Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
You may recall that for some insane reason, I decided to start potty training our then-26-month-old toddler, Roy, when Vera was just two months old. It’s a long road. And we’re still on it—we still use diapers or training pants during naps and at night. Who knew potty training could be such a drawn-out process? Roy really is doing an incredible job, though, and I’m super proud of him.
Here are my key toilet-training takeaways thus far.
1) (Don’t) Push to Start. Too much, that is. I admit, I didn’t like the idea of having two in diapers. But more important than that, Roy had shown an interest in using the big potty for a very long time. In fact, he’d almost trained himself months earlier. My hunch was that making it an Official Fun Event would psych him up for making the plunge. It did. But it was still hard. I can’t imagine what it would be like with serious resistance.
2) Start Strong. We made getting him to the potty the focus of every waking moment over a long weekend. For three straight days, we pumped him full of liquids, made frequent potty trips, and enthusiastically cheered each success. We didn’t leave the house the first day, went on only a short walk the second and took a longer walk on the third. This tactic very clearly laid the groundwork for what was to come, while showing Roy that he was well equipped to handle it.
3) Go Naked. Roy spent those three days naked below the belt so he could easily potty on his own and quickly turn accidents around. We continued the nakedness at home for weeks after that. Now, months later, he wears shorts or underwear, but rarely both. We’re getting there.
4) Keep Rewards Simple. We started out with different amounts of fruit snacks for #1 and #2 as well as an elaborate sticker chart that earned him larger prizes. It was too much. Choose a reward that’s simple, quick and highly motivating for your kid. If it’s not something sugary to eat, even better. I’ve a friend whose daughter goes gaga over stickers, for example, so she used those. Maybe that reward chart would work for you. Roy was obsessed with fruit snacks, which he rarely got. We streamlined our reward system to one for #1 and two for #2, then slowly phased even those out.
5) Customize Accident Reaction. I read where you’re supposed to put on a serious, mad face over accidents. Roy’s sensitive and fairly hard on himself, so instinct told me that doing so would only stress the poor kid out. Instead, we assured him that accidents happen and pumped him up to make the next time a success. Another child may benefit from a stern talking to. Accident reaction—the entire potty-training process, for that matter—is not one-size-fits-all. Only you know what tactics will best help your kid.
6) Be Patient. Running to the toilet every five minutes to grunt magnificently over a drop or two of pee is super cute at first. At bedtime, however, a half-a-friggen-hour of that cuteness gets old quick. Remember, he’s mastering a brand new skill. Whether it’s frequent bathroom trips, camping out for eons on the potty or simply moving through the entire toileting process at a glacial pace, this will not go quickly. Stress will only make things worse for both of you. Build extra time into the schedule; devise fun, creative ways to speed things up (Set a timer! Woo-hoo!); and prepare to be infinitely patient. Deep breaths, my friend.
7) Go Public. Before the big day, we were out running errands and Roy kept asking where the bathroom was. After awhile, it dawned on us that with all this talk about using the big potty, little guy wanted to see how that might go down outside of our home. We started making a point of showing him public toilets when we were out and about. It was a disgusting truth at times, but a truth nonetheless.
8) Port a Potty. We regularly brought his little toilet with us on the road at first. No worries about whether or not there was a toilet nearby. Again, setting him up for success. Bonus: It helped avoid some of the aforementioned disgustingness.
9) Stay the Course. As I said up top there, it’s a long road—not three days, and you’re done. Good days will be followed by bad days. Roy’s gone weeks accident-free, only to pee on the carpet twice in one day. When that happens, part of me wants to buy a pack of diapers and call the whole thing off. Instead, we look at the big picture to see if we can’t pinpoint the problem (daycare difficulties, new sibling-induced neediness, etc.), address that as best we can, then attack toilet training with new vigor for a few days.
10) Plan for Positivity. Take a picture of his proud little big boy face and gaze at it. Give yourself a potty prize. Have a plan ready, to use during kick-off and when setbacks occur, for achieving positivity by any means necessary. Again, stress helps no one. I’ve found that a dirty martini after the kids are in bed, however, does.
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