I’m a mom, and at some point I was bound to go there… potty training.
I was all set to let Eleanor drive this bus figuring everyone gets potty trained at some point, and then we got the dreaded news that her summer camp required her to be potty trained. I skimmed the internet, perused a few books, and basically decided that we were doing boot camp, cold turkey, one weekend, go potty or go home style. I’m no expert, but when I started getting my potty ducks in a row I asked every parent I knew how they did it; for what it’s worth, here’s our potty story. Our pott-ry? Our po-ry?
There’s a LOT of opinions and potty information out there. I’m a varsity skimmer which means I never really read anything thoroughly, but I do try and grab a few take-aways. (Surprisingly, my college professors didn’t love this approach.) In a blogified nutshell, here are some of my snippets from our potty training experience.
• Do not, I repeat, do not go back. Once you start, keep that kid in underwear no matter what.
• If you find your child having more than a few accidents, then reconsider whether they’re ready or whether you’re ready… accidents can reinforce failure if they happen too often.
• Make it a really special and exciting time for you and your child. This might take some faking it on your part.
• Only positive reinforcement; no punishment or blame. At the same time it’s not “okay” to have an accident; let your child know that you expect nothing less.
• Talk it up. This is big deal for everyone so treat it like such.
Here’s how our potty weekend went down:
We chose a weekend when both Mark and I were around since everything I had read said that this required all out one-on-one guerrilla warfare the entire weekend. It made sense for me to be the potty parent with Eleanor while Mark was manning the other two kids. Next, I got my celebratory potty groove on. My goal was to have the weekend start with such an exciting bang that potty success was inevitable. What does celebratory potty groove look like, you ask? Here ya go:
A potty sticker chart for every time my girl gets that pee in the potty.
Streamers, ’cause who doesn’t love themselves some streamers. I picked yellow because it’s Eleanor’s favorite color, not because it’s the color of pee.
There were prizes, prizes, and more prizes. Also M & Ms; lots and lots of M & Ms.
I made a special t-shirt for her figuring it might not be the cleanest weekend of our lives. She still wears it and simply refers to it as her potty shirt like it’s something everyone has in their closet.
And the piece de resistance? Potty snacks (salty salted salt), and potty drinks. We wanted this girl peeing every 10 minutes if possible so she would have lots of opportunity for potty practice.
We had forewarned a select group of friends and family members that with every successful trip to the potty, we were going to call them and announce Eleanor’s triumph like she had just discovered the cure for cellulite while rehearsing her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
From past mishaps, I learned that underwear was sort of a diaper-like false sense of security so she was going commando this weekend. (I did have an assorted batch of her favorite character underwear ready for the end of the weekend, though.)
I had a timer and every 10 minutes she sat on her potty for a minute; this interval got longer and longer throughout the weekend. My job was to watch her for ANYthing that might suggest she needed to go. As I mentioned, Eleanor was well versed in the background noise of potty training: the sitting on the potty, the pulling her pants up and down, the wiping, the hand washing… she was psyched about all of this, but the actual going pee-pee in the potty? Not so much.
The first morning was looooong. There was a drip or two in the potty, but nothing party-worthy. What I didn’t expect was her reaction the first time her bladder connected with her potty… she freaked out and leapt off of the potty mid stream (I mentioned this was not a clean process, right?) in a fit of tears. Thanks to the salt lick and the drinks we had tied around her neck, this happened a lot the first few hours. She always had to help me clean up, but she also got M & Ms for trying. (No prize until the real deal.)
Every time she sat on a piece of furniture or got in her car seat, there was a towel under her fanny, and we didn’t leave the house until late the next day. I purchased a portable potty (I know… it’s very weird, but when you’re the one with your finger on a toddler’s hair-pin-trigger bladder, then you’ll be thrilled to have something you can just whip out of your bag.) This allowed us a little more freedom in the first weeks of potty training.
We put her in pull-ups for naps, long car rides, and bedtime and for the first few days, this was when she conveniently went #2. I don’t know that she did this in the potty until the next week. Each time she’d have an accident in her pull-up, I would express my disappointment (not blame or punishment) and tell her that next time would be better. She was equally comfortable using her little potty and the real toilet (with step stool, but no training seat or anything); when it was clear she had it mastered, I took away the little potty and she now only uses a real toilet.
Her teachers at school were incredible and really talked it up, but that girl and her bladder didn’t pee at school for a whole week! No accidents, just no dice. I only mention this as evidence that there is clearly a learning curve for these children and it might take them a week or two to really internalize what their bodies have figured out after the ‘boot-camp’ weekend.
Now that we’re two months potty trained, she hasn’t had one single accident. She wakes up with a dry pull-up every morning so when we’re done with the ones we have, we won’t buy any more. My life is definitely easier. Ironically, though, I suspect that this achievement has catapulted her into the defiance and independence characteristic of the terrible threes. I guess when one door closes, another door opens in the toddler world…