Saturday, February 22, 2014

Potty Training 3.0, or Ten things I learned from potty training

(Pictures coming!!!)

Reid has been toilet trained for a while now (I told him he couldn't have a birthday party unless he was potty trained -- no pressure). But before I forget why our first two attempts failed and why the third one was brilliant, I want to jot down some notes. And yes, I tried three times before we were successful.

Before I develop my list, I do want to say I think it is possible to use different methods and still achieve success. As with all parenting adventures, people have to find what works for them and their kids. I'm writing this down so that I can remember what works for me. My biggest takeaways were simple: I will never try to potty train mid-week, quiet weekends are a must; I will keep my focus on dry underwear, not timed bathroom breaks; I will celebrate and bribe in a way that suits my child's personality; and I will make them help clean up messes/accidents. Those are probably my biggest take aways from all three potty training attempts.

But here are the main ten, in chronological order of lesson learned (and sometimes relearned).

Potty Training 1.0 Lessons
1. Know how your kid will respond to certain bribes. I had so many friends say they'd set a timer, take their kid to the toilet when the alarm went off, and then reward them with an M&M for taking the time to sit on the toilet. Since I had so many people recommend this kind of method, I'm sure it works. For them. It did not work for us! This is the first approach I took, shortly after Reid turned 2. He knew how to hold it in, so sitting on the toilet was simply a neat trick he did in order to get a candy. And while sitting he'd scream at the top of his lungs "give me my candy!" It was not pretty. Or fun. It ended by about noon. I ate the remaining M&Ms by 4:00 pm (it was a big bag). Other friends have told me stickers worked best for their kids. For Reid, it was the threat of no party. And stickers. And presents, but more on those later.

2. Make sure they are ready. Can they go several hours without dirtying their diaper? Do they want dirty diapers changed immediately? Are they interested in the toilet and being a big kid? Reid showed lots of these signs, but I don't think he was really ready at such a young age. I decided to try again once he was a little older.

Potty Training 2.0 Lessons
3. If they can hold it in, timed training probably won't work. Most my friends, lots of parenting blogs, and even the professionals at and Parents Magazine told me to set a timer, have the child sit on the toilet every 15 minutes until they go, and then give them 30 minutes once they do go. This makes for such a looooooong day. Taking your kid to the toilet four times every hour?!?! He was miserable by 9:00 am. So was I. Also, he'd sit on the toilet for three minutes, get off and pee himself two minutes later. He knew how to hold it in, and he did not want to pee on the toilet just because some arbitrary timer went off. Fail #2.

4. Potty train them, not you. Similarly to the timing thing, I realized I was training myself, not him. It was annoying when both my SIL and my Dad said something along these lines, "who's getting potty trained, you or him?" But I had to admit defeat on attempt 2.0 Reid was catching on much better than the first time, and he was definitely ready, unlike 1.0, but it felt like SOOOO much work, and I felt like I was the one being trained. I was controlling his time and movement, instead of him learning how to control his body. Although ... he was learning to control his body because during potty training 2.0 he constipated himself. He was so scared to poop on the toilet that he just didn't poop for two days, which is the main reason I quit attempt 2.0. There was just too much pressure to perform.

5. Be willing to quit, and give them plenty of time before trying again. Especially if they are constipating themselves! When I vented fail 2.0 on facebook I had a friend send me an e-book that made everything so clear! (I'll give some of those details in lessons 3.0). I was approaching everything wrong (that's why my first five lessons learned all seem to be "don'ts"). Even though I felt like Reid was ready at 30-ish months, I realized I had approached potty training wrong, and I wanted to give this new idea a try. But I knew I couldn't just switch everything and try things a different way. I had to take a four month break and start all over from scratch at closer to age 3.

I really wish I had known about the below lessons when I tried potty training 2.0. I have no doubt it would have worked. Luckily, with my other children I can skip right to 3.0 and train them earlier.

Potty Training Lessons 3.0
6. Celebrate keeping their underwear dry! What is the real end goal of potty training -- using the toilet on a schedule for rewards or keeping your underwear dry? When does a child really show they are trained -- when they go when you tell them to or when they tell you they need to go? Breakthrough! I knew I was no longer going to time Reid and force him to sit on the toilet at strange intervals. Instead, I was going to time myself and ask Reid every 15 (or so) minutes, "is your underwear dry?" If he said yes (and it really was) we'd do a little happy dance and put a sticker up on his poster. If it was wet (or when he had an accident) we put a frowny face on the poster.

7. Party when they do pee, and double party when they poo on the toilet. Between the time I read the ebook my friend sent me and the time I tried again, Parents magazine ran an article on throwing potty parties. One mom knew her daughter was into princesses, so they had a princess potty party. Another child loved presents, so they had a birthday style potty party. I knew Reid fit the present bill (and I knew I wasn't going to bribe him with candy), so I wrapped three or four presents and put them on top of our medicine cabinet. This kept them out of reach, but visible during potty time. Anytime Reid went poo or pee on the toilet we did a happy dance and I put a big smiley face on his chart. I'd pull down a little rewards basket; it had things like applesauce, suckers, juice boxes, stickers, fruit snacks, etc (I did not spend any money on these things, they were treats our neighbor, the bank, and other people/places had given him and I had confiscated). Once he earned three smiley faces, instead of choosing a prize from the little basket, he was able to choose a present. The presents were a little more exciting but most importantly they were wrapped. There was a sticker book, a puzzle, and two other $3 to $5 items. I didn't buy many of these items either, the puzzle was a gift he was given before he was really old enough to put it together, so I hid it away for an opportunity just like this one.

Overall, you can see that using the toilet was rewarded, but I focused him on keeping his underwear dry. Over the course of a week we slowly phased out all rewards. His first present was earned with three smiley faces, the second took four, the third took five, and the final celebration was his birthday party (remember my big threat from the beginning). Slowly, getting him to the point where he didn't expect anything after using the toilet.

8. Show disappointment when accidents happen, not anger. This one was hard for me, my gut reaction when I saw pee running down his legs was to throw my hands up in the air and let out a giant moan, but I didn't need to. He'd usually start stomping and crying and the pee itself was punishment enough. Instead I tried to say something like "Darn! accidents happen" while I hurried him to the toilet. This helped calm his over-reaction to accidents as well. If he felt a little pee come out he'd just jump up and say uh-oh, while he ran to the toilet. We'd talk about accidents and remind him that he needed to get to the toilet before pee started coming out. We were stern but simple.

9. Put accidents right into the shower/bath tub and make them clean it with you. Reid lapsed a little on day 4 or 5. He pooed in his underwear. Which was gross. Well, we put what we could into the toilet and then I put him and his poopy underwear in the bathtub and told him to rinse the poop out. He was in tears. But I simply reassured him that he was safe and that cleaning his underwear was the natural consequence of pooping in it. He had to do this twice and that's it. After the second time (which he cut off pretty quickly) he never lapsed again. Obviously, there was a lot of hand washing after poopy underwear cleaning.

Likewise, when he peed on the carpet or bathroom floor he had to help me clean it up. If he didn't point his penis down and pee went all over, he had to help me clean it. This taught him to apologize quickly and to clean up cheerfully (the pees at least, the poops were always cleaned with tears).

10. Even when they potty train well, it will be messy and gross. Even though 3.0 was a zillion times easier, quicker, cleaner, and more successful than the first two attempts, it was still messy. Don't start potty training until you know you can handle the messes. Clean your house well on the days leading up to potty training, plan some freezer meals or be prepared to call in take out, and don't leave the house for two or three days. You'll be investing almost all your time to training and cleaning. But it is totally worth it! I found that starting on the weekend was best. This way Ben was home to help out. You really can't leave a potty training child alone for too long, because you have to watch for signs and help them rush to the toilet.

I don't know that I will start Nell anytime soon, but I definitely feel better prepared. Dry underwear will be the final goal. Using the toilet is simply a natural part of having dry underwear. 

1 comment:

Kimberly from 'bugaboo' said...

I really like #9. Although I always had them help me clean the carpet and floor, I never had them clean out their underwear themselves and I think that's brilliant.

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