Friday, January 21, 2011

Simple Truths of Potty Training

Before I begin my list I want to preface it by saying that I am not an expert.  I only have three kids.  I don’t nanny or babysit or run a daycare out of my home.  I have learned that all three of my children are completely different so I can only imagine that the differences in all children are exponential.  That being said here are ten simple truths I have learned from the potty training process. 

  1. Plan on it taking a year.  For real.  Full independence where a child is aware of their needs and can take care of those needs completely on their own without accidents will take about a year from the time a child “gets” the concept of toilet training.  This is an approximation and could take longer or shorter so just plan on the year. 
  2. Every child trains themselves.  The phrase “My child figured it out on their own” produces feelings of guilt and anxiety in parents whose children are not fully trained yet.  The truth is there is only so much that can actually be taught.  It’s up to the child to do it. 
  3. One cannot make a child perform on the toilet.  Few things in this life are technically impossible but this is one of them.  I cannot go for my children nor can I force them to go at my whim.  So don’t micromanage this process. 
  4. Motivation is the key to success.  The frustration being that every child is different and finding what motivates each child can be difficult.  One of my children finally found success when I left it completely in his/her hands.  Stickers and other reward systems to earn toys worked for the other two.  Some kids will work for food.  It’s different for everybody. 
  5. Pull ups are not evil.  They are peace of mind in public and when a child is sleeping.  Pull ups do not send the message to a child that it’s ok to “have an accident”  unless a parent actually tells the child to just go because they’re in a pull up.  When variables are harder to control a possible accident will be easier to take care of if a child is in a pull up instead of underwear. 
  6. There is no magic age and no specific window of opportunity for potty training.  Some kids are trained by 18 months (or younger) and some are closer to 4 years old.  Unless there is a physical or mental disability most children are trained by kindergarten.  Parents will not be changing their grade schooler’s diapers!  So stop worrying about keeping up with the Joneses. 
  7. Bed wetting is more common than you think and should not be a source of contention or anxiety.  Patience, understanding, and minimizing embarrassment are the keys here. 
  8. Regression happens.  Recognize stress in your child and be encouraging.  They will get over it. 
  9. Don’t be afraid to throw out heavily soiled underwear.  Seriously. 
  10. Potty training can feel like the most consuming activity of your life.  Trust me when I say it is fleeting.  Once it’s over it’s over and you will forget more than you will ever remember.  My kids are all approximately 2 years apart and I felt like it was my first time every time because I had forgotten so much.  I feel like this is a good thing since what worked for one child may not work for another. 

The most important thing to remember is that you are raising adults and not children.  The goal is for your child to reach independence and take care of their own needs.  Don’t potty train a child still sleeping in a crib unless you want the responsibility of taking them to the bathroom.  I wouldn’t want to.    There is nothing more satisfying than to realize I have no idea how often my child used the bathroom because they didn’t need me to help them do it.

5 thoughts:

Sherron said...

Thank you for your words of wisdom. It is definitely something for me to keep in mind in the coming years.
It is weird being back in the diaper phase. I am anxious to see how Jane deals with potty training. All three of my boys were very different.
I hear you on the throwing away the soiled undies. I figured out that the cost of 1 pair is about what a day in diapers costs. Totally worth it! I just chalked it up as a cost during the training phase!

Becca Jane said...

Only having Cam to base my experience off of, I agree with most of what you said. I think parents are WAY too emtionally invested in potty training their kids EARLY. I am seeing SO many of my friends right now pulling their hair out because their 22 month old isn't trained.

Cameron was EASY, and I plan to WAIT WAIT WAIT with all of my kids like I did with him. At exactly age 3.5, he woke up, asked for underwear, and was trained. I think he had 3 accidents the first week, but after that, he's had none. He was ready. I didn't have to tell him to go, he could wash his own hands, and he knew how to hold it in the car. I had zero stress, no fights, no pull-ups in the car (he's still in a pull-up atnight, but I know that's going to be awhile longer, which is fine). I've learned to just let the child lead the way, with lots of encouragement, and potty training does NOT have to be this parenting mountain that everyone is so afraid of.

Becca Jane said...

By the way, I've heard girls train sooner, so with Roo, we're just starting to talk really positive about the potty and before her baths, we let her sit on the big potty, she loves it! She's never peed on it, and I can tell she's still too young, but I have high hopes that she'll train a little earlier than Cam did. Is Gwen trained/ing?

The Piquant Storyteller said...

Sherron, I never priced out the underwear thing but I figured the emotional cost was worth it.

The Piquant Storyteller said...

Becca, you don't seem to be the type to put all your hopes and dreams on a "myth" but I will say don't worry if Roo doesn't train sooner than Cam. I subscribed to the theory that girls train faster and earlier than boys and spent half my summer wondering why Gwen seemed to get it but wasn't successful. I quit, went back to diapers, and planned on waiting until her third birthday. She asked right before our trip to Disneyland. I told her she had to wait until we got back. She has been the easiest but I think it has more to do with her being ready than the girl thing.

I think that kids figure out potty training based on many experiences. You tried to train Cam when he was very young and then quit because he wasn't ready. I'm sure that first experience helped him find quick success when he was ready. Letting Roo sit on the toilet before her bath is great. I did that with Gwen because she would pee as soon as her feet touched the bath water.

And TMI, she was also poop trained first because of her constipation issues. Those little experiences all contribute to potty training readiness and success, in my opinion.