Thursday, December 29, 2011

Potty Training, Take 1

Potty training is one of those huge milestones that every mother looks forward to, but at the same time also dreads.  I know I am not looking forward to it.  Yes, diapers are not fun, but neither is leaving your house with your child wondering if they are going to have an accident at any minute, running to find the nearest public bathroom only to have them touch every germy thing in site. "Agh, don't touch that toilet seat!"

And since I have not even begun with my 19 month old child yet, I know it will be an ongoing issue that I'm sure I will be re-addressing again and again.  This is why this post is a 'Take 1' because there will without a doubt be a 'Take 2' blog post coming soon!

As moms, we all wonder: "What age should I start potty training?",  "What method do I choose?"  "Do I use the reward system with M and M's?" and gender issues such as "do I teach my little boy to potty standing up or sitting down?"

As moms we want our children to be done with the diapers for ease, cost and to move on to the next developmental milestone.  But also because preschools out there are requiring a child to be potty trained before they can enter their program.  So moms frantically run to the book store to find the best method, only to find over a hundred different books (parenting and children's) on the topic and no idea which one is the best.

As a counselor, the only thing I have ever recommended to my clients on the topic is this: Don't start them too early! They will tell you when they are ready and do not push them into it a day sooner.

Yes, there are those stories you hear of 18-month old children potty training completely.  Or those children who were trained in 1 day.  Or you hear moms tell you to try cloth diapers because children feel how wet they are more than disposable ones and will want to be trained sooner.  Well, my child is in cloth diapers and I am here to tell you she is not potty trained yet.  Yes, she knows when she has sometimes gone, but she is no where near ready to be diaper free!

As far as age goes, most recommend starting girls around 2.5 years and boys around age 3.  But these are averages.  Some before and some later.  But most are trained and dry-free around these times.  If your child is developmentally delayed in any way (speech, motor, physical, social) then it may take longer.

What's so bad about starting a little sooner?

Well, for one you will be met with a lot of resentment :)  I've heard one too many stories of stubborn toddlers not wanting to comply at first and then it is a huge uphill battle from then on.  It can backfire like no tomorrow.  They refuse and then you don't have a fully trained child until age 4 or 5.

Another problem with starting too early comes from the old Dr. Freud term 'anal retentive'?  Yep, it came from potty training and even though this doctor is ancient in his ways, it still holds a lot of truth.  Maybe they won't all end up with Obsessive Compulsive personalities but children forced to train too early know that their only power at times is not going to the bathroom (second to refusing to eat food).  They have little control over their lives, but gosh darn it, they can still refuse to poop if they don't want to.  Holding it in and then getting constipated and ending up at the doctors office.  Not fun for mom or child :)

One other thing to be cautious of is that some children develop fears of going to the bathroom.  Fears of pooping scare them.  Some also become afraid that they will fall into the toilet so they avoid using the grown up potty.

Also, remember that when you start training, any big things going on at home such as the birth of a new sibling or a move to a new house can cause set backs.  If you start training your child and then have a huge new event in their lives, they will regress and forget everything they learned. I've heard this happen a lot (and not just potty training regressing but they can revert back to thumb sucking and pacifiers).

Case in point, it happened to one little girl I used to nanny for.  Her mom wanted her trained before the next sibling was born, and who can blame her?  So she bought the training in One Day book and it was a success at age 2!  She was happily trained, but then her baby sister come home from the hospital a few weeks later, and back to diapers she went.  It took another 6 months before she was fully trained again.

Okay, now that I've had my soap box, what method do you choose as a parent?

Well, I am not an expert in the matter, but I know that most methods generally fall under 3 categories: The one day method, the wait until the time is right method and the 'let them run around bare a few weeks until they get it method.'  I personally think that you should go with whatever method fits you and your child.  As long as it works and it doesn't put too much pressure on the little tot.

Method # 1) The One-Day Method

This book was written a long time ago, so it may be a little out dated but there are lots of parents who still swear by it and other books by the title exist as well.  It involves getting a doll that wets to teach your child how to go, as well as giving treats.  I've heard mixed reviews but would definitely read the ones on Amazon first to see if it's worth it to you.

Method # 2) The most common method in North America is 'Wait Until The Time is Right' and the main book on the topic is by Dr. Brazelton (he wrote the famous Touchpoints book).

This method (and this book in particular), stresses that age is not the deciding factor, but developmental readiness.  It also has a checklist to go by so it takes out the guesswork of wondering if your child is ready or not.  It is a slower approach and uses a calm, empathic manner with your child. It also has gender specific issues like should your little boy learn to sit down to urinate or stand?

Method # 3) Going Diaper Free

This is one of the newer methods that is a variation to the old 1970's approaches from the first method of training in one day.  It basically involves having your child be diaper free while at home, watching and waiting for your child to show the need to go.  Once they act like they need to go, you whisk them to the potty and praise them for going.  To read more about it, Baby Center has a great article about it here.

Okay, so I think that about sums it up.  Any one out there have great advice on the topic???  There are also a lot of great children's books out there and videos that will have to be in another post.  For now, here's a starter that I bought as a joke in college but believe it or not, it's one of my daughter's favorite books to read! Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series)



  1. LOVE this post...sending it to some of my girlfriends right now. I'm resigned to keeping Pampers in business for several more years, I've got a stubborn (but sweet) one on my hands:)

  2. Good one! My favorite take on it is from the Toddler 411 book: they have to have the desire to be clean (as in, not sitting in their poop and pee) and they have to understand what it feels like to have the "urge" to go. If those 2 things aren't in place, don't waste your time. The authors also advise to be cautious of a preschool that requires potty training be complete by a certain age -- since its just as much a developmental milestone as crawling, walking, talking, etc and it will always vary child to child.

  3. Thanks Leeanne! I hear ya, I am probably going to be dealing with diapers for another year myself. I think it will make both of our lives easier for now, no accidents in public, on my sofa, or during the night and no power struggles for her with her momma:)

  4. That sounds like a good checklist for readiness! I agree with the preschool thing too, if they are too pushy for this, then what else are they going to be pushy on? They should be sensitive to each child's developmental level!

  5. Having just finished my third (and last) round of potty trying, I would definitely recommend waiting for signs of readiness. But then you still need a plan. I pushed too early with my first and it backfired, as suggested above. With the second, we waited too long - thinking he would get it when he was ready and truthfully he was five before he was completely diaper and accident free.

    With the third, once he showed signs of readiness, we loosely followed the three day method. I devoted myself completely to his success for three days - and the results were amazing! We went together to pick out underwear the night before and we talked about this exciting thing we were going to do together. The morning of day one, we looked up potty songs on YouTube. We found two fun ones we both liked and memorized them along with the little dance steps. He got a small candy reward and a sticker each time he made it to the potty. And of coursre we sang and danced to the potty songs all day. When he filled up the sticker chart (ten minutes into Day Two) he got a big prize - he picked a cake. So we made a big deal of celebrating with his "potty cake". By Day Three, we met friends out for lunch and I was anxious. We requested a table right by the bathrooms and sure enough, halfway through he told me he had to go. We made it without issues.

    With encouragement from friends, we went cold turkey from Day One. No diapers - even for naps or overnight. He totally bought into it and we haven't looked back. Sure wish I could get a do-over with the first and second sons. No - I take that back. I am GLAD to be done with potty training! Good luck mamas!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your potty training trial and error methods!! You obviously have amazing momma skills and experience and I will definitely keep your advice in mind when the time comes for us and am thinking the 3 day is a way better way to go than the 3 year approach :)