The first episode of the DADUP podcast starts in the toilet. Well, technically that’s where we want it to end up. Join hosts Todd, Jimmy, and Jason as they dive right into the world of potty training. Believe it or not, there are professionals that can help you if you’re running into some resistance when it comes to the porcelain throne. We talked to Allison Jandu, a potty training consultant who really knows her… Read More
The door opened and the sound of the wind was deafening. It blasted against my body as I stepped out onto the plane’s landing gear. Grasping on to the strut under the wing, I looked down to see the patchwork of Midwest farmland and knew that there was no turning back. This would be my first unassisted skydive.
I felt… confident.
It’s called potty training and it isn’t for the faint of heart. Plus, when you’re teaching a young child with different “plumbing” than your own, you may feel a bit lost at times.
That’s why we spoke to Dr. Heather Wittenberg. She knows her (stuff).
Dr. Wittenberg specializes in the development of babies, toddlers, young children… and their parents. She offers no-hype, practical advice that is rooted in science and road-tested in her own home. She speaks on behalf of the Pull-Ups® brand. The doctor dropped some knowledge so you can point your little one in the right direction the next time she wants to drop a deuce.
1. Normal is what normal is…
“A lot of parents get caught up in thinking that potty training is something to accomplish or to check off of a list,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “They start putting expectations on their kids and think at certain ages they should be at X, Y, or Z.”
“Toddlerhood is when individual differences really make their first major appearance and you start to see a ton of divergences in the ‘normal’ range. There is a huge range of ‘normal’ for potty training. But you typically start seeing interest around 18 months and if your toddler isn’t well on her way to being comfortably toilet trained by four, you’d want to call in expert help.”
Whether your girl is eager to learn or afraid to go near the toilet, just don’t push to the point of resistance. It’s a process and a chance to celebrate each tiny step. Don’t wait until they have mastered it to celebrate with them.
2. Avoid this like the plague…
Some kids have a resistance to bowel movements. “There’s a cycle of withholding in some toddlers and that includes withholding their poops,” she said.
“They’ll do this for a lot of odd and uniquely toddler-ish reasons. They may imagine that poop is a part of their own body and if they get it out they are giving up part of themselves. Others might have had a bout of constipation and it hurt so bad that just the thought of going again scares them. They don’t have the logic to think ‘This may hurt but I have to get it out’ and trying to use that rationale will not work with a toddler.”
If you see any signs of constipation, you need to go full bore on any type of dietary stuff is ok with your child and pediatrician (prunes, fiber, water). “The typical American diet is terrible for this,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “Toddlers are getting to the point where they’ll only eat chicken nuggets and buttered pasta. They aren’t eating nutritionally.”
Keeping an eye on this is important. You don’t want to enter the world of suppositories and enemas. “Toddlers understandably are terrified of those things and feel are invasive. So you need to do everything you can to avoid getting to that point.”
3. What to call her genitalia…
It’s about being natural.
“What’s important to your daughter isn’t the specific language that you choose,” Dr. Wittenberg explained. “What’s important is that you feel comfortable using it. Being natural and comfortable with whatever names and conversation you have developed over the course of your relationship will allow her to feel your comfort.”
“You’ve been changing diapers all this time,” Dr. Wittenberg explained. “You’re involved with her physical body and emotional health. The transition from changing diapers to using the potty is just a natural evolution of what you’re already doing. Her language is evolving. She can obviously understand more and put words to body parts. What it comes down to is your family’s culture, personalities, and what kind of Dad you already are. Some are technical and clinical in their body part naming – others are silly with the names.”
Dr. Wittenberg stressed, “Just because Dads are a different gender than their daughter they do not need to somehow feel inadequate or incapable of having a perfectly comfortable, relaxed conversation about all manners of the potty.”
4. Clean up
(This is a tricky one for many dads who don’t have working knowledge of the parts. So pay attention…)
“I see many Moms make the same mistakes when it comes to wiping,” Wittenberg said. “Young girls are more vulnerable to a urinary tract infection because they are taking the toilet paper, reaching under to wipe their vulva and are going too far back. She’s reaching her bum and she’s pulling forward some bacteria.”
“Just have your daughter blot, in place, a couple of times right where the pee comes out when she’s done,” Wittenberg said. “She doesn’t have to get any more aggressive than that. No vigorous wiping is needed. A couple of blots with a few squares of toilet paper is plenty for pee.”
If you’re worried about seeing “white buildup” in her privates, don’t be.
“Some parents worry about vaginal discharge (white buildup) that is normally present and healthy,” she said. “That is the vagina’s ‘self cleaning’ mode and it is something to just ignore. It isn’t something that has to be cleaned out. In fact there’s a bit of a protective function there. Dads don’t have to help her get in there and try to make it visually clean. Regular bath time helps do that.”
On the back end of things, it’s just like the boys. She should wipe back and up from the rear after poops. Your role? Spot checker to make sure it’s all clear. They didn’t tell you you’d be doing that when you became a father did they?
5. Last call!
So she’s doing great during the day but is still wet at night? You might have read some advice to cut off all liquids for a certain period of time before bed. Obviously it stands to reason that you don’t want to drink a full-sized juice a couple of hours before bed but…
“It’s actually a physical maturity issue,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “There is a hormone that is secreted in the brain that shuts off urine production. That hormone sometimes doesn’t develop in a child until 2 or 4 or even 7. It doesn’t matter what you do. Without that hormone, their body is not going to turn down urine production at night and you are going to have a wet bed or diaper. Once your child is ready to stay dry at night, the amount of liquid you give them before bed won’t be the main factor. And putting pressure on a child to stay dry at night doesn’t help.”
There you have it. For my daughter and me, there is an evening ritual of her grabbing her Pull-Ups® out of the drawer and holding it behind her back so I can guess which Disney character is on them. My best streak? 4 in a row. No cheating. It’s all part of the process.
Whatever it takes for you to become more comfortable as your girl’s caregiver, do it. Just make sure to enjoy the ride…even if it stinks from time to time.
Dr. Wittenberg is a Pull-Ups® Potty Training Partner. She believes there is no “one size fits all” answer to most challenging parenting questions, and she is committed to help find individualized, workable solutions that help make parenting easier – and more fun! She can be found via her website (www.BabyShrink.com) or Twitter (@BabyShrink). She is the author of the “Let’s Get This Potty Started” book.
I even “stopped the car” to turn around and tell her that her behavior wasn’t going to win her any Miss Congeniality sashes any time soon. Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but I was stern with her and the look on her face showed me that the message got through.
I had lost my patience. I immediately regretted it.
While some of you may be thinking “no big deal” or “sometimes you’ve got to be the bad guy,” that’s just not me. You may think it’s a mountain out of a molehill, but strong words have a lasting effect. I still remember things that were said to me decades ago that affected who I was and grew into. One of the goals of purposeful parenting is to grow and learn from the past.
It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s hard as hell. Kids can test your limits.
But I made her a promise when she was about two hours old. I told her I would do everything I could to show her what it was to be a good man. So as impossible as it may become (See: teenager), I’m going to hold myself to my word.
That’s why when we got home we had another of our “hands and eyes” talks. It’s just something we do to make sure we are listening to each other when it’s really important. She held my hands, we made eye contact, and I told her I was sorry for raising my voice at her. I explained that even though her actions were wrong, it was just as wrong for me to get upset.
She consoled me and told me that it “was OK, you’re my Daddy” which made me sad to think of how many parents might actually think that is true. Big people don’t get a pass just because they made the little people. I told her that it wasn’t OK and that I would do my best to never do it again.
I believe you can get the desired result without taking shortcuts. To me, losing your patience and raising your voice to intimidate a smaller human is not only a shortcut, it’s detrimental to your future relationship with her.
I have no idea whether I’m in the minority/majority when it comes to this parenting technique. Some of my closest friends have no qualms over using “Dadtimidation.” I have no frame of reference as Grace is my first and only child. I suppose it doesn’t work for everyone. It may not even end up working for me.
But if I want to have a meaningful conversation with her when she’s 14, I’ll start when she’s 4 and try to exemplify how we should communicate with each other.
Actions speak louder than words? I’d change that to “actions should replace your louder words.” In other words, back up what you say instead of raising your voice.
Don’t confuse calm with weakness. While I adore my daughter and cherish every second we share, she still has to follow the rules. There are toys to be picked up, messes to be cleaned, and teeth to be brushed. Those things get done. Disobeying has consequences and she understands discipline. I’m lucky. I’ve seen some other children and how they behave. In comparison, I won the kiddo lotto with Grace.
But I’m the grownup. If it gets to the point where I feel the need to raise my voice, I try and reevaluate what I am doing so it doesn’t get to that point. Most adults have the mental capacity to approach a problem from different angles to find a solution. Most kids don’t.
I’m far from an expert. I’m just parenting by my gut and trying every day to do what I feel is right. So you can take this advice or leave it. But be kind to one another…even when she’s naughty. It will take more time and effort on your part, but that’s fatherhood.
Oh, and if you mess up, say you’re sorry.
Bugs and his Looney Tunes pals rocked.
Rocky and Bullwinkle rocked.
Schoolhouse Rock …well, you know.
(The Tick ‘Spoooooooned’)
With the roof of my mouth barely healed from last week’s shredding from sugary cereal, I would bravely refill my bowl and the Cap’n and I would head off for some quality time.
But earlier this week I learned that the cable channel CW was the last ship to set sail on the showing of the animated awesomeness that was our kids’ God-given right to punch out from reality.
And that’s ok.
You may think it strange for me to say I’m glad my daughter lives in an “on demand” world but in some ways I completely am. I’m rooting for it.
When I have her, my “Saturday mornings” (and hopefully this is how she’ll recall them, too) consist of going all out for breakfast with Daddy’s cinnamon pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit. We find crafts to do or practice reading and writing. If it’s summer, maybe we get some pool time in. How much can we do together? What cool memories are going to be made today? How much more can I love you?
Why would I want her to check out? Screen time is a last resort in our house.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want her to know who Mickey Mouse is. For the record, there’s a Mickey Mouse short about Minnie putting on too much perfume that is reigning supreme in the iPad’s replay numbers.
I just don’t mind the fact that we can decide when and for how long that time is.
I do the same thing with my “House of Cards” or “Walking Dead” fixes. I watch them at a time we don’t spend together or she’s in bed. Thank you, Netflix and DVR. I can be a present parent and still get to watch my favorite shows. Win/win.
So why shouldn’t she get the same entitlement to convenience? I don’t think being able to watch her shows at a whim will turn her into an entitled citizen, expecting the same treatment from everything in her life. We figured it out pretty quickly, she will too.
Plus it frees up time for her to “be” in the room. You remember that blank stare we all had as kids. Our folks had to say our name 4 times before we snapped away from the boob tube.
So, goodbye Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was fun. It really was.
You’ve gone the way of the VCR and Atari.
Parting is somewhat-sweet sorrow…maybe more than I care to admit.
That’s your cue, Porky.
No more floaties.
I peer down through the water and see her looking through her goggles at my submerged hands beckoning her to go just a little further, just a couple more strokes, before she reaches her goal and I lift her up above my head to watch her smile from ear to ear.
‘I can swim!’ she shouts.
I’m having a proud daddy moment.
(As I type this, I can hear her telling her neighborhood friends all about it around our backyard swing).
I don’t know why it was such a big deal to me to teach my daughter how to swim. There were plenty of classes available. Maybe I equate a summer afternoon at the pool with one of the few happy memories I have of my childhood.
I can still vividly see the sunlight shimmering as I would push off the wall with both feet and zoom through the water. I can still feel the smooth bottom of the pool on my belly was I would skim over it wishing I could hold my breath for hours, wishing I was a dolphin. I was even on the school’s swim team and actually did pretty well.
So for the past two years, G and I have gone to the YMCA or to the neighborhood pool to have some fun while I tried to show her the ropes. Fortunately, she loved the water and learned while playing. She was a good ‘student’ (fearless) and tried new things. But it’s always been with floaties or life vests.
Yesterday, it happened. We had been swimming for about an hour. It was almost time to go. I asked if she wanted to try some swimming without any help.
In the shallow end, standing on the second step down, she jumped towards me and started dog paddling. We’d tread water before so this was good progress. But then she put her head under the water and within two breaststrokes was in my arms. (Amazement)
“Let’s do that again!” she yelled.
Again and again, further and further she swam until she was able to swim from the steps to the rope that separated the shallow from the deep end. (Pride)
Watching her struggle so hard just to keep her nose above water ,sometimes swallow and cough, and the realization that she may someday want to try this on her own led to the (Terror). We had “the talk” about always having a grownup to swim with if she wanted to try it again – which she does. Right now.
We’re off to the pool.
But last night at bedtime…
G: “Why did you keep calling me your little guppy?”
“Because guppies are little fish that can swim really well like you.”
G: “But I’m still your baby boo, right?”
“Forever, baby boo. Forever.”
No, you don’t have to get on stage. But the basics of what an improv class can teach you will help any father’s ability to communicate with his kids.
Improv (at least a version of it) is one of those things that comes second nature to me. Years of morning radio honed the skill of immersing myself in random “created realities” and to this day I’m more than ready, probably to a fault, to jump into those spaces and play around. Quick-witted conversations are my comfy place.
So when I talk to my four-year old daughter, it’s like my own personal Disneyland. She doesn’t feel the need to be bound by logic or order when it comes to her conversations. I love that.
So first things first, know your audience. And be ready to flip the script on your “material” at a moment’s notice.
Here are three other rules of improv comedy that you should follow:
I know it sounds easy but if you don’t hear what she is saying you can’t be part of the conversation. And please, when your girl says something that doesn’t make sense, run with it. Don’t correct her. If she’s really trying to communicate something but struggling with what words to use, this will help her get from here to there without her getting frustrated by you . Just play around with what she is actually saying. If she’s just being silly, all the better.
Here’s an example of denial.
“Hi, my name is Jim. Welcome to my zoo.”
“This isn’t a zoo, it’s an airplane. And you’re not Jim, you’re a go-go dancer.”
See? Not fun.
Grace has told me about wolves that serve ice cream to which I replied “What flavor?” She also said that she uploads her thoughts to the rainbow clouds hanging above her bed to which I ask “Is the pink one full yet?” You get it. Don’t deny the reality being created. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn about what she’s really thinking when you let her create the world in which to speak.
NO FUNNY BUSINESS
The hidden riddle of improv is that the harder you try to be funny the unfunnier it gets. The same goes with your girls. Try and be funny and you’ll just fall flat. Your goal? Keep things interesting. Keep adding to the “scene” you and your daughter are creating. When that happens, the funny usually comes out all by itself. The best ways to go are to stick to your character, stick to the story that is being told, and to stay within the reality she has made.
Improvisation isn’t for everyone but I believe every father should at least give it a shot. Fatherhood, like improv comedy, is unscripted and can be difficult but working without that net makes for the biggest laughs and memories.
I see 1,200 pounds of pure muscle snorting down on 35 pounds of determined innocence. The paternal instinct to rush in and protect the little girl looking up at the spotted horse hits my spine and she isn’t even my daughter.
I fight the urge to step in (or to say anything) because I know where we are and that this “introduction” is part of the process.
Minutes later, there’s a stable full of girls ranging from age 4 – 15 leading their designated horses around obstacle courses or over large teeter-totters. Next to them are fathers looking at their little girls in a whole new way. Within the hour, young women who had never been on a horse are sitting bareback on them and beaming from ear to ear.
The Daddy Daughter Time Horses! Event at Equine Assisted Development of the Great Lakes in Alto, MI was one of those “can’t stop smiling” days (even while I was shoveling up ‘horse apples’). The well-trained horses are accustomed to meeting new faces and Deb VanderBand, the founder and leader of this organization, knows how to empower even the littlest of women.
According to the organization’s Facebook page, EAD specializes in the development and enhancement of non-verbal communication skills, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, taking responsibility, teamwork, relationships, confidence, and attitude. In the two sessions with our groups of Dads and daughters, she touched on all of them.
Sometimes it’s hard as a father to “let go of the reins” and see what your daughter can do on her own. Watching her face challenges (much larger than her), solve problems, and find the strength to face her fears can make it difficult on a Dad who wants to help and protect. This is one of those environments where letting her take the lead is encouraged and it was so cool to watch them do just that.
Throw in the miniature ponies and mules, a trip up to the hay loft, Bags the barn cat, and a chance for some of the girls to feed the horses, and a memorable day was made for all who came out. (And special props go to Nick Gonzalez who dealt with the only feisty moment of the day – Dude, you looked like a genuine cowboy/superhero.)
A huge thank you to goes to our presenting sponsor – Land Rover of Grand Rapids – for helping make the day possible. Not only do they sell quality vehicles, they’ve got some pretty awesome Dads working there, too.
For half of my 12-year career in radio, I would wake up well before sunrise each day to try and deliver an entertaining and informative morning show. So I rarely had time to listen to other radio shows or watch morning television.
When I got a new job outside of the industry, I thought I would finally have the time catch up on what everyone else was doing.
Turns out, that wasn’t the case. It’s not that I don’t have the time. It’s just that I have a completely different morning show that covers all of the bases for me.
She’s four and she’s the highest rated “show” in my home and car. My daughter delivers all of the basic components of morning TV and radio. Let me break it down for you…
Morning radio and television shows are typically higher energy shows. My daughter has been known to go from “zombie sleep” to “dance, dance” mode in about 45 seconds after waking. Even more curious is when the first words out of her mouth are a continuation of the conversation we were having at bedtime as if no time had passed and she had simply pressed Pause on her brain.
I like to start my day with some tunes. For this, my daughter delivers two popular options in her large repertoire of music:
- A made up song with no discernible melody with lyrics that describe whatever she is looking at and thinks I’ll laugh at. (Example: “Stanley the squirrel, the squirrel, the squirrel, is eating all the bird feeder food. Bad squirrel. Bad squirrel”)
- “Let It Go” from Frozen. On the same high spin rotation as most Top40 stations’ songs (See: Repeat, repeat)
This one pairs with music as well. If it’s rainy, I hear “Rain, rain go away, come again another day.” If it’s sunny, we sing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical “Oklahoma.” Weather is described in terms like sunny and cloudy, warm and cold, but also with “craft day,” “long pants day,” or “I want the blue sunscreen because that other sunscreen smells like dumpster” day.
I love well executed bits. Wacky characters used for comedic effect were fun to develop and deliver while on the air. But now instead of waking up to “Mr. Leonard and his Wheel of Meat,” I get to tune in to the ongoing Saga of the Stuffed Animals including a horse, baby doll, dog, and monkey. I’m pretty sure Molly the Monkey is the stunt boy even though she’s a girl. She gets tossed around a lot.
You can add “celebrity interviews” in here, too. The characters are starting to talk back as her imagination grows.
While radio and TV shows are giving me the latest breaking news, G is giving me up to the minute updates of things that happened over a year ago. Who knows what sparked the memory of her feeding a giraffe? And who cares? I’d rather relive that story than hear about immigration issues or health care.
While she completely understands the concept – (“a lot of cars on this road”), our traffic report always boils down to one thing: Did it recently rain enough to fill up the mud puddle at the bend of the road in our neighborhood so Daddy can splash it with his car tire.
Time and Temp
To be honest, she stinks at this. She has no sense of time or what numbers means when it comes to the time of day or temperature outside. I have been told that she loves me “a million eight” while she proudly promises to sleep “for three minutes” during nap time. I think she thinks those two amounts are the same.
Thankfully, I have an iPhone to give me this info whenever I need it. But then again, I’d have to have my iPhone. Our recent Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read app has her wanting to hoard it.
I’ve got it all. She’s topical, local, entertaining, and informative…not to mention commercial free. The only thing missing is my chance to win free concert tickets. I love this show.
Don’t think so?
Imagine you are a man walking into a conference room with some of the major power players in your industry. You have shown great promise in your career and the other men you are about to meet could greatly increase your standing and get you to the next level.
You would want to learn from them and show them what you know. You would want to befriend them so you could have more access and form a network of lifelong associates that help each other succeed.
That is the essence of networking – maintaining a group of colleagues that symbiotically succeed.
Many men excel at this in their professional lives but they suck at it when it comes to parenting.
Most women do it. It’s one of the first things they use to connect with each other before adding to their circle of friends (see: network). Men use the topics of sports or business before children when connecting with other men.
The good news: If you want to find other Dads like you – fathers that want to parent with a purpose and place a higher priority in taking an active role in their children’s lives – we are out there. You can find them at every Daddy Daughter Time event. DDT Dads wouldn’t be there if they didn’t place value on the time they spend with their girls.
The role of fatherhood is evolving and morphing men into more involved caregivers responsible for every aspect of their children’s lives instead of just a ‘policeman with a paycheck.’
We feed, burp, and change.
We bathe, bounce, and braid.
This Father’s Day is a good opportunity to not only start being remembered for the memories you made with your kids but to meet other guys who want the same thing. It’s easy…
Just come and network.
Just think how much “success” you could accomplish when it comes to the relationships with your kids if you were part of a network of lifelong associates that help each other succeed. (Sound familiar?)
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