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Riding the Potty Train
March 15, 2008 9:56 am | by

There are as many ways to approach potty training as there are children in diapers. Even in the same family, different kids will require a different way of learning. But there is one thing about potty training that I think needs to be made very clear:

Potty training is a process, not an event.

Think of it like weaning your child to solid food. You wouldn’t ever expect them to go straight from getting all or most of their nutrition from bottle or breast to getting all of it from solid food. Their little bodies, minds and habits need to slowly adapt to these giant changes.

Little ones want to grow up. We couldn’t stop them if we tried. Some children, even though they want to grow up, are more conflicted about leaving behind the things of babyhood than others. Some children decide it is time and move directly ahead, never looking back. And some children will have difficulty because something doesn’t work right for them. It is our job as our child’s parent to facilitate (make easier) their learning process, to encourage them beyond their failures and to always hope for the best for our child. But really here, we are just talking about potty training. Ha ha – just potty training?

Here are some basic approaches to Potty Training:

Infant Potty Training: Also called EC or Elimination Communication. This is where parents/caregivers learn to read the signals of a baby and then hold them over a bowl, sink, or toilet to allow them to pee or poop.

Early Potty Training: As outlined by Grandmothers everywhere and the Baby Whisperer. The child is introduced to the potty around or even before age one. Often it is a matter of figuring out the child’s body schedule and working with that to show them how to use the potty. Generally children are expected to be potty trained by two.

Less Than a Day: From the book “Toilet Training in Less than a Day”. You barricade yourself and your toddler in the kitchen for a day and feed them lots of liquids to make them pee more often. Some love this approach, some hate it. With this approach, potty training is treated as an event. You do it once and it is over with. While it may work for some, it created power struggles with my children, and if there is anything I have learned, you CAN NOT WIN a power struggle with a child with regards to their body functions. Ask me how know.

Child Led Potty Training: This is the “They’ll get it when they get it” school of thought. More relaxed, often later training. You wait until your child shows signs of readiness and can speak about potty functions. Your child is usually already old enough to pull their pants up and down on their own.

My Personal Mix of Them All: I introduce the potty around age one and start putting them on it before baths and upon waking from naps and in the morning. I do it when it is convenient and when I feel like it and the child is cooperative. I am certainly not pushy. If they don’t want to sit, they don’t sit. If they never want to sit, then the potty hides for a couple of months until it is a bit of a novelty again. At some point, we catch pee in the potty or even poop and the child gets a reward like M&M’s or something. As time goes by we catch it more and more and gradually wean from diapers to big kid pants.

The Tale of Two Trainees:

My fifth child, Tessa, was introduced to the potty a little after a year. We start having a potty chair available for the kids once they start walking and have them sit on it before baths if they want to. No pressure, it’s just there. Tessa however caught on right away. She could put some pee in the potty just about every time she sat on it. Still, it was just something we did now and then. One day we were shopping at Target and she signaled that she had to pee. I told her I would take her to the potty but it might take a minute (we were at the far end of the store – of course!) and if she peed in her diaper that was fine. Low and behold she made it to the potty and peed when I put her on it. After that she wanted to do all her peeing on the potty and poop followed soon after. She was in full time panties by 17 months old of her own choice. A good thing? Well it would have been if we hadn’t been about to take a family vacation to Washington D.C.

There is a time in potty training when the child interprets every twinge of the bladder as a signal to go to the bathroom. This is a good thing. They are learning to listen to their body and trying to respond to it. The downside is that they don’t know yet how long they can wait, so some children will wait too long to go and some will not wait at all. For those who don’t wait at all, they may have less accidents, but there will be a few weeks where they seem to need to use the potty every 20 minutes or so. This can be difficult on a family vacation walking through a big city and lots of museums. Our solution was to put a small potty chair in the stroller basket and have it available. The bathrooms where we were were just too few and far between. So Tessa has gone potty in just about every national monument in D.C.

Then there is Max, who is currently 3 years old and who is on the verge of a panic attack if I suggest that he wear underwear. He too has been exposed to the potty chair since early on but has never made a deposit in it. So for now, we simply make the suggestion to try and go potty every few days and that is that. He will grow up, and he will be in underwear someday. But for now he is focusing his development elsewhere.

Some things to remember:

  1. Keep in mind your temperament and your child’s temperament. This is why I don’t do the “Less than a Day” version. I just am not able to keep it light and happy. I get all tense and so does the child and it’s all downhill from there.
  2. Pull-ups are diapers. Your child is no dummy, he knows what diapers look like, where you buy them in the store and that they are to catch pee. Using them is fine and can be convenient, but don’t kid yourself that they are big kid pants.
  3. Big Kid Pants like these allow for some protection from accidents while still feeling like real Big Kid Underwear. These will wet through if the child just has a full accident but provide more absorbency than just underwear so you don’t have a puddle on the floor or in their shoes to deal with.
  4. Buy underwear or training pants just a little bit loose so the child can pull them up and down easier.
  5. You can’t win a power struggle with regards to potty training. If you sense one starting. Back away slowly.
  6. Girls and boys will often potty train differently. Different children will often react differently to different methods.
  7. If you are trying to potty train your child. DO NOT tell them to pee in their diaper when it is inconvenient to take them potty.
  8. Sometimes they will forget or have accidents. Keep it light and matter-of-fact as you help them get cleaned up.
  9. And finally: This too shall pass.

Happy Training!

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  • CandiHearts said...
    July 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I know that this is an old post, but it is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks for explaining the basic methods and sharing your experience!

  • Kira =] said...
    May 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    very good & informative article on potty training. I especially enjoyed it as we’re experiencing this with our oldest. Thanks. =]