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Kick the Diaper Habit Now!
by Elaine D'Ippolito
Author of Dry All Day-Potty Training Skills Workbook

Simply being aware of the fact that children learn to use diapers for toilets, and may later be resistant to changing the habit is critical. Parents armed with this information early on may make different choices before the habit becomes too ingrained.

Disposable diapers and wipes are a modern mom’s lifesaver! I can remember as a child seeing dirty diapers soaking before my mother bleached and washed them for my baby brothers. (And I can remember, too, sticking the baby with the ducky diaper pin while learning how to ‘help’ diaper him!) Today children remain comfy between changings and tape or velcro® has replaced painful diaper pins. We love our modern conveniences!

This is exactly what the disposable diaper manufacturers are banking on. They don’t sell diapers, training pants and wipes, they sell convenience. There is nothing wrong with convenience, per se, except that children are staying in diapers longer and some parents are having more trouble and stress during toilet training. The manufacturers know this, and they have found a way to help: Diapers and training pants are getting bigger.

While most kids do indeed train at a reasonable age (2 – 3 ½), many kids have formed what I call a ‘diaper habit’. The diaper habit is where a child is fully capable of using a potty or toilet but simply prefers diapers.

Examining the Diaper Habit

Have you ever heard of a 4-yr old child who asks for a diaper to go poop? Or the child who could stay in a dirty diaper all day without a care? Did you know there are children who refuse to use a potty and will withhold urine or stools all day but when the worried parent puts the diaper on the child will let loose within minutes? Some children were using a toilet for weeks or months until they had a painful experience and end up going back to diapers. This is very frustrating to the parent, but it is clear the child is fully in control of his bodily functions and is making a choice.

Generally speaking, habits form in about 21 days, and take at least that long to break. An infant is not really aware of diapers; he just eats and eliminates as needed. However, as the child matures he also becomes aware of his bodily functions. At around two the child will begin noticing smells at diaper changings and may become interested in body parts. By three if the child is still in diapers he may just flat out like them and resist the potty. Think of it from his perspective: Diapers have been working just fine, why all the fuss about using a toilet?

Children are not the only ones who may fall victim to the diaper habit trap. Moms may have become dependent as well. No mess, no leaks, no reminder schedules for bathroom visits, especially when there are activities and schedules and older siblings to tote around. You may be buying what you believe to be training ‘underwear’ but they feel like a diaper to the child. What’s more, if you have not changed your cleanup routine after an ‘accident’, your trainee will not be motivated to change his behavior. Without experiencing clear consequences after an accident it will take much longer to train.

Plan How, When and Why You Will Work on Toilet Training

Children in some countries never use diapers, and are usually fully trained by age two. But this is America. Our children are just as capable at two, but our lifestyle is very different, and our options are greater. Disposable diapers and training pants are convenient, comfortable and widely available. Cost is often not even a consideration for many parents, and if diaper manufacturers had it their way, we would all be rearing our children in diapers until Kindergarten! The average age for achieving toilet training is rising and diapers are getting bigger.

Simply being aware of the fact that children learn to use diapers for toilets, and may later be resistant to changing the habit is critical. Parents armed with this information early on may make different choices before the habit becomes too ingrained.

One father of a late trainer I interviewed said his son used diapers well into Kindergarten. They got through Kindergarten because the family’s nanny wore a beeper and was called in to change his son frequently. One day he asked his son why he continued to use a diaper, he simply replied "Well, Dad, it just feels good". This family was not interested in pushing the issue, but they were surprised at how long it went on. The boy did stop using a diaper before first grade began and is now a healthy, well-adjusted sixth-grader.

However, not all parents of late trainers are content with the situation. Many really want and need their child to train. Some older kids are held back in the two-year old room at daycare until they stop having accidents. Some three- and four-year olds never get to attend preschool and not all Kindergarten teachers are willing to work with the child, who may be held back.

The age that is right for your child to train is any age you believe is the right one. It’s just a parenting decision; there is no right or wrong as long as the child’s best interests are considered. Some families don’t want to push and let the child train himself. Other families have successfully used the infant toilet training method to train their baby before age two. But most families, I have found, expect their child to train at around 2 ½ or 3 and really want diapers to be gone before 4. You must be dedicated and prepared if your child is resistant, but he will respond to your strict guidance.

If you believe your child may have already formed a diaper habit (he is resistant or rebellious to using the potty), consider these tips:

  • Make it clear that diapers are going away forever. If you can get your child to ‘buy in’ and want to trade them in for big kid underwear, that will help.
    Plan a 4-6 week timeframe when you can commit to a less hectic schedule as accidents may happen for several weeks.

  • Try keeping him naked at home. Some naked kids will seek out the potty more than with underwear on, which they may be using like a diaper. With nothing on their bottom, the ‘diaper habit’ is not being fed!

  • Dress your child in regular cotton underwear only. Plan for accidents. Have several changes of clothing. You can even get your trainee his own ‘potty training backpack’ so he can carry his own load.

  • For special times when you don’t want to deal with an accident, resist the temptation to use diapers or training pants. Instead opt for child-sized incontinence pads to absorb an occasional wetness, which allows your child to remain in his underwear.

  • Enlist the help of someone close to you that can help take over for a few hours each day or enroll in daycare. This may help dispel any toilet battles and give you a break.

  • Another idea is to form a potty training playgroup, which I call Tag Team™ toilet training. Kids learn from each other and get guidance from an adult (authority figure) other than their own mom.

Dry All Day Potty Training Book


of Interest to Parents of Infants and Toddlers:

Help Siblings Adjust to a New Baby

Let Sleeping Babies Lie

Help Baby Go to Sleep

   By Sharon Penchina C.Ht.

   and Dr. Stuart Hoffman.

Make a Snuggle Bunny

Put the FUN in Learning!

MotherLodeCover.JPG (116195 bytes)

Mother Lode

The Ultimate Collection of Ideas for Keeping Kids Busy

Over 5,000 ideas for infants and toddlers through teens.

At the rate of one idea per day, it will take about 15 years to use them all!

By Kas Winters 

USD $30.00















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