friends, or classmates or siblings, either. At 19 months old, miss3yo’s best friend started potty training. I am not going to lie, we felt the pressure a little bit, but my little one really was not ready. She would sit but only pee when off the potty. So we stopped even trying and when she was ready, she showed it. To be honest the day she said she was ready, I started asking myself if I was ready, haha. Yes oh, Mums, it is very important that you feel ready too because the process asks a lot from you – you will need to be patient, consistent, keep things positive, catch poo in your hands – lol, I don’t want to scare you but,  it can be quite an experience!

Two stages of potty training:

There are two stages to the potty training process.

1.The potty preparation stage: These are the steps you take as you prepare your baby for potty training. During this period, they are still in diapers but you make toilet activities part of their daily conversation and include demonstrations. More on this below.

2.The training stage – These are steps you take when baby is out of diapers and the training officially begins. More on this in Part II.

Note: During naps and sleep time, you can put your toddler in diapers. Do this till about age 3 or when you notice your child is dry during naps or night time sleep – check the diaper after they wake up. You might also consider buying some mattress protectors – waterproof, to put under the sheets, for the couple o accidents that may occur.

 

Potty Training method – Potty Without Pressure (PWP)

There are different methods you can use, I am going to focus on the ‘potty without pressure’ (pwp) method.
This is the child-led method, which means you start only when your child is showing signs that they are ready or tells you they want to. They say following this method makes the process quicker and easier and based on our experience, I found this to be true-ish.

You can also choose to do it when you feel ready and I have spoken to mums who this worked for. They were consistent and their children got trained. So it is also possible to do the training even before your child shows full signs of readiness. Just be prepared in terms of your expectations. It may (or may not) take longer. You may (or may not) need to stop, if progress is not being made.

 

Readiness signs

There are cognitive signs that your child will show, which let’s you know they are getting ready for training. They may not be fully ready yet, though. But you can start stage 1 – the ‘Potty Prepping’ stage, when you see most of these signs.

The cognitive signs are, your child:
1. experiences discomfort when wet or soiled
2. has regular bowel movement on a fairly consistent basis
3. can follow simple two-fold instructions: pick the bag and bring it to mum
4. can tell you of need to wee or poo before it happens
5. can show or tell you when she has a dirty diaper
6. can sit on a potty for short period of time (15mins), though may need distractions
7. shows interest in watching or imitating activities related to toilet use, e.g. likes to flush the toilet, talks about toilet activities.

The emotional signs:

Make sure your child is not going through any major life changes. The biggest ones are moving house or starting a new school or a new sibling has just arrived. Starting potty training during these major changes may make it more stressful and difficult for your child and likely you, too!

Potty Preparation Stage – the steps

This is the time to:

1. Amp up a lot of talk about the potty.

2. Have the potty on display in the toilet, so that when you do diaper changes the potty is there and you can point and talk about it.

3. Model and talk about potty behaviour relating to your own bowel movement. For example: Mummy feels like she needs to wee. My body is telling I need to poo, I’m going to sit on the big potty/toilet and push it out, lol – the things we have to do in this mum life!

4. I am going to do a small wee wee (we recently started calling it tinkle), or I am going to do a big wee wee (a gush of wee). These different elements of the discussion help keep the experience interesting and fun and reduce the pressure hat may be associated with using the potty.

5. Let your child watch you wee and poo (if you’re comfortable with that).

6. Buy or borrow books about potty training and read them to your child. We loved: I want my potty (girl), other mums suggestion: Elmo’s Potty Time (boy). Consider buying one you think your child will enjoy.

7. Talk about  flushing the toilet, whether you did a wee or poo, cleaning with tissue, washing our hands. As much as possible, let them get involved, too, with these. Toddlers typically love to flush the toilet.

8. As often as possible, carry out diaper changes in the toilet, with your child standing up not lying down. This starts to prepare them physically for the new style of doing their ‘business’.

9. If they will be happy to start sitting on the potty first thing in the morning or last thing at night, you can try that. Do not put pressure if they don’t want to though. Just keep trying points 1 – 8.

 

Signs your child is still not ready

Once you have done the prepping stage for a while you may get the feeling your child will be receptive to actual potty training. Your child may even tell you or just start removing their diaper. You are officially ready to start the actual training stage (details in Part II).

If you start the training stage and notice any of the three signs I will explain below, it means your child needs more time. Stop the training process. Go back to putting their diaper on and following the prep steps, then you can try training again in a month or two, or when they show interest.

If you see these, your child is not yet ready, consider waiting:

a. Hiding while doing a poo.

This is not all bad. If a child is hiding while doing a poo, it means they can tell when they are about to poo . But it may mean they’re not emotionally ready to go ahead and poo in the potty. With this you have to wait and don’t put pressure on your child. You can suggest poo-ing in the toilet (while still in their diapers), explaining that the toilet room is the place for poo-ing, but don’t over push it if they still dont want to go there.

b. Sits on the potty happily for minutes but the moment they get up and take a few steps, they wee or poo on the floor.

This could mean that your child is still nervous about the potty. With this you just have to go back to the prep stage and and try the training stage in a month or two’s time.

c. Says no to everything.

If your child is going through a stage of asserting their independence, where they say no to everything, you may struggle with the potty process. It may be a sign that you should hold off on potty training for a bit longer. Again, with this, go back to prep stage again and wait a month or two to try training stage once more.

 

The actual potty training process?

There are many ways to approach this. I’ve shared details in Part II – How to begin the potty training process. It will also cover:  What you need to get ready for this stage. Other details you need to know. Our experience of potty training my daughter from when I  started to try at 19months old.

Thanks for reading :). Drop a comment or Instagram DM to let me know you found this useful or if you have any questions!