Thursday, October 2, 2014

Potty Patrol

I was in absolutely no hurry to potty train my older daughter. I have just grown to accept diapers are what they are, and honestly, diapers give me CONTROL. Seriously - I know when and where my toddler will need a diaper change (the baby, she's a little more sporadic). My friends who are parents of newly-toilet trained children are familiar with just about every public bathroom in town. Ew.

I had started collecting articles on what signs you should look for with regards to readiness, and then what to do once the training began.

Here's what these articles taught me:

1. Kids respond well to bribes. (But we knew that.)
2. There are no guaranteed signs of readiness across the board - all kids are different.
3. There are also no guaranteed methods of potty training. 

And this is how it all shook out for us:

Like I said, no rush for this milestone. It crossed my mind that she might be mature enough to handle this at 2 years old, but as I was about to have another baby, I was not about to throw this variable into our lives until I had a clue how I was going to handle two kids in general. A little after my daughter hit 2 1/2 or so, I started slowly collecting the things I thought we would need for the potty training adventure, once it started to make its appearance.

I decided from the get go we would not be dealing with the kid-size toilet. I hear of all these parents who buy these for their children after their 1st birthday and then keep it in the living room, the bedroom, the back of the car, all so the child can get "comfortable" with the concept of using the mini-potty. It's not a stuffed animal - it's a toilet. Not many of us use a toilet next to our sectional. And on top of that, I had zero interest in cleaning that thing out every time my child was successful.

No matter which route you take, your regular routine is still going to be affected, and for that you need STUFF. You will most likely need a potty training seat, as their little rear end will be liable to fall right in for many more years. Along with that is a stool to reach the toilet. I recommend either multiple stools, or make the one you have lightweight so your toddler can move it between the toilet and the sink. Depending on your bathroom, you might also need a faucet extender, a faucet handle extender, and even a light switch extender. AND depending on your house, you might need this setup in each bathroom your child could use when nature calls.

Basically, you need to think about all the steps your child will need to go through to address a bathroom urgency on their own should you be unable to assist in a split second when they have. to. GO.

So I bought a variety of potty seats (there is no easy way to tell which ones will fit the toilets in your house until you bring them home and put them on the seat) and step stools. As I type this we are a month out from our potty training, and we use one potty seat and two stools in two different bathrooms (the main guest half bath and the bathroom between my daughters' rooms). The wood stools are nice, but they are heavy and make a lot of noise. Since my daughter's toilet is on the other side of the wall from my other daughter's crib, I needed to squash all the stool moving in the middle of the night so that bathroom needed TWO STOOLS.

I also bought a folding travel potty seat (with princesses of course), several packages of underwear with Bugga's favorite characters, and even flushable wipes. Then I waited for the signs. That never really came. Her interest in the whole toileting process ebbed and flowed, and she always woke up soaked in the morning because I didn't have the heart to cut off her liquids in the evenings.

Bugga started school two days a week this year where they do not potty train, but maintain whatever you are doing. What they did start doing is sitting Bugga on a toilet three times a day, which I used as my jumping off point.

I created a chart based on the things that motivate my specific child (in Bugga's case, certain shows, apps, and movies, since she only gets these in special situations). Then I declared Labor Day Weekend as our training weekend. Our plan was to have one parent assigned to be with Bugga all day long at all times. She typically would wander around the house playing on her own but that would not work for this. I also had to be tough with my husband that we couldn't just do this in the living room (ahhh the rug!) and simultaneously watch college football as someone was sure to miss crucial signs of nature calling. 

I set up our master bathroom (it's a little over-the-top spacious, but any bathroom should work as children are little) to be All Things Toddler and put in there her easel, her Lego table, and her little play table and chairs with books, puzzles, and coloring.

Then we dove right in! On the first day (Saturday), Bugga wore nothing but a shirt all day (except training pants for naptime) so she'd have easy access to the toilet. Then we took her to it every 15 minutes with a timer, giving her a chance to go. Every time she'd successfully use the toilet she'd get a sticker on her chart (one sticker for pee, three for poop), an animal cracker, and a lot of congratulations. In between trips to the toilet, we continuously offered beverages and salty snacks to give her plenty of opportunity to learn to recognize the signs of needing to go. Her favorite way to pass the time that day was of course by having tea parties with REAL WATER. She couldn't get enough of this special turn of events and it worked just fine for me! At the end of the day, she had successfully peed on the potty well over 20 times - and with no accidents! (No sign of any poop though. And my kid is typically pretty regular...)

On Day Two Bugga got to start wearing her new undies, which she was thrilled with. We also did not confine her to the bathroom all day either and tried to get back into our regular routine. We had a couple accidents that day, which was to be expected at this point. But we still moved successfully through her chart and she spent most of the day in a chair in front of her reward shows anyway. And finally, finally after sitting for a loonnnnngggg time on the toilet on the evening of Day Two, reading books to her and keeping her busy, she finally pooped on her target after avoiding the issue for two days. Okay, and we added the incentive of a new Anna dress-up dress (from Frozen, in case you live under a rock). We did more of the same on Day Three.

The long weekend ended, and we went back to our routine as far as leaving the house for activities, school and errands. Bugga kept on with her chart, having very limited accidents. The poop thing was a bit of a struggle for awhile, as she would clearly need to go but would go back and forth between playing and sitting on the potty...and then eventually have an accident. The good thing is she did not like how this felt, and would cry, so I was optimistic we wouldn't have to deal with too much more of this.

After about a week our process evolved to incorporating "Poop Prizes". At this point, Bugga can pee on the potty successfully whenever she needs to, without any accidents. And if she poops without accident, she gets an animal cracker and to pick from a prize basket filled with more undies, books, Frozen paraphernalia, and puzzles. This method clinched her success and now she goes regularly on her own.

Ugh this was a long post. But potty training requires patience just like reading all of the above. And again, only you know your kid and what motivates him or her. If it doesn't take the first time, you can always wait and try again.

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