Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Post About Potty Training

Okay, I know potty training posts are only interesting to a very select group of people. If you are a parent or caregiver who is currently, or will soon be, potty-training a child, you might want to read and commiserate. If you are a parent or caregiver who has at any time in the past successfully potty-trained a child, then PLEASE read and give advice. If you aren't in either of these groups and/or don't want to read the terms "pee" and "poop" approximately 4,512 times, please go read something else today. For example, this or this or this.

Okay. The truth is, I need to write this post. I feel like we are getting nowhere with the process of potty training Gwen, and if I am honest? She is not the problem. We are. Chris and I cannot agree on how to proceed, and that means we are inconsistent and not leading her towards success.

Right off the bat, I have some questions I want to ask those of you who have been through, or are currently in, this process:

1. Do you know of a training pant or similar product on the market that will feel wet instantly against Gwen's skin, and yet not leak through to whatever furniture or carpet she happens to be sitting on?
2. Do you think it is possible to successfully potty train a child without using either naked time, or time in a theoretical "I know when I'm wet" training pant?
3. Do you believe that a parent who is NOT A STAY AT HOME PARENT can actually have any real control over when and how a child is potty-trained?

Now I'll tell you where we're at. Mid- to late August saw a huge jump in Gwen's potty readiness (and willingness). On one particular day, she didn't have a single wet or dirty diaper (except during naptime). On September 3rd, I wrote, "My original idea was to lock Gwen and I in a room for three solid days and Make It Happen. Because that is my personality and that is the way I understand things. Instead, Gwen picked a time when there is literally NO free time for us to do this - the month of August, when we were either travelling or having company every single weekend - and decided that she was Ready." We didn't know how to respond to it, and this means that a full month later, we haven't really moved forward. I'm going to play the Mama Card here and tell you that I think I know my daughter better than anyone else in the world (partially because she is a LOT like me), and I'm going to give you my best guess for what is going on in her head.

Gwen is perfectly happy to pee and poop on the potty, if she has nothing better to do. She gets dedicated attention while she's there; she gets to do grown-up things like flush the toilet; and she gets candy afterwards. We have successfully taught her that peeing and pooping on the potty are Good Things. However. If Gwen is playing, or colouring, or outside, or away from home, none of those things apply. Peeing or pooping in her diaper is convenient, it's easy, it's fast, and it doesn't interrupt what she's doing. Sure, she doesn't get a candy, but whatever. She'll just pee again later and get one then.

I think we have successfully taught Gwen that pee and poop can go in either place, depending on your mood. That is NOT good.

Chris and I recently agreed that instead of rewarding for an action - using the potty - we would reward for an inaction - keeping her Pull-Up clean and dry. This is a hell of a lot harder to do and doesn't seem to hold Gwen's interest very well. Plus, it's awfully vague. How long does she need to stay dry to earn a candy? Truth be told, I wish we'd never started with the damn candies anyway. When we did, I envisioned the Potty Boot Camp that would have us through this awful stage in a matter of two weeks, max. Gwen does not get candy as a rule. But thanks to this phase dragging on, she's getting several candies a day - sometimes, as previously mentioned, right before she's supposed to go to sleep. This does NOT work out well!

The main reason I'm finding this stage to be such a grind, in addition to my general Get-To-The-Goal way of looking at life, is that pottying is definitely interfering with her sleep. Even when candy is not involved. Every parent knows that children like to postpone bedtimes and naptimes, right? There are all kinds of ploys they will pull: "one more story", "one more snuggle", "one more song", etc. What if the ploy is: "I need to go potty"? What if you've already sat her on the potty three times in the past hour, and you're absolutely confident that there's nothing in her bladder? How do you respond: by invalidating her desire to sit on the potty? Or by rewarding her nap-delay tactics with positive attention? THIS MAKES ME CRAZY.

Thanks to recommendations and a kind gift from a friend, we are going to spend the weekend reading this and seeing if there is anything we can put into practice here before I tear my hair out. In the meantime, though, I'm very interested in other perspectives and in particular, your answers to the questions above.


Amberism said...

I need to preface this by saying I'm very opinionated... ~ahem~.

1. No, not in my experience BUT try this - a cloth pocket diaper you can snap shut and pull up. Like Sandys by Mothers-ease. You don't have to put on a wrap which would be too hard to move up and down, alhtough you can buy an all-in-one diaper too, and again just snap it together and pull on like underwear. But even without the wrap on top, she'll know she's wet and in theory, the cloth diaper should be absorbant enough. Especially a good pocket diaper. Anna was in a very old pocket diaper for hours the other day where I FORGOT to put on the wrap. I didn't get wet, even though I was carrying her around....

and this is shameless promotion but I have a friend who sells cloth diapers... she could hook you up!

2. Personally, I don't think we train children to use the potty. I think that children use the potty because we use the potty. They get there. Eventually diapers get annoying. Generally speaking, the average age is something like 3.5 years (dear god, don't quote me, I didn't look it up but I know it's over 3) so some get there at 2, and some at 4. I think it is VERY clear Gwen will not be 4. Removing my own beliefs and bias, yes it is possible. I'm willing to bet entire pockets of people don't let their kids have naked time and have no idea what a training pant is.

Side Tangent: Naked Time! Fun! My kids love it!

3. No, but not because you work. I think it is because you're not in control here, Gwen is. So you're on her schedule.

Here's my loaded opinion - ditch the candy because well, we pee on the toilet in Canada and there isn't a dude sitting in our bathroom giving us a candy every time we pee. Although, that would be nice, assuming the dude left while the actual peeing was happening. Do a potty dance if you want a positive reward system. Then, remember this is Gwen's body. Let her be in charge of it. I don't understand why we take this away from our children, because honestly, don't they know best? Shouldn't we let them, at the very least, be in control of their own bodies? We control where they spend their days, what they eat, what toys are allowed in the house, what they watch on tv, etc, etc. My instinct here has always been to let them tell me what they're body is doing.

That doesn't mean you don't practice. We practice. For us, we practice when Claire is naked, at home. But you don't have to be naked. Practice on the weekends, taking her to the potty every so often (whenever you think is best) or whatever you're already doing. I've read a lot that we're not suppose to ask them, but I do that all the time and Callum managed to live through the asking. I get why you just take them and not ask the question constantly, I'm just lazy. I consider it a gentle reminder that the potty exists.

All that to say I think what you're doing is probaby just fine and I know this is not what you want to hear, I think it just takes time. Like taking off extra weight that is unhealthy, there's not magic solution.

Amberism said...

oh! and I really wanted to say that I supsect Gwen is right, at least for now: Pooping and peeing on the potty is a happy thing to do, assuming nothing else interesting is going on. :)

wtspb2007 said...

As hard as it might be, I think it really is important to completely skip "wetness" pull ups... it truly does delay your ultimate success with potty training. I agree with the other reader who said the cloth diapers are the way to go, or you certainly can go naked. When kids are naked during potty training, it really helps raise their awareness of their bodily functions. It is hard to miss the fact that they are having an accident when pee is running down their legs!

In my book, we also add in some mild "negative" consequences for having accidents... such as "potty drills" and using cleanup techniques. Having a child become responsible for their accidents will also help speed up the process. Good luck training!


Suzanne Riffel, author of "The Potty Boot Camp"

Anonymous said...

I agree!! It's Gwen who's gonna decide she doesn't want diapers anymore, and if you want to help her get to that decision more quickly, you'll need to allow for negative consequences of wetting in her pants, such as feeling uncomfortable, and having to help clean up the mess.

And also, You. Are. Awesome. Go you!! You love Gwen SOOOOO much, and it shows in what you're doing. You'll get there!


Jen said...

1. I do know that you could look into cloth diapering companies. Some of them make an actual training pant that is a just a small step up from underwear. Still uncomfortable, but not as messy. Honestly though, I think if you want to do this and get it over with I would skip the training pants and go straight to underwear. "Start how you want to end up" as one person wisely told me :)

2. We didn't use naked time or training pants, just underwear. We are still using pullups at night (but not at naptime) but we may ditch those too because he's going all night and waking up dry. The less opportunity for them to pee in anything except a toilet/potty the better.

3. Yes. If you could work out a flex day or somehow add a day or two to a weekend you'd be ok I think. I agree that Gwen needs to feel like she is in control here (because she is!) but by making this a fun process for her she will probably do great and want to do this. I was VERY skeptical when I started with A, because he hated the potty and was terrified to do #2 on it. Once we got going and he felt in charge and empowered we were golden.

Surprised Suburban Wife said...

Check the website for "New and Green" which sells cloth diapers and is based in North Vancouver - they have lots about potty-ing and cloth diaper-type pull-up-able options.
Megan trained herself when she was ready at 25 months old! We did nothing! I totally attribute it to daycare and the appeal of wanting to be like the big kids. She is not night trained at all though and about 90% of the time her diaper is wet in the morning. We do not want to change lots of sheets so haven't pushed this too much.
She's had occasional regressions, mainly recently (big surprise) where she gleefully announces "I'm peeing in my pants on the carpet" as she does it. We want to wring her neck. We've kind of curbed that through, well, candy! She gets one smartie or mini-egg if she goes all day with no accidents. We give it to her right before her bath.
Good luck and I agree with others that Gwen is totally in control on this one, which is both sucky and quite awesome in its own way.


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