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.

For 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.

Since 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.

I'm 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.