Is there anything parents dread more than potty training? I dreaded starting solids, imagining splats of caked-on food all around the house - artwork, rugs, furniture and all - but it was surprisingly easy. I dreaded illness and booboos, but we have been lucky to have very few episodes of up-all-night horror shows or cuts, scrapes and trips to the emergency room.
So when my daughter was approaching two, potty training was on my mind constantly; preying on me every time I changed a diaper. When was the right time? Is she ready? Am I ready?
My answers were consistently I don't know, but since the other dreaded activities weren't as bad as I had imagined, I figured I could get through potty training unscathed as well. I put it off until my new baby arrived. And then I put it off until my daughter was 2 years and 3 months because my goal was to get it done around 2 years 4 months, according to the 'methods' and 'literature' I had read.
I waited for the week when most of her toddler classes and activities ended and looked forward to some time at home. And I started optimistic and energized. I had read the "Three Day Potty Training Manual" and even checked out the website: www.3daypottytraining.com.
So day 1 was a Sunday. I had my husband home for reinforcements. I gave him the highlights of the 'method.' I took control and took charge. I watched my daughter almost every minute, per the 'method.' The first few times we had wet floors, I was glowing with pride for having started the journey, thinking we are on our way and there is no turning back! I cleaned up the messes efficiently. I whisked Coco to the potty with elan. I had a whole stack of clean underwear at the ready, folded neatly right outside the bathroom. I praised her efforts on the potty and waved off her accidents with patience. Then in the afternoon, she made progress and the first night diaper-free was a success - she woke up with dry undies and a dry bed!
The next day, my husband went away for work and I was looking forward to finishing off the job and taking all the credit. Until the back-tracking began. Wet floors all day, dirty underwear, piles of laundry and soiled clothes, aching back and knees from cleaning up the mess, and worst of all, the shot expectations. It was like all my hopes and expectations for my daughter were tied up in her ability to become potty trained. As she regressed day 2 and 3, I was at my wit's ends. I lost all decorum. The escalation of commitment drove me to the edge as we skipped play dates and pursued the 'method.'
"Where is the 'method' in this method?!" I cried to my friends. It was uncivilized. I lost my composure. Worst of all I lost my temper with Coco. She saw me under pressure and folded herself. I wanted to give up and give in. I was desperate for a diaper or a pull-up or a lil' swimmer, anything!
Until day 4 came along... and something clicked. Just like the 'method' promised, cognitively, something clicked and Coco was in front of it. She had accidents the next 3 days, more than I expected, but overall she seemed to have turned a corner. She announced when she had to go and ran for the potty. She acknowledged an accident if one should occur. She was genuinely committed to the potty. And by day 8, there were no accidents. Days 9, 10, 11, and 12 passed accident-free as well. For naps, bedtime and rides in the car, we were accident free. And now I was giving encouragement for friends. I did it. WE did it! We emerged from a dark place, and I have to say the experience was WORSE than expected, but 2 weeks on we are triumphant!
Tips that WORKED:
1) Finding a method, just some consistent 'program' the whole family can follow
2) Lowering expectations and knowing that a '3 day method' is true to a certain extent, but a week of hard work, watchful eyes and consistent practice are required
3) Praise and little rewards go a long way - we made up a potty song, got Hello Kitty and Elmo posters and stickers for the bathroom, used distraction, and even got M&Ms and high-fives for successful episodes
4) Baby Bjorn full size potty for downstairs; Prince Lionheart potty seat for upstairs; and My Carry Potty for out-and-about (http://www.babybjorn.com/us/products/bathroom/potty-chair/potty-chair/; http://www.target.com/p/prince-lionheart-gray-weepod-basix-ash/-/A-13820868?ref=tgt_adv_XSG10001&AFID=Google_PLA_df&LNM=%7C13820868&CPNG=baby&ci_sku=13820868&ci_gpa=pla&ci_kw=; http://www.diapers.com/p/my-carry-potty-my-carry-potty-pink-151745?site=CA&utm_source=cse&utm_medium=cpc_D&utm_term=RL-246&utm_campaign=Google&CAWELAID=1338740692&utm_content=pla&cagpspn=pla&ci_kw=%7Bkeyword%7D)
5) Lowering expectations - I had to put this in again.
6) Listing friends that use the potty and wear 'big girl underwear'
7) Reading potty books together - by Alona Frankel or Karen Katz
8) Creating a regimen - pee in the potty, wipe, pull up pants, pour pee in potty, flush, squeal "Bye bye pee pee!!! Into the Charles River (gross, thanks husband)!", then wash hands. Each and every time.