13 April, 2017
No-Stress Potty Training
I learned the hard way from trying to potty train Gage, that potty training can be a discouraging, exhausting, disappointing, frustrating, really gross journey. OR, it can be fun, exciting, and stress-free.
It doesn't seem right to me to sit a child on a potty with an iPad and a pack of gum and call it "potty training". It also doesn't seem right to me to make your child sit in his own wet or soiled underwear for half an hour to teach him consequences. I don't like the Dr. Phil method of feeding your kid salty foods so that he pees a ton and thus speeding up the process. And I really hate pull-ups. They are a big lie. It doesn't feel right to me to bribe a child to pee on the potty, thus depriving him of the prize if he messes up. And using candy as a reward is not sustainable. I say this last one from experience.
If you do those things, I'm not judging you. If your potty-training method leaves your child's dignity intact, then I completely support you! But for those of us who don't feel quite right about popular potty training methods, there are other options (even if they aren't publicized all over the place by famous people). I don't think there is one method that is right for everyone, but here is my method.
Wait For The Signs:
- Lets you know when he/she needs to potty OR is ready to be changed
- Can talk and communicate well enough to understand multi-step commands, like, "Pull off your pants, sit on the potty, try to pee"
- Wants approval (this is maybe the most important one - young, young toddlers could care less... but they hit a certain age where they really want you to think they are awesome)
- Is sleeping in a bed - NOT a crib (note on this: I don't have any bedwetters, so I can't say for sure, but I feel like in order to truly potty train a child, he/she needs to be able to get up and go potty in the night if necessary. I also have a truly horrid bladder so I sympathize with night-time potty needs. If your child is stuck behind bars, then you are offering him/her contradicting commands: don't pee in your bed, BUT you can't leave your crib. Confusing.)
All That You Need:
- Is a small potty or toilet insert for kids
For me, incentives like sticker charts, candy, toys, etc. are counter productive. Reward a child for peeing? I have found that this kind of motivation is stressful. They miss and pee on the floor and suddenly DON'T get the treat or toy they've been dreaming of... might work for some kids, but it has never worked well for my kids.
When you have your potty and underwear, and your child is ready, I start out small. My kids LOVE to be naked, so I ask every day when we have downtime (time that we are at home for an hour or more and I can give them lots of attention) if they'd like to be naked. I am guessing that most toddlers will always say yes. That, or my kids are weird nudists. Anyway, I say, "Sure! You can be naked. But if you have to pee, guess what? You won't have a diaper on! So you get to use.... THIS!" And then I show them the potty. I have always used a little portable potty because it's a lot easier for me than running a child back and forth to the bathroom.
The potty follows the child around, and I ask often if he would like to sit on it. "Do you want to sit on this awesome potty for a minute and see if you can pee in it?"
Sometimes they say no, sometimes yes.
Then I tell them (over and over again over the days and weeks that we are in this step), "When you pee or poop on the potty, guess what? I sing this COOL SONG! ----- Yoooooou peed on the potty! You peed on the potty! You peed on the potty! GREAT JOB!" (complete with a super ghetto hip-hop dance and clapping - it has now morphed into an all-out step dance. It is cool.)
The key is to have a happy accident. At this point, they still may not understand how it feels when they have to urinate. So if they are sitting on the potty enough, eventually you will have a happy accident where it will click as the pee is filling the potty - YES! Hooray! I do the potty song, they are so proud, we go and flush it.
I start putting them in underwear when we are at home. Accept that they WILL pee (hopefully not poop) in the underwear. DON'T GET MAD. They have had a diaper their WHOLE LIFE up until this point. Something covering their privates = diaper in their mind. Yes, the fibers feel different, yes, you've told them many times "This is not a diaper, don't pee in it". But if you get mad, you will make this stressful. Don't put them in underwear because you want them to stay dry. Put them in underwear because you want them to understand (from peeing in their underwear) that we don't pee in underwear.
I make a big deal about how cool they look and how big they are in their big boy or big girl undies.
I try to strip them down first thing in the morning so that they start off the day by going in the potty. Soon they are ready for the next phase...
This is when the child will either ask for the potty or run to the potty when he or she has to go. I always know my kid is close to being fully trained when I'm in another room, and they come to me and tell me they used the potty.
This is also when I start bringing them out of the house without a diaper. I always make sure they pee before we go, and I always bring extra clothes. As soon as we get to our destination, I ask if they want to go sit on the potty. If they say no, just say okay. They will learn from their mistakes - truly! Just calmly change them and say, "Oopsies! Did you pee in your underwear? Darn! Think you need to pee some more? Want to go sit on the potty for a while?" etc.
When you're able to keep them in underwear all day without accidents (or with only one accident every few days), I start inviting them to go to bed without a diaper. I don't use pull-ups because I think they are a conspiracy. I make sure they go potty RIGHT before bed (like before the story and then again after the story). I have never had a child wet the bed, and I really think it's because they ease into night-time undies.
At this point, they are fully potty trained! And oh, what delight.
The thing is, though - this process can literally take a year. Kjel, sweet thing, had some potty area issues as a baby, so we started this process right before she turned two. It wasn't until she was three that she was truly, completely potty trained. Once I started this system with Gage (after trying the 3-day "one and done" style several times from about age 2-2.5), he was fully potty trained within like two weeks. Will is in Phase 2 right now and doing great.
I like that this process upholds everyone's dignity. I LOVE that this process keeps things chill. Kids need to feel safe and loved, and nothing says, "I love you" like a mommy smiling sweetly after an accident, saying, "It's okay! it's really okay! Don't feel bad, I'm not mad at all. Let's keep working at this." And I can say that without hypocrisy because I was truly the opposite with Gage and was deeply humbled. Learn from my mistakes! BE THE SWEET MOM! You will never regret erring on the side of kind. Especially when it comes to human urine.