Ah, potty training! Go to a local bookseller and you will find dozens of books on the subject. Search the ‘net and there are thousands of web sites with information on how to do it stress-free. There are even people who are capitalizing on a parent's frustration with potty training by offering to do it for you for a hefty sum! I honestly can't imagine anything more unseemly than paying someone to teach my child to "go."
I have successfully potty trained two out of three kids so far; baby number three is only 14 months, so she is off the hook for a few months at least. I seem to be the envy of the playgroups when other moms see that my 3-year-old son has been in whitey-tighties for over a year. My oldest was also 2 when he potty learned.
Begin at the start For me, potty training starts with a newborn. Now don't get me wrong -- I do diaper my babes, but I have always used cloth diapers, which encourage babies to train early. I'm not a longhaired, barefoot, off-the-grid hippie (not that there's anything wrong with that, but you're more likely to find me in Doc Martens than Birkenstocks!), yet I have been cloth diapering since the beginning.
It has saved me hundreds of dollars, but I also like the fact that my babies begin to make the association with the uncomfortable wet feeling and the knowledge that they can prevent it. Most babies will wake up dry in the morning at several months of age, demonstrating that they are physically able to "hold it." Many moms have said that their cloth-diapered babies potty learn several months earlier than disposable-diapered babies.
The basic recipe for success Even if you choose not to cloth diaper, you can use Grandma's recipe (and I do owe it to my mother, like most of the good stuff I know about parenting) for easy potty training.
Let your baby come into the bathroom when you go. That way, they know what's going on in there. You don't have to get graphic, just talk to them about what toilets are for. If you are a woman at home all day with boy children, encourage Daddy to show 'em how it's done. You don't want them thinking that if they go on the toilet their equipment will fall off, like Mum's obviously did. Strange, but true -- some tots will come to this conclusion.
Buy three or four of those cheap little molded plastic potties and put them around the house, at least one in each bathroom and one in the kitchen or the room where you spend the most time with your child. If your child is a boy, stick a towel underneath, for the sake of your carpet. Speaking of boys -- you can take advantage of nature here by keeping an open mind. I know at least one boy who was trained when his mom let him go off the side of the deck.
The summer that your child is closest to two, take two days and don't leave the house. Let your child run around naked from the waist down, with a big tee shirt on top so that private parts stay private.
Every 10 minutes, place the child matter-of-factly on the pot. <i>Do not ask</i> insane questions like "Do you need to go potty, sweetie pie?" We are talking about dealing with a two-year-old here! Just do it like it's the thing to do, and don't ask permission. Don't force it, and if she wants to get up right away, let her. If you have a resistant child, set a timer to go off every 10 minutes. It's amazing what a child will do when the power dynamic is taken away. When the "potty timer" goes off, it's time to sit on the pot!
Use praise, but don't go overboard. Act like this is the expected thing. Be cool. Say "You put pee pee in the potty, just like Mommy and Daddy (and big brother, and your older play group friend ... third parties are gold here!) do.”
Don't make a big deal out of what's happening. Don't spend hours reading potty training books or videos to the child. Again, be cool. If you make it into a big deal, your child will be more likely to dig in and resist.
Have some "big boy shorts" or "big girl panties" that you know your child will like, perhaps that you have picked out together, ready for the end of the two days. Your child will be less likely to have accidents if s/he is going to mess up their new undies.
When the inevitable accidents happen, don't scold. Be patient and gracious. This is part of the job. Remember that if you decide to spring for carpet cleaning, you will still come out ahead if you don't have to buy diapers for another year or two!
Carrie is a work-from-home mom of three, a homebirth advocate, breastfeeding counselor and homeschooler. In her free time, she enjoys a good book and anything involving espresso. Visit her web site www.Lauth.biz.
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"The media have become the mainstream culture in children's lives. Parents have become the alternative. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to it." -- Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe columnist