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Psychological Effects of Potty Training

by Angeliki Coconi

Kids develop at different rates, which affects how they cope with potty-training. The younger the child is, the more likely it is that the process will take longer because the child might be unprepared emotionally, according to Dr. Mark Stein, head of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in a 1999 story at Washingtonpost.com. Kids need to be physically and psychologically ready for potty-training to begin -- that will ensure that any psychological effects on the child during this time are minor and training is trouble-free.

Embarrassment

Sometimes a child might be embarrassed or self-conscious during potty-training, which can cause her to hide her need to use the potty. According to Beth A. Choby, assistant professor and director of predoctoral education in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, a child's discomfort might be the result of her need for privacy. If the child has associated using the potty with feeling exposed or embarrassed, then she might want to avoid it altogether. Because that's likely putting more stress on her than you, let your child know she has no reason to feel uncomfortable and help her relax.

Emotional Imbalance

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child's desire to control herself as well as her surroundings might lead to trouble cooperating. Usually, big changes such as moving into a new home or the arrival of a new sibling can take a child out of her comfort zone, causing her to resist the potty-training process. As she tries to regain psychological balance, she might feel temporarily disoriented and unwillingly delay the procedure. She might also become reluctant or emotional, causing both herself and you stress. The best way to get through this is to talk it out with your little one and let her explain what it is that is frustrating her.

Lack of Confidence

For the child to remain confident throughout potty-training, encourage her and stay positive yourself. Be present for her and make the process fun, showing her that she shouldn't resist it or be afraid of it. According to the Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida, potty-training mistakes and accidents are expected and they should cause no frustration. Try to focus on the little successes rather than the small failures for your little one not to feel stressed or discouraged. Never punish her for doing something wrong and instead praise her and reward her every time she does something right. Often a child will lose faith in herself and delay the process when she doesn't feel confident that she is doing it right.

Temporary Fear

Some children begin potty-training too early, experience painful bowel movements or have a lot of stress during the process. All this can cause frustration, according to Dr. Barton D. Schmitt, author of "Toilet Training Problems: Underachievers, Refusers, and Stool Holders." As a result, they sometimes tend to avoid sitting on the potty and grow afraid of the task. As a parent, you need to determine what it is that intimidates your child. In extreme cases, this can even turn into a temporary toilet phobia. Discuss openly with your child and encourage her to relax, while showing her she has nothing to be afraid of.

About the Author

Angeliki Coconi started writing in 1999 with the theater comedy "Loop," produced in Athens. In 2001 she wrote and produced another comedy, "Modern Cinderella." In 2006 she was awarded a Master of Science in literature from the University of Edinburgh. In 2009 Coconi obtained the Postgraduate Certificate in Screenwriting from Napier University of Edinburgh.

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