Thursday, July 2, 2015

Potty Training By the Seat of My Pants



I gave up on the concept of letting books dictate my parenting style right around the time that Steve read something in a book that told him our kid should be stacking blocks at 9 months old.
OK... now if you're an experienced parent you're probably laughing. If you're a new parent you might be worrying, wondering what I'm going to say next about it. If you're not a parent who knows what you're thinking... so I'll just continue.

I'll wait for the experience parents to finish laughing and telling stories about what things parenting books told them that were ridiculous too before I continue. Are you good now? Okay. I'll go on.

That night I took the book from him, closed it, and told him he was done because NONE of Will's 9-month-old playmates were stacking blocks. And in all honesty I haven't opened up a parenting technique book since despite recommendations on books about sleep methods and separation issues and whatever. I am currently about two chapters into "The Five Love Languages for Children" and have really only read books about how to make sure you don't go off the rails as a parent. I read devotionals and books about how to understand my kids and relate to them, but I don't generally speaking read specific parenting books that include milestones to look for.

Actual screenshot from today of my "Goodreads" app.
I won't tell you how long it took me to get to 17% read.
The other book you can't see from the screenshot? Schindler's List.
I won't tell you how long it took me to get to 50%, or how long it's been collecting dust.

I don't have room in my life for that kind of stress. I just don't.

As such, when I decided that it was time to begin potty training Will - I didn't even ask for recommendations. I just decided it was time. I brought Will to pick out underwear. I bought a small potty. I bought a seat insert for the big potty.

No books, no searching for advice. Just some anecdotal information from other moms who talked about it and a general knowledge of my kid and how he operates.

We are four-and-a-half days into the experience, and so far it's been... interesting. I've mentioned before that I think that moms sharing their experiences can be wonderfully beneficial, so I figured I'd share a few of the things that I've learned and experienced with you.

1. Poop is scary. Over the winter, Will had a "naked phase" during which time I moved the potty into the kitchen. He peed on the floor but pooped in the potty during these 4 hours, so I assumed (foolishly) that pooping would be the easier thing for him to experience. This is not the case. The moment he started to make that scrunched up face indicating that a load was about to be dropped out of his behind, I picked him up and brought him into the potty. Crying, wailing, and near-tooth-gnashing ensued. "NO I DON'T WANNA POOP ON THE POTTY!!!" echoed off the walls and probably was heard by my neighbors. Ten minutes later he pooped. I did the whole positive encouragement thing and reassured him that it was great. I've been bringing him with me in when I poop so he can see that it's really not a big deal - everyone poops. You know... maybe I should just get him that book, come to think of it...
Anyways, he's genuinely scared of pooping in the potty. We've gotta work on that. I refuse to rub his back and hold his hand in his college dorm bathroom. 

Available for purchase on Amazon
2. Bribery... I mean... rewards... are awesome. Is it really bribery if I give him chocolate chips after he uses the potty? I read or heard somewhere on some website or blog or something that you shouldn't reward kids for things that they should just do as part of life. Among these things are putting their clothes in the laundry, making their beds, helping with the dishes, and using the bathroom. I don't know about that. It seems to work when you reinforce the behavior and then phase it out as time goes on once it's just rote behavior.  There's something to be said for conditioning practices, and for crying out loud it makes me feel like I'm putting that BA in Psychology to good use. I don't have my son throwing a temper tantrum when he doesn't get his single chocolate chip for peeing right before bedtime, and he's certainly not getting one for peeing in the bathroom at Target. But so far it seems to be working and helping him to pay more attention to what his body is doing so he can make it to the bathroom. This is enough for me to continue to feed my kid a chocolate chip when he pees and 2 if he poops. No accidents all day? Kid, you're getting a mini-Hershey's.

One for one and two for two - get it? I'm so clever...
3. Fun for the whole family! Our almost 15-month old daughter has been getting in on the fun. Every time Will needs to use the potty, she's running in right behind us. If he's on the big potty, she'll plop on the small one and start tearing off tiny pieces of toilet paper to drop between her legs into the pot. I've been told that the second child will often want to train early because the first one is using the toilet, so I have (for the most part) been allowing her to follow us in there. What I have noticed is that she can be distracting for Will sometimes, so I have to meter it and sometimes she doesn't get to come in (see number one above about number twos). This, of course, lends to a meltdown because the potty is just so darned exciting! Either way, she's getting involved in the process and has gotten a few new words out of it (bathroom - bah-ruhm, chocolate - chot-tit, and hands - han). And let's not forget the high-fives from everyone when Will is successful in the bathroom-going endeavors. Most necessary. 

4. Kids say (and do) the darndest things. Today while I was waiting the requisite 3 minutes (arbitrary amount of time I wait for Will to try and pee), I noticed that Will was flexing his pelvic muscles to make his little tiny penis bounce. This... this didn't start at home. This started in the bathroom at Target. So I asked him, "Will, whatcha doing?" to which he said "Making my penis bounce."

Of course.

This bouncing led to him giving himself a tiny person erection (which he didn't question). I drew no attention to any of what he was doing other than asking and let it go. When he was done with his 3 minutes (he didn't go, presumably because he was doing the aforementioned) we pulled his pants back on, washed his hands, and went on our way.

The next time he saw his penis, the tiny person erection had of course passed. This led to him screaming from our bathroom "OH NO!! Mommy! My penis fell down!!!"

It's times like these that I am sad that we can't laugh at more things as parents so as to not discourage our children or make them think they are strange. I assured him he was completely fine. He felt better. And then we went into the "poop is scary" phase (see number one about number twos above... again).

Note: I share this story with you because kids are ridiculous, and if no one warns you then your kid will do something like this and it will freak you out. No one warned me about certain things... so... you're welcome for this story. 

Because these two are ridiculous... never a dull moment.
5. They WILL figure it out. Today after breakfast, I was cleaning up the kitchen when I noticed Will standing perfectly still pinching at the crotch of his pants with a strange look on his face. "Will," I said, "I think you need to pee, Buddy." He scrunched his face up all concerned and said "Yeah I do", so we rushed to the bathroom and missed an accident by the narrowest of margins. After he was done and his hands were washed, I explained to him that if he felt that again where he thought he had to pinch himself that he should let me know. "Will, make sure you say 'Mommy! I need to go to the bathroom right away!' and we'll get you there super duper fast... OK?" Sure enough, within minutes of being home from the store he got a concerned look on his face again and said "Mommy INeedToGoPeeRightAwaaaaaaay!!!". We jumped up, ran to the bathroom, and missed an accident by an even narrower of margins than the narrowest. I've been watching as he's been paying more and more attention, and it's been pretty cool to see him discover what his body does and how to handle it.

The war zone. I even got a stool to reach the sink.

So I didn't read a book on this and I'm totally flying by the seat of my pants to teach my kid how to use the potty, but it seems to be working out OK. It might take me longer than a day or a weekend or a night or even a week like some books will say - and some people have used those methods with great success - but I'm all right with that. To quote so many parents that I've talked to about it - very few children go to kindergarten without being relatively potty trained. 

And also to quote so many parents I've talked to and a mantra we tend to stand by: You have to do what works best for you and your family. Take all the advice, cull it and tailor it for your needs, make your own story.

That's what works best for us. 

That and chocolate chips.