Monday, November 9, 2009
This situation is partially the result of a deliberate parenting decision. With C., I was personally determined that he WOULD be fully potty trained by the age of three. His daycare teacher at the time asked me if I would like to start potty training him in late June, when he was a little less than two years old. I agreed, and everything was going along swimmingly for a couple of months, until that particular teacher left the school and a less experienced teacher took her place. This teacher and I did not see eye to eye, so potty training was not consistent between home and school. One Christmas trip to Disney later, the schedule was so kaput that potty training was too.
While at a Memorial Day barbecue, C. noticed that the little girl of the house, who was quite a bit younger and not even really very verbal, was able to go poopy on the potty. C. informed Hubby P. that he had to use the bathroom, went poopy, and was trained from that day on, at two years eight months old.
When E. came along, I decided not to even consider potty training him before he turned two years old, and in fact to sort of let him "train himself." I joked that I wouldn't start to train him until he asked me, in an English accent, "Mummy, I think I would like to use the potty now." In discussion with his teachers, we started training him around age three. I thought by starting a bit older, he'd be fully trained in a matter of weeks.
Fast forward nine months. E. understands what to do, but he just doesn't feel any compunction to do it consistently. But at least I am not totally alone - the child care center director's son is the same age, and is having the same issues.
So I write this post to pass along the benefit of my experience on how to plan, or "organize", your potty training experience.
Earlier vs. Later. As you may surmise from my stories above, it can be difficult to determine the right time to start potty training your child. In general, I think it's best to wait until the child shows interest in the bathroom and seems to understand what goes on in there. There are many books available which will try to convince you that you can potty train your child in as little as one day. It certainly can't hurt to read these books, and they may even help you, but in my opinion, kids get trained when they are ready, and not a moment before.
Boys vs. Girls. None of my mommy friends have ever expressed any difficulties in training their girls. It seems to be as simple as telling the little girl: "Today you can wear Dora underwear (or Barbie, or pink flowered, or whatever she's into) but you have to keep it dry and clean. Most of my friends who are parents of boys reported that it was relatively easy to train their boys to go "#1", but #2 took a longer time. Boys tend to hide and give other cues when they have to go #2, and seem to be afraid of what will happen if they do "it" in the potty. So this piece of the puzzle might take a while to fit, but it's usually one of the very last pieces.
Consistency is Key. Whenever you decide to jump in, you need to be consistent from that point on. As a first time parent, I was unaware of how convenient diapers were. Once you start potty training, whenever you go out you have to carry change(s) of clothes and be aware of where every "potty" is in the vicinity. And once you put your child in underwear, they should wear it full-time, with the possible exception of night time (night dryness comes last). For this reason, I think it's best to start potty training in warmer weather if possible. This makes it easier to change clothes with a minimum of inconvenience to you and less discomfort to your child.
Clothing. Potty training is also the point where you have to let go of those cute one-piece outfits and overalls for a while. Clothes need to pull up and down easily, especially for boys. Consider starting out with thicker training pants and wait until your child begins to understand the potty habit and can stay dry a little longer, before moving on to the cute superhero or frilly underwear in hopes of motivating him or her to complete training more quickly. Keep track of your child's progress using charts like the free ones available here. Reward your child's efforts with hugs and stickers. With C., we learned the hard way to minimize sugary rewards to one M & M for #2 success!
Dealing with Accidents. Bigger kids make bigger messes! I would keep several extra plastic bags and double or triple the amount of wipes I usually carry in my diaper bag for accidents outside the house. I have had several harrowing experiences with messier accidents, the most recent at a water park...don't worry, I figured out what was happening in time! You might also consider investing in flushable wipes. For at home accidents, well, sometimes you just gotta pop them in the tub.
Oh, the Laundry! Potty training is a laundry nightmare, When we built our new house, I knew I was pregnant with E., (although I didn't yet know whether he was a boy or a girl) so I ordered the laundry sink. Between potty training and all the other yuck my boys bring in the house, it's one of the best decisions I ever made. Laundry sink or no, soak underwear in a bucket or basin with hot water and a splash of ammonia, rinse, then dump the gross water in the commode and launder the underwear as usual. Even so, there will be times when you will just go ahead and chuck the undies.
E. is coming right along with the potty training, and in fact made great strides just this past weekend. I console myself with the sure belief that he when we walks across the stage to accept his degree from Harvard University, he will probably not be wearing a Pull-Up!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.