Saturday, November 19, 2011

Potty Training Secrets

Warning: This post might make you hate me.  I know it would have made me feel that way two and a half years ago while I was potty training William.  So while you're reading this please remember two things.  One, no kid is ever the same when it comes to potty training.  And two, I had a hell of a time potty training William so I deserve this mom victory.

For months now I've been saying that Lucy is potty-trained but that we have yet to actually forgo diapers and put real underwear on her.  As of the last week I've proven myself correct.  She came down with a wicked case of diaper rash a couple weeks ago.  Nothing was helping.  So as a last effort I decided it was time to ditch the diapers.

Before I tell you how Lucy came to be potty-trained so quickly and so easily you need to know some things about me.  First, I hate parenting books.  Or, most parenting books, I should say.  I do like parenting books that include factual information, research and scientific findings.  It's the how-to parenting books that turn me off.  I don't like their one-size-fits-all approach and I don't think any of their "methods" are realistic in the long term.  If you have found this not to be the case, I'm really happy for you.  But it isn't for me.  Each of my kids is drastically different than the next and I've had to figure out what sort of parenting style is going to work best for them.

Which brings me to my next point.  I'm not a "method" parent.  So I don't use sticker charts (exception noted here) or reinforcement or rewards with any consistency.  Of course I've had my moments where a bribe does the trick because I just don't have time to deal with whatever it might be.  You might argue that not being consistent is confusing to children.  But I would argue that this is the real world.

So here's the deal with Lucy.  When she turned two she started going poop in the toilet all on her own.  She would say, in her sing-song voice, "I have to go pot-ty!" And we'd run her to the toilet where she'd do her biz-ness.  (By the way she never actually went potty, just the number two.)  Obviously she needed help getting undressed and things of that nature but by and large, this was an idea she had all on her own.  Now she goes poop on the toilet about 80% of the time.  The other 20% are when she's stayed in her bed too long after nap or in the morning.

Now common sense says I should have taken this as my cue to commence potty training and ran with it.  Except for one huge hurdle.  I was pregnant.  We live in a 90-year-old home that does not have a main floor bathroom.  Hauling my huge butt up the stairs every time she had to go (which, for a two-year-old, is all. the. time.) wasn't happening.  So I kind of ignored it.  She continued to go poop on the toilet but never potty.  I was her biggest potty training enemy.  You're thinking I should write my own parenting book aren't you?

So fast-forward to today where I am no longer pregnant and am now looking for a great cardio workout to get rid of the baby weight.  The stairs!

The first thing I had to teach Lucy was what potty was.  Up until this point she thought going poop was the same as going potty.  So I went to the bathroom first and showed her how to make the "tinkle noise."  I lead a glamorous life, I know.  Then we clapped and cheered for mommy.  Now it was Lucy's turn.  We played a game where we're really quiet and we're waiting and listening for Lucy to make the tinkle noise.  When she did it I put on my most shocked/surprise/happy/proud/glad face and clapped my hands.  She thought that was a hoot!

She stayed dry all day Sunday save for nap and bed.  On Monday morning she had three accidents and I was almost ready to throw in the towel.  On the third accident she was really wet and she was whining and begging me to take her clothes off.  She hated being wet.  So I knew we had reached milestone.  As she was standing in the tub while I pulled off her wet pants she looked at me and said, "I not do dat evah a-gin!"

I laughed but I should have known better.  She's been going on 16-years-old since the day she was born.  She wasn't making anything up. She was serious.  Today is Saturday and she's been dry since Monday morning.  Zero accidents.

Obviously I'm sure she'll still have an accident here and there but the big stuff is done.  She knows how to hold it.  She knows when she has to go.  And she knows when to tell me she has to go.

As I said, nothing is one-size-fits-all when it comes to potty-training but here are some tips I can offer up after potty-training two kids.  I hope at least one tip is a light bulb moment for you.  Please share your mom victories with me when they happen!
  • Your child should be at least somewhat interested.  Don't listen to the experts tell you they need to have a dry diaper for long periods of time and blah blah blah.  Lucy's diapers were ALWAYS soaked because that's all she knew how to do.  But if you're finding it's a power struggle to get your kid to sit on the toilet, he/she probably isn't ready.
  • You need to be ready!  The saying if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy also applies here.  If mom isn't ready to potty train, then it won't work.  You'll get bored/frustrated/angry.  You need to be excited and you need to be ready to work.  You're going to have to run to the bathroom at the least opportune times and you're going to have to be happy about it.
  • For at least the first day set a potty timer and have your child go every so many minutes.  This isn't potty-trained but rather clock-trained or go-when-my-mom-says trained.  But at least it gives your child an initial taste of success.
  • Once you think your child understands the concept of going potty let them tell you when they have to go.  Turn off the TV and other things that could distract them from paying attention to their body.  Let them have accidents and let them feel what it's like to be wet and cold.  By the way, if your child doesn't seem to notice when he/she has an accident or has constant accidents without caring, this probably means that they aren't ready or even more so that they don't yet have the physical ability to hold it.
  • Even though I let Lucy tell me when she has to go, we still have routine times when she has to try to go.  Those times include: first thing in the morning, before nap, after nap and before bath/bed.  And also whenever we are about to leave the house.  I don't make her go, I just make her try.
  • Being able to leave the house is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome.  Someone gave me this tip a while back and I love it!  When you leave the house put a diaper or pull-up on your child over his/her underwear.  This way they will still feel if they've had an accident but you won't have a giant mess on your hands.  I remember this worked wonders with William because he would start to go and then quickly stop and tell me he needed to use the bathroom.
  • Nighttime potty training or naptime potty training will take longer.  Sometimes A LOT longer.  Be OK with this.  If your child insists on not wearing a diaper to bed try it and see what happens.  If you're washing the sheets every day then try to change things up.  Put underwear on over their diaper or instead of diapers try calling them sleep underwear.
  • And finally, here's my number one tip.  When you're child goes potty be happy and proud.  But when they have an accident be completely neutral.  Don't act mad or sad or disappointed.  Don't even say things like, "That's OK."  Act like you couldn't care in the least.  Don't say a word.  Just move on.  No reaction is the best reaction.  I did the complete opposite with William and trust, it benefits NO ONE.
Alright veteran parents, it's your turn.  What other tips would you offer up?

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