Monday, October 1, 2012

Potty Time

Part of potty training your kids is helping them to develop comfort with the potty and potty procedures, and to develop the language of the potty.  Before this happens, your child will not be ready to potty train in earnest. 

I believe there are actually three "beginnings" to potty training.  Two of those must happen in potty training before the actual "potty training" we think of when using the phrase can really occur.  Developing comfort with the potty and potty procedures is a process that occurs naturally in many circumstances when kids see parents, older siblings or even friends using the potty.  Especially for first children or only children, it might help your child to be a bit more deliberate about it though.

The Very First "Beginning" is really about the parents.

The parents beginning is to become devoted to being the potty training parent.  This means making a commitment to choosing which potty words you are comfortable using with your child and around other people.  It means being committed to changing diapers immediately upon realizing they are wet or dirty.  In this modern era it means making a few preparatory purchases and it means arming yourself with the knowledge you will need about what is developmentally appropriate and what is expected when.  Obviously you are already well on your way just by reading this.  You already "began" potty training.

Step 1:  Become informed -

As I already mentioned, you are already doing that.  I suggest NOT buying every book known to man about potty training, but use your public library and see which methods seem to be the best fit in your mind with your child's needs and the needs of the family at large.  OR, don't even go get a book.  Do a little more research online - including making sure you understand the ages and stages aspects of potty training - and then go with your instincts.

Step 2: Determine your terminology -

When Alice was potty training, she had already noticed that boys had something different than what she had (she has a cousin her same age and we babysit).  So she had asked about it.  Since I had also been a Middle School Health Teacher, I chose to use the correct terminology for genitalia with her when she asked, but instead of hearing the words I used, Alice heard "fine china" and "peanuts".  That has been the terminology that has been used ever since so when she would say anything about her private parts she referred to them as her "fine china".  Whatever you call them, your child will need terminology so they can tell you if something is feeling uncomfortable so you will still know if something is wrong as they grow more and more independent.   If these terms haven't already been determined in your family, you will want to discuss with the other parent what is comfortable and what isn't and if your child attends daycare it may be easiest to use the terminology the day care considers "standard".

Step 3: Obtain Your Materials -

Just as there is a vast array of choices on training methods (and the books and supplies to go with each), there is a huge variety of potty training "helps" from which to choose.  Many people swear by using pull-ups, but in my experience they are pretty much just a hindrance (I only recommend them for nap and bed time personally).  We had the coolest singing kiddie toilet that made noises and cheered and all kinds of crazy bells and whistles, but we didn't really need it.  There are hundreds of books and videos for kids about using the potty. . .  Get informed so you can make informed decisions and then spend as little of your preciously earned cash as possible because none of it will be needed for very long.

Step 4: Become Committed to a Constantly and Immaculately Cleaned Baby Bottom (and bathroom too)-

Since one of the important aspects in potty training is for kids to recognize that "before feeling" by associating it with potty coming out and making them uncomfortable, they have to stop being comfortable in their diapers.  That means not letting them sit in even a wet diaper for a minute longer than is absolutely necessary.  You are probably already pretty aware of your child's bowel movements and approximately when and how often they happen, but wet diapers tend to not be as big a deal and we get complacent about those.  Checking their diapers for dryness every hour is a really good way for you to make sure they are staying pretty dry most of the time, and to reacquaint yourself with when they regularly pee during the day too.  Even an only slightly wet diaper will need changing in order to allow them to begin to make this connection.

You'll also be spending a lot of time in the bathroom once training begins in earnest so while you probably already keep the bathroom pretty clean, you might consider mopping more often and cleaning the toilet everyday (and avoiding those tablets that make the water blue) for awhile.

The Second "Beginning" is really about Language and Comfort for your Kid:

Before you even begin with potty training in earnest a child must first have these things in place.  In order to get them to the point where they can communicate about going potty and be comfortable with the potty and potty procedures they need an introduction to the whole process. 

Step One: Getting Comfortable with the Potty, Knowing Potty Procedures (like flushing and washing hands afterwards) and Learning the Language -

I personally think the best way is to get them comfortable with the toilet (its sounds, sitting on one, washing hands after . . .) is to spend time in the bathroom together singing songs, playing hand clapping games, and reading books about going potty.  You'll want to keep your bathroom nice and clean, chemicals up out of reach, and a lid on the trash, but the bathroom should seem like a place that is welcoming to your child at this stage.  I know it might seem gross, but if you don't already, let your child use the bathroom with you and see you using it (at least some of the time). 

When we first purchased a training potty for Alice, we actually set it in the living room for awhile.  It was just there.  We got one that actually looked like a miniature potty - but that isn't necessary.  The idea was that she could sit on it fully clothed, sit on it to read books, watch a cartoon, or just sit next to it and get comfortable with what it was.

You won't need tons of potty books.  There is no need to go purchase a personal library, but one or two that are specifically about the potty would be nice to have.  I have a few favorites like, "No more Diapers for Ducky" and "Potty Time with Elmo" (which has buttons and makes noises which is why it is one of my favorites - they love it), but there are any number of great books out there you can find.  There is even a set of two books called, "Potty Time for Boys" and "Potty Time for Girls" (they are not purchased as a set.  You only need the one appropriate for your child).   I have to recommend Sesame Street's "Potty Time for Elmo" DVD too.  The whole process is explained including accidents and purchasing big kid pants.  Elmo helps (I think it's Baby Bear's little sister if I remember correctly) with her potty training and we meet Elmo's Dad and Mom and they talk about what potty training Elmo was like. It is cute and funny - even my husband and I enjoyed watching it with her.  There is even a song called "accidents happen" and a few other fairly snappy songs on the DVD.  For children's movie music, I have to say the songs were pretty awesome actually - very jazzy.

Step 2: Learning the Feelings of it All (part 1) -

You already dove into this step when you became committed to doing your best to maintain a constantly clean bottom and checking on diapers every hour or so.  The first part of learning the feelings, is learning that wet and dirty diapers are not comfortable.

For some kids flushing can be scary.  The sound is fairly loud and can be frightening and a few kids actually develop a complex where they feel a part of themselves is getting flushed that can really freak them out.  To alleviate some of the nerves about this that can happen later on and to further develop the idea that poo poo belongs in the potty you can begin having them flush it long before you  start potty training in earnest.  Get your kids used to the sounds and procedures of flushing and using the potty by dumping poops out of the diaper and into the potty while your child watches.  Talk about how poo poo and pee belong in the toilet.  Talk about how that is the stuff that isn't good for your body so your body is trying to get rid of it.  If the sound doesn't scare them, great!  If it does, you can try making a ceremony of flushing it that acts as a warning about the sound to come.  There are lots of options, Sing a song, say goodbye to the poop and wave - whatever.  I guarantee you will feel silly.  Laugh about it.  "Bye bye poo poo!  Oh mommy is so silly!  The poo poo doesn't hear me."  When they were old enough to begin I used to sing to my 2's class to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, "tinkle tinkle in the potty, get that stuff out of your body, it is so much better for you, to use the potty for your pee pee and your poo, tinkle tinkle in the potty. . . It always got a laugh and helped them relax.

Step 2: Let your Child Practice Dressing -

Learning to pull his or her pants up and down by him or herself will help a lot when it is time for going potty.  So that your child has lots of practice with this, start supporting him or her dressing him or herself.  It will take longer, but it will save you in the long run too because he or she will be more independent sooner.  Your child may prefer pants without buttons and zippers for the most part for a little while, but of course you can help along the way at any point when your child gets stuck.

Step 3: Let your Child Tell You When Your Child is Ready and then Dive Right In - 

Realistically, if you do this sort of "pre-training", your child will tell you when he or she is ready and you won't really need a method.  There are a few signs that signal readiness, but it seems that most often potty training is easiest and works best if you let your kid ask for it. They have to be committed to it too and that commitment just isn't something you can force.  You can offer it up as an idea, "Hey, you're getting to be getting pretty big these days, I bet you could start using the potty.  Would you like to try?"

If the idea comes from the child him or herself, or is made in agreement to a question posed like the one above, the child is much more likely to be self motivated which sets everyone up for more likely success sooner allowing you to "dive right in"

Beginning Number 3: Potty Training in Earnest

A Warning:

I am not a fan of "rewards" or "punishments" there are natural rewards like, not feeling "icky" and the reward of the independence that comes with being diaper free and becoming a "big boy or girl" that are likely to work with your kid (simply talk about them).  In my experience rewards help to encourage a child that is already somewhat committed on their own and will motivate kids who really like the rewards offered up, but there are certain kids for whom rewards you can give, simply will not be a motivating factor.  Foregoing parent-placed rewards for enjoying the natural rewards on their own doesn't open up other issues that can arise if you use "reward techniques" too much.  However, perhaps there is another baby on the way and you really want the first one trained first) or you've just scored a great job and day care will be needed, but you'd rather put your kid in a preschool that only accepts potty trained kids.  .  .  If you are anxious, rewards do work really well for lots of kids (once they are physically ready) and there is nothing wrong with offering up the idea as long as you are ready to back off if it doesn't work. 

Punishments, however, should remain out of the question.  Please do not punish a child for having an accident.  For these "tough cases" potty training really needs to be happening because they are ready and want it, rather than because you are ready and want it.  They might purposefully not use the potty just to tell you they don't have to (although it isn't really a concsious desicion to do so).  You might create a situation where a child is so nervous about having accidents they actually have more trouble (again not due to anything within their control).  If you dig your heals in and punish, it can create a pretty tough and stressful situation for everyone involved that guarantees you a much longer and painstaking process than just waiting for them to be ready in the first place.  I found with many kids it saved a lot of headaches and heartaches to let them decide when they were ready - besides, can you blame them?  Do you want to be told when and how you have to go potty and then screamed at when nothing comes out when it is supposed to or yelled at when stuff comes out when it isn't supposed to?

Step One: Getting a Few more Things

During your parenting beginning you did a lot of research and probably already have your plan in mind about how you will go about doing the business of potty training your kid.  Before you can truly dive in though, you'll need to make a few more purchases.  When it comes to buying the big kid pants, your child should be on the shopping trip with you.  It will be a lot more exciting to wear pants he or she has chosen and he or she will be that much more motivated to keep them clean if his or her underpants are "cool".  I also found keeping wipes on hand in a "cool" container the kids can operate themselves to be very helpful in the wiping department.  Dry toilet paper still just doesn't do quite the same trick yet.  They can learn the difference between what should be flushed and what shouldn't.

I recommend against pull ups (and other brands with the same idea) during the day because although they're supposed to get cold when wet, it still isn't nearly as uncomfortable as the actual accident itself. Pull ups might save you some immediate trouble and extra laundry, but again, in my experience it just takes longer to get the training done when pull-ups are used.  I suggest using them only for nap and bed times.  This way, if your child needs to wake up and go, they still have the independence of pulling the pants up and down, but you aren't having a child awaken to a wet bed and having all the isruption of that PLUS changing sheets when an accident has occurred.  Besides sleep-time training often happens much later than day time training anyway.

Step 2: Dive Right in With Confidence

For the actual potty training, as I've said - there are LOTS of ways to go about doing it. If you are lucky enough to have him telling you he wants to potty train when it is summer and he can safely and comfortably play naked at times (immediate understanding of the "pre-feeling" before peeing and the other one, because he will see it happen) will result.  I simply suggest that once you decide to do away with the diapers, be ready to go all the way.  If you start and then put them back in diapers again for whatever reason from "taking the plane for the holidays" to "the daycare is annoyed with the number of accidents" it isn't worth the confusion it creates for your kid. 

Before "diving in" make sure all your child's caretakers are ready to remind your little one to "try" on the hour (or at least close to it) and that the training will occur AFTER any major trips or changes (moves, divorces and other types of changes can cause back-tracking as well).  Some changes occur unexpectedly and it can't be helped.  What would you do if your child was further along in the training process in the given situation?  Just pack extra dry clothes and do your best to stay patient and ahead of the clock so you don't have to rush.
Personally, in order to actually potty train.  I would organize with the parents, make sure they were ready and had brought in plenty of extra clothes and then I just switched from checking the diapers every hour to asking the child (children) to "try" every hour.  At the preschool we did sticker charts for when they "went".  To some of the kids it mattered, to others it was just part of the procedure to affix a sticker to their chart.  It worked really well except in those cases in which a kid was being pressured because it was almost time to "move up" a class. 

Accidents are pretty rare if the child is committed to learning to use the potty and comfortable with using it when you have them try to use the potty about every hour, right before you leave the house and if you stick pretty close to bathrooms for awhile (run errands with your child only at places where you know exactly where the potty is and how to get to it quickly for awhile).  Then, when accidents do happen, if they have to change their whole outfit and stop playing for all that time it takes to get wiped up, changed, and watch you wipe up the mess on the floor, it will be a learning process without any need for punishment at all - even if you make it fun by singing Elmo's "Accidents Happen" while you mop up. 

Do what feels right for you and your child.

Continued Training:

Potty training really doesn't then happen in one swoop.  Kids will often backslide if they are sick, they frequently go through a stage later where they are too busy playing to be bothered and will have accidents because they wait too long (though this is usually pretty short), night-time training is often separate from daytime training AND a kid who is awesome at never forgetting to flush or wash hands etc. will backtrack a couple of times and suddenly need reminders when you thought he had it down.  Learning to wipe well enough can also often be a problem.  Don't worry too much about these things if your kids go through these stages - it is all normal.  Just keep working at it and they'll get it eventually.


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