So many of you over the years have asked me about potty training -- and since it's a topic that all moms, at some point, find themselves reading, listening, and asking a lot about, I thought I'd walk you through my experiences on the subject. It's definitely nerve wracking for everyone and can be very frustrating if you're not prepared and aren't in the right mind set.
Here's what I learned from potty training my own eight kids (and a few I had babysat for as a teen):
First, I made sure each of my children was old enough and understood the concept. I found that my older two were ready at the same time, at 2 years old, but with my six, even though they were all the same age, I potty trained them in groups -- six months apart. The girls understood and wanted to learn a little after they turned 2, while my boys needed more time and potty trained closer to age 3.
Word to the wise: Don't turn potty training into a personal parenting competition. We all know "those moms" who loudly announce on the playground, while their children happily play, "Well MY child was potty trained at 10 months old." Just let that rubbish go in one ear and out the other! Each child is unique and the only people who matter in this are you and your child. You know them best! Keep in mind, the main goal is to have a happy potty trained child at the end of it, whenever that is.
Next, I picked a date on the calendar and marked it, "potty training starts today." I chose a time frame that ensured we could stay somewhat close to home for about two weeks. Those first two weeks are important to establish a potty going routine, and quite frankly, it's enough to manage it at home at that stage, with a bathroom steps away, without adding the stress of finding a bathroom in the local mall every five minutes, literally.
Then I talked about it with my children for weeks prior to my chosen date. "Pretty soon, we're going to start going on the potty like a really big boy (or girl). Won't that be fun? Mommy will be so proud of you! Daddy will be so excited when he gets home from work to see how well you did!" etc. This verbal encouragement does WORLDS of good for 2- to 3-year-old ears! They are so happy to please you and feel so "old" when they move into this new stage of development.
Once the date was established, we always went to the store to buy (my favorite) training underpants and "rubber pants." These specific kind of underwear are the really thick cotton pants that hold liquid but will allow the child to FEEL wet when they are. The "rubber pants" will catch (most of) the rest that isn't absorbed.
At this point, you may be wondering why on earth I wouldn't choose to use modern day pull-up trainers? Well, to be very honest, it really helps to connect the dots if the child can feel wet. They won't like the feeling and will be more apt to stop playing and get to the potty -- fast!
In addition, I always kept a little trainer potty (well, potties, lots of them in my case) on every floor so it was at the ready, quick! But I also offered the "big potty" occasionally as well because I didn't want them to develop a fear of the "big potty"; which can happen if it's not introduced at the onset of training. I just bought a potty ring insert and kept it near the "big potty."
As a side note, I never made a big deal about the "big potty" noise and my kids never became afraid of them as many kids do. I always warned them ahead of time about the noise, and if they commented about the noise of flushing, I told them that it was the potty's way of saying "good job" or "good try," lol. That satisfied them!
And with potty training, a little rewarding goes a long way. I've found that rewards help convince a child who is resisting potty training to join in -- so I always had a little tube of mini M&M's and placed it literally on the back of the toilet as a constant visual reminder of that. Instant gratification is necessary for toddlers, so when they went "pee," they received one candy, and when they went "number two," they got two! That may seem like a small and insignificant reward, but remember that very quickly those smart tots will be visiting the bathroom and squeezing out a mere drop in order to get more "canny," as my kids called it. So, keep the little reward just that!
Depending on your child, you could also make a sticker chart to keep track of how many times they went in a given day. This helps to keep a record for a parent who is at work and also shows progress -- which builds momentum and more progress. I just used a sheet of construction paper and made 14 columns with the day and date at the top of each column. I bought a packet of little star or heart stickers. You can use whatever kind of stickers will entice your little "pottier" (is that a word?) to go!
After the two weeks have passed, you will feel brave and secure enough to venture out, and you should. Here's what I did when we went on outings to ensure that we didn't have a bad experience that could have set us back:
First, I lined their car seat with a thick (old) towel, just in case. And, second, I took a little kid potty along in the car. I am one of those who has a bit of an OCD reaction to some public restrooms, especially with many toddlers who have a need to touch EVERYTHING.
I'd often offer the little potty before we went into a store and then again upon our return to the car -- and was usually able to avoid public restrooms altogether. I always had hand sanitizer nearby and sometimes even lined my little potties with a thin plastic bag (that are used for single diaper disposal) to sanitarily dispose of the contents.
Lastly, I always tried to stay calm and not get upset when accidents happened, no matter where. It's very important that potty training is a GOOD and positive experience, no matter what, or it could turn into a battle of the wills which could cause a crappy (sorry, had to) result!
Good potty luck to you!
Do you have potty training methods to share that worked for you?