If there is one part of child-rearing that I absolutely would outsource, it is potty training. There are no clear rules to potty training. No perfect age, no best method, no sure-fire absolute way. Each child is different.
Case in point: I have two boys, ages 8.5 years and 3.5 years. Both of them are very different, but not as much as their toilet learning experiences. What worked for my older son was the antithesis of my younger’s son’s experience. And, it isn’t just with siblings. Potty training ANY child is a unique experience. It is a game of try-and-see, what works, what doesn’t, and learning to be flexible. It is about recognizing the teachable moment, and it is about letting go when something isn’t working.
My older son was Dream Potty Training Child. Right before his third birthday, I said, “Hey, let’s sit on the potty!” He happily complied, produced a positive result and we were on our way to Potty Performance stage. He had maybe three accidents after that first experience. He was rewarded with a Skittle candy when he went on the potty for a short while, and then we moved on to stickers and a behavior chart. Once the chart was filled, he got to choose his favorite Thomas train to add to his collection.
Enter child #2. Last year, he was approaching three years, and I said, “Hey! Let’s sit on the potty!” I was met with a resounding “NO!” Oh, really? I thought. Surely this child just doesn’t understand the rules of Potty Training In Our House. So, up on the potty he went, where he promptly cried so hard he almost vomited.
Potty training the second child wasn’t QUITE what it was with the first one.
We tried everything. He chose his own little potty (we didn’t have a little potty with our first one – he just went on the big boy potty from Day One). He chose the rewards he would get (Hershey Kisses and trains). He picked out about four dozen pairs of underwear in every conceivable character. We cheered, we begged, we bribed…and he cried. He wanted nothing to do with the potty.
After going through this too many times to count. We gave up. We bought the mega-pack of diapers, conceded to ourselves that we would simply be filling up the landfills more rapidly than we intended, and we stopped pushing. In fact, we stopped altogether. We didn’t ask, we didn’t mention, we didn’t breathe a word about the potty.
Then, about three weeks ago, our younger son announced one morning as I dressed him for school that he was ready to sit on the potty. His exact words were, “Mommy, I go to sit on the potty now, pwease.” I suppose I was taken aback by this comment, out of the blue and totally unprovoked, because after a stunned few seconds he said, “Mommy – NOW!”
We flew into high gear. I hoisted him onto the big potty (the little training potty was in another room, holding a plethora of stuffed animals) and told him to fire when ready. And he did. The smile on that boy’s face was as big as the tub! We cheered, had a congratulatory Hershey Kiss, and got dressed. We called the relatives, let them know of our accomplishment, and that was all that was said about it.
Two hours later, he approached me again. “Mommy, let’s go to da potty – NOW!” And again. And again, and again, and again. By the end of the day, he was in his Big Boy Underwear, had eaten about a half dozen Kisses and was telling anyone who would listen about his feat.
Since then, we’ve given away the diapers. We’ve had maybe four accidents, but he never makes an issue of it and is eager to get back on the Potty Train. Potty training this child was completely different from the first – he trained himself. And sometimes, that’s the easiest way of all.