Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Potty Training Tips and Tricks from a Mom of 6

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Recently I mentioned that we potty-trained my son with a one-day method, and lots of people were curious about that. Probably because potty training can be a horror show scarier and longer than anything Alfred Hitchcock could possibly dream up.

I have a friend whose child refused to poop on the potty to the point of fecal impaction (don't look it up, it's exactly what it sounds like,) and another who carried a potty chair around with her everywhere (and I mean everywhere) for over a year because it's the only place her daughter would go.

As a mom of 6, I wanted to share what's worked for us when potty training. (I feel like I should insert a disclaimer here about how my advice shouldn't replace the advice of your child's medical professional, but duh. I'm not a doctor, just a lady who has taught a lot of kids to use a toilet.)

With 6 kids, I feel like I’ve attained potty training expert status. Here are my thoughts on potty training methods and books, when to start potty training your toddler, a few important things that will be critical to potty training success, which tips and hacks work (and which ones don’t.) and night time toilet training. #pottytraining #toddlers #toilettraining #parenting #unremarkablefiles

Potty Training Tip #1: Learn to recognize when they're ready.

In my experience, kids don't necessarily have to be keeping their diapers dry for long stretches of time or showing any particular interest in using the potty. (Our most recently-trained child resolutely told us he was not going to wear underwear, ever. He trained in two days and has been accident-free ever since.)

I've found that the only reliable measure of readiness is whether they can recognize when they're about to pee or poop. If you're not sure, watch them at bathtime or let them run around without a diaper for a while: if they look surprised when they pee or don't really notice, they aren't ready. If they freeze, make a face, or look down before peeing, they're probably ready.

Potty Training Tip #2: Fully Commit (i.e: No Pull-ups)

When I was new to potty training, I introduced my firstborn to Pull-ups as "special underwear." She looked at me like I was a moron and said, "That's a diaper." You know what? She was right. We never used Pull-ups to potty train again.

Just like with anything else, kids need 100% consistent follow-through. Training is going to take longer if they're expected to use the potty most of the time but not all of the time. I think it's a better idea to choose a week when you can deal with accidents and go all-in with potty training.

Potty Training Tip #3: Teach Them To Do It By Themselves

In my opinion, having a kid pull on my sleeve to take them to the potty 347 times a day is not an improvement over diapers. When we train, I teach them to do the entire sequence by themselves: deciding when they need to go, pulling down their own pants, using the potty, wiping, emptying the pot in the toilet, flushing, replacing the pot in the potty, and washing their hands.

During the first week or two, I'll stand nearby but out of sight if I hear my kid using the potty, just to make sure they're remembering all the steps and to clean up any pee splatters from emptying the pot on their own.

Potty Training Tip #4: Use a Boot Camp Method

My personal potty training Bible is Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin. It's a little dated so feel free to laugh at the funny passages, but it tells you exactly how to set up a morning boot camp that will have your kid doing the entire potty sequence by themselves by lunchtime.
Parenting 6 kids, you learn a thing or two about how to potty train (and how not to.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
(Click image to buy on Amazon.)

Some things I like about it:
  • Kids start out by training a doll, and everyone knows we learn best when teaching someone else
  • Boot camp involves drinking a lot of liquid so there are plenty of opportunities to practice
  • Appropriate rewards for using the potty and consequences for having accidents (more on this in a minute)
  • The emphasis is on kids doing it all by themselves

I'm kind of in love with this book and have to hold back the urge to stand on street corners handing out copies like religious tracts.

Potty Training Tip #5: Reward Them for Staying Dry, Not for Using the Potty

Promising kids an M&M every time they poop on the potty might work in the short-term, but I know kids who totally game the system by squeezing out a tiny turd every 10 minutes for 2 hours to maximize the number of treats they get.

Of course I use little candies as rewards when they use the potty at the start. But using the method from Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, I phase out the candies so that by lunchtime I'm only giving rewards for passing periodic "dry pants checks." Because that's the goal, right?

Potty Training Tip #6: Accidents Should Have Appropriate Consequences

By 'consequences,' I don't mean punishment. I just mean making peeing/pooping in their pants a more annoying option, since most kids (in my experience) don't really care all that much about sitting in wet underwear without a little external motivation not to. I use the "practice" method outlined in Toilet Training in Less Than a Day of running to the potty 10 times. Which works because they hate it.

I think enforcing an irritating consequence for pants-wetting is essential, as long as you don't do it in anger (which can be hard, believe me) and you're consistent about getting up and making them do it every single time (which is even harder.) But stick with it, it will pay off!

Potty Training Tip #7: Night Train Separately

When I say "potty training," mind you, I'm only talking about daytime training. I usually wait several months to a year before I put kids in underwear for naps and at bedtime.

This is partly because we train around age 2 when the kids are still sleeping in a crib, but partly because I think waking up to use the toilet is an entirely different skill that takes longer to acquire.

Parenting 6 kids, you learn a thing or two about how to potty train (and how not to.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Elmo says good luck.

Bonus Tips and Random Observations:
  • Generally girls are ready sooner than boys. Our three girls have been trained by age 2 and our boys haven't been ready until they were 2 and a half.
  • Girls spray urine, too. (Watch out and maybe get yourself a riot shield.)
  • Bed-wetting until age 8 or beyond is totally normal according to my pediatrician; I firmly believe it's different than daytime wetting and many fully-trained kids truly cannot help it.

Your mileage may vary, but in general I think these principles can successfully be used with anyone who's about to start potty training. Leave your questions, comments, and additions below; I'd love to hear them!
With 6 kids, I feel like I’ve attained potty training expert status. Here are my thoughts on potty training methods and books, when to start potty training your toddler, a few important things that will be critical to potty training success, which tips and hacks work (and which ones don’t.) and night time toilet training. #pottytraining #toddlers #toilettraining #parenting #unremarkablefiles

With 6 kids, I feel like I’ve attained potty training expert status. Here are my thoughts on potty training methods and books, when to start potty training your toddler, a few important things that will be critical to potty training success, which tips and hacks work (and which ones don’t.) and night time toilet training. #pottytraining #toddlers #toilettraining #parenting #unremarkablefiles

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AnneMarie said...

Thank you so much for these tips! I'm saving this post for future reference when we get closer to actually embarking on this process. I love your approach of going all-out and not using Pull Ups. It makes so much sense to me, and it seems it would be a lot less confusing to kids.

Chaun said...

This post came at the perfect time! We have been defeated by potty training, ha! We've read the books, tried all the advice, and it just came down to our daughter knew how to do it, but really didn't care if she were wet or dry. So we put the diapers back on for another 4 months. (I'm sure out in someone's mom bible we've now eliminated any chance in my daughter's self mastery of peeing in the toilet ;) ) Does this book give advice on what to do if the toddler just doesn't care? Or do you have any advice? :)

Jenny Evans said...

It took my 2-year-old telling me this before I realized it, though!

Jenny Evans said...

Some parents say that their kids stay dry just because they really care about their own personal cleanliness... but most kids I've ever met couldn't care less. They might even like sitting in it! I think if you try it again and are really consistent with rewarding her for staying dry and giving negative consequences for accidents, you can do it!

The book specifically says it can work if you've already tried and failed before using other methods, and I believe it will. And I don't think your daughter needs to care, either. What I like about this book is that it creates the motivation (both the motivation to use the potty and the motivation to stay dry) in case your child doesn't have it innately.

And in my opinion, I think you did the right thing just backing off and putting her in diapers instead of turning it into a power struggle where she just digs her heels in further. After 4 months, she'll have almost forgotten about the prior attempt, so I think you're in pretty good shape.

The Lady Okie said...

I love your advice! Of course I fully trust that you know what you're talking about. Because hello, 6 kids! My mom told me that we shouldn't worry because she will do it when she wants to, and she had 4 kids so I tend to trust her also. We aren't pushing it, but R can tell us when she pooped and runs to her room to get her diaper changed, so I DO think she's aware of what's going on down there. She just needs some help actually peeing in the potty! It's hard since she's at daycare during the week so we can't be completely consistent, you know? But they are putting her on the potty there, and we are trying to do it at home to get her used to the idea. I figure no one is 10 and still wearing diapers. ha!

Anna said...

How old are your kids on average when you get on the potty training train? I'm in no rush to start, but my son is almost two and the really eager parents are always talking about it.

Jenny Evans said...

My girls have been in the 22-26 months range, but the boys have been 2.5 to 3.5 years old. (We actually tried to train the first boy at 2 around the same time as his older sisters, just because it was the "right age" and it failed miserably because he wasn't ready. We waited 6 months and he did beautifully.)

Jenny Evans said...

I just read an article about some parents who didn't potty train their kid. They just didn't do it. They let her wear diapers until she was 5 and one day she just announced that she would like underwear and that was that. No training and no accidents. So I guess there's always that!

You could just follow day care's lead and do what they're doing since they already started. Or you could do the one-day method over a 3-day weekend and she'd be trained (with occasional accidents) when she goes back to daycare. As long as you're consistent about how you handle accidents at home after that, I think it would be okay if daycare handled them differently. Kids are pretty good about understanding that different places have different rules; it's just when the same person (mom or dad) isn't consistent with their own rules.

AiringMyLaundry said...

I needed this when I was potty training my kids. They were TERRIBLE. My daughter especially. I thought girls were supposed to be easier, but no. She was stubborn as all heck.

mom jeans said...

Thanks for the great tips :)

Michelle said...

I've been meaning to tell you how much I appreciate this. We haven't started potty training yet because if it took Gracie nearly 2 years to decide she was ready to walk, she may not be potty trained until 6 ;) but I have ZERO clue what to do and this is so helpful.

Jenny Evans said...

I can only speak from my experience, but this is what's worked for us and hopefully some of it will work for you too when you're ready!

Unknown said...

Oh, potty training. We took our time with our first, and then tried a quick method with the second. Let's just say the quick method backfired BIG TIME. That said, I haven't read Nathan Adrian's book. We may just have to give it a try with child #3. Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!