Category Archives: Toddler

Potty Training: peer pressure

SarahA writes:

"My daughter is 18 months old,
and although I had no intention of starting to potty train her this
early, it looks like we’re into it.

about a week, she’s been sitting on the potty at daycare, where two
older girls (both 24 months) are being trained. The daycare provider
says my daughter just wants to do what the big girls are doing, and she
seems to be more into it than the other two. She has yet to pee or poop
in the potty, but sits there whenever the other girls do. Over the
weekend, we were at our friends’ house, and their daughter, who is 16
months, had a potty chair. My daughter got very excited about the chair
and played with it all night. So I picked one up for her.

Sunday, when I brought the potty chair home, she has been carrying it
around the house and sitting on it all the time. Sometimes she wants
her diaper off, but mostly she’s fully clothed when sitting on it.

wondering if it’s ok to let her play with the potty, since I have no
intention of pushing the issue right now. If she asks for her diaper
off, I oblige, but I don’t encourage her to sit on it, or to remove her
clothes before she does. Is this ok? Should I be letting her play with
it like it’s just another toy?"

Why not? I think you should just go with whatever she’s showing an interest in doing with the potty, and soon she’ll be peeing in it. Whatever makes her want to spend more time with it is fine, IME. In a few months you might want to push it a little by taking off her clothes (once the weather gets warmer!), but for a kid that age potty love is a good thing in and of itself.

Your email brings up another great potty training technique, which is to use peer pressure to get a kid interested in training. It’s amazing how much toddlers and preschoolers want to be like each other and do what the other kids are doing. (OK, maybe not so surprising, considering the popularity of things like Von Dutch hats in 2004 and those I-Pod onesies in 2005) You can leverage your kid’s desire to be like the "big kids" into an easier time potty training.

If your kid has a friend who is trained or further along in the process, try to arrange for the two of them to spend as much time together as possible for a few days. Whenever the other kid goes to the potty, let your kid go, too. Whatever kind of underpants your child’s friend has, run out and buy them. (Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-homespun-wool anti-licensed-character-consumer, Bob the Builder or Dora underpants can be your friends.) Make sure your child has a potty at home. Start talking about using the potty, and talk about how the friend can do it and "soon you’ll be able to do it, too!"

How susceptible your child is to peer pressure in pottying depends on his or her personality, obviously, although I don’t know if it necessarily translates into susceptibility to peer pressure in other areas. My aunt told me the possibly apocryphal story (it happened 25 years ago) of how my very counter-culture, headstrong, road-less-traveled cousin potty-trained. My aunt sent her over to play with the neighbor girls one day when she was around 16 or 17 months old. When my cousin came back 4 hours later she was potty-trained. The girls next door had learned to use the potty, and she just decided to do it with them.

So you never know. But if the rule for dressing for career success is to dress for the job you want to have, not the one you currently have, then the rule for potty training is to hang out with the kids who go the way you want your kid to go, not the way s/he currently goes. Hooray for your daycare providers for encouraging your daughter. Good luck, and start looking for cool underpants.

Potty Training 1: What I Did

Note to self: When using auto-post, make sure you click 6 a.m. instead of 6 p.m. Sorry for the delay on this post.

As I said in the previous post, I used a communication approach to potty training. Which was really the only reasonable approach, since we started way earlier than most people do nowadays, and certainly long before the magical 27-month mark some experts say is the earliest a child can control his or her bladder. To understand why I though the 27-month-mark was full of it, you have to understand one of the principles behind elimination communication (which I’ve never done, BTW): The idea is that babies are born with the ability to let you know when they need to eliminate, the same way they let you know when they need to eat. If you start paying attention and letting them go when they need to or changing their diapers right away, it forms a feedback loop and the older they get the more obviously they signal that they need to go (just like they signal more obviously that they need to eat as they get older). In essence, when we put diapers on our babies and ignore their signals that they need to go, we train them just to go in the diapers whenever (diaper-training, instead of potty-training, as it were).

This totally made sense to me. In some cultures they just follow the kid’s signals until eventually the kid can go on his own and doesn’t need to signal anymore, so they don’t even have a concept of potty-training. So I reasoned that if you start working on gettting a kid to pay attention to the body’s signals about when it needs to eliminate, a kid could get back the ability to signal long before the 27-month mark.

And this is where I started–trying to get El Chico to pay attention to what his body felt like so he could eventually tell me before anything happened.

When he was 16 months he started getting extremely interested in all things toilet. He wanted to come in with us while we went, and he started really trying to look at his diaper as I changed it, etc. We were visiting my mom and she wondered why not just buy him a potty? So she bought him two (one for his room and one for the living room) of the one-piece Baby Bjorn little potties. (I think these are a great choice for kids who are still kind of small, as they can easily sit down on them. They’re also one piece which means you can get them completely clean every time, with no cracks or crevices.) It was summer, so we followed my grandmother’s advice and just took off his pants outside all the time. He watered my mom’s lawn a few times (and was fascinated to watch it come out) and fertilized it a few times. But once it happened a few times he really started to get that he pooped and peed, too.

After that it was all about talking talking talking and watching. We watched our cat go in her box (and talked about it). We stopped to watch dogs on the street go (and talked about it). He became our bathroom attendant, standing there holding the toilet paper for us and spraying us with cologne and asking us what we were doing. We read books about it. We watched DVDs about it. (If you only get one toilet-related video, get the Bear in the Big Blue House one. No video is going to teach your kid to use the potty by itself, so you might as well pick one you like. The songs are funny and it won’t drive you nuts if your kid wants to watch it a million times.) We talked about it as we changed his diaper and in the tub and at dinner. It became as important to him as construction and dump trucks and fire engine and tools.

Winter came and went, and when the weather started to get warm enough, I took his pants off at home. I’d take them off in the morning, and not put them on again until we went out. The first few days he peed a couple of times on the kitchen floor. But after that he’d start to run to one of the potties and pee in them. Some days it was one hour diaperless, and some days it was a few hours with no pants. He really thought it was fun to go in the potty.

After a few months I decided to press my luck and take off his pants before his morning poop. The first day he looked at me and said "I have to poop!" with some alarm. I casually asked, "Why not sit on your potty and do it?" He tried it (I think because I didn’t seem invested in it) and it worked. After a few days that became part of our routine, too.

After awhile we started putting on underpants (we used the Gerber lined ones, as everyone we know told us Pull-Ups were a huge rip-off and would actually delay training) and going on short excursions outside. We’d pee before and as soon as we came back into the house. The first day it was 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes.

I would have continued this plan indefinitely (increasing the times we were out gradually), but we had to travel to see my grandmother in another state. The day we were supposed to levae, El Chico refused to put on a diaper for the trip. So I put him in the one pair of training pants I had that was waterproof, and hoped for the best. He told us when he had to go, and stayed dry through a taxi ride, a short flight, a 90-minute layover, a longer flght, and a two-hour car ride. He had just decided this was it. Over the next few weeks he had plenty of accidents, but he was essentially trained.

I guess I could summarize what we did:

1. There was very little pressure. I followed his lead and backed off if it seemed to fast for him.
2. I didn’t believe people who said, "Oh, he’s interested now but he’ll stop being interested in a few weeks." He hadn’t stopped being interested in construction vehicles, so why would he stop being interested in poop?
3. We had fun. When you accept that you may have to wipe up some pee every once in awhile, the whole thing becomes kind of a game.
4. It was all about his mastery of the signals of his body, not a timetable, although obviously I was hoping he’d be done with diapers soon than later. I just tried not to communicate that to him.
5. We tried not to get too excited when he did go in the potty or toilet. Sometimes too much praise can be its own kind of pressure.
6. My husband was unemployed and home for a lot of this time, so they got to do "boys pee together" routines an awful lot for reinforcement. I think it helped it click for El Chico.

You’ll notice that it took a full year from when we started (16 months) to when he was in underpants all day (28 months). I’m sure it would have gone sooner if we’d started later or if I’d really pushed. As it was, he was still trained months earlier than any of the other boys his age, and all but two of the girls we knew.

Questions? Suggestions? Doubts? Unrelated thoughts? What’s another potty-training method we shoudl talk about?

Potty Training Pre-Work

I’ve been thinking about what I was going to write about potty training for a few days, and what I realized was that I couldn’t just jump in with how I did it (or, rather, set the stage for El Chico to do it). I approached it in a different way from a lot of people I knew, but in a very similar way to other parents I know. So I tried to figure out what it was that made different potty training approaches different so I could lay out the choices.

1. The Communication Approach. (This was the way I went.) This approach assumes that the goal of potty training is for the kid to recognize that s/he has to go before it happens and in enough time that an appropriate toilet or toilet facsimile can be reached. The goal isn’t to get the kid to be able to hold it for long periods of time (although obviously an older kid can do this), but just to recognize the feeling and let you know with enough warning that there’s nothing on the floor that requires cleaning up. In other words, the kid needs to be able to decipher the messages his/her body is sending. At the same time, this approach assumes that forward progress is being made when the parent and child can communicate about peeing and pooping (I almost wrote "toileting issues," but come on now), and that any day when you’re having some conversations about the potty is forward motion. Part of it is also that the more you talk about it the more the child learns to decipher the feelings s/he’s having and connect them with the ideas of peeing and pooping. This approach lines up pretty well with the ideas behind elimination communication, although obviously EC is for little babies and not toddlers. The method is a lot of talking about it and creating situations for the kid to have pee and poop-related experiences.

2. The Control Approach. (I’m not trying to use the word "control" perjoratively, so I hope it doesn’t sound like I am. This approach would stress me out, but I think it’s great for other people.) This approach assumes that the goal of potty training is for the kid to be able to hold it long enough after s/he tells you s/he’s got to go to be able to make it to the toilet or potty. It’s probably a semantic difference from the goal of the communication approach, but whatever, I’m kind of a pedant sometimes. At the same time, the parent is trying to train/control the child to be able to control himself or herself. Forward progress is made when the child pees or poops in the toilet or potty, and  charting helps keep track of progress. The method is using rewards as motivation for pottying.

3. The Control/Communication Combo. This approach is kind of a mishmash of the two. Some people seem to be able to use them together to get the kid to be able to listen to the signals, but more on the parent’s timeline (which, dude). Other parents seem to just get it all mixed up toegether and end up stressing everyone out.

Does anyone have another framework? I couldn’t think of any that weren’t one or the other or a hybrid.

I think you need to decide which way you want to go and then base your plan for potty training on that. It’s going to depend on your personality (are you the kind of person who needs to be actively working a plan, or are you someone who needs to watch things unfold?) as well as your kid’s personality (if you have a kid who digs in his/her heels you’re shooting yourself in the foot by bringing control into it, but some kids seem to need pushing or a lot of structure).

So chew on that overnight and we’ll start with some of the logistics tomorrow. If you used a control-oriented approach, I’m going to need some help with reviews of the various methods (that one-day thing with the doll and the snacks, for example, vs. the weekend method, etc.). I’ll also be mixing in some regular Q&A’s this week just so we don’t get too tired of all the poop talk.

Potty Training Week

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about potty training lately, so I thought I could make this Potty Training Week. I am absolutely not an expert in potty training: I’ve only gone from diapers to underwear with one kid, and he basically did it himself. But I can tell you what I did that helped him set the stage (he was out of diapers in the daytime by 2 years 4 months and at night by 2 years 8 months), and maybe it’ll help those of you who are just starting or just starting to think about it. For people with questions about kids older than 3, you guys are going to have to be the advisors.

I’ll get to the full story of what I did later this afternoon, but here’s the advice my grandmother (who had 5 kids in 10 years, and no two in diapers at the same time) gave me: The summer after the kid is 18 months old, let him/her run around outside as much as possible with no pants on. Once the kid can see what happens and connect the feeling with the actual peeing or pooping, you can use that to start them on the road to training.

More this afternoon (I’m actually flying home from my vacation as you read this).

Q&A: playgroup etiquette

Emmie writes:

"I have 11 month old twin boys. I’ve heard that twins are often a
bit undersocialized when they’re young because it’s easier to just stay
home rather than doing the things singletons do with their parents,
like go to the grocery store or to playdates. In an effort to combat
this tendency, I’ve joined a couple of playgroups.

is all well and good, but I’ve noticed a bit of, umm, tension, around
how the kids interact. Mine are the smallest in both groups and aren’t
particularly aggressive at this point, but they’re also pretty used to
having another kid in their space. The other moms in my groups get very
worried any time kids really get near each other, pull on each other’s
toys, etc. If anything, my kids are freaked out by the cries of
"genntle!, gennnntle!", "SHARE, baby!", and so on. We’re talking 10-24
month-olds here.

Am I wrong to not want to
intervene (and scold) quite that much? And why are we apologizing to
each other for our kids’ perfectly normal behaviour? I brought a friend
my mom’s age along once, and she was really shocked to see this. I do
intervene if someone seems to be upset or is going to get hurt, but
only by doing the "distract and engage" thing, in a calm manner, and
not also apologizing to the other kid’s mom. I do realize that the
other extreme is sometimes an issue too, but am I wrong to just want to
relax a little? When did a bunch of babies crawling around on the floor under heavy supervision become so stressful?"

Oh, for Pete’s sake. It’s not just you.

Older babies and toddlers are supposed to crawl all over each other, drool and teeth on each other, and grab toys away from each other. It’s how they operate, and it’s developmentally appropriate. Any parent who seriously thinks a kid around the age of 1 can share is deluding herself, or trying to gain approval from the other parents by cracking down on "bad behavior." Yes, you can condition kids not to touch other kids’ toys by negative reinforcement (yelling, scaring them, hitting them, etc.) but it’s more like training a dog than teaching a child anything.

What’s more, young toddlers don’t connect having a toy taken away with the fact that another kid took it. A 3-year-old will get upset because a friend snatched her toy ("Sebastian took my dumptruck!"). But a 14-month-old doesn’t get hurt feelings that someone else took his toy–he’s just upset that the toy is gone suddenly. And most of the time if another toy pops up immediately, it’s fine. That’s why redirection and distraction work so well as tools for adults dealing with toddlers. So it’s kind of silly to be reprimanding a toddler for taking someone else’s toy on the grounds that it hurts someone else’s feelings, since the kid doesn’t even have his own feelings hurt by getting a toy snatched.

A parent of young toddlers really just needs 1)to be on guard to make sure that no one is getting really walloped, and 2) to have a handful of toys so that when one gets taken away another one can appear and make everything fine.

IME, the window when kids can start to connect that they’re not supposed to grab or hit, etc, is around 16-18 months. And then with 2-year-olds you can really start working on stopping the biting and hitting and screeching. But that’s a different post entirely.

I think what it really gets down to is that you’re hanging out with the wrong groups of moms. It sounds like they’re trying to be Perfect Mothers who have Perfect Children who never do anything wrong (or age-appropriate). Playgroup should be about kids playing with each other (even swarming all over each other like puppies) and parents bitching to each other and supporting each other and making each other laugh. Kind of like the internet, only with goldfish crackers and wine. So I vote you find some better parent friends.

There have to be some other parents in your area who are going to have more realistic expectations of normal older baby/toddler behavior. I’d take a look at the groups you’re in first to see if there are other parents there who seem not to be as uptight about things. If so, invite them over for a playdate with just your two guys and see how it goes. Eventually you should be able to put together a group of 3-5 families with your same ideas about letting kids be at their appropriate developmental stages, and playgroup will end up being more fun for all of you.

Q&A: 2-year-old protesting nap

Kids across the planet are not taking naps! I’ve got two overlapping nap issues for this morning (then a playgroup situation this afternoon that will make you roll your eyes).

Chris writes:

"Here’s the issue:  I had been feeling like my son, 22 months, and I were hitting a great stride.  We were having a lot of fun during the day, he was sleeping solid at night (7:30 to 6:30), and he was even going down for his nap at about 1 or 1:30 without any fuss after reading a couple of books.  Well, for about a week now, things have slowly been unraveling with respect to sleep.  First, he started protesting nap.  Actually, he started by just talking to himself for a long time and then dozing off.  Or I would go in and remind him to sleep and rub him a little and he’d crash out.  Then he decided not to nap at all one day, and he just talked and played in his crib for an hour and a half.  The next day he didn’t protest his nap, but then the following day he talked a lot, then cried for a few minutes, then fell asleep.  Finally, today, I put him down for his nap and he cried on and off, for over an hour.  I checked on him, but didn’t want to cave in and take him out.  But eventually I accepted he was not napping again, and I took him out, and he was immediately happy and playful.  Meanwhile, I felt like a total chump.  I mean, what am I doing wrong here?  I know he’s not trying to manipulate me, but I do know he was testing a limit to see if he had to nap.  So now instead of these great happy go lucky days, I am filled with a sense of dread as the napping hour approaches because I know its going to be a struggle and I feel so dejected at the end of it all that the rest of the day I feel like a stupid mother who can’t even get her kid to take a normal nap."

I was running way behind on answering questions (lots of people wrote in that first week of February), so I emailed to ask for an update before I posted this. It’s gotten worse:

"I wish it had resolved itself by now.  We are still a bit of a
rollercoaster.  Today we had a great nap, 2 hrs.  Our friend was over,
so we pretended to put him down for nap on the couch, then took my son
over to his bed and put him down and he totally went with it without a
fuss.  But two days ago I felt like I hit the brink.  He was resisting
even the notion of naptime.  He didn’t even want to go near his room.
I coaxed him in there by just keeping it fun, playing trains.  Then
while he was playing, I started pulling down the blinds, and he went
ballistic.  Crying first, then full on tantrum.  I told myself I would
stick with the framework, stay calm, and place him in his crib.  I did
that, said soothing words, then told him that he could choose to nap or
not, but that I was leaving and that it was time to rest.  He was a
wreck, but again, I wanted to stick with the framework and stop giving
him mixed signals.  Well, I walk out, he’s screaming, crying, etc.  For
about 5 minutes, then all of a sudden, "boom!"  He jumped out of his
crib.  I have no idea how he did it.  Honestly, I think the adrenaline
got to him.  He was totally blase about the whole thing, he just went
straight over to his train table and started playing.  My heart was in
my throat.  We have removed the bumper, and a  couple of large stuffed
animals that I think he used to climb out.  We are thinking about the
crib tent since we already have the mattress at its lowest setting.

to say, its still crazy.  I’m trying to release the stress and just see
it from his point of view.  And I keep telling myself its temporary and
that this will resolve itself.  I just wish I had a better sense of
whether or not I’m doing all that I can to ease him through this."

Yikes. You must have been completely freaked out when he jumped out.

It sounds like you are doing what you can. He needs to know what the limits are, and you’re consistently but cheerfully enforcing them. And you know he’s too young to be actually giving up the nap for good yet.

Full disclosure: My older son never took naps in his crib (he took them on my bed, but slept in the crib at night at that age), and he gave up his nap at 2 1/2. So I don’t have a great track record myself with forcing naps (I was in the first trimester of pregnancy when El Chico gave up his nap and I barely had the energy to make us lunch, let alone enforce nap time).

Let me just toss a few ideas around, and you pick the one that makes the most sense for your son:

1) If he’s the kind of kid who really resists authority and does better when he’s got more control, you might want to think of moving him out of the crib and into a toddler bed. At the right-around-2 age he’s in, some kids resist the crib/confinement like their lives depend on it, but if you remove the obstacle and put them in a bed they can get in and out of, they won’t have anything to rebel against and they start taking naps again.

Obviously, you know whether that’s the way your son is. It may be the perfect answer or it may backfire totally because he needs the structure and confinement. Or it may be a partial answer–a friend kept her daughter in the crib for nighttime, but got a toddler-size Aerobed and her daughter was so enthralled with it that she happily took her naps there every day.

2) If he needs the structure and confinement of the crib, you may want to tell him it’s Quiet Time and leave a few books in the crib so he can play quietly. By designating it Quiet Time and not nap time, it gives him more control over what he does, and that makes it more likely that he’ll actually fall asleep (because he won’t be resisting it so much). It also gives him a way to save face if he’s really caught up in the "No nap" fever.

3) You could always trick him. Lie down with him and tell him you’re going to nap together. Or tell him you need a nap but you need his help, and ask him to tell you a story while you "fall asleep." The moms of grown kids I know swear this works wonders (although when my mom did it with me she’d fall asleep and I’d sneak downstairs and watch the drawing shows on PBS).

It seems like you just need a way to get across this gap until he moves into a more cooperative phase, so I hope one of those suggestions will help. Anyway, you’re doing the right thing.

Amy’s having a similar problem with an added stress (two, actually). She writes:

"I have a 2 1/2 year old son and 5 month old twins. Up until now my son has been amazing at taking a nap. He would go down after lunch and sleep for about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. Now he refuses to go to sleep (I know he still needs a nap cause by 3 he has meltdowns all the way until bed. I’ve had some luck at lying down beside him for awhile, but this isn’t really a possible every day when the babies need to be fed or looked after)…, but am okay with him having time by himself in his room. I just need this time to recharge as well as continue to look after the twins. But he will not stay in his room. He bangs on the door, screams at the top of his lungs or cries. It is really hard to recharge while this is happening. In fact it is very stressful part of my day. I need some wisdom. I need him to stay in his room (he has toys and tonnes of books which he loves to look at, he just won’t do it during this time). Am I being unrealistic?  Any advice would be welcome! Please I’m about to pull all my hair out!"

I think this situation is directly related to the new siblings (congratulations, by the way). The acting out and exerting control seems to be a way of processing the changes. He probably feels like nothing is the same or fun anymore because it’s winter and he’s stuck inside, plus you’re busy with not one but two new babies.

I predict that this will pass once the babies start to crawl and he can actually play with them a little bit. So you really just need a strategy to help you deal for the next couple of months. I’m going to suggest that you get him some fun new quiet toy that he’s crazy about, with the stipulation that he’s only allowed to play with it in his room with the door shut during Quiet Time. Is this bribery and manipulation? Absolutely. Is it going to work? I sure hope so. If it doesn’t, I’d try snacks or the reward of watching a favorite DVD or anything else that will get him to stay in his room for an hour or so. Since this is a short-term situation caused by an outside stress I wouldn’t worry about any long-term ramifications of bribery.

Whatever you do, though, I’m going to give both Chris and Amy the same advice I gave Heather a few days ago: Tire him out in the mornings. Playdates, trips to indoor playgrounds, running around in the basement with a borrowed dog, whatever. If he’s really tired, and feels like he doesn’t have to fight sleep (because you’ve given him the Quiet Time out or the toy to play with), he’ll probably be more likely to fall asleep.

Let me know if any of these suggestions work. I’m tired on your behalf.

Q&A: going from two naps to one

Heather writes:

"I have a 12-month old son who I believe may be starting to transition
to one nap.  However, it is so inconsistent from day-to-day.  One
morning he will only sleep for 25 minutes or so, the next, two hours.
Now, I’ve actually e-mailed you about napping problems before, but for
the last three months, he has been consistently taking two naps that
averaged about 1-1 1/2 hours.   He still seems tired in the morning, so
I hesitate to push him off for too long, but this really short morning
nap is beginning to wreak havoc with the day.  I guess my real question
is, how do you typically begin the transition to one nap?  Also, what
happens if they don’t consolidate their sleep, and end up only taking
one short nap?  Any suggestions on the whole single nap issue would be
greatly appreciated."

Gah. Napping problems really mess with your head, don’t they?

Consolidating from two to one nap seems to vary from kid to kid. It almost seems like the way boys’ voices change in junior high–some go through weeks of cracking and screeching (a la Peter Brady), while others just go from high to low overnight (which my MIL claims my husband’s did). My first son seemed to go from two naps to one in a matter of days (at 11 months), but plenty of kids spend weeks on the transition, as yours is.

I’ll answer your second question first. In theory, when kids go from two to one nap, the new single nap is longer than either of the old naps, but shorter than their combined time was. So if he used to take a morning 90-minute nap and an afternoon 1-hour nap, the new nap will probably be around 90-minutes to 2 hours. In practice, this could happen, or the new nap could be shorter (1 hour to 90 minutes) and he could increase his nighttime sleep a little. As he grows older he needs less sleep. According to the chart in the No-Cry Sleep Solution, a 9-month-old needs 14 total hours of sleep (with 2 naps totalling 2.5-4 hours), a 12-month-old needs 13-14 total hours of sleep (with 1-2 naps totalling 2-3 hours), and  2-year-old needs 13 total hours of sleep (with 1 nap of 1-2 hours). So he’s starting to need slightly less sleep during the course of the day anyway. But he’ll still probably end up getting basically the same total time over a 24-hour period, just divided up slightly differently.

About trying to transition to one nap from two: You have to look at what kind of napper he is. Is he the kind of kid who will go down for a nap when you set the stage and go through the routine of putting him down? Or is he the kind of kid who won’t nap unless he’s tired, no matter how many hoops you jump through?

If he’s the first kind (who will go down when you go through the naptime routine), I’d suggest doing a 1-2-month plan to get him from two naps to one. Start pushing his normal first naptime back by 10 minutes every few days. Let him sleep as long as he wants, but then cut his second nap shorter and shorter little by little. Eventually they’ll meet in the middle and he’ll be going down later and sleeping longer and not taking a second nap at all. It’s not going to be linear, and you’ll still have crappy days, but at least you’ll feel like you’re heading somewhere.

If he’sthe kind of kid who will only nap when he’s sleepy, change the rhythm of his day. Instead of doing winding-down activities right before his normal first nap, start engaging him in a lot of physical activity. If he’s running around like a fool at the time he’d normally be going down for his first nap, not only will he start napping later (because you can’t run and sleep at the same time), but when he does go down for a nap he’ll probably sleep longer just from being so physically tired. Of course this will be easier in the summer when you can be outside running around, but maybe you can schedule outside errands during his normal naptime that allow him the ability to run now while it’s still cold and nasty outside. If his first nap is later and lasts longer, eventually it’ll turn into his only nap.

Of course you could also just wait it out and he’ll eventually go to one nap on his own. But it sounds like it’s really bugging you, so you might as well try to do something about it, even if it doesn’t work right away. Just know that if you start to get too annoyed trying to shift his nap schedule, you can just take a breather and do nothing for awhile and he’ll eventually settle into one nap a day.


Q&A: getting 18-month-old to eat food

Sarah writes:

"Any ideas on how to convince my 18-month-old that fruits and veggies are
not a tool of the devil??  He ate pretty much anything we put in front
of him up until a few months ago.  Now his diet is becoming
increasingly limited.  Loves cheese, yogurt and bread related items and
will tolerate the occasional banana and applesauce.  I’m running out of
ideas in how to prepare veggies to tempt him to try it.  He’s also been
known to chuck fruit back at us as well.  Any thoughts on making them
more appetizing to toddlers or am I doomed to just wait out this phase??"

Since 18 months is all about asserting control, I don’t think you’re going to be able to convince him to eat anything you want him to. Instead, you’re going to have to con him or trick him into eating vegetables.

You can con him by making a big deal about the delicious peas or carrots or whatever other vegetable you’re eating, but talk about how it’s only for "big kids" and little kids like him can’t eat any. If you make it look and sounds really delicious and like it’s something he really wants to do but can’t, he may fall for the con and beg to eat some. If it works, ride the con ’til it’s dead.

You could also trick him into eating vegetables and fruits by putting them into something else. I’ve known people who started making smoothies for their kids with yogurt and blended fruits. A friend had a muffin-crazy child who would eat anything in muffin form. So she’d just add vegetables to sweet muffins. It was disgusting, but her kid loved them. Spinach-banana muffins, sweet potato-apple muffins (which actually sounds kind of good to me), zucchini-chocolate chip muffins, green pepper-raisin muffins, etc. You could also try pancakes, which are just as deliciously starchy as muffins are and can hide all kinds of vegetables (mmmm…forbidden broccoli pancakes).

Now none of this might work. But by the time you’ve gone through all the ideas (and I’m hoping some commenters will have some other ideas) a month or two will have elapsed and maybe your son will become vulnerable to peer pressure ("Sophia’s eating peas! Why don’t you eat some peas, too?"). Or maybe he’ll be past the horrible 18-month control-freak stage and into the delightful 2-year-old stage and will eat whatever you and your partner are eating. Or maybe you’ll start drinking more wine with dinner and it won’t matter to you anymore.

At any rate, eventually this stage will pass, and he’ll eat fruits and vegetables again. And then he’ll stop eating them again, and then start, and then stop, etc. And then he’ll go away to college and it won’t be your problem anymore. So do the best you can, but don’t let it become an emotional issue for you or else it’ll take on too much importance and will stress you out for no reason.

Q&A: introducing milk to toddler

K had an addendum to her sleeping question:

"milk, when and how to introduce it?

background: the lovely lady is 13 months and her
cousin has had terrible problems with milk allergies. apart from him
there are no known milk allergy cases in the family.

my options are:
stage two powder milk
goats milk formula powder
fresh goats milk
rice milk
real normal milk [full fat]
watered down full fat yoghurt

what did you do?"

What did I do? I was still nursing El Chico at 13 months, so I didn’t really worry much about it. He was already drinking water and "bubble water" (plain seltzer/club soda) as a treat* from a straw cup by then. We have no history of allergies, and he was fine with other dairy products, so I just tried some whole cow’s milk in a straw cup one day and he liked it. I gave it to him whenever he asked for it if he was eating his normal meals. After a few months I stopped buying whole milk and gave him the 1% my husband drinks, because the logic of recommending whole fat dairy to toddlers isn’t that they necessarily need the dairy fat but just so nutty people don’t restrict fat in a toddler’s diet. El Chico ate avocados and other fatty foods (nuts, etc.) ’til the cows came home, so I wasn’t worried about his getting fat in the milk he drank. He’s almost 4, and he still mostly drinks water and milk (and apple juice at school).

Here’s the thing, though: There are plenty of cultures in which toddlers don’t drink milk, and they grow up perfectly healthy. So if you don’t drink cow’s milk or don’t want your child to, it won’t be a big deal. And if your kid doesn’t like cow’s milk, nothing bad will happen. My brother and I both despised cow’s milk as kids. I eat plenty of other dairy products (cheese and ice cream, mostly), but my brother still can’t stand dairy (he even orders pizza with no cheese). And we’re both tall (5′ 8" and 6′ 0", respectively) with no health problems and good bones and teeth**. My mom made sure we ate a variety of foods (she was a co-op hippy kind of mom) and we took vitamins, so I’m guessing we were healthier than kids who drank a ton of milk but didn’t eat much else.

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I don’t think people should be stressing that much about introducing milk to their kids. Try cow’s milk in a sippy or straw cup, and if your kid doesn’t like it, pick something else to try. Some kids like goat’s milk, but it’s way expensive and tastes too gamey to me, so I’d try fortified soy "milk" (it’s bean juice, people) or rice milk (a.k.a. horchata) instead. But that’s just me and my tastes. Some people want their kids to drink a variety of different milk-like liquids, and that’s great, too.

If your toddler is still nursing or eating a variety of foods you don’t really need formula of any kind, but if it makes you feel better to give formula, then go ahead. I wouldn’t bother to heat it up at all, because then you’ll have to keep heating it every time you give it to her.

So I don’t know. What do you and your partner drink at home? (Other than wine and espresso, I mean.) Try giving her a little to see if she likes it. If she does, you’re set. If she doesn’t, or you want her to get used to a variety of beverages, keep trying things and seeing what she likes.

*I highly recommend giving your toddler bubble water every once in awhile if you ever go to restaurants to eat. They think it’s really special, but it’s only carbonated water, so it’s fine for them, but they get to order a special drink like the adults and it helps you delay the soda question. It’s one of those ways of giving your toddler the illusion of control without letting them make a bad choice.

**Interestingly enough, my grandmother grew up on a dairy farm and has drunk a pint of milk every day of her life, had 5 kids and nursed them all for at least a year each, and does weight-bearing exercise regularly, but she developed major osteoporosis. She’s totally the outlier on the stats of bone strength and lifestyle factors. But she’s been getting chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture and taking Fosamax, and her bones are in better shape at 90 than they were at 80.