We can create trouble when we accommodate a child’s request. Here’s what happened to one mom and how she’s solving the problem.

Q: I have a boy who will be 5 next month and he won’t go to the bathroom by himself. I thought it was kind of cute when he always wanted to go with me and now I recognize the error of my ways. I have created a little monster who won’t pee/poop without me!

I’d like to put an end to this. But how? I’ve started by telling him that each day I will take one step further away from the bathroom until eventually I am out of sight and he will be able to go to the bathroom on his own. So far I’m about four feet away from the bathroom and he’s okay with that. Should I just continue along with this method? Or should I cold-turkey him instead?

We’ve all made those kinds of mistakes and created our own little monsters because we placated a child.

A little background on him, he’s a very sensitive and cautious child. In the past, he hasn’t done “new” very well. And he is always assessing the danger in situations. He leans on the weeny side. He cries at a lot of things, even minor boo boos. I don’t make a big deal of them but he still cries way more easily than either of his sisters (ages 6 and 3). Lately though, I see him becoming much more confident and secure in himself. He is happy and confident at his preschool (three hours a day) this year, which is a big change from the past. He is also starting to push boundaries much more than ever and requiring more discipline than he’s needed in the past.

A: We’ve all made those kinds of mistakes and created our own little monsters because we placated a child. And some kids are more sensitive than others, and feel keenly the bumps and bruises of childhood. For those kids, a quick hug and prayer can usually sooth their little souls. As you’ve seen, he’s already maturing and becoming more assertive and confident.

As to the bathroom dilemma, you’re on the right track. However, I’d go cold turkey and here’s how. Tell him you talked to the Doctor and that the Doctor said that he was a big enough boy to handle going to the bathroom by himself. That’s it—use those exact words and no more. Then smile and walk away. When he says he has to go to the bathroom—and frankly, lots of preschoolers feel the need to say this statement aloud—just respond with “Okay, remember what the Doctor said” and don’t take one step toward the bathroom.

He might fuss, he might wail, he might refuse to go to the bathroom. If he does any of those things, simply make him clean up any messes and put him to bed extra early that night because the “Doctor said he must need more sleep if he’s having trouble using the potty by himself.”

Continue in a calm, confident manner, that you know he’s got this. And he does. And you do too.