Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Inside: How your voice can help with normal toddler behavior around potty training.
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I remember reading somewhere that you can qualify the dynamic of your family (and how conflicts look) with food terms like spicy or mild. Are there hot tempers rising? Or did you grow up in a quieter, mild-mannered household?
It's fun to think about. (I definitely grew up in a spicy family.)
But here’s the thing. Despite hearing my fairshare of yelling as a child, when my mom really wanted to make a point that she meant business, she did not yell.
She pulled out a different voice.
A quiet one. But it was the voice that could be heard from anywhere in the room.
Because the tone in that quiet mom voice told me...don’t mess around..She’s not playing.
One of the hard parts of potty training is you can't potty train in a vacuum.
Your toddler is still a toddler.
And sometimes that means showing those moments of complete toddler resistance.
How do you set boundaries after your toddler has learned how to use the potty?
And if you have been at the potty training process for a while (weeks, months) and you still can't seem to get away from the daily accidents, then here's something important to consider..
What's the voice you're using when you're talking to your child AND seeing behavior around the potty?
First, think about what you're already saying. How you're prompting your child.
What words are you saying? Are you tossing out reminder after reminder?
Are you doing A LOT of talking? Talking with big, long sentences that go on and on?
Does your voice sound soft and unsure?
As your child is spinning out of control, are you feeling like you're doing the same?
Do you feel all tense in the back of your neck?
Chances are, if you're saying yes to any of the above, you're not using a tone that sets a boundary with your child.
Sometimes LESS is more, and that definitely is true when it comes to boundaries with toddlers.
Your child is testing limits and you're losing, which leads to feeling even MORE exhausted and defeated. Sometimes, you may even see anger surface up. You might yell (and then subsequently feel awful that you yelled.)
You don't know what else to do. You're frustrated.
Related: If you'd like a script in terms of what to say (and what not to say) to your toddler when you're dealing with behavior, sibling rivalry, worries, and all the hard stuff that comes with parenting toddlers, this is the parenting book that I'd highly suggest. I keep it by my bedside as it's one I reference often. Because talking to our kids (so they feel heard) is what keeps the connection going strong. That's when you see less of the hard behaviors. All of my favorite parenting (and children's books) are listed here, if you're interested.
We all know that yelling at our kids can do damage. Yelling makes us as parents feel like we're failing and fractures our connection with our child.
We all know that parenting toddlers is tough.
So when you throw a big skill in that you are in charge of teaching your child — how to use the potty — it's easy to see how behavior can step in and things can get REALLY messy, really fast.
Where to start? How to turn things around with toddler behavior?
Start here when your toddler knows what to do, there's no physical issue or anxiety, but your toddler is just choosing NOT to go potty (when you're seeing behavior)..
1. Check in with YOUR VOICE.
It matters how you're delivering what you're saying to your toddler. Sometimes it's totally appropriate to use a firm *mom* voice — not yelling, not even loud..
In fact, the best mom voice is even MORE QUIET than your regular voice.
2. Take it down to close to a whisper.
That way your message is not heard as yelling. That way you jump your toddler's tracks and the ears perk up to hear what Mom is saying..
Your potty is over there. I expect you to get your pee in the potty.
3. Set the expectation.
But don't say it with a question. Don't say it with a soft, unsure voice. Don't go in with loads of choices.
Keep it really simple and clear.
This is what you expect.
Then let your toddler step up to your expectation.
Don't keep talking, reminding, because then that's heard as BEGGING and we lose when we try to beg our children to do what we want them to do.
Related: I talk through the mom voice and the best prompts for bringing down resistance to use the potty in my e-course Potty Training Solutions. It's a video-based course where you can hear my voice — so you can get the tone just right. Because langauge and tone matters with potty training and bringing down resistance.
How should you deliver a prompt to go potty?
Say it with a quiet, firm tone of voice — a tone that shows you *expect* your child to comply. That's the Mom voice. It's the I'm-not-playing-around voice. And it's best delivered with short, quick statements.
Did your Mom have a Mom voice? Because mine surely did. And with that quiet, firm voice I knew she meant business. I knew that she had drawn a line and I didn't want to cross it.
Remember the Mom voice should also NOT be your voice all through the day!
If you're constantly needing to use a firm voice, there's a disconnect. You want to set a boundary but fill it in with lots of mama love, where you're teaming up together to catch those pees in the potty.
Where it even feels playful, or just light.
Firm doesn't work if you're firm with your child all the time.
Then you find yourself in a constant power struggle with your toddler.
So channel your Mom (or Dad) voice, but pull it out only at select times so that it's impactful. Then load up your child with the soft side of connection...the one-on-one time doing a puzzle together, the praise on what your toddler is doing right, and the playful spirit of sharing a good giggle.
Because even those of us who tend toward spicy, need some sweet to balance it out.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs