One thing a lot of my girlfriends ask me for advice about is potty training. Let me give a little disclaimer. One one hand, I love when people ask me for advice! It makes me feel awesome and super helpful! But on the other hand, it is a huge responsibility that seems a bit terrifying. Older moms are lucky enough to be able to brush off the questions, like, "Oh, I don't remember, it was so LONG ago. . ." but I know noone is going to fall for that line if I try it. The Thomas the Tank Engine underpants in my laundry and the gunky pee on my toilet lid TOTALLY give me away. I am definitely no parenting expert, so any time someone asks me for advice, I figure they are really just asking me if they are OK. Like, is what they are feeling normal? Is their kid going to turn out OK? Will they all survive? I know that, because I feel that, too. And I think the best gift we can give each other as humans is to let each other know that, "Hey, you're going to be just fine!" Because you know what? We're all fine. If you love your child and your child knows you love them, you have done your job. They will grow up with the ability to love others, because you loved them. Success. All the other stuff. . .solid foods, potty training, vegetable variety, sleeping through the night, thumbs, pacifiers. . .those are all secondary to the main goal of parenting, which is love. It has taken me a few years to figure that out, and sometimes I am still learning. So, I say if you love your child enough to read up about potty training so that you can give them the pride of being independent and caring for themselves, you are an AOK parent, whatever method you choose to use to get there.
Now that we have that out of the way, here's my two cents on potty training. I have potty trained 2 of my 3 boys so far, and because each child is so different in their own God-given ways, each experience was different even with the same me using the same techniques. My potty training method is what I like to call the "Elmo and Mister Rogers 3 Day Potty Training Method". Patent pending. Not really, because I just mish-mashed a bunch of stuff together, but here it goes!
1. Go get yourself a potty seat. Or two. Or three. Get some used ones if you don't want to spend a fortune, because since every kid is different, you never know what they will be into! We have 2 Baby Bjorn potty seats- one that sits on the floor and one that goes on the toilet seat. However, both of my kids just preferred to stand and pee like their daddy. Whatevs.
2. Go check out the Elmo's Potty Time DVD from your local library. I signed up on the waiting list and I was like #93, so, you know, plan ahead. When you get it, you can hypnotize your child with not-so-subtle potty messages and ridiculously catchy songs. The one that Elmo's dad sings him is priceless, and involves lines like, "It's potty time, gotta get down low, it's potty time, just let it gooooooooo". For your own entertainment alone, get this video. Also, there is a nifty part where they show you how toilet paper is made!!
3. Now, it's time to do some "reading". Basically, in my mind anything that Fred Rogers said or did is pretty much solid gold. So, you start here.
And you read what Mister Rogers said. And you take a deep breath because he always makes people feel better about things. And you watch the cute little video. And you buy your kids a bucked at the dollar bin at Target and let them drop pennies in, and sing "You Can Never Go Down the Drain" and get the Mister Rogers First Experiences book about Going to the Potty even though the kids have bowl cuts and rainbow overalls, your kids won't know the difference. They will love it because there are real pictures of real kids doing something that is fascinating and foreign to them and the words will sink in to their noggins and they will be getting ready for the big day.
4. Once you've primed the pump you need to think about when you are ready. When is a GOOD time to potty train? It just depends on your child and on you. There are all kinds of signs of potty training readiness, but I think once you detect some of those the most important thing is to pick a time when they are not experiencing a bunch of other transitions and YOU are not experiencing unusual stress. I feel like being in a big kid bed is an important transition to make before potty training if you want them to be truly independent, which I didn't realize until I tried to potty train a kid who was still in a crib! Lesson learned. Also, it helps to be clear of any other strife, like getting teeth, and safely past dramatic life events like moving and new siblings. Now, if you have a resilient child, they could probably handle potty training and some of those other things at the same time. I'm a pretty sensitive person and I like to project that sensitivity on my kids (often to the annoyance of my husband), so playing it safe and steering clear of major events works best for me. You also need to pick a time when you can be TOTALLY devoted to your child, which whether you have 1 child or 5 is equally hard to do. I had no idea how hard it was to actually pay attention to my kid all day until I did the "Three Day Potty Training". Let me tell you, I felt like a pretty bad parent when I realized how stressed out it was making me just to give my undivided attention to one child. So, if you are confused and unnerved by the amount of time you are staring at your child while potty training, I am thinking that is pretty normal!! Oh, and once you have decided, it's a good excuse to run to Target, pick up some fantastically cute undies and some stickers and lollipops and juice and whatever else you have planned for their potty training experience, and maybe a frozen pizza or two since there is no way you are going to feel like cooking after a day of potty training! Plus, you can't take your eyes off of them to whip up anything fancier. I learned that the hard way!
Now that you have the peppy cheerleading of Elmo, the gentle wisdom of Fred Rogers, and the goodies from Target, you need a roadmap to get to Potty Town. That's where Three Day Potty Training comes in. One of my friends told me about it and all about how it works. Her friend told her, who heard from another friend. It's kind of a big deal. ;) I would highly encourage people to check it out, with a few caveats. There are some awesome ideas in this ebook. The highlights for me are
1. The cold turkey approach- going straight to undies
2. Pumping fluids at the beginning to give lots of practice opportunities
3. Undivided attention
4. Never forcing the child to go potty or asking them if they need to go, just saying things like, "Let me know when you need to go potty!"
As a teacher, all of these things speak to me. Lots of practice, reinforcement, and putting the responsibility on the child. For those techniques alone, buy the book. But here's the things you need to remember when you read a book like this. The author of this book is not a medical professional or a scholar of child development and psychology. She has that disclaimer on her website herself. She is a mom with good ideas. She has written a book to help others and to make money. It is based on anecdotal evidence and experience more than scientific peer-reviewed research. There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but you have to remember that when someone writes a book like that selling a method, they are really going to "sell" it. Probably in a way that will make some sensitive people like me feel pretty junky if they are trying the "method" and it is not working, and the book says it SHOULD work and it's guaranteed to work and ohmygoodnesswhatamidoingwrongiamanepicfailureasaparent. At times like this, my mom (who has a lot of the wisdom of Fred Rogers) likes to remind me that they are probably not going to be 20 and in diapers. And if they are, then you have other problems that are way more important than potty training so count your blessings.
So, all that being said, how did potty training go for me? Well, thanks to the methods in the 3 day potty training book and lots of hyping ahead of time with Elmo and Mister Rogers, both boys had the pee part down with less than 1 accident. Of course, part of Daniel's strategy was just to not pee at all for 8 hours despite all of the fluids we had been pumping, but it all worked out! And for some reason, they were both staying dry overnight within the first week. I can't take any credit for that, they just went with it! The poop part was harder. They both had different reasons why they wouldn't poop on the potty, and we had to get to the bottom of those reasons. However, washing poopy underpants every now and then was a way better deal to me than changing all those diapers, so we worked our way through it and everyone does their thing in the potty now. I would be lying if I said I never lost my temper when someone pooped their pants for the bazillionth time, however, if I did lose my patience I would just hug my boy and tell them I was sorry that I lost it and I love them no matter what. If our kids can see that we can admit when we are wrong and apologize for it, that's a good model for their own life. At least that's what I like to tell myself when I am a less than perfect parent!!
Good luck, potty trainers!! Let me know how your adventures go! I'll update this after I finally decide it's time to potty train boy #3- who knows what adventures we will have! :)