Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Potty Train

There are a few baby stages I loathe.

1). Before they can sleep through the night and wake up ALL. THE. TIME.

2). When you're just introducing solid foods and you have to feed them things and provide variety, but due to age restrictions (dairy, honey), lack-of-molars restrictions (raw veggies), coordination restrictions (soup) or just plain picky eating, you feel like there is NOTHING you can feed your kid. It's annoying.

But I think my least favourite "baby" stage is kind of the last of the baby stages. Potty Training. I hate most things about it. It's a good enough reason for my to not have any more kids, I hate it that much.

1). I hate that you spend a week solid in your house. And not even all of your house. Basically just the bathroom and the rooms that have easily washed surfaces (which is pretty much just the kitchen at my house).

2). I hate that for the next 2 months you can't leave the house without having a panic attack the whole time that your child will have an accident to top all accidents, and that you have to go back to carrying multiple changes of clothes.

3). I especially hate the feeling like it's never going to end.

I don't claim to be an expert, but since I've spent the last 5 days working on potty training little Katie, well, I feel like I know everything there is to know! (and yet somehow, still nothing!)

My Potty Training Toolbox
-Big kid underwear. The real stuff, none of those pull-ups!
-Treats for the child (we like mini marshmallows)
-Treats for mom (this is the only part I like of the whole process. I prefer chocolate. Right now I'm polishing off the rest of the mini cadbury cream eggs)
-Salty snacks (cheese flavoured crackers are the favourite, but anything that makes them want to drink works)
-A variety of juices and other sweeter beverages
-A "wetsy betsy" style doll (a sibling or friend who is proficient on the potty works too...)
-Stuff for cleaning up the accidents (there WILL be accidents as they have to learn what happens when they don't run!)

My Plan
We go hardcore cold turkey around here. No pull-ups at night or reverting back to diapers. Yes I end up doing a lot of laundry. But it seems less confusing to the child. And then I don't feel like I'm having to train twice. I DO use pull ups if we're going somewhere that I think an accident would be traumatic to the child (in a new environment) or that would be a disaster (say at a wedding or in a fabric store!). I buy THE smallest package and I use no more than that (well, that's how it worked with Mady...). We don't call them pull ups or mention their diaper-like abilities. We called them princess panties and they were special for when we went out. That's it.

First thing I do on day one: I greet them with a big smile, take them to the potty while announcing that they're a big kid. We play it up as the biggest deal ever. I get them to sit on the potty while we trade their diaper for the underwear. If you can't get them to sit, bribe with a marshmallow. Often kids go at this point because it's first thing in the morning. Success breeds success, so if you can start early in the day it's great. I don't make them sit for long, just as I explain the process.

Then I give them a good nutritious breakfast. They'll be consuming a lot of sugar and probably won't feel hungry for lunch, so it's the least I can do.

Then basically you tell them over and over "tell me you if you need to go potty!" "Are you still dry? Yea!!!" (my years of children's ministry training comes in handy at this point for that over the top excitement!) Every 10-15 minutes have them go to sit and just hang out. Sing songs, read books. We rolled a ball for a while, whatever gets them to stay sitting. The more time they spend on the potty the more likely they are to have success.

If they have an accident, try to scoop them up before they finish and run so they can finish on the potty. Then take them back and practice running when they have to go. Do this a bunch of times (5-10!).

We also used our "wetsy betsy" style doll (it's actually a baby alive) to show her the baby going on the potty (baby got a treat too!) and then having an accident and practice running to the potty a bunch of times (I'm not kidding 5-10 times - you lead the first few times and then have them show you what to do for the rest until you know they've got it).

When they succeed you praise to the point of extreme. Give them a bunch of treats (we do 5 mini marshmallows at first). Give them more snacks and more liquid to drink. Basically this all takes 15 minutes and it's time to sit again.

I start the day giving water (once the juice comes out they never want water again), then I do a fruit juice or two and then I'll move to more sugar (iced tea, lemonade) options if I can't get them to drink otherwise.

About 2 hours before they go to sleep, I quit giving them any liquid (if they're parched, then they get a teeny bit, but I avoid it if possible). If they have an accident I clean them up and put them back to bed. Make sure they go before bed. Then for night-time, about 1-2 hours after you put them to bed, rouse them just enough to go potty. Do this until they get up on their own at this time, even if they're trained the rest of the time. Basically you're teaching them to wake up and go at that time every night.

The Biggest Battles
1). There is a point in the day when they get tired of the whole thing. You probably are too. They miss playing, they've spent so much of the day in the bathroom. Maybe they were fine until nap time, but then they woke up and you're still at it and they're just done. Pull out a new activity that's fun (blow bubbles in the kitchen!) or move the entire operation outside. Something to distract them and make them feel like they're still playing.

2). Pooping. I have no wisdom on this front. It was a huge battle with Mady. It will probably also be with Katie. It just seems harder (probably because there is less chance to practice). It was almost the death of me. Just know that parents everywhere feel your pain. And if you've found the solution, teach the rest of us in the comments, please!

3). Day 2. It's pretty much the worst. Either you have a great first day and then on day 2 nothing works. Or you had a bad day 1 and day 2 is just a fight the whole time. Day 2 will make you want to give up. You'll convince yourself that diapers were easier (they were - but expensive), that your child isn't ready (probably not true and really if you stop now you just confuse them making them less ready the next time). You may cry. You may scream. You may try to hide from your kid. Don't worry day 3 is typically better. Just push through one hour (or minute!) at a time.

Sadly, I'm on day 5. Katie understand exactly what she's supposed to do. She just doesn't do it. Sigh.

Oh ya, and treat yourself to a night off from cooking and order a pizza.

Any other potty training tips? I need something to make me feel like I can tackle day 6...


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