The conundrum of potty training

Aah, yes. It happens inevitably for a parent raising kids. They get to the place where a combination of being tired with the mess and expense of diapers leads them to fantasize about a diaper-free existence for their toddlers – particularly if these toddlers are twins. (Of course, said parents gloss over the messy part of “potty training” in their minds or any possible obstacles like the said toddlers not really being ready.) This is what the new year brought us to in our household: potty training! And it has not gone well. It doesn’t help that there is no unified approach to potty training, toilet learning, elimination communication (I didn’t make that last phrase up – seriously is the name of an ultra-gradual approach). Just consider a few of the conflicting messages a parent will get when trying to train herself to get her toddler ready for using the toilet:

  • When? Either as soon as 18 months (or earlier) or as late as “whenever your child seems to be ready – could be 4 or 5 years old”
  • Parent-directed or child-centered? Some say it’s definitively the parent’s decision and should be controlled almost exclusively by the parent, and the child will catch on/learn quickly. Another approach says not to rush a child, and to wait for the child to show readiness signs before starting.
  • How long? As short as “one focused, intense morning” (yes, one book makes that claim) or as long as several months to a year for complete toilet training.
  • When to introduce underwear? Some say starting with underwear becomes the motivation for your child to use the toilet; others say to wait until the child is accident-free.
  • Once you introduce underwear, should you go back to diapers or pull-ups? Some say never because it confuses the child; others swear that night-time training is a different skill from day-time training and so you shouldn’t try to do both. Another opinion is that if the child doesn’t seem to be ready, you should return to diapers or pull-ups and wait a few weeks or months before trying again. And yet another opinion is that doing so could confuse or hurt the child, as if the parent is witholding a vote of confidence and this could damage their self-esteem.
  • What kind of rewards are recommended? For as many who say “the best reward is your hug and smile and rejoicing,” there are also those who recommend stickers, candy, etc. as positive reinforcement. Both camps seem to be feel adamant about their position.
  • How much should the parent assist during the actual “potty attempts”? The parent should always accompany the child (at first at least) is one approach. Another says the child should do everything completely independently, down to emptying the little toilet bowl into the big adult toilet bowl.
  • Should the parent give reminders? As expected, “YES! Set a 20 minute or even 5 minute timer,” is one answer. And then there is the equally emphatic, “NEVER! It’s the child’s job to learn how to go to the bathroom, not the parent’s job to remind.”
  • Are twins to be trained together or separately? To train them together will help you and them get through the process more quickly, says one camp. The other says to go at each twin’s pace, which means you’ll likely train them separately.
  • Is there ANYTHING that’s common to all approaches? Great question. I asked that myself. And I came up with the following (1) It’s essential for the parent to stay positive, upbeat, encouraging – a cheerleader and guide regardless of how the progress is going or how many accidents occur. (2) Never, ever, ever make the child feel pressured to go potty or guilty because she had an accident.

Truly, it’s a wonder that any of us actually become toilet trained. This is not  for the faint of heart. Speaking of heart, I think potty training could also be called “parent’s heart training.” Meaning you will be pushed to the limits of yourself and will be able to see a new angle of your heart. What you run to for comfort, how quickly you want to violate the inviolable rule of staying positive, why you feel like you need to control what’s ultimately not yours to control (your child actually deciding to “go” in the toilet), whether you tend to rush your child or to impede your child’s progress.

There is much for all of us yet to learn in this process! I’m sure there will be future posts on the process since we are not in the camp of “learned it in a day.” [That attempt was 15 days ago actually.] Apparently, my girls are in a different camp than me. I am needing to learn to s l o w  down and back off. This is hard for me, but good. I know I have much to learn, just in a different area than they do.

4 thoughts on “The conundrum of potty training

  1. Very witty and thanks for the reminder of normality ! I am considering the PT any week now , I keep putting it off……and on and off again………..

  2. I made it my goal to potty train in the new year too. I have certainly taken on the philosophy that it’s more about me being ready for the challenge than for my child to show signs of being ready. 🙂 When I potty trained Lily my first attempt was to plop her on the potty chair in front the TV and see if anything ever came it. It actually worked. There was obviously more to it but it was the start to building up her confidence and getting over that funny stage where they want something to come out but they don’t have the skills to make it happen. I wonder what all the experts would say about that? 🙂 Not sure if that’s how I’ll do it with Lucy.

  3. Pingback: what I’m looking forward to in July | hidden glory

  4. Pingback: a prayer for potty training | hidden glory

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