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    Adventures in Potty Training

    July 27, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    I am getting a lot of hits on my potty training posts from last week, and I have reason to believe that people out there looking for potty training advice are ending up here. At Afterthoughts. Which is written by a Potty Training Amateur.

    However, I am starting to feel obligated to give some sort of advice because, after all, here you are and it’s something I’ve done twice now. So here is what I’ve learned about it so far. If you really want advice, go ask a mother of six or ten.

    Wait Until the Child is Ready
    I began training my son shortly after his second birthday. He was not fully daytime trained until six months later. It was a long six months, and I pretty much had to let him run around bare because otherwise he would have an accident. My daughter is almost two-and-a-half and I trained her in a week. Some say it is the difference between boys and girls, but I think the bigger difference might be between training a child who is ready and pushing a child who is not.

    Wait Until Mom is Ready
    Though the child can’t wait for Mom forever, putting something off until Mom really has the time is, in my opinion, more than okay. I waited until after the baby could handle it. Little Q. went through a stage where she would scream whenever a feeding was interrupted. Potty training requires that Mom drop everything whenever the trainee needs to visit the potty. Waiting until Q. could handle the potty training lifestyle allowed me to focus.

    Begin With a Formal Conversation
    I had been warning A. for months that The Day was coming. I constantly pointed out that E. did not wear diapers, Dad did not wear diapers, and I most certainly did not wear diapers. I told her that one day she would not wear diapers, either.

    The night before we began potty training, I sat her down and explained it all to her. I told her that, from now on, diapers are for sleeping. I handed her some new undies, which she thought were pretty, and explained that she got to wear them first thing in the morning, but she must not use them like a diaper. They are not a diaper. And I told her about the toilet, which she pretty much understood already since there are a few people older than her around here.

    Sequester, Sequester, Sequester
    Don’t go anywhere. Don’t do anything. Plan to train, and perhaps feed the children when they are really hungry. It is only a week or two of life, and it is much more successful when it is focused on the goal rather than distracted by errands to run and visits to make.

    Also, I found (this time) that spending the first day (or three days) in the kitchen was beneficial. The Whole Day. We colored in the kitchen, played games in the kitchen, chased each other around the island in the kitchen. The potty chair was right there at a moment’s notice. Kitchen floors, incidentally, are much easier to clean up than the carpet.

    Use a Timer
    After a few days, I began to listen to the Old Ladies in my life and I set a timer. A. was commanded to sit on the potty every so many minutes. I figured out about how long she could hold it, and that was how long I set the timer for. She happened to learn how to hold it longer a few days later because she didn’t like stopping her play so often. It wasn’t until about day six or seven that she was able to know when she needed to go and communicate that to me before an accident happened.

    When I trained E., I had been heavily influenced by certain popular parenting magazines. Not that there is anything wrong with them in general, but a reader needs to understand the particular bias of what is being read. I did not, at the time, realize that the reason the magazines I read explicitly forbade any form of discipline during potty training was due to the theories of Freud. They were fearful that a parent using discipline during toilet training might cause permanent damage to the child’s psyche.

    However, rebellion must always be disciplined, regardless of the context in which it occurs. I was not confident in this fact with my first child, and it showed. Please note that I am not saying a parent should discipline a child for an accident. I am saying that if the parent tells the child to sit on the potty chair and the child refuses to sit on the potty chair, then discipline is in order.

    This is why it is easier to potty train a child that is already under control.

    By the way, I would be careful commanding a child to “go on the potty” as, when they are first learning, they do not have that kind of control over their bodies. It is better to simply tell them to sit there. They don’t have to go, but they do have to sit.

    Use Treats
    With my son, I used dried cranberries for small successes and chocolate covered raisins for big ones. With A., I used yogurt covered raisins instead of cranberries because cranberries seem to upset her tummy. Each success is rewarded with a small treat {one or two cranberries were fine}. They do not need big rewards as they will be earning them constantly throughout the day.

    Do not give rewards that are constipating, or it will quite literally backfire.

    If you don’t like the idea of using food, use a sticker chart.

    Add Water
    Keep the child drinking so that there are plenty of opportunities to practice the new skill. Also, if the child is constipating himself because he is holding it too long, add in prune juice. I actually started a tiny bit of prune juice {an ounce or two} the night before we began.

    Require the Child to Clean Up Their Own Mess
    Obviously, this requires wisdom because certain messes can actually pose a health hazard to the child. But a child who is training can help Mom clean up an accident, even if this means fetching a rag or a dry pair of undies. Urine is sterile and children can safely dry a floor themselves under Mom’s supervision. This is part of helping them take responsibility for their own bodies. Do not shame them, but require them to help.

    Get Help
    I had noticed, weeks before we began training, that A. took advantage of the times I was feeding Baby Q. Obviously, I had to continue to feed Q. during training week. So I called in the reserves. Two Great Grandmas and one Granmama took turns, one lady per day, coming to my home to help. Sometimes, all they did was hold Q. while I spent time helping A. learn the ropes. I am completely spoiled in this area, and I admit this. However, I must say that it was helpful to be able to continue feeding the baby or reviewing Catechism with E. during training week.

    Once Daytime Trained, Throw a Party
    This is in the works for us, but we will be throwing a party in the next week or so. A handful of close relatives will come over, have some cake with us, and congratulate A. on doing such a good job. When we did this with E., many of them also brought him new undies to add to his collection, but obviously the congratulations are sufficient.

    Let Nighttime Training Happen on Its Own
    Eventually, the child’s brain will turn on and he will begin to hold it overnight. I have found that it helps to get the child up one last time before the parents go to bed, approximately 10:15pm or so. If the child is still in a crib like A., now would be the time to graduate to a Big Bed.

    Listen to the Expert
    Nanny Y. just started potty training her charge. She is a paid professional. Listen to her.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Nanny Y. July 29, 2007 at 1:22 am

    Thank you for your vote of confidence! I had to blink a few times as I couldn’t believe someone actually linked to me *blushing*

    By the way, I could not agree with you more concerning the discipline during potty training. While we can’t make them go we can have them sit because as the adult we are usually more aware of their usual “going” patterns.

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