Nine times we’ve done this potty training thing so to some, I would be considered a pro. Of course, I would have to say that all kids will eventually become potty trained so in reality, is accomplishing it really something all that unusual? Perhaps not unusual but as you start out it is the great unknown.
First child…. I was so excited to potty train him because it was a new experience for me! I was never bothered by changing diapers and I was fully excited about moving through each stage of his life with him. When it came time to learn about the bathroom it was another milestone to walk through. There was just 17 months between our first and second babies so having a little sister, I think, prompted Caleb to be a big boy and NOT use diapers. So the process with him was fairly easy. It was just a matter of me being consistent to take him into the bathroom regularly and give him opportunity to go. He had a potty chair and we let him put stickers on it each time he was successful and occasionally we let him have an M&M.
Second child…. The gap between our second child and the twins I was expecting was just over two years. Because three in diapers at the same time seemed like a huge ordeal, I started training Emma well before she was two. She was absolutely compliant. The biggest trick with her was teaching her how to hold her dresses up and not let them fall into the toilet behind her! Of course there were a few logistics to make sure I had covered like keeping a step school in the bathroom and the toilet paper within arms length for her little frame. She also needed to know the next step in the process as to how to wash her hands. They say girls are easier to potty train and I have to agree.
Just about the time I think I’ve got this potty training thing down with kids that are two years old, then came the twins! First of all, with the first two I was using cloth diapers for the most part. With the twins and double the dirty bottoms, though I had all the supplies, I rarely would use cloth diapers. I think that using cloth diapers can be a big motivation for mama to potty train a toddler because of the added work of washing them. I also think that cloth diapers/cloth underwear feel different ( and yucky) for toddlers. Disposables are designed to wick away the moisture so that babies are more comfortable. Think about that. The more comfortable they are, the less likely they will feel the need to potty train. So here I was using disposable diapers for the twins and the thought of training two at the same time was a little daunting. So though the first two kids trained relatively early, the twins trained closer to three years old. The best way to get something to happen is just to simply start.
The personalities of my twins were so apparent when it came to this little endeavor. One of them pretty much marched right in there and told me how he wanted to be potty trained. He liked the idea of shooting cheerios in the toilet with the stream and couldn’t wait until the next time he could take a shot to sink them. (This one is now in the Army. Infantry. He shoots things.) He took very little of my time and only needed some simple reminders (like his older brother) to stop playing and go take care of business. Then there was the other brother. Did I mention they were born on April Fool’s day?
After months of successful training with one, daytime, nighttime, poops and all, I realized that the other one wasn’t getting it. So I studied him. I wanted to figure out why he hadn’t taken to the toilet like the other kids all had. Well, not only was he born on April 1st but, his name was Isaac. You know what that name means? Laughter. Wouldn’t you know it? As I studied him and his reactions to being wet or messy I noticed a pattern. When he needed to be changed he made sure I had to chase him. Once caught, I would tickle him, play “this little piggy” with his feet and spend some time entertaining him before I changed his diaper. A-HA! The problem might have been me!
I had not realized how much of a sport that diaper time was for him and that it was his tactic for playtime with me. We had regular doctor check ups and had been advised that he was on track, no medical problems or concerns. Doctor’s advice told me, “he’ll do it when he’s ready, every child is different”. The next time Isaac needed changed I didn’t engage in play time but got right down to business. I told him that we weren’t going to play at diaper time anymore. I made sure to fill up his love tank at other times of the day and he was a full time underwear boy within a day or two.
There was nothing too notable about potty training children 5-8. Consistency was key. I did have more children to keep track of and we were busy with field trips, ballet, karate, co-op classes, church and homeschooling. I did need to make a conscious effort to “water the kids” before we left for any event and as soon as we arrived home. If we would be gone a long time, I could always take the little potty chair in the back of the van. Setting a timer at home or when away was essential. Taking the time as a mom to stop what I was doing and make sure that my toddler spent time on their training was very important. Moms don’t always get to sit down much but this, dear moms, is a good investment of your time.
By the time we had our younger kids, we also had quite the cheering squad with the older ones. Often after a successful trip to the potty, the older kids would gather at the bathroom door while I helped with wiping and washing hands. We would all cheer, “P-O-T-T-Y, she can potty if she tries gooooooo Ruthie! Hooray!!!” We wouldn’t gather and cheer if she hadn’t gone. There were times she would run to the bathroom and gather her siblings because she wanted them to come cheer for her so she initiated many bathroom trips. This method worked well for all of our younger kids.
The youngest gets the best of so many things. By number nine, I had decided that the best use of my time was to NOT use cloth diapers. Potty training for him was delayed because I was so busy, I knew I would have to take a few weeks and be very conscientious. I think it is unfair to start a child out on the process when mom isn’t ready or consistent and then when the child has trouble, he gets the blame. So, we waited. I would rather change diapers a bit longer than set him up for defeat. Eli was three when we started to potty train him, the latest of all of them. For him we had to convince him that getting bigger and doing big kid things paid well. We used more jelly beans and M&M’s potty training him than we did for any child before but he got it and we don’t regret allowing him to wait until he was ready.
Part of potty training is messes. Don’t let this fact surprise you. There will be accidents. Remember it is training (aka practice) not perfection. This is a good opportunity to show your toddler unconditional love and your joy as they improve and become successful in life’s challenges. Very few, if any, things will be damaged permanently. So have a bottle of disinfectant wipes or spray handy and a good stockpile of paper towels.
Wherever you are in the process don’t get frustrated. Maybe it’s not the right time quite yet. Consider your schedule. Do you have helpers? Will others take your child to the bathroom when you are not available? Are there current stressors in your family that would make this a greater challenge? Do you need to sit back and study your child a little longer to see what methods will motivate them? Patience mama. They will get it!
- Timing (if they are not ready, wait a few months and try again)
- Logistics (step stool, T.P. in arms reach, teach hand washing, teach to keep dresses and super-hero capes out of the toilet. )
- Incentives ( stickers, M&M’s, cheerios to “sink”, a celebratory cheer)
- Prepare to clean up messes (this is only for a season)
- Patience, consistency
- Patience, consistency, patience
- Patience, consistency, patience, consistency