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Super Tuesday Super Advice for Super Dad

by Dear Jon
February 5, 2008

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Dear Jon,

By the time you get this letter, the Super Bowl will be decided and people will be wondering about the outcomes on Super Tuesday's primaries. I've been reading philosophy about the Super Man. Frankly Nietzsche seems to me to be describing a winning football quarterback more than any of these candidates going at each other today. Besides, when my almost 3 year-old daughter goes pee on the potty BEFORE getting in the bath-tub, I think that's super, too. So: What makes something "Super?" And do you have any super advice on how to finish the potty-training?

Super Dad

Dear Supe,

Wow, what a game. My "predictions for 2008" have so far been way off. McCain, whom I discounted as a factor in this election, is emerging as the Republican front-runner (I'm writing this on Monday, the day before Super Tuesday). McCain still might not be a factor, since the real election will probably be between Hilary and Barak, but even so I am surprised.

I had also picked the Patriots to go 19-0. Oops.

"Super" is in the eye of the beholder. Not many Super Bowls have been super games, but this year's certainly was super. Your little girl is super because your pair of eyes are one of the most important to behold her and to shape her self-esteem for the rest of her life.

So I don't know if you can trust my foresight any more, but, I do predict that your little girl will learn to use the potty. I cannot predict whether you will come out of the experience as a Super Dad, or your daughter will end up in therapy through her adult life as she struggles to cope with obsessive tendencies instilled into her by your over-demanding perfectionism.

Tips on Toddler Potty Training, by Dear Jon

1. According to books my wife reads and friends my wife has, the use of positive affirmation through rewards can be effective in potty training. For example, every time a child pees in the right place and the diaper is dry, reward the child with a gum drop. It is important, though, that the treat be reserved to only those conditions of right potty use. Otherwise the child will angle for the gum drop through other methods, especially by asking grandparents.

2. Potty training should be a cooperative effort in which all concerned adults are on the same page, including grandparents. So, IF gum drops are the treat ONLY for keeping a dry diaper and using the potty, then grandparents need to not give gum-drops out for every other occasion in the world, such as:

"Oops I peed all over the couch. Grammy, can I have a gum drop?"

"You're so cute, have the whole bag my wittle wookums. Grammy wuvs you!"

3. As you can plainly see, grandparents will get in the way of potty training. When it is time to train your toddler, send all her grandparents on a cruise to Alaska.

4. If you and your spouse are not on the same page regarding potty training, run through the following check-list.

A. Are you the husband and are you in fact also a man of the male persuasion?

B. Is your spouse in fact your wife, is your wife female, and is this female wife of yours also the mother of your child?

C. Is your female wife/mother of your child a normal responsible kind of person; that is to say, a person who is not addicted to drugs and who occasionally forgets that she is a mother, or, a person who refuses to take her medications because the voices in her head tell her that medications are the last thing she needs?

If your answers to A,B, and C are all "YES," that means that there is only one solution to getting on the same page: You are Wrong, She is Right. Do the potty-training her way.

If the answers to questions A, B, and C are more complex than this--the woman in the house is the child's step-mother, for example, there will have to be a lot of conversation about how to call the potty-training shots. However, there are some definite "Don'ts" in potty-training.

1. Do not embarrass the child for not training as fast as you want.
2. Do not scold the child for accidents.
3. Do not humiliate the child if other children are advancing more rapidly. Use those examples to encourage, not humiliate.
4. Do not be a jerk, basically. Your child knows the difference between unconditional love and performance-based love, even if you don't.

Remember, it is one thing to be patient to a child, it is another thing to be laid-back to the point of negligence. I have heard on good authority that an increasing number of first-graders are going to primary school in diapers. There had better be some compelling medical reasons for that phenomenon or those parents need to do some self-examining --and maybe county officials need to do some examining too. You have an opportunity to advance some county politicians towards their party's nomination today, although few take positions on "potty training" as an election issue.

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