Thursday, June 3, 2010


Ask and you shall receive. :)

Cue dramatic music....

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to train an uncooperative child to empty their bladder and bowels into a functioning toilet with predictability. This message will self destruct.

Potty training. Let's all just have a collective sigh, shall we?

It's not one of the fun parts of motherhood, I can tell you that much. A necessary evil. It is indeed something which children must learn to do in order to eventually become independent, functioning members of society.

Unless you manage to pawn it off on someone else, that is. I came across a mother who actually did that a few weeks back. I was picking up a screaming child from the gym childcare, and a women walked in with her 3 year old daughter. She clearly had just picked this kid up from her regular daycare on her way home from work. As she was signing her little girl in, she handed the childcare workers a bag with a change of clothes and spare diapers. She apologized for the fact that her daughter was in panties, she just wasn't sure what her daycare lady was thinking. The gym employee, clearly familiar with the little girl, just replied back that it wasn't a big deal. The girl had been using the potty there without help for months. Months? Was this mom really that clueless?

She must live in the fantasy world all the rest of us dream of.

Back to reality. That isn't an option for most people. And really, I had a hard time holding back my laughter when it all happened.

So, anyway, how do you potty train a child? I've done this quite a bit, and am about to embark on the adventure again. I should know what I am doing by now, right?

Rather than bore you all with the things I specifically did with my other kids, I'll just give some pointers on things that worked and didn't work. Keep in mind that every single child is different, and I lay no claim to guaranteed success.

* Toddler pull-up disposable diaper pants are you biggest enemy. Don't buy them. Ever. They lure the child into a false belief that they are indeed making progress, when really, you are just buying more expensive diapers with some new cartoon character on them. And they are harder to change. The biggest problem with them, as with disposable diapers in general, is that they are super absorbent. If the kid doesn't feel wet and gross, they aren't going to be in a huge hurry to do anything about it.

* If you can swing it, get some cloth diapers for potty training time. Again, the wetness cue is important. There are also thicker training pants, some with plastic covers. The accidents aren't fun to clean up, but they will make training easier.

* If possible, wait until the kid shows signs of interest. If they aren't ready, you are just wasting your time. Taking off diapers all the time does not necessarily equal interest, though. It could mean the kid just likes to be naked. Or figured out how to take off a diaper. Or figured out how to push mommy's buttons. Or needs clothes that are just harder to get off. It may mean they are ready, but isn't a sure fire sign. For me, signs of readiness are the following:
- Increased curiosity in bathroom affairs (beyond unrolling the toilet paper).
- Ability to hold their bladder for longer periods of time. If your toddler is waking up from a 3 hour nap bone dry and not peeing immediately upon waking, he or she might be ready.
- If they start to hide when they need to poop, or come and tell you they did. Signs they are either embarrassed to do it in front of others, are uncomfortable sitting in it, or both.

* If none of the above signs are present, really, just don't bother. Unless you have a looming deadline for preschool enrollment or something, it isn't worth forcing the issue. Trust me on this. I've been down that road. There are a lot of accidents and frustration on that road. It's not worth it.

* Stay calm, be consistent, be disciplined. If you are making progress, keep going with it. This is as hard for us as it is for them, I think.

* Don't listen to other people. Truth is, every kid is different. And no, your toddler won't go to college in diapers.

* Don't be afraid to give up. If it isn't working, stop cold turkey. Wait a few weeks, then try again. Don't torture yourself or them by continuing something that isn't working.

* Just getting some kids to sit on the potty is progress. Some kids are afraid of it. Be leery of public toilets with automatic flushers. They terrify little kids, especially ones who happen to be sitting on the toilet when it goes off. If you are in one of those bathrooms, cover the sensor while they go. (again, trust me on this one)

* Be prepared to dedicate a few solid weeks to perfecting potty training. Some kids get it quickly, others need more time. If you have lots of things to do or places to go, now is not the time to try.

* Some boys do better learning to pee standing up from the beginning. Messy, yes. But whatever works.

* Don't waste money on expensive floating things to get boys to pee. Cheerios are cheap.

* Buy the flushable wet wipes. But hide them from the kids unless they are being used for their intended purpose. They are expensive!

* Choose your potty carefully. One piece potties are ideal. Do not buy a potty that has a drawer to catch the pee and poop. Um, because, well...just don't. Trust me.

* They make toilet seats now with an integrated kid seat. I'm so getting one of those when AJ starts. Kids have a hard time learning to use the big potty if they feel unsafe up there. (try to imagine yourself feeling comfortable going if you felt like you'd fall the entire time) If you use an inset kid seat, make sure it is stable.

* Don't get frustrated. They aren't doing this to make you angry. They are learning how to do this for the first time, and you are learning how to teach them for the first time. Even if you've managed to potty train other kids before, you haven't potty trained this one.

* It's fairly common for kids to be trained for either pee or poop, but not the other. I knew a little boy who asked for a diaper to poop until he was almost 5. Stayed that way until he got diarrhea when he was sick once, and that was the end of that. Making them feel bad about it won't fix it, in fact it usually makes it worse. Again, they won't go to college in diapers.

* If something worked for you other kids, it won't necessarily work for this one. Remember that. And don't compare them.

* I'm not above bribery and rewards. They work. The trick is finding what works for this kid. For my oldest, mini M&Ms were the trick. Ashley needed a sticker chart and fancy panties. Eventually you have to phase out the rewards obviously. I mean, I don't get candy every time I go potty. ;)

* Timers. When they get to the point of going on the potty, set a timer. 5-10 minutes at first, lengthening the time between. Big deal every time. Big.

* Naked parties. Seriously. If it's warm enough, take the little potty out back and have a naked party. They will know immediately when they start to pee or poop that something is amiss if there is no diaper to catch it. Plus, there's a hose out there.

* Accidents happen. Some kids have accidents occasionally for a very long time. Some never have them at all. Every child is different.

* Nighttime training is a whole different animal. Bed wetting has other causes, most of which have nothing to do with daytime training. If your child has more accidents at night, use diapers or pull-ups only then. You can do all kinds of things like limiting drinks before bedtime, waking them up to go, setting alarms, etc. But really, none of those will address the reason and I highly recommend you not do them. If they are thirsty, give them a drink. If they are sleeping, don't wake them up just to use the bathroom. If you have concerns about it after they have been daytime trained for a while, discuss it with your pediatrician. Really.

That's all I know about potty training. Once other people know you are potty training, be prepared for unsolicited advice, and lots of it. Ignore it. You can buy books and listen to the advice of so-called experts, but really, no one knows what will work for you and your kid. You know him or her better than anyone else does.

The only things you really need to master potty training are these: time, patience and wipes. You need a lot of wipes. Oh, and maybe some carpet cleaner.

Good luck!


  1. I'm going to copy this for my sister :)

  2. This was awesome...I laughed, a lot

  3. Goodness, potty training is something no one prepares you for. And even when they are done...there is still pee and poop to clean up. You should add that. Because, mine loves her little potty and needed to stand up to poop for leverage and when she pees using the "big" potty, even w/ a kid seat attached, pee shoots out between the cracks of the seats and the bowl, getting everywhere. (we just call that "happy pee") So of course we would love her to pee in the little, poop in the big,and she does the opposite.

    And I would recommend cloth diapers period. I used them on Charlotte, use them on Rebecca, and at 18 months Charlotte was done feeling wet. And I know Rebecca hates it because I am pretty sure that is what is waking her at night still, when she pees. Anyway, great advice...and all very very true.

  4. I am not sure if I am completely cracking up right now because your post was so dang funny or if it is a nervous laugh about my upcoming potty battles. Either way, this was thoroughly enjoyable.


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