Toilet training can be rough. Some days it's hard to believe your toddler won't still be in diapers by the time she hits puberty. To add to the challenge, what works for one child may not work for another -- even in the same family. So what's a mom to do? Try these real-life success strategies.
Who it worked for:
Matthew, 3, son of Laurie Rosenthal, of Pacific Palisades, California
With Matthew about to start preschool, Rosenthal was getting nervous. "One day he screamed at me, 'I'm never going to do it!' and I realized how stressed he was," she says.
For a month she backed off. But she used the time to have a local shop embroider pink tractors on the briefs she'd bought him -- Matthew's favorite color and toy at the time.
Rosenthal invited an older playmate over, and told her son she had a present for him. If he didn't like it, that was fine; she'd give it to his friend (who was in on the surprise). She pulled out the new underwear, and Matthew was skeptical, but when his buddy clamored for them he yelled, "No! They're mine!"
Matthew had a couple of accidents -- he tried hard not to wet his beloved tractors -- and in a year graduated to regular underpants after deciding that pink was for girls.
Why it worked:
Rosenthal wanted to motivate Matthew in a way that let him believe he still had some control. So while she knew he'd go for the tractor underwear, she also gave him the choice not to use them.
Toddlers don't usually respond well when told what to do, says Alan Greene, M.D., a pediatrician at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University and author of From First Kicks to First Steps. "Special underwear can provide real motivation," he says. "And it's a positive way to get your child's mind going in the direction you want."
How to make it work for you:
You don't have to embroider underpants. Take your toddler shopping, just the two of you, to pick out the pairs he likes best. Getting him involved in the process, combined with a special outing, can produce magic results.
Lauren Barack has written for USA Today, Men's Fitness, and Newsweek.