Monday, June 10, 2013

Potty training

I'm about to embark on my 7th go round with Potty training!  I've spent almost all of the last (nearly) 13 years with at least 1 child in diapers, often 2, and even 3 and one point!  I had one 3 month break nearly 6 years ago, and I'm shooting for another one this summer.  I've found a system that seems to work for us, so I thought I'd pass on what I've learned over the years (knowing that I'm sure there is still plenty I can learn and that I should expect a curve ball at any time).

How do you know your toddler is ready for potty training?

-Watch for signs such as increased interest in the toilet itself (wanting to flush, and, checking out/playing with the TP).  These are small signs though and not ones that should prompt you to jump into potty training.

-Going to a private place (or standing by you) when dirtying diaper shows awareness of what is going on and that it should be done somewhere specific.

-Asking to be changed right away after wetting or dirtying the diaper.

-Keeping dry for an hour or more at a time is a big one.

-Biggest sign of all?  Letting you know BEFORE hand that business needs to be done.

-If we have major life changes happening in the next month or so I put off potty training even if the child is VERY ready.  Regression often happens when changes occur like a new baby or a move.  This is frustrating and discouraging to everyone and is best to avoid if possible.  If an unforeseen situation comes up after potty training be aware that this is something that can normally happen and work through it as positively as you can.  *I once put off potty training for two months even though the child was actually doing the "potty dance" and letting us know she needed to go.  My big pregnant belly was going to make training quite awkward and the transition of a new baby could have caused regression issues.  When we decided to train this little girl took less than a week!

*My current toddler is just under 2 years.  He is showing signs of being ready.  My last two were under 2 when they were ready as well.  The biggest influence on them being so young and being ready?  Cloth diapers!  Cloth allows them to better feel when they are wet/messy, helping them associate the sensations with the results.  They also feel more uncomfortable if not changed right away, they want to be changed or just not go in their diaper earlier on.  In my opinion disposable diapers are part of the reason children are potty training so much later now.

-Summer is a great time for potty training.  It is much more comfortable to wear next to nothing, decreasing the loads of laundry you will need to do during this time.  If you think your child may be ready and summer is close it could be a good idea to put it off a month or two.  If you are unsure, and it IS summer you may want to go ahead and give it a go.

Now that you think its time to start, how do you go about it?
First off approach this as something FUN!  Get the whole family involved and make it exciting.

-Start to prepare your toddler months in advance when you first start seeing early signs of being ready.  Start talking about where potty and poo poo belong (in the toilet, not the diaper).  Point out adults, siblings, friends etc that all wear underwear and use the toilet.  Get potty training shows for the child to watch.  Set out the potty chair for him/her to get used to.

-The week or so ahead of time really talk it up.  "Soon you will be done with diapers!"  "Next week you are going to try using the potty!"  "You are getting to be such a big boy/girl, its time to start wearing big boy/girl underwear!" etc.

-Don't expect much in the first day/week.  Expect that in this time there will be lots of accidents as they figure out the sensations, and what to do about them.  Don't expect any success in that time, there is learning happening in this process even if you don't feel like it is happening very fast.

What should I have on hand?

-We fill this time with treats, but they all have a purpose.
The salty snacks encourage the toddler to drink extra fluids.

Since juice is a special treat in our house, my children are extra willing to drink up.  Extra fluids = extra chances a trying to go!

Rewards should be given for not only successfully going in the potty, but also for keeping the underwear dry.  Especially in the first days; one small candy cold be given up to every 5 minutes for keeping the underwear dry or even for just sitting on the potty chair.  After you are getting some regular success scale back the rewards to only when going in the potty.  We give larger rewards for poo since kids seem to have a harder time with that (and it is just nastier to clean up). Rewards for success are extended to siblings in the earliest part of training.  This encourages extra enthusiasm from them.

-Have plenty of CLOTH training pants on hand.  They tend to come in packs of 3 or 4, I'd plan on having 6-8 (minimum, more would be a good idea).  The old fashioned ones are the best in my book, but I do have a couple of other options on hand.

These semi-water proof ones are useful once you're getting some success but want a bit of protection.  They are not nearly as absorbent as a cloth diaper, but will contain small leaks.  I reserve these for nap times and when we are out and about (once we have had a fair bit of success at home).

-A potty chair or seat for the regular toilet are nice but not necessary.

-Potty training shows; again these are nice but not necessary.  They help with the excitement a bit and can provide an opportunity for learning to sit on the potty chair by having the child watch the show while sitting on it.

-Disposable trainers do have their place, but not generally in the potty training process.  They have the same feel as disposable diapers and will not give the "wet" sensation that you want.  Stay away from using them in the early stages (the exception would be nap/night time if you want your child totally away from diapers, but need that protection).  We use them for night time and long trips (when an accident would be a minor disaster).

Potty training day (or 1/2 day as I like to start with)

-Stay Home!  Potty training does not go well if you are out and about.  Plan on (mostly) staying home for at least a week or two.  Try not to have any appointments or errands that you need to run so that you can have a longer period of time to consistently be working on this. Skip the play dates and outings, or save them for the afternoons.

-Start the day right away with training pants.  Every 5, 10, or 15 minutes ask if the child is still dry.  If so praise him/her and give a SMALL reward.

-Every 15 minutes or so encourage a sit down on the potty.  Give a reward just for sitting (I let my guy watch his favorite show while he is sitting.  It gets turned off as soon as he gets up), especially if he/she is not excited about doing so.  Don't be discouraged if he/she does not go on the potty or even gets right up and goes in the underwear.  Just say something like "Oh, you had an accident.  Lets clean it up together. Next time try to get it in the potty"  all of this with a smile on your face (even if its the 10th time this morning).

-Involve your child in the clean up.  Have them use a rag and even have a child friendly cleaner to use.  This helps them realize the work involved in the accidents.  Cheerfully clean up together saying things like.  "Pee belongs in the potty"  "After an accident we must clean up!"  "this is a big job, learning to go in the potty.  you will will have accidents, but you are going to learn and be a big boy/girl!"

-Work on hand washing too!

-Keep the child confined to non-carpeted area and non-upholstered furniture if possible.  This will both save on clean up and help keep you from getting discouraged and frustrated.  If such space is not easily available then use of waterproof pads may be advisable.  Make it fun though.  Bring special toys and activities to the child.

Take breaks

-I've found that sticking to the potty training in the morning for the first days sometimes helps.  It keeps us from getting worn out and discouraged.  In the next week or so it will slowly feel natural to extend that time farther into the day.

-I have a good supply of training pants on hand; if we run out I take it as a sign that it is time to be done for the day.  I get some laundry going and enjoy the rest of our day.

-If it really is not working well just stop.  Your child may not be ready yet.  Don't force this.  Children's bodies mature at different rates, don't push something that they just are not ready for.

Any other experienced Mamas want to chime in with some of their tricks or advice on potty training?

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