I’ve potty trained four kids already.
And I still dread the next two.
Of all the things I do as a Mother, I swear potty training is right up there as one of my least favourite tasks. The whining, the begging, the pleading…and then there’s the kid.
This is the way it works around here:
1. Pick your poison.
Be it disposable training pants, underwear, or letting the kid roam around naked, what it really boils down to is, “What do you want to clean up?” Personally, I try the disposables first. Doesn’t always work, because they can still feel like a diaper. One handy thing I have learned is to try to get ones with characters the child likes on them. Unless, of course, they like them too much, and lose their ever-loving minds with the pants being thrown in the garbage. Nothing says, “Delightful” quite like a toddler trying to rescue their Princess pants from the garbage, hugging them to their chest as though you’ve just tossed a winning lotto ticket out. It’s gross. Underwear isn’t all that great either. First of all, it does nothing to hold anything in, so you’re still cleaning puddles up off the floor, as well as whatever else doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time. And folks, I have a super sensitive sense of smell. Washing poopy underwear is a gag fest. Letting them go naked? You still run the risk of puddles, or piles, but skip the laundry aspect.
2. Plan your week.
I’ve heard rumours that some kids potty train in a day. (If this was your kid, I hate you.) None of mine ever have. If the kid is willing, I find it takes a week or so. If they’re not willing, you’re screwed. Just give up. There is NOTHING you can do with a kid that flat-out refuses to train. It’s their bladder, their bowels, and if they won’t, they won’t. Making it a power struggle between you and them is only going to result in a lot of tears. Probably yours, as well as theirs. I find setting aside a week where you can plan to be home is the best idea, because an outing in the midst of things can set everything back to the starting point. On the good side, you can play hermit, and stay in your jammies all week. On the downside, you may run out of booze.
3. Get excited about it.
What I actually mean is, ACT excited about it. If you act like you’re about to perform self surgery to remove your own gallbladder, the kid’s not going to want to go along with it either. You’re like Mr. Rogers on speed. Everything is sunshine and happy and exciting, YAY!
I set a timer, and take Jr to the bathroom every twenty minutes. Usually, that means he wets about five minutes before or after the bathroom trip. But at least we’re both being consistent.
Clapping, cheering, giving a few candies, keys to the car, or cash, I don’t care what incentive you use, but REWARD the heck out of the kid when he finally DOES use the bathroom. You want him to do this again, and again, and again. Make it worth their while. On the flip side, when he doesn’t make it, shrug it off. “Ooops! Ok, let’s get you changed, and we’ll try sitting on the toilet again!” It’s no big deal. Sure, its gross for you, but it’s going to happen, and no good is going to come from a negative reaction on your part. Remember in #2, I said about the power struggle? Yeah, you don’t want a kid that’s decided that holding it all in is the only option he has. That way lies some serious health issues.
6. Get others involved
Be it the other parent, siblings, if you have ANY success, let them also praise the child. Praise is good. I’m not saying you should send out fliers, hire a marching band, or a skywriter, but whatever positive reinforcement you can use, use it. Also, make sure everyone in the house knows about Jr.’s signals about using the bathroom. It’s frustrating for Jr when he’s telling someone, as clearly as he knows how, that he needs to go, but they don’t understand what he’s trying to get at. Not all kids announce, “I GOTTA PEE!” I had one that would just start walking in a circle. Another that would announce, “Uh oh!” and a third that would grab my hand and pull me towards the bathroom.
7. Reward yourself
This potty training gig isn’t easy. The adrenaline rush of trying to beat a small bladder to the toilet, the extra laundry, the highs of success, the lows of defeat (and resulting messes).So, lay in a stock of your favourite reward, be it cheesecake, chocolate, bottle of wine, something to savour once everyone’s in bed for the night. Don’t overdo it on the booze though, because a hangover is not going to help the potty training the next day.
8. Go easy
Jr may not be ready, and that’s ok. It’s ok to give up and try again in a few weeks. I’m pretty sure we would have heard on the news if a guy was busted on his wedding night for not being potty trained yet, or being outed at basic training for the Armed Forces. It will happen, sooner or later. Just may not be the timing you thought it should. Do yourself, and your kidlet a favour: don’t compare. Don’t compare your child to their siblings, to the neighbours, cousins, or anyone else. Your child is their own person, and will do things on their own time, in their own way.
9. Watch for Potty Training Psychosis.
Sometimes, it happens when you’re knee-deep in potty training, that you find yourself asking your spouse, “Do you need to go potty?” “Before we go out, you go potty, ok?” or suppressing the urge to ask the stranger in line at the grocery store, that is doing the nervous shift from foot to foot in what, in your potty training focused brain is an obvious display of the Pee Pee Dance, “Do you need to go pee pee?” Don’t do it. Don’t. Bite your lip, and promise yourself a second serving of whatever reward you choose in #7. Trust me.
There’s nothing quite like your spouse, or your teenager telling people about how Mom asked a perfect stranger if he needs to pee pee. Trust me. Or trying to explain it to the store manager, as he’s suggesting that you find a new place to shop, and escorting the assumed crazy lady out of the store.
For Boo, the latest on the potty training attempt, we’re stuck on him flat out refusing to have anything to do with the whole potty training gig.