Wednesday, June 21, 2006

WFMW - Get Real Potty Training - Part 2

Welcome back to the next installment of

Get Real Potty Training.

Last week we covered Get Real, Get Ready, and Get Consistent. This week we start off with the fun stuff.

Part Four – Get rewards

Some may disagree with rewarding, but to me, potty training is a skill, just like learning to hit a baseball or ride a bike. Mastering a skill has a certain amount of inherent reward, but capitalizing on it makes it oh, so much better! So in my book, rewarding a two or three-year-old for a job well done is perfectly acceptable.

After a time of getting used to the idea of the potty, you can introduce rewards. Since most two year olds have an attention span of 0.3 seconds, you have to (1) have the reward handy and (2) NEVER, NEVER run out!

We start like this:

  1. Reward sitting on the potty. Once they get that, then:
  2. Reward doing something on the potty. Once they get that, then:
  3. Reward telling you they have to go potty, whether they make it or not. Then:
  4. Once they are pretty good at it, make the rewards a little less accessible – “I have to go and get your treat.”
  5. “Forget to buy” the reward – rats, maybe next time.

My personal favorite candy reward is Dum-Dums (small suckers). They are small, the wrapper takes lots of time (increases sitting time), and they last a while (further increasing sitting time). Most importantly, they hold absolutely NO APPEAL to me. We’ve also used other small, soft wrapped candies like Tootsie Roll midgies (my current child’s favorite).

We avoid unwrapped candy because I other family members tend to forage too much on the potty treats and then we run out of rewards for the potty training child herself. Plus, I do not trust myself with a mere turn of the cabinet door separating me from a temptingly open, one-pound bag of M&Ms.

And just think, at the same time, I can be teaching good oral hygiene. My little one knows we brush “so my teef don’t wot (rot) outa my head.”

When I first introduce the reward, I can the wheels in my child’s mind turning. She says, “I want a sucker. I guess I’ll go potty.” After the reward becomes part of the routine, eventually, the idea to go potty comes first: “I need to go potty. Hey! I get a sucker!”

Now we’re making progress!

At our house, this stage is done completely in diapers. I also use Pull-ups once they only need a change about 3 times per day (otherwise too expensive).

WHEN they mess up (har-har) I just matter-of-factly change her and say, “Ew! Messy/wet diaper. Next time tell Mommy so we can RUN to the potty!” We make a big to-do about how fast can you run, and how loud can you yell to get Mommy to come running, too.

We have a laugh and keep it light. It is a skill, remember?

I have learned the hard way that, if at all possible, you want to keep this OUT of the realm of the battle of the wills.

This is something FUN that we are learning, and mistakes are just a part of it. Even though your blood may be boiling, and you just KNOW she did it just to spite you, RESIST the urge to make your child feel bad! It only makes her less cooperative in the long run.

At the point that they can pretty much perform on demand, I take them every hour or two, but also concentrate on gradually adding specific potty times to the child’s day.

After getting used to going at bathtime, the next easiest ones to add (for us) are before bedtime and then after naptime. Once they get the idea that they will get a treat for sitting on the potty, it’s easy to get a good response to telling them “Potty time!”

By the end of this stage they can expect to go to the potty when they first wake up, mid-morning, before meals, before and after nap, etc.

As an aside, at some point during this stage, the realization that EVERY PUBLIC PLACE has a restroom will become apparent to your child. She will expect to check out every restroom from here to Shanghai. Rather than get frustrated by this, anticipate it. Go there FIRST in your shopping trip (bring lots of hand sanitizer) and just realize this is part of training too.

This part (for us, the relaxed potty trainers) lasts at least six to nine months.

You’re almost there!

Part Five - Get creative

After a while, the newness wears off. You begin to sense that the child is wearying of the whole potty thing, and would rather squat right there in front of you and dirty his pants.

This is where creativity comes in. As I mentioned last week, you want to keep it light.

Here are some ways we’ve used to keep it fun and out of the realm of “NO!”

- Invest in a decent stool or nice rug for yourself to sit on while the little one is on the potty. You’ll be spending a lot of time in there, so you might as well get comfy.

- Boys - Cheerios or confetti in the water to “aim” at.

- They may not want to walk to the bathroom, but they might hop or skip.

- Read picture books or sing songs with hand-motions, like The Itsy Bitsy Spider, to help them wait while the internal plumbing does its thing.

- Change up the treats every now and then (Code Yellow Mom swears by marshmallows; some kids like stickers, tattoos or stamps).

- Buy the cleaning tablets that turn the water blue – kids love watching it turn green when they do their thing.

- Offer to let them “flush” (push down your fingers on the plunger) and wave “bye-bye” to their job.

- Teach them to put the seat (boys) and lid down as part of the complete job (your child’s future spouse thanks you).

Six - Get rid of the diapers

At the point that my child:

1. Pretty consistently uses the potty, AND

2. Tells me she has to go, AND

3. Can manage getting on the stool, turning around, and getting the pants up and down,

I have a decision to make: when do I issue the ultimatum to go to big kid panties/undies?

This is where it gets tricky. Once we go to big-kid underwear, it’s best to stay in them. Then, accidents (and there WILL be accidents) are just that much more messy. I will be sorely tempted to go back to diapers, but that means a lot of psychological entanglement (aka, retraining) I so make this decision carefully.

I am almost at this stage now with my 2 ½ year old. But here's my line of thinking:

1. It is summer, so

2. Our schedule is hopelessly inconsistent (but getting better).

3. We are going out of town several times.

Taking this into consideration, I will most likely postpone the ultimatum to get rid of the diapers until the big kids start school in August, or even later. That way our "normal" routine can work for me. When I am not distracted by such random summer happenings at home, I can concentrate my full attention for a couple of weeks for this final part of the training.

And, she will be that much closer to three.

Note: As Michelle pointed out last week, summer is really a great time to potty train if you don't have the willy-nilly-ness I have (caused by much older siblings' penchant for lots of activity). It is warm so you don't have to wear lots of layers, girls can wear dresses, etc. Good thing for me, summer lasts until November here.

At this point in the game, I finally go to training pants, and I start a new system of rewards.

I make a very simple chart with at least 28 spaces (the number of times it takes to create a habit). I like to make it in the form of a road. Every few spaces I put a picture of a special treat (or glue it on with hot glue), like Lip Smackers or dollar store necklaces for the girls or a Hot Wheels car for a boy.

At the end of the road, I put some extremely good-looking, gotta-have-‘em Spider Man undies or Princess panties (we usually go pick these out together). For our one constipated child, we made him believe his potty training would be rewarded with a bike (which he was getting anyway, but hey, did he need to know that?).

I continue to offer to reward with a treat for every indication of willingness to cooperate, but I ALSO give a sticker on the road to Underwear Land (at this point, the sticker road is usually enough).

If the child is too young, she won’t get it. But if the child is a bit closer to three, watch out! He or she will totally get into the concept of collecting stickers and making a road. The small treats along the way make it fun and hold their interest (be sure to have the special items ON HAND before you start, or you will have mutiny!).

Most of my kids didn’t need the chart all the way to the end, especially when there were two or three older siblings in the cheerleading section ***Subliminal message: Big families are awesome! *** They got the hang of it well before the 28th box was stickered.

Why? Because we’d been doing this pottying thing for several months already. But we kept at it anyway because they wanted those undies so bad.

Be sure to take a picture of your child next to his chart for the baby book!

I will keep you posted as to how the Little One does as we enter the final stage around here in a month or two!

Happy Potty Training!

Thanks again to Shannon, our lovely and gracious hostess at Rocks In My Dryer. Be sure to check out the rest of the list, thank her genuinely, and comment liberally!


Lana said...

good tips, at our house we are much more lazy. I wait for the kids to ask for "panties" or in the case of the lone boy of the group "underwear" and then we buy them and for 4 out of 6 that resulted in no accidents ever. The other one, well.... and the baby hasn't asked yet:)

Amy said...

Wonderful post, Katherine. I know that this one must have taken a lot of time!

We did a reward of marbles in our house. Dollar Tree has a big bag of marbles for one buck. I had a mason jar that we used to fill the marbles with. One marble for number one, two marbles for number two. He got to shake the marbles, pick the marbles, and drop the marbles into the jar. We didn't get them out and play them (big choking hazard with a baby in the house), but it was really exciting to pick the marbles and shake the marbles.

His big treat at the end was an evening of going to the movies with just mommy (no sisters allowed!) and we saw Curious George at the dollar theatre.

Reward treats equal two bucks :) Can't beat that price!!

Unknown said...

This is really great. I'm going to have to bookmark these. My 25 month old son is sitting for fun on the potty seat at bathtime, but I might try to do do more than that.

Question (because my first was a girl and born 5 1/2 years before him)--when do you go from boy sitting on potty to boy standing? And when sitting, you just make sure it's tucked down, right?

Anonymous said...

Wow...I needed you 25 years ago. Thanks for the good info.

TheNormalMiddle said...

I'm trying to potty train my last one and he's not going for it. Just this morning he pulled his pull up off and made a huge mess. He's definately ready...I'm just not consistent enough right now. Oh to be out of diapers!!!

I like the dum dums idea b/c I hate them too!!! M&M's I always seem to sneak one for myself....

Beck said...

Toilet training - eek. What great ideas you have! I always find toilet training such a hassle... my tip today is about toilet training, too! (sort of)

Cindee said...

I loved your post. I created a place on my sidebar (Articles of Interest) for articles that I really like and want easy access to. Yours is my first entry! :-) I'm potty training my third of four children (he's 2 1/2) thanks for the useful tips!

Amy from Ezekiel's Garden said...

Great idea!! :) I did this with my middle son.

Our reward of choice for said middle one was Jelly Bellies (found them in a cool dispenser at Trader Joe's). Nothing else worked. However, making a big deal of parading our "big-boy" self through the kitchen to get a Jelly Bean (2 for a BM) was definitely positively reinforcing the training for him.

Unknown said...

WOW, What great ideas! I am working on potty training my 2 1/2 year old and it was going so well in teh beginning and then she just kinda lost her you mentioned. I have rewarded her for going in the potty, but not for telling me she has to go. So I am going to go that route now. And I never thought of making the trip to the potty fun....running loudly or hopping. Great tips. Thank you!

Nettie said...

I love when experienced mom's share their knowledge! I will have to go back and read part one that I missed when I was out of town last week.

I love your new look! It is so nice and cheerful for summer!

You asked me how to do categories on my blog. I use to create mine. You can choose what category topics you want and then they create html code that you can put in your sidebar. You also create "buttons" on your tool bar. After posting, you click on the "post to" button on your tool bar and choosed your categories. Let me know if you have any troubles!

Michelle- This One's for the Girls said...

Such good advice! It's been quite a while since I've been in the potty training stage--so it's been good for me to psych up. (Though I probably won't do it until next summer/fall.)

The best thing you keep saying is--"Keep it light." I so needed that advice when my oldest was potty training. I was soo uptight. It's a miracle that she survived all of my parenting mistakes.

Mama Duck said...

Ooo, I'm bookmarking both of these for future reference!

Joy @ SAH Missionary said...

You sound so organized and on top of things!! I love the potty training ideas!! Thanks!

Glass Half Full said...

I am so late checking up on WFMW's!! I love your tips on potty training. Seems like ages ago when I trained my five year old. I will be doing it again soon with my baby boy.

Anonymous said...

I've loved your potty-training tips. I'll have to try the 3 yo loves them...maybe that'll get him a little more interested in using the potty.