Monday, September 30, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Potty Training

Here's part four of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep, Part Two about napping and Part Three about feeding.

We didn't start BB this young, but she's so cute!
My daughter is three years old and she’s completely potty trained. Hurray! The total process has taken nine months which may sound like a drag, especially with all of those “train your child in one day” books and whatnot, but has been a steady progression without too many bumps and only a couple of public mishaps (which to me sounds pretty good). I thought it’d be nice to share my experience to remind me when it’s LB’s turn.

Last summer, I started thinking more about it. I definitely wanted to be on the no diaper track by the time LB made his appearance. I heard from some of my mom friends with two kids that once the new baby arrives and you are dealing with newborn diapers, you feel like you’re wiping an adult’s rear when  changing your older child. And it makes financial sense to only be buying diapers for one child. (That’s right, we are a disposable diaper family. I spend plenty of time with the washer and dryer as it is. I didn’t feel like quadrupling my time in the laundry room. Not that I didn’t consider it. I know plenty of people who do use reusables and more power to them!)

I read a few books about potty training. The ones that mentioned training in 1, 2, and 3 days seemed quite appealing. I asked my mom what she used. She managed to find a copy of the book and mailed it to me. It was the one I ended up using as a reference: Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin. (I just used Amazon to find the title and also found Potty Training Boys the Easy Way which is intriguing and may be read before we start the process with LB in a few years.)

I picked a start date when BB was close to 2 ½ years, one when we could be at home all day for a few days to get the hang of things. I then spent the days leading up to that day dreading its arrival. I don’t know whether it was from hearing others’ experiences, but I imagined it being very tedious and requiring large amounts of time cleaning someone else’s urine off of the floor. Like most other unknown experiences, it’s really not as bad as you imagine it to be. The fear of the unknown is nearly always worse than the actual experience.

The day finally arrived and I had all of my materials – a week’s worth of panties, washcloths, a potty, a training doll (in our case, BB’s favorite stuffed monster, Elmo), juice, water, snacks and rewards. After breakfast I took Elmo through the motions of using the potty, praised him and gave him a reward (M&M) which BB was able to eat since Elmo can’t. We did it several times to get used to the what all is involved. As instructed in the book, Elmo then had an accident. We talked about important people (mommy, daddy, Grammy, Grandaddy, etc) liking dry panties and had Elmo practice using the potty and change his panties. (Humorous side note: for months after the potty training week, BB would refer to her plain white panties as Elmo’s panties because they were what we had used on him.) I asked often if BB had dry panties (the book suggested praising dry, clean pants instead of the act of using the potty as staying dry and clean is the true goal). She would receive a reward when the answer was yes. I had her sit on the potty every so often (I had a chart I followed that had me write in times of various commands/activities to chart progress and spot patterns). Eventually she had an accident. She was not very happy about being wet but I had her clean it up with a washcloth (I helped make sure it all got cleaned), we practiced using the potty, and then I had her change her panties. We did this most of the day, me giving her salty snacks and juice, practicing with Elmo a few more times and playing mostly in the kitchen where the floor is easy to clean. It was kind of boring, but it was nice to know that it was only for a short duration. I still had her nap and sleep in a diaper.

The next couple of days we stayed home to practice getting used to recognizing the sensation of having to use the bathroom and then going. Still plenty of rewards for dry, clean panties. More teaching her to be careful when emptying the small potty into the big potty and flushing. No bowel movements into the potty, but I had heard that it takes more time to get used to doing that on a potty.

On day four I decided to venture out for a short trip. I put a towel in the car seat, had her sit on the potty right before we left, and off to the library we went. We were only gone about twenty minutes but I gave BB lots of praise and a reward for staying dry and clean while we were out. As the weeks went on, I got braver and braver. BB got better at recognizing the need to go and we both gained confidence in her abilities. Eventually she started pooping in the potty. The first time, she received major praise and an extra special reward. For a while all bowel movements into the potty received a special reward. When BB had fully grasped using the potty, we phased out the rewards by letting whatever treat run out of stock in the pantry and then announced that she was a big girl and the treats were all gone.

We still put her in diapers for nap and bedtime. As she started staying completely dry through nap time we let her stay in panties (which was what she wanted). It has taken a lot longer for her to stay dry through the night but I am attributing that to maturity of her body. The past month we have been tracking her dry nights. BB went nearly a week two months back with dry diapers at night so we put her in panties and she woke up wet the next morning. We tried two more nights with the same results so she went into a pull up. We thought perhaps she could still get up and use the bathroom if she needed. A few weeks after that BB announced that she wanted to sleep in panties. We told her she had to have a week of dry diapers to be able to sleep in panties. She achieved that so we put her in panties and started a sticker chart to track her dry nights. In the past four weeks she only had one slightly wet night (only the panties and pjs were damp, not her sheets) and that was day four. We told her when she went a whole month with dry panties she could pick out a special toy or have a special cupcake. She chose the cupcake.

Nine months sounds long, but it was really just the first few weeks that I was most cautious and then a day or so after the occasional accident. Now that we’re finally at this point, everything before doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s been so much better than dealing with two children in diapers.

We’ve had a few road trips throughout this adventure. We would put BB in a pull up just in case, but she’d tell us she had to go and we’d stop so she could. I’ll admit that we did consider having her just go into the pull up once or twice so that we didn’t have to stop but we did stop in order to continue to encourage her progress.

It’ll be quite a while before I get to go through this process with LB (and I wonder whether it’ll be distinctly different with a boy or just because it’s a different child) but at least I’ve been through it once now. I’m sure I’ll still feel a little dread when the day approaches, but I now have experience on my side and the knowledge that accidents are temporary but being out of diapers is forever (I hope).

Experienced parents, how did your potty training experience/s go? For those who have potty trained boys and girls, are there any stark differences you noticed? Any advice to share on what to do (or what NOT to do)?

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