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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Potty Training Tips - from the trenches!

The following is a guest post from Brooke, who blogs at Dinkypops No More and is currently a mommy in the trenches of potty training.

When it comes to potty training, I'm by far no expert. Nope, not me. I'm one of those moms who wishes she could have hired an expert potty trainer....well that, or at least have sent my daughter off to some sort of potty training boot camp for a few weeks!
I'll start with a little back story. Growing up, I babysat all the time. I babysat for many a kids that were potty training, and I never recall it being a difficult process. The kids seemed to catch on to the concept, and I don't recall having to clean up many accidents.
This is the point where you can call me naive!
Back before we even started trying to potty train, I imagined that my daughter would be potty trained by her second birthday. I imagined it would be a quick, easy little process. I imagined we might have to stick at home for a few days, but I felt like she would catch on in a jiff and we'd be on our way. After all, I always remember hearing that girls were so much easier to potty train than boys, so I thought I had a leg up on the game.
Enter my daughter. Welcome me to my own reality show! I felt I was the only mom to have ever had to train a stubborn almost 2.5 year old toddler! (And why didn't anyone mention to me that being confined to the home for the first few days of potty training could be so lonely?)
I had heard all the methods for potty training. You have the How to Potty Train in One Day, How to Potty Train in One Weekend, and the 3 Day Potty Training methods. You have books, DVDs, reward charts, and many other tools to encourage potty training. I picked some "weapons", and thought we'd give it a try. After all, my daughter had shown many of the signs she was ready to start potty training. And we tried many times!
But I'm here to say we made it through the tough days. We've survived, and there were no casualties. We still have a little ways to go on some things, but we are potty trained!

Like I said before, I'm definitely no expert. We've had our challenges with potty training, and still have a few small hurdles to overcome. But I thought I'd at least share some of the tips I've learned from scouring the web and tricks from friends who have been through the process.
Here's what worked best in our potty training adventure:
  • We stayed at home for the first three days or so. This was hard! (And it was a bit lonesome too.) We are always on the go and not used to staying put. But I owed this to her if I wanted her to be successful at potty training. It allowed both of us to focus on the big task at hand without outside distractions.
  • The very first day of training, I gave her lots of lemonade. This is something she normally never drink, so she was excited for the sugary treat. And it made her have to pee - a lot! I also set the buzzer on the stove to go off every hour. I told her that when it buzzed, it meant it was time to go sit on the potty. (I had friends who used this method, and it worked really well. We tried it for the first day, and after that we let up on the timer).
  • We hid her diapers. I had heard from many people to "throw out all the diapers". What? Gasp! I was not ready to do this, but I did hide them in my daughter's closet. My daughter was one of those kids who cried that she didn't want to wear her super cool, spankin' new "big girl" panties. And as soon as diapers weren't visible, she had an even bigger fit. Within a few days though, she asked for her diapers less and less. Out of sight, out of mind. It somewhat applied here.
  • We constantly praised her. I never told her she was a "good girl", but rather always said how proud I was of what a "big girl" she was now that she used the potty. Every time she went, we would give high-fives, and I'd praise her over and over. The way her face would light up when she knew I was so proud of her was priceless.
  • We never asked her "Do you need to go potty?" It was always "Let mommy know if you need to go potty. Remember, we need to keep your panties dry." I would say this over and over, several times an hour. I think this was key in her ability to know tell me "Mama, I have to go potty".
  • We bribed her with candy. My daughter rarely gets it, so it was a special treat for her every time she used the potty. (She would get one M&M for peeing and five M&Ms for a BM.) In the beginning, she got candy every time she used the potty. After the first week or so of potty training, she asked for candy less and less.
  • When she started to "play" in the bathroom or stay in there for extended periods of times, I would set a timer. I would tell her that when the timer would ring, that meant we had to leave the bathroom. I would tell her that her body wasn't ready yet to go potty, and we could come back later when it was ready.
  • We got "special" toilet paper for her that has prints on it so she knows where to pull it off so she's not taking too much. She loves that she has her own special "wipee".
  • She gets to flush "All by myself!" She loves to do this, and will often say "Bye bye pee" and waves as the toilet flushes. This is just a small, obvious way to incorporate her in the training process.
  • We avoided pull-ups. I read a lot of evidence that suggested these could prolong the process. And plain and simple, I really didn't want to have to purchase them! When we did leave the house, I simply lined her car seat with a hospital-type absorbent pad "just in case" there might be an accident. After about a week, I removed it from her car seat.
  • We got a travel potty. This helped me get over my fear of running errands and worrying about where we would stop if she had to go potty. I still l have this major fear of public restrooms with my daughter and her insatiable curiosity to touch everything in site, so I'm also more apt to run out to the car and have her use her travel potty versus the pubic restroom at the grocery store.
  • We stop liquids about three hours before bedtime. This is a hard one for us, since we usually eat later than most families. But I can definitely tell that if she gets liquids too late into the evening, she will wake the next morning wet. I had a friend suggest waking her in the middle of the night to make her use the potty. We did this for the first week, and it really made a difference with helping her wake up dry.
My daughter's been potty trained now for about three weeks. We had only two accidents the first week, and I think it was two accidents, both on our second day of training. When this happened, I just said "Uh oh. We didn't make it to the bathroom on time. Next time, we need to make sure the pee pee goes in the potty". And that seemed to work for us.
Until I can declare her "officially" potty trained, we still need to work on a few things:
  • No diapers at night. We've tried a few nights without diapers, some of those nights were successful, some weren't. Once we can get better with limiting liquids at night, then I think this part will come along as well.. (She's been doing no diapers at nap time since the first week of training).
  • Pulling her panties down and back up herself. She can pull them up most the time on her own with some assistance, but she still needs lots of help getting them down quickly.
  • Wiping. She can wipe after she pees, but needs help making sure she gets it all. And she always says "Front to back, front to back" although I don't think she quite understands what it means just yet! Wiping after a BM will be a long road ahead of us, as I think it is for most kids.
Potty training is just another perfect example of how each child is so different and develops at their own rate. Sure, I compared myself to others and felt a little guilty that my kid wasn't potty trained when all of her friends the same age were. I just constantly had to remind myself to not get all worked up, and it would happen when it would happen. And it did, finally!
What tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve for those who are about to face the potty training milestone?

Be sure to visit Brooke at Dinkypops No More where she blogs about life with her darling little girl and showcases her beautiful photographs!

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McVal said...

My kids were all so different potty training. I remember buying little plastic soldier guys to bribe my son and we had a sticker chart too. Once he asked a guest when they came out of the bathroom if he got a sticker!
I am SOOOO glad they're past that stage!

wtspb2007 said...

GREAT article! I love it! Every tip that you give is something that parents will find incredibly useful.

Something I find very useful is to make sure your child understands the difference between "wet" and "dry" before you even start training. Sounds so simple, but is a very important concept for your child to grasp and understand. If they have an understanding of the difference, potty training will go much more smoothly.

I'm going to link to your article in my blog..thanks for the advice.

Suzanne Riffel, author of "The Potty Boot Camp: Basic Training for Todddlers"