Q: My 18-month-old kicks me and hits me when I try to change his diaper. He doesn’t do this for his father or grandparents. Should I hold his legs down until he gives up or will this worsen things?
A: Holding his legs will definitely make matters worse. The solution, of course, is to toilet train him. I know the current pediatric party line is that he is too young, he has not shown certain “readiness” signs, and if you just leave him to his own devices, he will actually toilet train himself.
The fact is that just as it is much, much easier to house-train a four month- old puppy than a one-year-old dog, so it is much, much easier to toilet train an 18-month-old human than one who is 30 months old or older. The older either the dog or the child gets, the more difficult it will be to teach them the new “trick.”
Furthermore, the fact is that the standard list of signs that a child is ready for toilet training is bogus. As I point out in my book on toilet training, these “signs” were snatched out of thin air by certain professionals who were trying to lend an air of science to what is a relatively simple, straightforward process. The only readiness sign a pre-1960s mom (before the toilet-babblers began babbling) paid any attention to was her own readiness to stop changing and washing diapers.
Following is my one-paragraph, less-than-150-word instruction on toilet training. Begin by purchasing a toddler potty and put it in the bathroom, then show your son how to sit on it. If you haven’t already done so, let him see you using the “big potty.” Toss the diapers, and dress him in thin cotton underwear only (no pants when at home) so that his “stuff” goes down his legs and otherwise causes discomfort. Purchase a kitchen timer and tell your son that when the bell rings it’s potty time. Set the timer to ring every hour (or half hour or whenever during the hour you wish). Load your son up with liquids, and drink lots of water yourself. When the timer rings, tell your son it’s time for the two of you to sit on your potties. Take him into the bathroom, and help him sit on the potty. Then you sit (when Dad is in charge and whenever your son is around to watch, he should also sit). Make using the toilet a family affair! In no time, your little kickboxer should be using the potty with minimal help from you.
If for whatever reason you’re not ready to toilet train your son, then the backup plan is to let his dad and grandparents change him as often as possible. When there’s no alternate diaper changer available, then just change him, kicking and all. Don’t say anything while doing so. Just work around his kicking as well as you can.
I remember going through the same thing with our son, who was also our first child. We used cloth diapers with him, which required that we use safety pins to hold them together. His struggling was cured rather quickly after a few pins accidentally pricked his skin. The old technology did have its merits!
Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 295-1751