Behaviors and Strategies for 0-3 Year-Olds

There are two things that every person on the planet does: eat and go potty. These can also be two challenging areas for parents. If you are the parent of a small child, you may wonder how you can get your child on the potty and make them stay in the high chair during meal times. Here are some ideas from Dr. Kevin Leman, author, speaker and child psychologist, from his book Have a New Kid by Friday.

Potty Plans

In America, we celebrate a lot of things: football victories, marriages, birthdays, and even potty training victories. Potty training? You got it. One afternoon as I watched television, a popular psychologist coached a couple to praise and cheer for their child, which resulted in the little guy becoming potty-trained in less than 24 hours.

Amazed? Envious? Wish you could have this kind of success with your child? No worries; keep the faith! If you're ready for your bundle of joy to ditch the diaper days and start using the potty, here are some ideas to help. Granted, you may not get results in 24 hours, but you will get results that will make both you and your little one happy.

Dr. Leman offers these simple suggestions for putting a "Potty Plan" in place:

  • Look for signs that suggest your child is ready for potty training. If your child asks questions about the potty and mimics you when you go, these are solid signs of readiness. And readiness is very important. Dr. Leman warns that parents who try to push potty training on a child who isn't ready will end up fighting a losing battle.
  • Ramp up rewards to encourage your child, such as buying some "Big Girl" or "Big Boy" underwear.
  • Get a small potty that sits close to the ground. Then, when your child asks about the toilet, Dr. Leman says you can casually mention that this is one they can use.
  • Encourage your child by saying that he can do it all by himself. If you are the parent of a two-year-old, you know how important this can be; independence is a big deal at this age.
  • Don't ask your child every five minutes if he "has to go." This will help create a sense of responsibility and confidence in your child to help him be responsible for his own urges.
  • Use verbal affirmation and praise. When a child goes to the potty, Dr. Leman suggests parents say something like, "Wow! Look at what you did all by yourself. That's great!" However, he says not to make too big of a deal out of it because everyone on the planet is responsible for their own bladder.
  • Remember that it's OK if your child doesn't immediately respond to your potty plan. If this happens, Dr. Leman says to simply put the potty away and bring it out a week or two later. Maybe by then your child will be ready.
  • Keep in mind that not every child is ready for potty training at the same age, but between 2 and 2-1/2 years is typically a good time to begin.
  • Discipline the lazy child. If your child gets busy playing outside, doesn't want to take the time to come in and go to the bathroom, then wets his pants and says he "forgot to go," stick to Dr. Leman's rule that "everyone only gets to use one pair of underwear per day." That means your child won't be able to play any more outside for the day. Then, the next time he'll remember to listen to his bladder.

High Chair High Jinks

I recently walked by a billboard that showed a baby in his high chair, his face smeared with something gooey, sticky and red. He looked like the proverbial cat that ate the mouse: completely delighted and satisfied.

For the parent who faces meal-time dilemmas with their "high-chair child," it can be anything but delightful and satisfactory. In fact, it may make you want to pull your hair out.

Here are some suggestions on dealing with "high chair high jinks" from Dr. Leman:

  • Remember that your child will typically take a very short time to eat. If you are already feeding your child from a high chair, no doubt you have learned that when your child is done eating, she is done. And when she is done, she will want down right away. Therefore, she may try to get down on her own, or start throwing food or her dishes. Be patient, Moms and Dads. Dr. Leman says that she's not trying to be naughty; she's just learned that when she does these things, you'll come running. Therefore, the key to stopping this behavior is to watch your child and take note when she is done eating. Then, immediately take her down before her High Jinks start.
  • Teach your child that once he is down from the chair, the meal is over. This means you don't give in if she wants something else to eat right away. No snacks. Nothing extra. Make meal time a routine and she'll eat.
  • Don't expect too much from your child. Remember that your child has a very short attention span and that it's difficult for children (especially toddlers) to sit for long periods of time. This means that if you and your mate are planning to go out for a long, leisurely meal at one of your favorite restaurants, you might think about hiring a sitter or changing your plans.
  • Don't try to placate your child. Dr. Leman says that some parents try to keep their kids quiet in their high chair before dinner so that they can prepare dinner for everyone else. The problem is that by the time dinner is ready, your child is already too full to eat anything else. The answer is to feed your child what you'll be eating whenever possible.

These suggestions for eating and potty training may seem simple, but take it from expert Dr. Leman, they work!