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Overcoming Fear

Some parents may not even recognize it when they see it, but a common potty training complication is fear of the potty. If your child is displaying potty training resistance, fear of the potty may be the unspoken reason. If you think your child may be scared of the potty, what can you do to help him?

Fear of the Unknown

Toddlers are in a constant state of being exposed to the unknown. Think about it: so much of what they experience is new to them. They are in a continual learning process. This makes for the development of temporary phobias in many areas. Some toddlers, for instance, develop a phobia of animals. For toddlers, it is this fear of the unknown that so often causes potty training resistance.

Non-threatening Exposure

The best way to handle the phobia is to provide toddlers with non-threatening exposure to the item in question—the potty—so that the item becomes familiar instead of just another unknown object to fear. Another point to consider is that your child doesn't yet understand what is expected of him in relation to the object he fears, in this case, the potty. Once he understands his link to the potty and the behavior he is expected to display, the fear is removed.

During toilet trainng, one thing you can do to help make the potty a familiar object is to leave it in a prominent place and stop all potty training efforts. Time and parental patience will help your child to come to the eventual conclusion that the potty is just another piece of furniture.

After some weeks go by, you may try placing a favorite toy or book near the potty, so that the child has to go close to the potty to retrieve the item. You can try placing a small, wrapped prize near the potty and continue to do this on a daily basis. That will help your child make the association that the potty is a benevolent presence in his life.

At this point, you can try emptying his movement from his diaper into his potty. Show it to him. Tell him, "BMs go into the potty, then into the toilet."

You can ask him to help you dump the movement from the potty into the toilet. Some children are afraid of toilets because of the sound of the flush and the fact that things disappear. You can give him a short explanation of what to expect and show him how it's done.

Next time, ask him if he wants to help you flush the toilet. Put the seat down and show him how to climb up on the seat and flush the toilet. If at any point your child displays resistance, back off and let him catch his balance. Sooner or later, your patience will pay off.

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