Potty training is difficult for a variety of reasons, some avoidable and some, well, not. And, like almost anything parenting related, a parent's mood affects potty training and how a child navigates the entire process. So if you're preparing to start teaching your child how to successfully use the toilet, it's worthwhile to look at how you're feeling as you facilitate this new milestone, too.
“Children feed off of parents' energy," Missy Yandow, a certified potty training consultant, tells Romper. "So if a parent is feeling more excited about potty training, the child is more likely to follow their lead. On the contrary, if a parent is clearly stressing out about potty training, the child will likely resist."
Adella Jaeger, a licensed clinical social worker, takes it one step further, telling Romper that "when a parent is angry, or even anxious, a child will feel those feelings and it will likely greatly impact the toilet training process."
When any parent or caregiver starts a learning-related project with a young child — especially one like potty training, which often requires patience, dedication, and a consistent schedule — an open mind and peaceful disposition is useful and, in many instances, necessary, Yandow says.
“A parent who is very stressed out is likely to have a shorter fuse than a parent who may have more patience and a more calm demeanor,” she continues. "Our children are watching everything that we are doing and learning from the behavior that we model. The way we act in front of our children is the way that they will learn to behave.”
In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one sign that your child is ready to begin potty training is their ability to imitate you and your behavior. And, per the AAP, if your child feels stressed, rushed, or pressured to potty train, they're more likely to hold their urine and/or stool and the process will be derailed.
So, if parents want to keep their children focused on potty training, while avoiding any negative associations with potty training, they should do their best to remain anger-free and patient, Jaeger says. “When a parent is angry or anxious, it can make a child feel quite insecure."
If you’re struggling with your mental health, but still want to be part of the potty training process, Yandow says that it's helpful to “take a step back from potty training” and reevaluate the situation. Taking time for self-care is going to not only benefit you, the parent, but also your child.
"Children build their own feelings off of their environment, especially those surrounding their immediate caregivers which they are closest to,” Jaeger says. In other words, as parents we have to be careful when we try to teach our kids important lessons while we're in a mood that could negatively impact them.
Just like you're likely to apply positive talk and reinforcement while you help your child learn how to use the toilet, you can use the same techniques on yourself. For example, "I've got this," and, "I'm doing great," and, many a parent's personal favorite, "This, too, shall pass." And if you find yourself struggling to remain patient and can feel your mood turning sour, it's helpful to take a moment to step back, relax, and breathe. Sometimes, it takes removing yourself from the situation for a quick minute so that you can help make sure you're fully present with your child during those potty training moments. After all, none of us want to make potty training a more crappy situation than it needs to be.