Adventures in Potty Training

Posted by: , January 9, 2010 in 10:26 am


potty trainingMy son has a strong will, and I don’t like to mess with it. You know what I mean? Why make life harder than it needs to be? He is two months shy of his third birthday and I knew it was time to potty train him, but who has the time and the patience? It takes a lot of concentration and attention to get this potty training thing working well, and truth be told, I didn’t want to deal with it.

But, as these things go, I want to be a good mom, it needed to happen, and we have our second baby due any day now. So last week, I decided to have at it. I share this story in the hopes that it helps others who are taking a stab at this for the first time.

I first attempted this about three months ago, and it didn’t go well. I had a very close friend tell me about the one-day method she’s used on three of her four children. It goes something like this:

You get the child really excited about their special day. You talk to them about it almost a week in advance, get underwear decorated with cartoon characters for them and tell them that it will be a day for just the two of you. Make plans for your other kids (if you have them), your spouse, turn off the phone, everything. Devote the entire day just to your child. Put the potty in the living room (cover the floor and any rugs with lots of towels), play special games, watch their favorite shows, and keep them pretty much undressed. Every time they start to pee, put them right on the potty. Have a lot of salty snacks and lots of liquids so the opportunity to put them on the potty comes up a lot. Literally, by the end of the day, the child will be potty trained. But it does take non-stop, minute by minute effort on your part. The idea is that one day is worth it.

With this philosophy, the nighttime and nap time training happens at the same time, and this piece can take up to two weeks. Put them in underpants to sleep, and if they get wet, they get wet. It’s how they will learn. Be very supportive and encourage them to wake up when they feel they may need to go. If the bed is wet, don’t say anything negative. Something more along the lines of, “Oh man. I’m sorry you’re wet! I bet that doesn’t feel very good. You can do it next time. You’re getting so big. This is all so new and you’re doing so well!”

Obviously, help them out. Stop giving them liquids an hour before sleep and have them go to the potty right before they go down. But in about two weeks, after you’ve done far too much laundry, they will learn that they don’t like waking up wet, and they will either call to you for help with the potty, or go themselves.

So that’s the “one day” package.

Like I said, I tried this about three months ago, and I failed miserably. After about an hour, being six months pregnant, I didn’t have the energy. I put a diaper on him and we went to the park. That was my failing. I’ve heard from many a mother that this method works very well. I was too lazy. If you have the energy, go for it. It works. I’ve seen it.

Anyway, to get to the successful adventure, here’s what happened this last week when I finally decided to get off my duff and make this happen. Well, that and I just could not bear the thought of changing two sets of diapers. That’s just not something I was willing to do.

So on Monday morning, I took out the cartoon character underpants and got him all excited. I also bought some sparkly stickers for number one and some intricate and pretty Disney stickers for number two. I taped a blank piece of paper on the bathroom door, got his little potty situated on the larger toilet and prepped myself for some clean up and a long day.

I told him no more diapers today! In fact, I even made up a song. He had no idea what it all meant, but he could tell something was up. We had about three accidents in the first hour. He would start, try to hold it, but not quite understand that when I put him on the potty, it was time to go. This went on for most of the morning, and by the time he was asleep for his nap, I had a load of laundry to do. I knew enough to make sure that I was not negative with the accidents, I would quietly change him and would say things like, “It’s so great to go in the potty because we don’t get wet! Isn’t that great?”

As I was putting him down for his nap that day, I realized I hadn’t thought about sleep time. So I put a diaper on him and put him to sleep. While I was doing the mound of wet laundry I thought I might lose my mind, but I stuck to my guns. I also decided that I was just going to go for it. I would put a bunch of towels under his flat sheet overnight and just go for it. Whatever, I could handle laundry. He woke up with a dry diaper. I almost cried with joy.

The evening went much the same way as the morning, except he started to say “Uh oh!” right before he got wet, and he would run to the bathroom. So I could see that a connection was starting to be made in his little head. He’s a tidy little guy, and he didn’t like being wet. During this time if he got even a drop in the toilet, I threw a party like few have ever seen. My huge eight-month pregnant body managed to jump up and down and I would get so excited for him! We would run to the kitchen, get our sparkly sticker and run to put it on the paper. The process was finished with a huge high-five and an, “I’m so proud of you!”

That night, I grit my teeth and went for it. I told him how proud I was of him, what a great job he was doing learning something new and told him that if he felt himself get wet, all he had to do was call me and I would help him right away. I also made sure to stop giving him liquids about 90 minutes before he went to bed. I figured the least I could do was help the kid out as much as possible.

Can I tell you that I wept in the morning when he was dry? Wept I tell you…

Day two went much like day one. He would try to hold it, wasn’t sure exactly how to let it go on the potty, and then in the late morning, before his nap, we had our “a-ha” moment. He had done the stop and start wetting himself all morning, but he hadn’t done anything substantial, if you know what I mean. I could tell that he was holding it in and trying not to get wet, and it was getting hard to hold it in.

So, after the third pair of pants and underpants had to be put in the laundry, I sat him on the potty and said, “Oh, I forgot something. Stay there, I’ll be right back.” Gave him a huge smile and stood right outside the door. It worked. He let go. I walked backed in slowly with a smile and said, “Yes! That’s it buddy!” And he froze and stopped. I continued, “That’s right, let it go, that’s perfect!” So he let go again and I literally saw the click in his eye. He finally understood that while on the potty he could let it go all the way. And he did.

We’ve never had an accident since (knocks on wood). Not one. He hated being wet so much, and we got rid of all the diapers, so he knew he had to figure this out. And figure out he did.

Now, there has to be a distinct section here for number two. It’s a whole other adventure for these kids and it takes a little bit more attention. I’ve heard that kids think that it’s actually a “part of them” and it can be really scary to let it go. I don’t understand that, but I will say that I witnessed it. It’s a different territory and it needs different attention.

We haven’t had an accident in this area, and I think that’s mostly because of my son’s tidy nature, but I could be wrong about that…maybe that’s just the way it is. But the first time he realized he had to go, and that I wouldn’t give him a diaper to go in, there were tears, upset and genuine fear. I put him on my lap and smiled at him and said, “I know you’re about to do something new and that it feels a little bit weird, huh.” He whimpered and nodded. “And you know what? You can do this buddy. It’s new, it’s different and I’m going to be here with you, you’re going to be OK. I promise.”

It took about five minutes of coaxing, and he did it. He was talking to himself the entire time, “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK” over and over again. Kind of broke my heart and made me proud at the same time. Proud he could talk to himself and sad that it was so scary for him. I kept smiling and nodding and giving him encouragement. He was so proud. He stared into the toilet in awe. There was evidence, he had done it. He got his special Disney sticker and he told everyone we saw for days.

I sighed with relief knowing that if he could do this once, we were on our way. And we have been. He’ll hold it in at times because it’s still a little scary. And a few days after this first time, it took me almost two hours to get him to go. So it took a while, but again, once they’ve done it one time, we know that they can do it. From there, it’s positive encouragement and ignoring the accidents.

I cannot believe that this much of my life has been spent on this topic, and I’m so grateful that we only have to do this once. I mean, could you imagine if we had to do this over and over again? HA HA. No thanks. Anyway, I hope this has been helpful if you’re about to embark on your first potty adventure.

Here’s the quick list of things I learned, I hope they help!

1 – Be patient with your little one. While we take for granted this process every day, it is very new to them, and they really have to learn what happens when they don’t pay attention to the signs, and what happens when they’re able to make it. Our kids do not have accidents to upset us, they don’t know how this works yet. A little one is doing the best he or she can, try and remember that when you see that little puddle.

2 – Remember that you only have to do this once.

3 – Keep a sense of humor when you can. For your own sense of sanity, try to find the humor in it all. It’s crazy that we have to learn how to do this! (Obviously, don’t ever let your child see you laugh! You don’t want them to think you’re laughing at them!)

4 – Do take the time to train for sleep as well as waking times all at once. Telling your child that there are no more diapers, and then putting on a diaper at night, can confuse them or make them feel there are times that going to the potty isn’t necessary.

5 – The night training can take up to two weeks. Be patient. Let them wet the bed. Protect the mattress, use towels under the flat sheet and be prepared to do a lot of laundry. Every mom I know that waited for the night/nap training had a child who would wet the bed longer. Rip off the band-aid and go for it.

6 – Don’t go back. Once you tell your child that the diapers are gone, stick to your guns. The regression would be horrific and you will regret it. Stick with the laundry, the accidents and the clean up and go for it.


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  1. Margaret Hoyt Poling on January 16th, 2010 3:27 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been looking for something along these lines to potty train my 2 1/2 year old and my 4 1/2 year old. My son’t the older one and we thought that he had physcial problems that didn’t allow him to be trained. Nope, just stubborn will. But he too, hates to be messy. We tried before but like you wrote, I was pregnant and tired. I’ve been doing two sets of diapering for 2 1/2 years now and it’s time to stop! Thanks for the great story and I can’t wait to let you know when it works!

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