Could you be spoiling your kids by saying your proud of them?

Do you ever wonder if you are spoiling your kids by saying you are proud of them…if you want the right answer to this question I recommend you read my colleague Kenneth Barish’s article Understanding Children’s Emotions: The Importance of Pride and Shame.

I highly recommend reading this informative article by Kenneth Barish Ph.D., clinical associate professor of psychology, Cornell University. Check out more of his work on his website

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Children’s Emotions: the Importance of Pride and Shame!

Have a fun and safe Labor day weekend! For more information about teaching your children about their emotions and how to deal with the way then feel visit my Pocket Full of Feelings project.

~Dr. Ann

In Praise of Fathers

Fathers should be appreciated all year… not just on one day! While Father’s Day is a tremendous idea, we all need to affirm Dads for their significance every day of the year.

I come from a long line of fantastic fathering men. My grandfathers were both grand fathering me from birth to their deaths. My Dad, in his 80’s, is still fathering me long distance and with just as much love, sincerity and respect as always. My husband has been an awesome father for 28 years. One of the problems with us mothers is that we sometimes spend too much time trying to get the fathers in our lives to mother, instead of just appreciating what fathering does for our children.

Fathers teach two very crucial concepts to children: how to trust themselves and how to take risks! Since men don’t have the same hormonal response as women when their kids move away from them, a familiar scenario often happens. Mom might go out to the park and ask her husband to watch the kids while she goes to the bathroom. When she returns, the kids are playing on the playground equipment, at the furthest point from where her husband is standing. He is in deep conversation with another Dad. Mom’s first response is usually, “why are you not watching the kids, they are way too far away and you weren’t even looking at them when I came out of the bathroom?”

The truth of the matter is, kids can move six times further away from a Dad, as opposed to a Mom, before he has any physical response like that alarm that goes off in Mom’s head saying, “where are the kids?” That does not mean that men love or protect their children any less than a woman. What it does mean is that fathers teach their kids that it is okay to trust your self and take risks.

So Moms, celebrate Father’s Day by valuing what Dad’s give kids!

In deep appreciation of fathers 365 days per year, Dr. Ann Corwin

You Know I Love You Anyway

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a special poem with you that was given to me by a mom that I had been working with earlier this year. She was a new mommy having trouble adjusting to being a stay-at-home-mom after the birth of her second child. She came seeking guidelines in managing her impatience with her children… the same impatience that many of us experience in trying to juggle life’s many demands. In the course of working with her, she found this poem and shared it with me, and today I share it with you as a subtle reminder to slow down and enjoy your precious children.

I bumped into a stranger as he passed by.

“Oh, excuse me, please,” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too.

I wasn’t even watching for you.”

Oh, we were polite – this stranger and I.

We went on our way and we said our goodbye.

But at home a different story is told

how we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

my daughter stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked her down.

“Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.

She walked away, her little heart broken.

I didn’t realize how harshly I’d spoken.

Later that night, wide awake in my bed,

a still, small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use,

but the children you love, you seem to abuse!

Look upon the kitchen floor,

you’ll find some flowers there by the door.

Those are the flowers she brought for you,

she picked them herself – pink, yellow and blue.

She stood quietly, not to spoil the surprise,

and you never saw the tears in her eyes.”

By this time, I felt very small,

and now my tears began to fall.

I quietly went and knelt by her bed,

“Wake up, sweetheart,” I whispered and said.

“Are these the flowers you picked for me?”

She smiled, “I found ‘em, out by the tree.

I picked ‘em because they’re pretty like you.

I knew that you’d like them – especially the blue.”

I said, “Daughter, I’m sorry how I acted to you today,

I shouldn’t have yelled at you that way.”

She hugged me and said, “Mommy, that’s okay.

You know I love you anyway.”

I said, “Daughter, I love you too!

And I do like the flowers – especially the blue.”

Dr. Ann

Some 4 year olds cannot poop in the toilet

Dr. Ann,
My 4 year old daughter is very bright; she wears panties and is completely potty trained for peeing, however, requests diapers for pooping.

Over this past year, we have tried various methods, bribery, pooping on the potty, making her responsible for the process. She has accomplished pooping in her little potty on 5 different occasions–twice last year (she then would not do it again) and three times in a row this past week. We praise and celebrate–she is proud of herself and calls everyone she knows.

Now she is refusing–and withholding and then ultimately when she withholds she has thrown up.

She says she is scared, but will not give a reason to why she is scared. Obviously this is a control issue.

We start preschool in the fall.
I know she will withhold as she needs to for the three hours she is in school, but don’t understand that for as advanced as she is in all other areas, she is behind in this one. If I am this confused on how to handle this, I know she must be even more confused!! Will mine be the first kid in college to still be in diapers???
Sincerely, Laura

Laura, you are so not alone; developmentally some 4 year olds cannot poop yet in the toilet and want a diaper to do so.

The reason the diaper helps is she can feel when to contract her rectal muscles and knows the right amount of pressure in order to release the poop as she pushes down on the diaper. The hollow toilet seat doesn’t give her this advantage.

Standing & moving on her ‘tippy toes’ helps the stool move through the intestines and out. Respect her technique, after all, Italian women never even sit on the toilet, they always stand!

Don’t ask her why she thinks it is scary. Instead, just remember to help her differentiate between unrealistic fears and realistic fears. An example would be to tell her, “If you are not holding mom’s hand in the parking lot of the mall that is scary.

But pooping in the toilet is not scary, because you are in a safe place, our home or a private bathroom when you are out in public”.

You are obviously a thoughtful, caring parent who has recognized that accomplishing this task is never about bribing your child; it is about her owning this accomplishment. It is her body and she controls this for herself. So give her lots of other places to get control, like making placemats for the whole family or feeding the dog, so she doesn’t feel like she has to hold on to the poop to get control.

Thank you so much for taking the time to call and talk. I have already spoken with my husband and he and I both agree that your advice makes so much sense. I “got it” when you used the comparison of other developmental stages such as walking or rolling over. Definitely an “A-ha!” moment!

3 Year Old Going Poop Doesn’t Need Mom’s Participation

Dr Ann,

Nick turned 3 in February and he has been wearing underwear since about Sept. He always goes potty in the toilet (standing up – like daddy). He takes the initiative to go by himself or he asks for help. However, he still poops in his pants. He will wait until nap or nighttime when he wears a pull up and then poops.

I had a little toilet on the floor that I thought would be comfortable and stable for him to sit on. He said it did not flush and wanted to go in the big potty. I bought a wonderful contraption from one step ahead that is a sturdy one piece step and small seat so he would feel stable etc. He has gone on the potty before but chooses to go in his pull up or sometimes in his underwear.

We made a big deal when he went on the potty. He will usually hold it and tells me he has put it back in his bottom if I suggest that he go on the potty. I know he probably should have sat down to go pee first but he took to standing up.

I change him with minimal eye contact and communication. He does want to connect at this time but I try not to give attention as I clean him up. I have put the poop in the toilet and shown him and flushed it etc.

He tells me he will poop on the toilet yesterday, tomorrow and when the sun goes down. How do I get him there before he goes to real preschool. He has watched the videos and actually asks to watch them. He is very attached to me but also wants to do things himself like getting and out of the car and try to dress himself etc which I am very patient about.

I have been trying to get Nick to take care of his toileting himself. I tell him he needs to put on his underwear and pants himself after having an accident. He says that mommy needs to do that.

I have left him crying until he has put on his clothes himself then praised him for doing it all by himself. When I tell him to put his clothes back on himself he tries to negotiate with me and asks me to hold one end of his pant elastic and he holds the other while we both pull up. I am thinking I am on to something where he just won’t let go of mommy doing this for him.

Liana A.

I think you are right; he wants you to continue to participate with you on this one. Going poop is much more sophisticated than going pee. It takes more brain power.

The reason he “needs” to go poop in his pull-up or underwear is that both things give him a ‘base’ in order to feel and coordinate his rectal muscles. In other words, he can feel himself go and know when to contract and release those muscles, as opposed to the toilet with nothing underneath him.

He is still rather young and is practicing at this, just like he did when he started to walk, talk, etc. You are on the right track to not ‘help’ him with putting his clothes back on, if he can do it himself.

Also, do not talk at all about NOT going in the toilet, only when he goes do you draw attention it to, but not too big a deal (as that would be like me jumping up and down and clapping every time to get up to go use the restroom…this is a private accomplishment that everyone owns for themselves, not to please others).

Make every toilet attempt he does, be about him doing it “himself”, not you being proud of him, as he needs to feel pride in himself. He needs to own this, as it is his body.

I know how hard this is because you have to do the clean up and it seems as though he is deliberately NOT going. So hang in there, be patience and this will happen.
If you need to talk further just give my office a call at the # below and we can set up a phone consultation.

Hang in there, Dr. Ann

Thank you so much for this advice. We have stopped pushing the issue and he has actually gone poop on the toilet several times since this email. I think that the more he goes and we give him the high five “you did it” the more he will get used to the feeling.

I put Nick to bed last night and then once I was downstairs I heard him running around…I went upstairs and saw that he was in the bathroom. Even though he had a pull up on he got up to go poop. He is totally getting it. I stayed outside until he was done so that I didn’t interrupt and then high fived him back into bed.

Thanks again. Looks like we are going to preschool in September.

Liana A.

The ‘Bottom’ Line On Toilet Learning

Dear Dr. Ann,
We are at the end of our rope trying to train our daughter to use the toilet. Is there any point when you go get tough with a child and insist they use the potty or else?

The bottom line is it won’t do you any good to threaten a child!
Learning to use the toilet is a biological function, not a psychological war between you and your child.

Children will use the toilet when they can feel their body’s signals and are able to get to the toilet fast enough and are able to release at just the right time.

Look to be sure their diapers are dry for at least several hours, so you know they are beginning to have some control.

Talk to them constantly about what they ‘can do’ by themselves (get dressed, play with friends, throw a ball or put a puzzle together) and how they must be so proud of themselves for being able to do that. Then say, “It feels just the same when you use the toilet all by yourself.”

Dr. Ann Corwin

Boy doesn’t want to poop in the toilet

Hello Dr. Ann,
I am attending your Toddler Talk class in Mission Viejo, and you mentioned that I could send you email with more detail about my son’s situation – I thank you for that offer.

My son does not want to poop in the toilet, he always asks for a pull-up. He is constipated and we give him stool softener. He says that if he goes in the toilet is going to hurt, and even with
the pull-up he tries to hold it in.

Is it a good idea to motivate him by telling him that we would give him a present if he goes? We have a present for Christmas that he really wants now, and we are thinking that we can show it to him but tell him that we will give it to him if he goes in the toilet 2 times.

Is this a good idea or will this set a precedent that we will regret in the future? Any other ideas?By the way, he does not have any issues peeing in the toilet.

Thank you very much.


Thanks for your thoughtful questions. This is so helpful because I can talk about this today without mentioning your son’s name and without you having to describe what is going on in front of him. I will address all your discipline questions first thing this a.m. in the group.

As far as poop in the toilet. Do not offer him anything. This process happens because he is ‘ready’ not by giving him anything. That will only shame him, if he cannot do it for the prize.

My guess is he probably has had some stools are are hard and it did hurt, so now he thinks that will happen each time. This is normal thought for this age and happens with lots of kids.

Be sure there is lots of fiber and water in his diet to help the natural flow of things. If you can get him to be responsible for getting his own pull-up and putting it on himself that would be best because you need to be as “little” involved with the pooping process as possible.

Do not talk to him about it anymore, but do talk to him on a daily basis about how he knows how to pee himself and he must be so proud of himself that he can do it “all by himself”! When you help him wipe himself up from poop, do it from behind, do not talk and be quick about it.

You can also try taping a diaper to the toilet and having him sit on there, so he feels the confidence of something underneath him and then just lower it gradually.

When kids are apprehensive about letting go of their poop because they think it might hurt, it helps to have something underneath them because then they can measure just how much to contract and release their rectal muscles to get it out. It is like a safety net, so to speak. Respect his need for this right now, but encourage the process to move along, so he can let go on his own.

When he does poop successfully in the toilet, that is when you talk about it and tell him how proud he must be in himself for doing it, NOT how proud you are of him. This process is for him to ‘own’ not his parents, because after all it is his body! Hope that helps?
See you at Toddler Talk, Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor