Mommy Minute
The Poop On Potty Training: Part One
By Rachel Greene
Sep 1, 2001 - 8:48:00 AM

LOS ANGELES—July 19, 2000. I have it written in the baby book. That was the date on which my then 2-year-old son, Ryan, first peed in the potty. We were eating dinner when he announced that he needed to go tinkle. I rushed him into the bathroom and sat him upon his "Sesame Street" potty seat and away he went. We whooped and hollered and called everyone we knew. Ryan tinkled in the potty! I had done no official training just little hints here and there. So, there I was thinking that potty training was the easiest thing in the world.

Boy, was I wrong. There was a full six month dry spell (or should I say wet spell?) where he refused to even try let alone actually go in the potty. In January of this year, I decided to push the issue. We had a baby due in April, and I wanted to at least get Ryan started since he was showing every sign of potty readiness and I didn't want to have to force too many changes on him once the baby was here. If I waited until this summer, I'd have run into being rushed to get him ready for preschool in September. The following are some steps I took to "train" Ryan. I'll share what worked and what didn't. In the end, I was probably the one who was more trained but take from it what you will.
Jenna Skarzenski / Canyon News

I made a chart on which I would give Ryan a star for each time he peed in the potty. For every 10 stars, he'd get a surprise (I had bought a bunch of inexpensive, small toys for this purpose). Well, 10 was too much to start. It was taking forever for him to fill up the first row to get the prize that I hoped would motivate him to keep trying. So, I changed it to three. After about two weeks, he finally got a prize. Wahoo!

I modified the original chart of rows of 10 into a progression of steps. Once he filled up two rows (of three, for instance), I added another box (up to four, then five and so on). I'd have him try to go at regular times during the day since he wasn't telling me when he had to go. After breakfast, before we left for anywhere, before his nap, etc. It was pretty much a hit or miss, but he was getting better (and more surprises which he loved).

Once he filled up the chart, I changed the goal. Now, instead of just getting stars for peeing, he got them for staying dry. We were using the commercial training pants that will go unnamed as I will share my opinion of them later, so I knew if he was wet or dry. I made a similar chart that had a progression of rows (first three boxes, then four, etc.). I also made some pictures that showed the times of the day I expected him to stay dry - from breakfast until lunch, lunch to nap, after nap to dinner, and dinner to bedtime. If he stayed dry during any of those time periods, he got a star. Again, I was taking him to the potty regularly, but he did start to occasionally tell me when he had to go.

Well, by April, the baby's arrived, and we hadn't gotten much further with training. In fact, there was some regression (to be expected with the new arrival). Ryan was staying dry only some of the time and occasionally purposely wetting his pants. I'm tinkling, he'd say as I was walking him to the bathroom. It was becoming a power struggle, and I was getting pretty fed up (lack of sleep from the baby certainly added to my frustration).

So, one particularly exhausted day, I decided to just take off Ryan's training pants and put nothing on. To use a quote from Seinfeld, 'he was out there and lovin' every minute of it!' I'd had several people tell me that just letting a kid go without anything on would train them faster. Well, it worked. He was playing with some toys and all of sudden had this I gotta go! With the look on his face, we rushed into the bathroom. Success! Then, I put him in some "Toy Story" underwear (which were ineffective as a motivator at the beginning) and he thought it was all great. Sure, there were still accidents, but he was staying dry most of the time, telling me when he had to go, and no longer arguing with me about it all.

As of today, he's pretty much trained with the occasional oops, but still sometimes balks at having to do it all by himself. I think starting preschool soon and having to do it all by himself will cure that (hopefully).

Would I do it the same way all over again? Yes and no. At the beginning, he needed some motivation to try. He was perfectly happy sitting in wet diapers (more typical with boys) and needed a reason to go in the potty. I'd read and heard from other parents that you should just wait until they decide to do it on their own. That may work for some kids, but it seemed like Ryan would have been 16 before he decided. So, the chart was a good way for him to watch his progression and to know what he needed to do to get the reward. Was I bribing him? Well, in a way, yes, but it got things rolling. Would I use the commercial-brand training pants? In the beginning, definitely. There are too many misses to be dealing with changing underwear and clothes all the time. However, they are essentially diapers. They absorb the pee too well and sometimes Ryan wouldn't even realize he had wet them, plus he knew he could go in them and not make a mess. I would not use them for as long as I did. Once he had gotten the hang of making it to the bathroom on time, I should have switched to underwear. In general, kids are potty training much later than what used to be the norm (probably around two years old, now it's more like three). Preschools for three-year-olds are starting to allow kids in training pants because otherwise they'd have to close down because no one seems to be totally potty trained yet. Maybe parents are just being patient and letting their kids direct the when and where, but I think it's the diaper-like training pants. So, there are things I'd change and hopefully things will go smoother with son number two when the time comes (God willing!).

There are many books on potty training as well as websites because there are many different theories on how to potty train. Do what's comfortable for you and your child. I don't think there's one right way, it's whatever works. So, if my methods help anyone, I'm glad. If anything, I hope it enlightens parents that potty training can be frustrating, but every child will eventually learn to do it. Good luck!

Next month: The Poop on Potty Training (Part Two: Number Two)

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