The Interesting World of Potty Training

The first time one of my students came up to me and told me he needed to “go sink the boat” I had no idea of what he was talking about. It took a few seconds but I finally figured out from the jumping up and down while holding his pants and body parts in a death grip that he needed to go to the boy’s bathroom. Yep, when he was being potty trained they put little plastic boats in the toilet and, well, I am sure you get the picture.  They used this approach with sons #1, 2 and 3 and it wasn’t until son #3 that I was an insider on their potty training method.  It obviously worked for them.

Before we go any farther, let me just say…I am not an expert in potty training!  Nope, not going to quote any scientific studies.  But I am going to share with you my own experiences potty training my son and daughter and I am sure they will appreciate that I don’t use their names.

My daughter, the first born, the one where  Infants and Mothers by T. Berry Brazzleton was our guide.  I am sure 31 years later much of the information in the book is out of date (i.e. babies should sleep on their stomachs) but much of what he said was common sense and understandable.  He’s written several newer books on early childhood and parenting that have receive good reviews.

Either from his book or somewhere else, I had in my mind that age 2 was the magical age to start potty training my daughter.  I actually think it had a lot to do with being sick and tired of dealing with and buying diapers but for whatever reason around age 2 we started the journey.

We bought the big girl panties together but still wore a diaper at night.  We sat countless times in the bathroom with her on the little toilet and me on the edge of the bathtub waiting for something to happen. Sometimes there would be a trickle, sometimes there wouldn’t.  We’d leave the bathroom.  She’d have an accident.  I’d do the laundry.  I spent so much time trying to anticipate when she might need to go to the bathroom.  It took the fun out of anything we were doing.

Then, while my husband was still in Korea, we took a trip to Boston to visit my cousin.  We rode the swan boats, saw the ducks, enjoyed the city and wore her out!  The next morning when I was chaining her diaper I knew she needed to go to the bathroom.  So instead of putting her in her cute, little panties, I put her on the toilet.  I was the coach making all of the grunting noises and she was making them with me.  Plop!  Success!  “Yeah, you just went potty!”  Click!  She made the connection!  Did she ever have an accident again?  Of course she did but very few.  From then on when I asked her if she had to go potty, she knew what I was talking about.  It was just like when she was sitting with her little brother “reading” him a book in the window sill.  She sounded out the word hot and came running to me to ask me if it was the word hot. I told her yes and that was the moment when reading clicked for her.  We were  both thrilled!

On to child two.  My son, the 2nd born, still had the wisdom of Dr. Brazzleton, but not all of my time.  So when it came time to think about potty training I didn’t think about it too long.  I think I had flashbacks doing it 4 years earlier and I wasn’t looking forward to that.  Lucky, for me I had read an article about not starting potty training too early, so I didn’t.  This article also said the child would just naturally potty train on their own but that isn’t practical if you want to send your child to a daycare that requires them to be potty trained.  I didn’t wait for him to potty train himself but I did wait until he was closer to age 3.  He didn’t have “aha moment” on the toilet, but I do remember he was fully potty trained in a week once we started.  Although, if I would have thought of the boat idea, I probably would have introduced it but it would have been boats cut out of toilet or tissue paper.  Seriously, is there a little boy that wouldn’t like to sink the boat?

So, what do I think about potty training?

1. Children need to be physically ready…..the muscles they will use have to be fully developed.

2.  They need to be developmentally ready.  Just like so many tasks they learn in their early years they need to have the mental readiness to understand it.

3.  They need to somehow make the the connection between the word potty and what their body is doing.  How many times do you see a toddler standing, making faces and doing the duty in their diaper?  That would be the opportune time to say to them,  “Yeah, you’re going potty in your diaper”.  Cues like that will help them make the connection later.

4.  Don’t rush it.  If you start the process and it just isn’t clicking, stop.  Wait a few weeks and try again.

5.  Don’t forget to let them flush the toilet.  Those who follow them in the bathroom will appreciate it.

6. Whatever words you chose to call using the bathroom will surface out in public.  It might be cute at 2 but could be the subject of laughs by peers at age 5.

Son #3 of the above mentioned family told me he needed “to make a frog”.  Luckily I was the only one that heard it. I wasn’t caught off guard this time and didn’t need to ask any questions!

These are my thoughts.  What are yours?

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4 Responses to The Interesting World of Potty Training

  1. Christina says:

    This is such a relief! Did your daughter tell you I was wondering? 🙂 I have been pressuring myself to get M potty trained b/c a few in her class at pres-school were already there, but she will not be 3 until the end of Nov, so I think I will wait a little longer until she is more ready as it has not been going that well. Thank you as always for a great post!

    • Yes, she did :O) Can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I compared my daughter to her classmates at school and in extra curricular classes. I’d always have to stop and remind myself that she was almost a year younger than the children she was with. She even got kicked out of a dance class. The studio wanted my money I guess so they took her at 3. In her class of 4 year olds she was more interested in picking up the other little girls than dancing. The teacher wasn’t experienced enough to know about developmental differences but the owner did and put her in her class of 5 and 6 year olds and she did OK. Peer pressure for adults in raising children can be hard to handle at times. M will appreciate that you aren’t rushing her.

  2. Christina McClelland says:

    Hi again! Something for you to ponder for a future post?? –M is very inquisitive and very perceptive. She is always watching others (children and adults) and sometimes it is great b/c (like with manners), she imitates Walter and me. But, sometimes, it is not good when she sees another child do something bad, and it gets a reaction from other kids or another adult. How can I communicate to her that what the other child is doing is not ok with me–even if it is is ok with the other parent? This is a task that I can see reaching far into teenage-dom, so I want to get a headstart!

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