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Transitioning to Underwear
Tips for the Transition
By Katherine Bontrager
“We are currently at a standoff with our son,” says Shannan Boyer of Cincinnati, Ohio. “He’s successfully transitioned to underwear but is hesitant to fully let go of his .”
Recently Boyer and her husband thought the time was right to discontinue the use of training pants because their son had been successfully using the bathroom – without any reminders – for two months. But when they presented the idea of wearing underwear to their son, he just wasn’t interested, says Boyer.
Boyer’s struggle with her son is a common one. Sometimes little ones get so comfortable in training pants that they’re reluctant to move on to cloth underwear. So how can parents tell when their children are ready to transition to underwear full time?
Determining the Right Time
Michelle LaRowe has been a nanny for 12 years. She says a child is ready to make the transition from training pants to real underwear when he is consistently aware that he needs to use the potty and can express it in an appropriate way.
“I’m a firm believer that your child will gauge his or her attitude about the toilet training process from you,” says LaRowe. “If you’re stressed, your child will be stressed. If you approach the process with a casual ‘this is the next part of growing up attitude,’ your child will adopt that same mindset.”
According to pediatrician Dr. Cara Familian Natterson, the best way to minimize accidents is to wait until your child tells you she wants to train. “If you push it, your toddler will know you care,” she says. “And it’s much more enjoyable for a little one to push his parents’ buttons than it is for the toddler to comply with a whole new way of doing things.”
Another sign your little one is ready to make the switch to real underwear is when her training pants remain clean for extended periods of time. When you see proof that your toddler’s bladder control has increased, suggest that she pick out a favorite pair of underwear and wear them for a few hours.
Ensuring a Smooth Transition
Once you’ve determined your child is genuinely interested in trading training pants for underwear, there are ways to make the transition easier.
Dr. Natterson says most kids enjoy choosing their own underwear, especially those that have a special theme such as a princess, dinosaur or other cartoon character. “Explain to your child that once he uses the potty regularly, the favorite underwear can be worn,” she says.
And remember, patience is key during all stages of potty training. Mistakes can and will happen, but it’s all just part of the process.
“Accidents happen,” says Dr. Natterson. “The younger a child is, the more likely he is to have accidents. Don’t punish when this happens. Instead, point it out and tell your toddler that it’s OK. Remind your child how proud you will be when he’s able to communicate the need to go to the bathroom. Praise any effort on the potty – even one with no results.”
It’s advice LaRowe believes in emphatically. “Never discipline a child for having an accident,” she says. “An ‘Oops, looks like we had an accident, let’s take care of this and try again’ will go much farther than, ‘I can’t believe you had another accident!’ Building up your child’s self-esteem rather then tearing it down is vital during this process.”
And if there is an accident, LaRowe says it’s a good idea to encourage your little one to help with the cleanup. She says this, too, is part of the growing up process. Have your child help get paper towels, put soiled clothes in the hamper and get fresh clothes to change into.
Once your toddler is comfortable with using the toilet and is set in a routine, switch to wearing underwear during the day. Nighttime training may take a little bit longer, as it’s a longer period of time for your child to hold his or her bladder. But once your child has slept dry through a number of nights, casually switch to underwear at night.
Over time – with a relaxed and careful approach – even the most apprehensive little one will gladly say “farewell” to training pants and “hello” to underwear.
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