I know, I know...an unlikely title. But lately I've been thinking that potty training is a lot like quitting smoking. I live in Analogy Land, so bear with me.
It's often said that smoking is really 2 addictions. One is the internal,physical nicotine addiction and the other is the external oral/hand to mouth addiction. The first can be eased with a patch, gum or toughing it out until the nicotine clears the system. The second, more conditioned addiction is much harder to overcome. People tend to gain weight substituting food for a cigarette as something to put in the mouth. Some people chew on straws or fiddle with an elastic to keep their fingers occupied. When we look at it this way, it's clear that quitting dual addictions is a bit tougher than just not smoking.
Now let's look at the addictions of diapers. I'm serious. The addiction of diapers. That may sound a bit out there but really diapers are somewhat of an addiction. Of course, not life threatening or how we classically think of addiction. But it is something, probably the only thing, our children 'get' regularly, everyday, around 4-7 times. (See my "What Jen Said" post about Untraining).
So potty training is really quitting 2 addictions. There's the external, actual giving up of diapers and there's the internal learning how to hold/control your pee and poop.
It's good to be aware of the two when you are potty training your child.
It's not unusual for parents to have a hard time. I'd say 99.9% of the time, the problem lies in the external; the TRANSITION from diapers to potty. Toddlers typically don't take to change too kindly. And this is a big-ass change.
If you find you and your child are having a hard time in the beginning stages of potty training, step back and evaluate. Is he really not learning to hold his pee or is he resisting the CHANGE of diapers to potty? It'll make a difference in your approach and focus.
The classic case:
Your child is holding pee or poop for any length of time to avoid using the potty.
The good news: your child is potty trained.
The bad news: they are resisting the potty.
When you can separate the two issues, your focus can shift. Your child has most definitely learned to hold her pee. Now, how can you leverage in the potty chair?
I find this helps most parents get a firm grip on the real issue rather than floundering, thinking all of potty training is going no where.
This also points to my very strong philosophy that ideal potty training happens between 20-30 months. The longer your child is in diapers, the more addicted he is, the harder that transition is going to be for you.