Problem Solving for Tots
Children are bound to have some accidents during potty training. That means trouble if they react by feeling defeated and giving up. Poor self-esteem and difficulties tolerating frustration make this more likely to occur. Help your child develop better persistence by offering a little help and a lot of encouragement whenever he is struggling with any task, such as trying to fit a block into a hole, retrieve a toy that is just out of reach, or get his pants on or off. Provide as little hands-on help as necessary, but encourage him by saying, “Almost … you've almost got it … hang in there ….” At the end, conclude with, “You kept trying and you succeeded!” If he didn't quite make it, provide comfort and reassurance. Tell him to, “Keep practicing! Tomorrow it should be easier.”
Little perfectionists may persist well enough, but their lack of patience with themselves and worries about making a mistake can translate into more rather than fewer accidents. Tension and anxiety increase the urinary urge and can prevent them from emptying the bladder completely, so they need to urinate more frequently. Begin teaching the complicated process of handling mistakes in all your child's learning situations, not just those that involve potty training. The steps include seeking help, venting frustration, fixing whatever needs mending, figuring out what went wrong, and figuring out what to do differently next time.
When your child has an accident, help him focus on the lesson, not the mistake. Once he grasps that accidents aren't the end of the world and that no mistake is fatal, it will be easier for him to recover and move on.
Children are born mimics, so a good way to teach the problem-solving steps is to verbalize your thoughts when you make a mistake. “Oops, I dropped the tea cup! Now I have to clean up the broken pieces. It slipped because my hands are wet. Next time I'll dry them before I pick up a cup.” “Oops, I pinched your finger in the seatbelt! Can I kiss it to make it better? Next time I'll be sure your hands are out of the way before I buckle you in.”
Similarly, when your child has an accident, whether during potty training or at another time, help her understand what went wrong, explain how to repair any damage (having the child participate if possible), and suggest how to avoid the problem in the future. For example, “Uh-oh, your dress is wet. We need to wipe up the floor and change your clothes. You didn't pull up your skirt before you sat on the potty. I need to show you how and help you practice so your dress won't get wet next time.”