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Two years and 10 months. That’s the age at which my son finally mastered potty training. That doesn’t sound too bad until I tell you that I started trying to get him to use the potty when he turned 2.

I expected it to take a few months and I was prepared for accidents. But week after week went by, and I was increasingly frustrated by his lack of progress.

Most sane people would look at me and say, “If he wasn’t ready, why were you forcing it?”

Well, because the preschool where I wanted him to go in the fall required 2-year-olds to be potty trained. He was a January birthday. That gave me 8 months until August and I was going to make it happen. Except I didn’t.

You can't fast-forward, or microwave, your kid's development Ack! What? Microwave kids?!

Not literally, of course. That's a phrase I heard Deb Owen-Sohocki, a lead trainer for the Positive Discipline Association, use on a conference call to describe how our society has become so used to immediate gratification — high-speed internet, microwaves, Instant Pots — that we think everything can be done faster, even child development.

I pictured myself potty training my son all those years ago and grimaced.

Why do parents try to microwave their kid's development?

We ignore the brain science and make up arbitrary deadlines by which we expect our kids to master skills because it will make OUR lives easier. And then we get annoyed if their brains and bodies don’t cooperate.

We need to slow down and pay attention to who our children are and where they are in their development. We need to be willing to nurture them through their life stages on a schedule that’s right for them, rather than one that’s expedient for us.

Age-appropriate expectations

As adults, it's our choice in how we see our kids: We can be frustrated by their inability to think like an adult, or we can be fascinated by how they do think.

There’s always a range by which children can be expected to master certain skills. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s something wrong with your child because they can’t do what another child can. Seek advice from your pediatrician, childcare provider, teacher or another parent about whatever milestone your child is struggling to master.

Be kind, firm and consistent

Change frequently doesn’t feel good, regardless of how old you are. If your child is challenged by a new skill, express empathy for their discomfort while also being firm about practicing the new behavior. Break tasks down into small steps and recognize every step of progress that they make. Say things like, “I know this seems hard. Let’s try it together,” or, “Good for you! You kept trying and you did it!"

If you want your child to be consistent, then you have to be consistent. You’re helping them build neural connections in their brain and muscle memory in their body. Intermittent practice will yield intermittent results and send the message that the new behavior isn’t very important.

Whenever possible, try to make the new task fun by doing things like role playing.

Learning new skills frequently looks like “two steps forward, one step back.” Just when you think your child has it down, they’ll have an off day (or a few off days) and it’ll seem like they’ve totally regressed back to square one. Be ready to be patient, practice and try again. They’ll get there eventually.

Think slow cooker, not microwave!

By Eva Dwight, BA, MEd, ACC, CPDT  (Written for All The Moms, USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/allthemoms/2019/01/30/parents-stop-trying-fast-forward-your-childs-development/2598534002/

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