Are you imagining how blissful it would be not to have to drag that diaper bag around with you everywhere you go?
Do you imagine that you will once again be able to carry a tiny little pocketbook that is barley big enough for your driver’s license, credit card and a single tampon? (Which I hate to tell you once you have children you will always need more than one tampon and if a sippy cup and a few snacks can’t fit into it as well, forget about it)
Do you have fantasies of only having to wipe your own butt from now on?
Go read this which I wrote late last winter right after my daughter potty trained. Go on… I’ll wait.
OKay you read it? Are you still wanting to potty train your child?
Before we begin, buy a new toothbrush for your child. This is an important potty training accessory. The battery operated ones are a huge hit here.
Well, then let’s get started.
Step One: You will know when the time is right.
Don’t you hate when people say that? I know I always did. But how will I know, I would ask.
I learned that my children were ready when they, a) would stay dry in their diapers for a long period of time every day, b)they would express a desire to get out of a poppy diaper either through words or actions, like bringing me a clean diaper, c) could pull down their underwear themselves, because frankly what is the point if you have to do all the work, and, most importantly d) understood the system of rewards.
Most of the time when I hear of people having trouble with their children and potty training it is because their child is too young. All of mine, save one, potty trained between 2 years 9 months and 3 years old. Most of the people that I know who have trained their children at 18 months or so, really trained themselves, not the child. ( I know, the exception is you over there in the back. No need to email me and tell me I am wrong.)
And maybe I am lazy, but I just don’t want to commit that sort of time to something like that. I have enough trouble remembering that I need to go to the bathroom some days.
Which brings me to
Step Two: It’s not about you
No, really. It isn’t. Shocking isn’t it?
Neither is it a competeition. There is no place on the Harvard application for age at potty training. And do you know why? Because it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
If your child is the last one in the playgroup to potty train, who cares. Just sit back and laugh while the other mothers scramble to find restrooms everywhere five minutes. But don’t laugh too much, because your time will come to memorize the location of every restroom within a twenty mile radius of your house.
Step Three: It’s postive reinforcement, not bribery
Children love candy. They also love to have their own way. My job as a parent is to give them the illusion that are having their own way and give them some candy to distract them before they figure it out.
When it comes time for potty training I buy a huge bag of Skittles and pour them all into a big glass jar. So their sugary goodness is there for all to see. I tell the child everytime they go and sit on the potty and try to go, they will get some Skittles (some meaning three, though you may have to enter into your own negotiations for this).
And so for the first day we sit on the potty a LOT. We talk about the Skittles a LOT. And we admire them sitting in their jar high up on the shelf. I also push fluids to wash the skittles down and give the child, well, a LOT of chances to succeed.
There will be a few accidents, but the switch to underwear means that they really can feel when they have peed. Usually half way through the day they have made it to the potty in time once. Do not use pull-ups. They are just more expensive, more inconvenient diapers. Make it a clean break.
Step Four: Did you hear that tinkling?
They have finally made it to the potty in time. Oh happy day!
Here is the important part. Lavish praise. Clap, cheer, jump up and down. And give them a handful of candy. But keep in mind that it is their success, not yours. These little children can sense your desperation and will behave accordingly, meaning do the opposite of what you want them to do.
Do you understand now why a brand new toothbrush is an important potty training accessory?
After the child has made it to the potty successfully a few times, it is time for:
Step Five: Pulling out the big guns
Our children want to please us, but they want to please themselves more. And like most of us, they are lazy. Why get up from watching Elmo when you can just pee on the couch. What is the incentive, for them?
After the first couple of days we begin weaning off the candy. It is reserved for only when you actually do something on the potty. And I start to talk about a bigger reward… maybe those princess underwear or Star Wars underwear that are so cool. The cool factor really must be played up. Make them think they really have wanted those all their life and can not possibly go on another day without them.
I usually try to somehow tie the reward to using the potty so it seems somewhat logical, like cool underwear, new jeans with NO snaps in the crotch. But if it is a toy they really want, then I am forced to say something like, “Once you can stay dry all day for 3 days then we can go IN YOUR UNDERWEAR and pick out that toy that is reserved for people who don’t wear diapers.”
Did you know that it is rule that you can not own a Barbie doll of your very own if you wear diapers? Something about Barbie’s delicate olifactory system. Likewise Thomas the Tank Engine’s coaches Annie and Clarabelle once felt the same way.
Step Six: Long term goals
Some kids are smarter than others, or more greedy, I don’t quite know which it is. Most recently it was my daughter who was afflicted with the what-are-you-going-to-give-me-now-itis. Everyday she wanted to know what her prize was going to be that day if she used the toliet, but she wasn’t yet ready for my tough love.
I solved this by buying some poster board and packs of stickers. I cut the stickers up so that they were individual stickers that she would get to chose from every time she went potty. Then the stickers were stuck on the poster (theoretically), or on herself, or the walls, where ever. Once all the stickers in the envelope were gone we bought the previously decided upon reward. I made sure that there were enough stickers in the envelope to last for increasing periods of time. After awhile their interest will begin to wan.
Once this is going well, it is time for:
Step Seven: Tough love.
Also known as: No one buys Mommy things when she uses the potty.
And thus concludes my potty training novella. Good luck and remember it will only be a few more years before they will wipe themselves.