Sometimes our greatest helper is our greatest hindrance. In the case of potty training I am referring to a product that was introduced to the market 11 years ago: Pull-Ups training pants. In 1989 the product was well received by parents and was the first product of its kind. Today, many parents continue to use Pull-Ups as well as many other brands of disposable training pants as a logical step in the potty training process.
Though pull-ups are widely used, I believe they are actually the number one hindrance to the transition from diapers to the potty. They make potty training only seemingly easier, and in reality it makes the process more difficult and prolonged.
The Case For Pull-Ups
It cannot be disputed that pull-ups are convenient. When out shopping or running errands with your child it's nice to know that you will not have an emergency clothes changing session in the bathroom because of an "accident." At night time you can sleep peacefully knowing that if your child wets the bed, the bed is not really getting wet (hence no middle of the night sheet changing), just the pull-up. Pull-ups reduce the mess, save time and seem to make day-to-day life less stressful.
Training pants helps children learn the action of pulling down and up when they need to go. They become aware that in order to become a big girl or boy I must pull down these pants and use the potty and pull them back up when I'm finished. They also help kids learn how to dress themselves as they pull-up their training pants to put them. Children learn through repetition and by going through the pull-up and down process they connect it with using the bathroom.
Pull-up pants make toddlers feel like big kids. Instead of lying down for a changing like a baby, the child has pants that come off and on just like mommy, daddy, big brother or sister. They even come decorated with all sorts of characters and designs just like real underwear. Training pants allow the child to use the bathroom without assistance from the parent or caregiver which makes them feel more independent and confident.
The Case Against Pull-Ups
You are probably wondering why I listed inconvenience as the #1 con since I wrote, "It cannot be disputed that Pull-Ups are convenient." only two paragraphs ago! The twist comes in that pull-ups are convenient, actually too convenient, which yields no inconvenience for the child. What does this mean, and why would I want my child to be inconvenienced? Well, what happens when a child touches a hot stove? Their hand gets burned and they learn not to touch it again. When a child has an accident in a pull-up they do not feel the inconvenience of being wet or dirty because it has the same absorbent material as a diaper. Since there is no discomfort felt the basic physical motivation for learning how to use the potty is taken away. There is a consequence for every action and using pull-ups does not teach the REAL significance of soiling your pants- discomfort, smelling, embarrassment and inconvenience. The convenience is a benefit primarily for the parent when potty training should be about the child.
Oftentimes parents use a combination of pull-ups and real underwear when potty-training. They may use underwear at home and pull-ups when they go out, at night or other combinations. This can confuse the child and leave them wondering when will I get wet, and when do I stay dry? They may wonder why it's not such big deal when they pee pee or poo in the pull-up but there is more chastisement if they go in their underwear. Besides repetition children learn best with consistency. If they consistently feel wet or dirty when they have an accident and you react in the same way each time, they will make the connection faster and it will stick.
Blatantly stated training pants teach kids how to change their own diapers. You can dress it up all you want but it's just a diaper without the fasteners. Mommy, daddy big sister or brother (assuming they are potty-trained!) do not use pull-ups guys. The time will come when the child soils those undies when they are not in your care (daycare, babysitter, school etc.) and the caregiver may not be so forgiving. They may not feel like a big kid, get teased and in turn lose their confidence. Not to say that you cannot give your child his confidence back but why sugar coat it to begin with? People don't like cleaning up kids who have accidents (a reason for using pull-ups) and having someone cleaning up after you is a strike against your feeling of independence. Be realistic with your child and let them know that in order to be considered an official big kid they must wear underwear and use the potty all the time. Accidents happen, it's OK, and you will soon master it!
All in all, the benefits of pull-ups are superficial. Now, it's not to say that if you use training pants your child will never use the potty because if this were true Pull-Ups would be off the market. This article stresses that pull-ups are a hindrance to potty training and can make the process longer and more confusing. If you are having trouble potty training your toddler try taking away the pull-ups. Yes, it will be more inconvenient on your part, but your child will soon grasp the full relevance of potty training, which in turn makes the process easier and faster.
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Rachael is the founder of YoungMommie a social networking site designed specifically for young moms in their teens and twenties. Visit the site to get more great articles, participate in juicy parenting forums, connect with young moms in your area and so much more
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