Thursday, March 19, 2009

The "P" Word

Yep, I'm finally bringing up the dreaded "P" word. The one word that strikes fear into every mother's heart: POTTY-TRAINING.

I know there are a thousand different theories and methods out there and even more success/failure stories. If you're new to mothering, you are probably wondering where to start. I'd like to add to the confusion and give you yet another potty-training how-to theory.

I can now say, with confidence, that Caleb is potty trained. He has been almost 3 weeks now without diapers and only 2-3 accidents (all of those while busy playing) during that time. He's been sleeping in his big-boy undies and going out on the town in them, too. When he came running up to me on the playground and told me he had to go potty, I figured we had arrived at the past-tense of potty-training. =)

So, now I'm passing along my experiences to you. Take all of my advice with a grain of salt, since I've only done this potty-training thing once.

Rebecca's Potty Training Manual
1. Wait.
That's right. . . the first and most crucial advice I can give you is w-a-i-t. Bladder/bowel control and awareness is primarily a developmental milestone, not a matter of obedience. Your 18-month old may be ready, but chances are, he isn't. And, just because your neighbor's 3-year-old is trained, doesn't mean that your 3-year-old is ready. So, wait until you're sure that your child will succeed. That probably means waiting until AFTER your child is ready.

2. Ignore.
The second step is to ignore everyone's anecdotes (hmm, am I shooting myself in the foot here?) and advice. Go with your gut. If your great-uncle's wife's cousin trained her 12 children to go potty in the toilet when they were only 14 months old, that's great. But you shouldn't feel pressured to do the same. Ignore people who look at you funny when you're still buying diapers for your 2-year-old, it's okay. They'll get over it. For the sake of your child and yourself, don't use other people as your measuring stick. Don't even use other siblings. Remember, it's primarily a biological issue.

3. Relax.
Relax if things don't go the way you think they should. If you think your child is ready and it turns out they aren't, it's okay. Don't stress and don't make it a big deal. Just wait and try again in a few more weeks/months. I think another word to keep in mind is Grace. Be gracious with your child. I am a strong proponent of training for obedience, but I honestly feel like potty-training is less about obedience and more about the natural physical limitations of a child. Don't shame your child if he/she has accidents or is a little on the late side of being ready. It'll come eventually. Just look around you. . . how many normal 15-year-olds do you know that aren't potty trained? My guess is, none (that could be because there aren't any "normal" 15-year-olds!) So, don't stress. It'll happen eventually.

4. Have Fun.
Did I just say have fun? Yes, I did, and I didn't forget that we are talking about potty-training. This is a big achievement for you and for your child. Celebrate your successes. Make it fun. Children are very fun and playful. That is what makes children so magical. Don't make potty-training a drudgery. Your child probably won't respond well to it if it is. Buy the coolest, most fun underwear you can find. Put them out for your child to admire. Talk it up. . . when you use the restroom, talk about what a big girl (I'm assuming anyone that has made it this far into this post is probably a mom) you are and how exciting it will be when your child is a big boy/girl. When he decides to be a big boy and succeeds for the first time, throw a party. Dance around. Cheer. Call Daddy at work (if you can) or Grandma. . . or both! It's big news in your child's mind, so make it big news. Get out the ice cream or chips or whatever treat it is that your child loves best. Children love excitement, so make potty-training exciting.

So, what did this look like for us:
1. Waiting.
Before Caleb's 2nd birthday, we purchased a little potty chair. We put it in a prominent place in the bathroom and hoped that he might be interested. He was, but only if he could stay fully clothed while sitting on there. I was tempted to force him to try it sans diaper and clothes, but then I thought, "Why? Why does it matter if he wants to sit on the potty with his diaper on?" And, I realized that it didn't matter.

Over the next few months, he tried going potty a few times and was successful once or twice, but I could tell he really wasn't ready. So we kept waiting.

I knew we were getting close when he started asking to go. But, still we waited. I wanted to be sure that he was totally ready.

2. Ignoring.
Caleb's cousin, who is 9-months younger than Caleb, potty-trained herself almost 4 months ago. She was only 16-months at the time!! Talk about feeling the intense pressure to keep up with the Joneses! It wasn't anyone else I had to ignore this time, it was myself. I had to ignore the internal pressure I was feeling and go with my gut. I knew Caleb wasn't ready yet and that his cousin is a potty-protegy! I mean, seriously, how many 16-month-old potty-train themselves. Not many.

3. Relaxing
This one was pretty easy because by the time we actually started potty training, Caleb was definitely ready and he basically potty-trained himself. So, the relaxing I had to do was before the potty-training started. But, we have had a few accidents and when they happen, I just say something like, "Oh well, buddy! It's okay. We'll just clean it up and try again next time. Okay?" We clean it up, pick out more cool undies, and start over. No big deal. And, each day, we ask God to help Caleb grow big and strong and go pee pee on the potty. Remember, it's all about grace, and ultimately, it is God's grace we need, even for things like going potty.

4. Having Fun.
Chips and ice cream. That's what does it for Caleb. Once he learned that he could have a chip for going #1 and a bite of ice cream for going #2, he was like white on rice. Chips are his greatest love in life. Throw into the mix some cool Cars undies and lots and lots of dancing and cheering and there was no stopping him. Oh, and the coolest, getting to pee on a tree (this a boy-only activity) while we were out on a walk. Some things are inherently cool to little boys, and peeing on a tree is one of them. This is one thing his mother doesn't understand, but Josh assures me that boys think peeing on trees is really cool =)

So, take heart. If you are dreading potty-training, don't. It doesn't have to be horrible. Expect there to be false starts and accidents along the way. Cheer loud and give lots of hugs. Oh, and for every bite of ice cream you give your toddler, go ahead and take two for yourself. It'll help. I promise. =)

If you have any other advice or want to share your story, please leave a comment. The more the merrier!


christianne said...

Hi, Rebecca.

This was a really, really great post. I felt like I should have been reading it in a parenting magazine.

But since I'm not a parent :), I'll say this: I also felt like these suggestions could be applied to any growth area of life. I mean, when God is taking me on a journey (like he is right now), it's really helpful for me to remember that I'm on my own path and don't need to look to my left or to my right. It's also helpful for me to remember that it's all about grace and that God delights in celebrating the successes with me.

Kay Ann Wilson said...

this was cute! and good for me to read....b/c sometimes i feel like you are my 'jones family'! :-) since our kids are so close in age, it's easy to compare. i will be ready for beck to be trained, but until need to worry i guess!

Lauren said...

Hi, Rebecca! I am preparing to potty train my little guy next week and just spent the better part of the evening reading tips online... Then I gave up to do some blog surfing and came across your post! I have read your blog for awhile now and the timing of this post was perfect. Thanks for the encouragement! Chips and ice cream---I will remember that!

Four Buttons said...

Hey Rebecca! Tell Caleb that Owen and I say CONGRATULATIONS!!!! This was such great advice and I definately agree with you on the waiting until they're ready. I waited till Owen was over 3 and it was a piece of cake. And our bribe was m&Ms, till I found out he was allergic, and then we switched to those Natural Gummy Snakes. This is going to help a lot of mommies out there, good stuff. Miss you lots, when will you come back this summer?