Thursday, August 15, 2013

Potty Training Part Two: Tips for Success

If you missed the first part in this series where I describe my potty training method, go here.

After potty training two boys at the age of two, I learned a few things that I wish I had known at the outset of potty training. Here are my most helpful potty training tips, in no particular order:

1. Wait until your child is ready 
I know, I know. Typical advice. But I mean it--be sure your child is ready. When I potty-trained Reed, he was showing every single sign of potty training readiness. But when we tried to potty train? He flipped a lid. Oh. My. Goodness. He would NOT have anything to do with the potty. So I waited three months and tried again. And guess what? He was potty trained in three days. I had a very similar experience with Asher. Here is a great (though somewhat extensive) list of readiness signs. The signs that were most telling for my boys: they started to hide somewhere whenever they had a bowel movement (Reed's place was under the stairs. Ryan called it "the pooping closet"), they stayed dry for long periods of time, they'd tell me when they needed to be changed, and they were both communicative enough to let me know they needed to go potty.

2. Learn the value of a bare bottom (and do NOT use pull-ups!) 
Honestly, it may seem a little odd to have your child running around bare naked all day (it may also not seem odd at all--some kids refuse clothes anyway, am I right?). But it's important! When you put a child in underwear right away, the child doesn't really understand yet that the underwear is not just another receptacle for their pee. And when you put a child in pull-ups, you're really sending mixed signals. To me, pull-ups give this message: "Here is something to cover your bottom that feels quite similar to a diaper. But, though it feels the same, you're not supposed to use it as a diaper." It's not so easy to remember to use the potty when you're wearing a diaper or pull-up. The bare bottom will help a child remember to use the potty.

3. Don't give up after day one
Potty training, day one with Asher was an absolute nightmare. He was whiny and grumpy and had ZERO successes. Zero. In one one-and-a-half-hour period, despite taking him potty every twenty minutes, he had three accidents--two of which involved poop. I was extremely discouraged. But I decided to give potty training one more day before I decided he wasn't quite ready and to try again a few weeks later. The next day, after a very long morning with no accidents or successes, Asher had his first-ever pee in the potty. Hallelujah. Everything got better from there until, two days later, Asher had his first accident-free day.

4. The first success is the hardest
For both of my boys, the initial success was the very hardest one. Once they had actually used the potty successfully, they realized that going potty really isn't that big of a deal. And they just did it. After their first success, both boys had very few accidents--Reed only had one accident after that first success. So though the first several attempts are pretty trying and honestly, quite frustrating, just hold on until you get to a success. I promise potty training will get easier after that first success (and if it doesn't, let me pre-apologize now).

5. Know who is in charge
Here's a truth: your child likely will not want to start potty training and will avoid the potty at all costs. When it's time to go potty, don't be surprised if your child tells you he or she doesn't have to go or doesn't want to go. They will likely try to resist. But guess what? You're in charge. You might have to fight with your child for the first few tries or possibly even the first few days. But it will get easier and it will be worth it. Don't let your child determine when it's potty time until you've made it through a week--because they likely won't realize they need to go potty soon enough to make it to the potty.

6. Use a reward system, treats or otherwise
For the first three days of potty training, I gave my boys one small treat (like an M & M, a candy corn, or something else small) for every successful pee in the potty, and two small treats for every successful poop in the potty. After three days, they got one sticker for every pee in the potty and two stickers for every poop in the potty. We used the stickers to fill up a chart and, when their chart was full, we let them pick a small toy from the toy store. I realize not everyone wants to give their child a treat for every success, and I don't think you need to. But something tangible (be it a treat, a toy, a sticker, or whatever) is very helpful. My kids loved being rewarded. And, for the first few days, a tangible prize for every success was key to their willingness to try going potty. Later, when they filled up their sticker sheets, they were so proud of their accomplishment and so pumped to pick out a toy. After that, we didn't need a reward system because going potty was just part of our routine. Choose a reward system, whatever you like, and implement it.

7. Have a method, but be flexible
You may find that my method doesn't work for you. Maybe you just don't like my method. But I think it's important to at least have a general method before you start. And while I think consistency is extremely important, I also found it important for me to evaluate and change my method as needed. After an abysmal day one with Asher, I decided to change my approach somewhat. He doesn't have to pee as often as Reed does--still, to this day, he uses the bathroom fewer times than Reed. So instead of taking him potty every 20 minutes, I took him every 40 minutes. And while Reed didn't mind the timer going off signalling potty time, the timer really upset Asher. So I kept time myself, without the timer. I found that Asher was much more willing to try going potty when he wasn't already upset about the timer and when we didn't go quite as often. I still used my general method, but changed it a bit to fit Asher's needs.

8. Don't get angry about "accidents"--but do talk about each one
Accidents are a normal part of potty training. But, I'm not going to lie, sometimes accidents are terribly frustrating--especially when you've gone a few days without an accident. But getting angry about an accident doesn't help at all. Keep it together (which, trust me, can be so hard) and don't yell. But you do need to discuss each accident. I tried to use the same dialogue each time we encountered an accident--repetition works wonders. If an accident happened, I'd ask, "Where does our pee pee go?" I'd wait for them to answer "in the potty," and prompt them if needed. Then I'd ask, "What do you do if you need to go potty?" I'd wait for them to answer, "Tell Mommy" and, again, prompt them if needed. Your "talk" doesn't need to be long, but it does need to happen.

Good luck!
I hope my advice helps and that you are able to potty train successfully without going too crazy!