April 17, 2012

Potty Training in a Week

Of all the trails of parenthood the one that worried me most was potty training. Childbirth, nursing, changing dirty diapers: no problem. But potty training ... I mean, how did one go about actually do it? Was it like potty training a dog? I could do that. I'd done it twice, in fact. But sadly, I discovered that while forests have been cleared to print books explaining how to potty train a dog, almost nothing had been written about how to potty train a child.

So I asked friends and family how to they had done it, but no one could seem to remember. Even friends who had recently potty trained a child couldn't quite seem to remember the nitty gritty. So, having recently been through it myself I thought I would create this little primer for anyone who may be curious about how it's actually done. (And I thought I should leave a note to my future self in case I have forgotten when it comes time to potty train Child  No. 2.)

Ok, so here goes:

Number #1: Wait until the child is ready.

That's it.

Can it really be that simple, you ask? Yes. More to the point, any potty training you attempt before the child is ready will be counterproductive.

For instance, I attempted potty training several times last summer when the child in question was two and a half. That is a perfectly reasonable age to potty train a child--even a boy, who most parents agree will potty train much later than a girl.

Nonetheless, all of our efforts were fruitless. We bought him a cute little potty that was just his size. We bought a stash of Matchbox cars as incentives. We even bought some awesome "big boy" dinosaur underwear. But it was all for naught. No matter how many times a day I would take him to sit on his little potty, he would only go to the bathroom in the dinosaur underpants.

Perhaps I had the logistics wrong, I thought. So I tried taking him to the potty at various intervals after having something to drink, but nothing worked. As the dirty laundry piled up my perseverance went down, and ultimately, I gave up.

Then one morning shortly after his third birthday, my son said to me, "Mama, I have to pee pee." So I took him to the bathroom, and, sure enough, "Bulls eye!" Afterwards, I put him in the dinosaur underpants, which had been languishing in the back of his dresser, and the next time he needed to go to the bathroom he did the same thing. Sensing an opportunity, I cancelled our plans for the day, and we stayed home and hung out in our dinosaur underpants all day. Well, he did, anyway. I wore my regular clothes.

The whole day passed without any accidents, as did the next. On day three, I decided we should try venturing forth, so I packed him a change of clothes and we went out. But it turns out I didn't even need them. When he needed to go to the bathroom, he told me, and we went.

OK, so that is actually potty training in a day, but I thought that if I titled this post "Potty Training in a Day" no one would believe me. But believe me, it really is that easy. You just have to wait until the child is ready.

Now, I know that there are people who have successfully potty trained children as young as 18 months using techniques such as Elimination Communication, and my hat is off to you. But that is just not for me ... or my white couch.

Furthermore, I've recently become enamoured of the Waldorf educational philosophy, a cornerstone of which is that attempting to teach a child something before they are developmentally ready can be detrimental to their well-being. It just made sense to me that you shouldn't teach a child to read before he is able or you run the risk of creating negative associations with reading that could last a lifetime. Also, the idea goes, if you want until a child is ready to learn something, they will learn it more quickly. No kidding.

Now this isn't to say that we haven't had any potty-training accidents in this house. Boy, have we had them! We've even had a series of "accidents" that would more aptly be called "set-backs," but on the whole we are potty trained. And it only took a day.

Of course, there are other issues that parents may encounter that make potty training a little trickier, and I certainly can't speak to those. But my sense is that for most kids it really can be this easy. So, I'm wondering: is this how potty training worked for you?

Discuss. And watch your potty mouths, please. This here's a family blog.


Amanda Mc said...

Potty training with G worked far differently. Oh I touted the "wait until the child is ready" line but really when my 97th percentile child was almost 3.5 and still showing no sign of being ready I pushed the issue. His cloth diapers no longer fit and he was at the max size of diposables.

G's poops were huge and really smelly, on top of that he is a yeasty beasy and poop being in contact with his skin would give hima yeast rash. It was time.

We could not get him to go poop anywhere but his diaper, we tried everything but eventually we resorted to shows to get him to relax but it often took hours so I resorted to chocolate chip rewards for poop and we went full bore.

It took a month to really say we were potty trained. We went through three major regresions and eventually I resorted to what I said I never would, a rewards chart. It worked and I wish I had used it last year when we started.

Rewards charts were totally against my parenting philosophy and seemed entirely unattachment parenting to me but in the end it was just that AP.

My child needs to be moivated and not much motivates him. But he was very motivated by the chart and we have been truly potty trained ever since.

All that to say potty training for us took almot a year. If I could do it again would I wait? Not a chance. I would pull out the rewards chart from the beggining. If we had waited G still would be in diapers and a neuroypical 4 yo still in diapers is so not on for me.

Jackie said...

I think that the method used for potty training has to work with both the parents and the child. It's not as simple as only going by one of their cues.

Gwen was much harder than Natalie. Natalie was freakishly easy.

The problem, in my mind, is how do you know when the kid is ready? I would say that while I tried alot before she was "ready" once she was ready in her own way Gwen was easy to train and it only took a day or two and now she's day/night trained. My problem was figuring out what her readiness cues were. They were so different from Natalie's.

Sarah said...

That is really interesting, ladies, and I will remember this for when I'm potty training No. 2 (who I realize might not be as easy).

Amanda, as for the chart, I've got no problem with them personally, but so far I've found it really hard to motivate Colin with any type of reward. Perhaps I should try it, though, for all of those other things he hasn't learned how to do yet: dress himself, pick up toys, eat vegetables...

And, Jackie, you are quite right, this wouldn't work for everyone. But, personally, I'm finding that the only tactics that work with my very willful three year old are the efforts that come from within him. As for cues: it was him being able to verbalize when he felt the need to go that tipped the scales for us. Before that, he just didn't seem to notice when he felt the "need." So, now I'm just looking for similar cues when we attempt other things he's rebelled against before: like swimming lessons.

Thanks so much for your thoughts!