I’m delighted to report that my youngest daughter is completely potty trained. That is, she wears underpants all the time and I rarely have to remind her to go. So this means that I am DONE WITH DIAPERS for the first time in over eight years! Considering that she’s my fourth child, I feel I’ve learned a few things about potty training. Here’s what I know:
(NOTE: I’m not talking about that thing where you get your baby to use the toilet at four months or whatever. I have no experience with that and I have done no research, and I’m already finished potty training so you don’t have to teach me about it. It seems to me like it would be a ton of work for the parents for a very long time … but if you swear by this method, you’re welcome to tell my readers about it in the comments. But it’s not what I’m talking about here.)
1. Bribery works: For my oldest, it was a sticker chart. For my youngest, gummy bears or any other candy I had stashed away. Toddlers are motivated by praise and celebration, sure, but they are MORE motivated by chocolate chips.
2. I had to be willing to quit: My basic strategy is to pick a day to start potty training and then really focus on it for that day. Give the child all the juice they want, follow them around everywhere they go, do whatever it takes to get that first pee into the potty (grab them and put them on the potty when they start to pee on the floor), and then celebrate like a lunatic when there is pee in the potty. If the kid was ready, I would see at least some progress by the end of that same day. But by that afternoon, if I found the kid happily and cluelessly standing in a pee puddle, two feet away from the potty, I would for sure just quit and try again in a few months. I do not like to “kind of” potty train. Case in point: I had a kid totally pee-trained, but she kept pooping in her underpants without noticing or caring, so I quit the whole thing and she went back to peeing in her diapers for a few more months. I DO NOT POTTY TRAIN HALF WAY. It’s too much work to spread it out over months. It’s takes days or weeks, or nothing, in my house. (It’s totally cool with me if your house is different. I’m sure there are good reasons to take it slower, but they are just not my personal preferred reasons.)
3. Underpants can be thrown in the garbage. Sometimes things are beyond saving, and it’s not too difficult to buy inexpensive underpants these days. Give yourself the gift of chucking those undies AWAY.
4. The busier I am, the harder it is. I have mostly been a stay-at-home parent so far, but I now work outside the home two days a week while my toddlers go to childcare, and it made potty-training my youngest so much harder! You really need to focus on it for three or four days in a row, but because I worked part time and we’re pretty busy on weekends, this was very difficult to do. How do working parents potty train? I really am just impressed and confused about this. For real, how? I’m actually asking.
5. Nights don’t count: Really. I have observed this process with lots of children, and I am fully convinced that there is nothing you can do to train a child to be dry at night. My own children all just magically started waking up dry when they were dry during the day, and I promise you, I did NOTHING to achieve this. My kids drink water as late as they want, and even have water bottles by their beds. Other kids I know, however, are wet at night LONG after they are totally potty-trained in the day time, despite the parents’ efforts to restrict evening liquids and waking them up to pee in the middle of the night. In my experience, it’ll either happen eventually on it’s own, or you should talk to your doctor about it. So if your kid is totally good all day but wet at night, celebrate your success, and just keep using those darn night-time pull-ups. (But for real, if the child is old enough to be worried or embarrassed about this, go ahead and seek medical or other advice. Like, not just from a blog.)
6. Every kid is an exception. I just shared my basic strategy up there in point 2, but in my own personal experience and through all the observing I’ve done of my nieces and nephews and friends’ kids, I’m convinced that every single kid has some kind of weird issue that makes potty training more complicated. Here’s a list of exceptional circumstances I’ve heard of or experienced. (I won’t disclose which issues are my own children’s in order to protect the guilty.)
– child can only poop standing up so can’t figure out how to go on the toilet,
– child can only poop squatting under the kitchen table so can’t figure out how to poop on the toilet,
– child doesn’t want to poop in toilet or diaper so gets very constipated,
– child really likes the candy reward and is capable of forcing out countless tiny pees in order to get more and more candy (this called for switching to stickers),
– child can’t go to the bathroom without taking off every single article of clothing, even in a public washroom,
– parent decides to wait until child is ready, but child NEVER indicates any kind of readiness even though age four and preschool are looming … and parent eventually has to just work really hard for a really long time,
– child only pees twice a day so takes FOREVER to learn,
– child can’t tell when they have to go until it is REALLY almost too late, even though dancing and wiggling and privates-grabbing makes it obvious to everyone else,
– child becomes terrified of own poop and has a melt-down every single time they go.
See? Toddlers are weird, and it makes every single potty training experience a huge challenge. Every one of these situations required a patient and creative solution. And every single one was eventually just a funny memory.
7. Every kid is ready at a different time. There is no right age to potty train, so don’t let that neighbour/parent/mother-in-law/friend pressure you to “get going” with your 18 month old if you and your kid are not ready. That plan might totally work for some kids and parents, and that would be AWESOME, but it would not work for us or our kids. Two of my kids were potty trained at around age two and a half, and the other two were not ready until three and a half, and you know what? It’s all good.
No, that’s not right. It wasn’t really “all good.” It totally sucked. But it’s all good NOW. Hooray for dry pants! I can’t believe we made it.