Potty training in a week or less
While I am by no means one of those self-proclaimed parenting gurus, there is one parental challenge that I have now successfully completed four times which pretty much makes me an expert in the field.
At least the septic field.
With the exception of my mother in-law who claims to have six children who miraculously trained themselves by nine months, I do have a few helpful insights for the rest of us who find this task just a bit daunting.
Again, this is based on my personal experience with four children, so please feel free to spend hundreds of dollars on videos, how-to books and advice from people who have never had children if you still feel the need. But I say forget the expensive gimmicks, all you need to stock up on is plenty of sheets, clothes, paper towels, exaggerated cheerfulness and patience.
1. Timing. Despite what some folks (and mother in-laws) say, there is no magic age designating instant bladder control. I have found that this generally happens between ages 2-3, but it could be a little earlier or a little later. You’ll know when they are ready when they begin to show an interest or the moment they retrieve the wipes, diapers and hand sanitizer from the child-locked cabinet in the bathroom. But don’t push it if they aren’t ready -- it will only take longer to complete.
2. Planning. Once ready, you need to figure out the optimum time in which to start. Pick a relatively free week where you or the child’s caregiver can devote the proper time and attention to this. Know going in that you will have about a week (but probably less) of a lot of laundry, changing sheets and mad sprints to the bathroom. This can be a messy business now, but only to ensure that it won’t be later.
3. Cold turkey. I know these are fightin’ words to parents of toddlers, but alas, the truth hurts sometimes. There is no difference between a diaper and a pull-up diaper when you are 3, except that your parents sigh a lot harder when they try to change one over the other. You can’t expect a 2-year-old’s mind or bladder to differentiate between a.m. and p.m, so do everyone a favor and don’t switch back and forth because it only confuses things.
4. Now that you know what not to wear, let your child pick out their new fancy pants. Does he love Spiderman? Get it. In an Elmo state of mind? Get that pair too. No matter who you choose, buy a lot of packages so you can change them often that first week. Or, as I mentioned in point 2, do the laundry.
5. I’m a big fan of praise, praise and more praise as its own reward, but hey, if you think a treat jar will be an effective tool in your family, then go for it. Try it without it first, though. I bet you’ll be surprised.
I have friends who have had success with the “diaper fairy,” -- a one time visitor who takes away the diapers one night and leaves a small token in its place. I like this concept a bit more than the treat jar because it’s just once and doesn’t require a dentist.
6. The Real Thing. Potty chairs don’t seem to work for me, again, because it just seems to add an extra step. The big deterrent is that they don’t really flush, which takes all the fun out of it for a kid. It certainly takes all the fun out of it for me since taking advantage of modern plumbing is why we do this in the first place. A step stool by the big potty and sink works well.
7. Around night three, you’re going to be sick of changing sheets and want to succumb to the diaper just this once, BUT DON’T GO TO THE DARK SIDE, LUKE! You will be thankful that you didn’t when you are not making excuses at their first sleepover. It’s all about consistency. And laundry.
8. Accidents happen. But if you are fully committed to this, they will happen far less frequently.
9. Anticipate. Help your little one at every step by anticipating when nature is going to call. Make a habit of going first thing in the morning and right before bed. If you’re going out, try going before you leave. That may seem like obvious advice, but teaching your child that they have control over this process is important, and it’s the one time we as parents are allowed to give them the answers on their homework.
And finally, celebrate the triumphs, forget the failures. Really, it’s a week or less of hassle for such a big step in your child’s life. Before you know it they’ll be standing in lines at rock concerts and sporting events without an issue and you’ll be bragging to your mother in law that you potty trained in three days.
(If you have any tried and true tips, we’d love to hear them.)
-- Tracey Henry, the Suburban Diva
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