Tag Archives: discipline

Potty training regressions

by Bethany Lynch

I wrote earlier about the need for discipline during our potty training experience. When our son started deliberately having accidents, it was clear that we needed some form of correction. However, accidents are not always deliberate, and it is very common for children to go through potty training regressions. I wish I had known that earlier! Regressions make you question every step and every decision.

There are some important questions to ask if you find yourself in the middle of a potty training regression:

  • Is this behavioral? Are there deliberate signs of refusing to use the potty?
  • Have we ruled out all physical causes and reasons? Are there any signs of illness?
  • Is my child too young? Should we postpone training and resume again in a month?
  • Have there been any changes to routine? Any trips that could have disrupted consistency?
  • If discipline is necessary, what would sting the most? Loss of toy? Time out? No reward?
  • Am I being consistent?
  • Am I sending mixed signals by using pull-ups or diapers except for sleep?
  • Does my child have too much freedom?
  • Am I expecting first time obedience in other areas?

So how did we get out of the mess we were back in? (No pun intended!) We went back to square one…bare bottom with the emphasis of staying clean and dry as soon as he was back in underwear. Every 60 minutes, we put him on the potty whether he could tell us he had to pee or not. If he did not use the potty, we put him back on the potty 15 minutes later. Yes, there were times he was not pleased he had to sit on the potty, but it was done. It was done without emotion and it was done consistently.

I think one trap of potty training is expecting to be told by the child when they have to potty from the beginning. This took a long time to happen, and I think putting him on the potty consistently went a long way in helping him learn sensations and bladder control.

Another interesting tactic that we used was a reward and prize system. Another mom gave me the idea of working towards a prize. We had used that system successfully for a while. Each time he went to the potty without an associated accident before or after that trip, he got a cotton ball. After ten cotton balls, he got a small prize which was hidden in a gift box. During his potty training regression, we also agreed that the novelty of cotton balls had probably outlived their usefulness. On a whim, we decided to put pennies in the jar instead of cotton balls. Being able to put all of his pennies in his piggy bank and still work towards a prize was more than enough motivation to get us back on track!


Bethany is a wife and working mother of two young children. Married 8 years to her supportive husband, Lee, Bethany says that without Babywise her life would be impossibly chaotic. Babywise has helped her children, 2 ½ year-old Kai and 11 month-old Caitlin, become happy, healthy, well-rested and obedient. Despite her busy full-time job as a neonatal pharmacist at a fast-paced children’s hospital, Bethany loves to write about her family’s adventures on a family blog, and she has recently started a healthy-living blog called Babysteps to Organic Living.


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Potty training and discipline

by Bethany Lynch

Is there a place in potty training for discipline? That was the question my husband and I grappled with for weeks. Our son had been potty trained for a month without any accidents when he suddenly started peeing on things and almost deliberately having accidents. It forced us to completely rethink our strategy and critically evaluate his behavior. The day he promised me he did not have to pee and then looked right at me and peed on my leather ottoman was a defining moment.

What really baffled us was the almost sudden defiance and dramatic increase in accidents. It was not until after we resolved this issue that I learned that many potty-trained toddlers experience a partial or even complete regression. Some attribute this to potty training too early, but others think it is just a behavioral “milestone.” We did potty train fairly early, but our son showed all the signs of being ready and begged to go to the potty.

While we use spanking as a form of successful correction for other offenses, we decided not to use it as a means of discipline for potty accidents. We could not rule out physical causes. However, there were several signs that these accidents were deliberate and behavioral. We decided to concentrate on getting to the root of the behavioral signs: 1) peeing on furniture, 2) peeing in his pants or on the floor while directly looking at us, and 3) peeing in his pants as soon as he got off the potty. We decided not to discipline for bowel movements, particularly because of a viral infection we had just passed around. There were signs that his GI symptoms were physical and not as behavioral. We did two more sessions of bare bottomed potty training. We put him in time out immediately after peeing anywhere put the potty. He also got one toy taken away for each deliberate accident.

Within a couple of weeks, he was back to having accidents once or twice a day at most. Now it has been almost two months without any deliberate accidents. While some may have suggested that we postpone potty training, in the end, we decided to continue. After all, he had already successfully trained and was showing signs of disobedience, not immaturity.

In my opinion, discipline can be used during potty training, and it can identify areas of inconsistency. The root cause may not be easily identifiable, but I believe there are some ways to increase motivation and increase interest in potty training during times of regression. It may take multiple strategies, and it may mean postponing training for some. As with all forms of discipline, I believe it should be done consistently and without emotion. I do not think a child should ever be disciplined for an accident if you have not ruled out all physical causes, but I do think that there can be a behavioral disobedience that needs to be corrected. The key is determining whether the child is acting out of disobedience or immaturity. In our case, disobedience was certainly the cause and we corrected it accordingly.


Bethany is a wife and working mother of two young children. Married 8 years to her supportive husband, Lee, Bethany says that without Babywise her life would be impossibly chaotic. Babywise has helped her children, 2 ½ year-old Kai and 11 month-old Caitlin, become happy, healthy, well-rested and obedient. Despite her busy full-time job as a neonatal pharmacist at a fast-paced children’s hospital, Bethany loves to write about her family’s adventures on a family blog, and she has recently started a healthy-living blog called Babysteps to Organic Living.

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Use behavior as your guide

Do you ever question your parenting methods? What parent doesn’t? Do you and your spouse disagree on what methods of correction to use? Perhaps one spouse is more lenient than the other? If you find yourself questioning your methods, your spouse’s discipline approaches and even the books you read, I have a simple answer:

Use your child’s behavior as your guide.

It’s so simple. If you don’t like the way your child is behaving, change your methods! If you like the way your child is behaving, see it as an affirmation that you are doing something right.

As much as we may hate to admit, we as parents must take full responsibility for our kids’ behaviors. Children have parents because they need authority figures who will guide and direct their hearts and actions. There is that little thing called free will that affects how a child will respond to his parents. But for the most part, we have great influence over how our children act and think.

If one parent complains to the other about being too strict or too lenient, then both parents need to observe the child. Our children figure us out faster than we figure ourselves out. The lenient parent must watch the child as he responds to his directives. Does the child obey the lenient parent? The strict parent must watch the child to see if he shows any signs of exasperation.

True, it’s difficult to do this with complete objectivity. Perhaps you can turn a video camera on yourself as you interact with the child. Watch it after the heat of the moment has dissipated and when you can watch it objectively. Or bring in an objective third party (friend, grandparent, etc.) who can offer their insight about how your child responds to your parenting methods. Some of my most prized parenting advice has come from friends or relatives who make simple observations about how my methods don’t seem to be working.

Years ago, a friend was visiting and watched as I gave William a timeout in our timeout spot in the family room. She commented on how he didn’t seem to care. I had gotten so mired in getting him to stay in that spot, and actually felt quite pleased with myself that he would sit obediently, that I forgot to evaluate the timeout for its effectiveness. By that point, William had stopped caring about sitting in the timeout spot in the middle of the family room. After reading a book or two and evaluating our methods, I realized that in order for a timeout to work, it needed to be away from the family. The child needed to be isolated!

If you determine that you need to change your methods, do your research. Read the parenting books and blogs. Identify the method you think will affect your child. Work with your spouse to define your new discipline plan. Write your new plan down. Then see how it works! Give it some time before making any critical judgments. But after few weeks (depending on how chronic the behavior is), you will be able to determine the new method’s effectiveness. If that method isn’t effective, move on to the next one.

Now, I’m not suggesting you flip-flop your methods on a regular basis. After all, consistency plays a huge role in parenting. But if you have noticed that a particular tactic or thought process isn’t giving you the results you want, then by all means, change it. Don’t stick with a method that isn’t working only for the sake of consistency. Doing the wrong thing over and over will never make it right.

The next time your child misbehaves, stop and think. Evaluate your methods based on your child’s behavior and never be afraid to try something new.


Filed under discipline, parenting philosophy

Timeout success! (from a reader)

My friend Amanda just sent me this great testimonial after reading about timeouts the Ezzo way on my blog. Her son is 20 months old. Hopefully this will serve as inspiration for you.

I started implementing time-outs the Ezzo way and wow, big improvement! Instead of trying to goof off on time out Tobias quickly calms himself down and comes to me to tell me he’s sorry and give me a kiss! He stops himself from crying/throwing the tantrum, comes willingly, looks me in the eye, and says “shosh”, then I say “are you going to obey mama with a happy heart now?” and he says “kay” and gives me a kiss. Then he will do whatever I tell him. He doesn’t go right back to misbehaving, his obedience level goes through the roof (temporarily of course, lol!) and he’s so much happier. Heck, I’m happier because I’m not struggling to keep him in time out or listening to whining throughout the day. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks so much for the tips on the Childwise Chat blog, they really helped me to pin down exactly what I was looking for from a time-out.


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My discipline plan

As promised, here is my discipline plan. You’ll notice that it’s fairly simple and straightforward which is what you want. You don’t want a discipline plan that’s so complicated it’s hard to be consistent.

Discipline plan goals

As discussed in my last post about creating a discipline plan, here are my goals with my discipline plan:

  • Start with my kids’ worst and most chronic behaviors
  • Choose discipline methods that teach a lesson and that aren’t hard for me to follow through with
  • Be specific in describing the behavior and the discipline method
  • Post it in an accessible place (my kitchen)
  • Make it a living document. I have a huge white board in my kitchen and I can very easily revise the discipline plan as needed.

My discipline plan

Here’s how it is written on my white board:

William (age 5)

  • Misbehavior: Intentionally hurt your brother.
  • Discipline: Immediate timeout for at least 10 minutes, followed by apologies to Lucas and mommy.
  • Misbehavior: Snatch toys from your brother.
  • Discipline: I take the toy (and all others like it) away for at least 24 hours.
  • Misbehavior: Slow in cleaning up after roomtime
  • Discipline: I take those toys away until he can show me better obedience. All of his Legos are currently sitting on my dresser and will probably stay there for a few days.

Lucas (age 2)

  • Misbehavior: Throw food or silverware from highchair.
  • Discipline: Immediate timeout, followed by clean up and apologies to mommy.
  • Misbehavior: Whining and fussing.
  • Discipline: Verbal reminder to be happy while withholding whatever he wants.

Notes for mom and dad

At the bottom of my discipline plan, I include reminder notes for my husband and myself. These notes address our weaknesses and help us remember how to fairly and effectively discipline our kids.

Mommy: Follow through the first time!

Daddy: Stop repeating and call their names first!

Is this it?

You may wonder if this is the extent of the discipline that goes on in our home. Certainly not! There are several other misbehaviors and discipline methods that go on in our home, but these misbehaviors are not chronic enough that I need to include them in my discipline plan. If they go on for any length of time, I will add them to our plan. But remember, one of your primary goals in creating a discipline plan is focusing on just two or three misbehaviors so you can effectively and consistently address them. Keep it simple!

Take the time to create your discipline plan and see how it can help keep you focused.


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Create a discipline plan

As with everything in life, success in parenting comes with practice and planning. When you have a plan for discipline, you are not caught off guard by your child’s misbehavior and can respond with the most effective method of discipline. A discipline plan will allow you to:

  • Remain calm in the face of your child’s worst behaviors.
  • Issue a punishment that fits the crime.
  • Ensure consistency.
  • Get to the root of misbehaviors with discipline that teaches a lesson.

Identify chronic misbehaviors

Your first step in creating a discipline plan is identifying your child’s worst and most chronic misbehaviors. Think back a week or two. Pay attention over the next few days. Does your toddler drop his spoon from the highchair after every meal? Does your preschooler give you attitude every time you pick him up from school? Does your preteen frequently forget his lunch?

Be as specific as possible when identifying misbehaviors so you won’t have any problem recognizing them when they happen again.

Identify at least one misbehavior, but try to limit it to four or five. You want to do this for yourself and your child. You don’t want to exacerbate your child by disciplining for too many misbehaviors at once. And you don’t want to feel so overwhelmed that things are so bad you might as well not even try.

Decide on an effective discipline method

Once you have identified your child’s problematic behaviors, sit down to decide which forms of discipline are most effective. If you’re unsure, start small. Perhaps a verbal admonishment (and consistency) is all he needs for one particular misbehavior. But if it’s a behavior that’s been going on for months and none of your other methods have worked to eliminate it, perhaps a more painful consequence will be more effective.

Again, be as specific as possible. Think through how long you will take away his toys or how many days he will go without TV privileges. If you determine that a timeout is the best discipline method, write down the steps to implement one effectively.

The most important consideration when deciding on discipline methods is choosing one you can follow through on without hesitation. If you’re reluctant to take away your child’s favorite toy (and you know you would have a hard time in the heat of the moment), don’t use that as one of your discipline methods. You want to choose methods that you can be consistent with even in your weakest moments.

Post your discipline plan

Post your discipline plan somewhere in the house where you can refer to it often. You don’t want to go through all this work only to forget it all. Post it on the refrigerator or a kitchen cabinet.

Make your discipline plan a living document

Your discipline plan will change as your child does. As you conquer one misbehavior, you can cross it off the list and add another. Be sure to stay on top of your child’s misbehaviors and not ignore the ones that aren’t on your plan. Make notes on your plan about whether the discipline method you chose has been working and how long the misbehavior has been going on. If the behavior doesn’t go away in a week or two, it’s time to choose a new discipline method. Or you may discover that one discipline method you chose is too harsh for the misbehavior. Your discipline plan is not set in stone. Make notes and change it as you see fit.

In my next post, I’ll share my discipline plan with you.


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What’s so wrong with the traditional timeout?

In my previous posts about timeouts, I didn’t delve too deeply into why exactly the Ezzos don’t believe in timeouts as they are typically done in our culture. Here is an explanation, straight out of the book:

“Using timeouts, as culturally practiced, is not an effective substitute for repeated offenses that call for correction. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, using timeouts as a primary method of punishment is one of the least satisfactory types of consequence. There are two reasons behind this statement.

“First, the child seldom associates sitting in a chair with the act for which he is being punished since the frustration of the parent is usually a more dominant factor in the situation than the act itself. As a result, the child tends to associate parental frustration with timeouts rather than with the wrong deed itself. The child is not sitting in a chair contemplating the benefits of a virtuous life, nor is he beating his chest and chanting, ‘Oh, what a sinner I am,’” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, page 151.

Focus on the behavior, not your frustration

The Ezzos make a very good point about the parent’s frustration becoming the focus of the timeout. I would say that this applies to any form of discipline where parents lose their cool. When you get angry with your child, he will likely point the finger at you rather than himself. He will sit in his timeout thinking about how angry and unfair you are being without thinking about his own actions and what caused the conflict in the first place. It becomes a blame game, and in his head, you are the one to blame.

On the other hand, when you are calm and administer fair discipline, the child has no one to blame but himself. The lack of anger (from the parent and child) allows everyone the clarity they need to see the situation at face value. It allows the child to take blame for his own actions and come to a point of repentance. Any hatred or anger toward the parent is completely eliminated.

Let the punishment fit the crime

The Ezzos make another point about cultural timeouts:

“Second, there is little to no punishment-equivalent. A five-minute timeout for hitting his sister with his hard plastic bat taught Stevie the wrong value for his offense. From the experience, he learned that the pain and bruise to his sister was equal in value to five minutes in the chair,” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, page 151.

With our discipline methods, we need to show our children the seriousness of their crimes. And every family has its own value system. In our home, the two biggest offenses are disrespecting your parents and lying. In choosing a discipline method for such offenses, I am able to communicate the seriousness of the action. If I did a timeout of one minute per year of age (see my previous description of the Supernanny method) for every misbehavior, I wouldn’t be able to communicate the seriousness of the offense. I could do so with my words—which works to some extent—but as with everything in parenting, actions speak louder than words.

Don’t allow your child to weigh the odds

The other problem with using a timeout for every misbehavior is that the child will weigh the odds. If he knows what’s coming when he disobeys, he may choose that it’s worth it to sit in timeout for five minutes if he can sneak a cookie or even tell a lie against his sibling. When we mix up our discipline methods, we keep our kids on their toes and always use a discipline method that will send the right message and teach the right lesson.

Don’t forget these important points the next time you administer a timeout or any other type of consequence.


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