So…. I was terrified. Me? Mother of 10? Should be old-hat by now, yes?
But here it was… time to potty-train. I had avoided it, ignored it, waited, watched, and wondered about it, but now it just HAD to be done.
Sarah had started taking off her own diapers, they both told me when they went in their diaper now (didn’t like it and wanted it off), and worst of all today of all days Addie had been playing with the older children and HADN’T told me and now she had a super sore bottom and I felt was too big and strong to be struggling with changing a diaper and soo…. in a rash moment of irrationality I said, “OK, that’s it, the diapers are done.” Didn’t I remember what a stressful week we were under? SOO MUCH TO DO! Didn’t I think about the fact that it is summer here- never a great time for potty training with siblings home from school, so much travel and outdoors (not near a potty) much of the time? Didn’t I recall I had meant to reread AT LEAST ONE POTTY TRAINING book BEFORE I was going to do this? – actually I had a new one I wanted to read and I really hadn’t even ordered it yet! What had I done? But my mother’s words echoed in my head, once you start potty training and put children in undies you can’t turn back. And so I resolved, I would just buck it up and do this.
A couple week’s later! Wow, that was GREAT!! We all, Addie, Sarah and I, did great!!! I knew more than I thought I did ;). So this time, instead of reading the book I never got to, I will post a few pointers for any other parents that might be interested in, and maybe a little terrified of, potty-training any time soon!
Here’s my “Mom-of-10’s SUPER SIMPLE but SUCCESSFUL for us” approach to potty training:
First step: BE POSITIVE!– even if you are feeling grumpy like I was that week, SHOW POSITIVITY! (Positive Parenting, Glenn Latham – best chapter ever on potty training! or you can watch his youtube videos, even better!). I was saying, showing, and demonstrating that I believed in them, that potty training is a happy thing and teaching them with completely positivity (even when I wasn’t sure about this myself at first ;). A ‘you can do this’ attitude! Look for the good – you can start this before you even move a child to undies – notice when they are dry and clean, outloud, and happily quite frequently. It helped a ton.
NEVER, NEVER YELL at or SPANK a child for an accident or any kind of mess or mistake when it comes to potty-training. You’ll set yourself and the child back a hundred miles and damage the relationship. Children want Mom and Dad and Grandpa and Grandma’s and Teacher’s approval and attention most – it is the most powerful tool a parent has – whatever you pay attention to (good or bad) will grow! So set out with a determination to IGNORE as much as possible the mistakes, accidents, set-backs, downplay them as no big deal and REALLY ENJOY sincerely and out-loud the successes – they will grow!!!!
We had a potty-party to start out with, Daddy brought home 2 little potty-chairs for the playroom bathroom, 1 more in addition to the one we already had for our bathroom, and 2 toilet toppers for toddlers to keep on the 2 main floor toilets (super cheap ones- my husband reminded me it was less expensive to do this than to buy another box of diapers!). The girls spent the afternoon putting stickers on their new ‘tiny toiyets’ as they call them.
Second step: TEACH – OK, so how do you teach a little child how to listen to their body, that it’s a good thing to put it in the toilet, that they can do this? I think it’s best to start months before. From about 2 yrs old on (some of my children by 18 mo. on as this is peak interest it seems and I’ve heard others say earlier) I place a little potty chair by the tub or toilet for them to use when we are getting ready for bath or after bath, just a positive, simple, try-it-out kind of thing. My girls had used it successfully several times since turning 2.
Then get a couple great potty books (I think there are only a couple good ones out there – some I really don’t like) and read, read, read. We read about “Hannah” who was about their age and didn’t like her yucky diapers and changing them, who discovered what a potty chair was, who went through learning to listen to her body and get in IN the potty (not beside it or in her pants) and then FELT GREAT when she knew how to do this! We read this a lot before and during training. Cute to see my twin girls COMPLETELY ‘get it’ when we read it now (vs a few months ago) and laugh when Hannah sits on her potty chair for the first time with her pants on, or have an accident. My favorite line from her parents, “That’s OK Hannah, Don’t give up yet!” (The Potty Book for Girls by Alyssa Capucilli & Dorothy Stott). I used that line for Addie and Sarah a couple times when they had yelled, “I need to go poo-poos!” but didn’t quite make it. It was upbeat, encouraging, and downplayed the accident. We kept these books by the toilet to read while we were waiting once in a while.
Then you ROLE-PLAY, ROLE-PLAY, ROLE-PLAY as in “what are you going to do when you need to go peepee or poopoos?” With Addie and Sarah we repeated,
- “First: Say “I need to go potty!”
- Second: RUN to the toilet,
- Third: Sit on the toilet and go poopoos!” Lots of cheering here. Once I had the girls show me how fast they were going to run. Several times I had them tell me what they were going to say when the peepees wanted out. 🙂 Especially after an accident, it is important NOT TO SCOLD but to role-play success “What are you going to do next time?” (Glenn Latham, Positive Parenting)
Be prepared to spend a LOT of time at the toilet for about the first 3 days as they learn ALL about how this all works. 🙂 By 4th day I felt my girl’s really had the concept, now it’s just practice, reinforce, practice, reinforce, and being consistent wherever you go, church, park, store…
Third step: REWARD their efforts and their successes!! AGAIN, NOTICE THOSE DRY UNDIES AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN with real, sincere, happy comments and smiles!! It will really reinforce the desired effect and make potty training a joyful, exciting thing instead of a nervous, trying thing. Also, get tiny treats (tootsie rolls and those teeny, tiny lollipops or a wrapped starburst – these were my girl’s favorite), keep on hand up high. They can be given with a “THANK YOU!”, a “WAY TO GO!” or a “THAT WAS AWESOME!” or as bribery when you’re little one is sick of the potty after sitting on it so much for the first 3 days of learning and they need a little encouragement to get back on the potty after a couple hours. The treat training method was all we needed to do for one of our oldest daughters – one time, one treat and she was trained forever. Maybe your little one is like our Clara and doesn’t care for sugar but would really get excited about picking a tiny ball, or finger puppet, or jar of play-doh, or a plastic bug out of a bucket as a little reward when she goes. I think it’s far more effective than a potty-chart this first time through and at this young age. It’s an immediate, in-their-hands, fun reward to reinforce what a great job they’re doing.
Fourth step: BE PATIENT. Think of yourself being the little one trying to learn all this, experiencing this big life change and new responsibility and be encouraging and patient. They are going to have accidents, just so you know, especially starting off, no biggie (having wipes nearby and fresh undies makes it a small matter).
I stocked up this time with PLENTY of panties of course for accidents or just ‘I feel like changing them’ moods but I was sure this time to invest in the thicker training pants (cloth, no turning back remember?) for night time or for leaving the house in the first couple weeks). These minimize the mess and help make an accident stay ‘no big deal’ (which is most likely to occur at the beginning of training as they just wake at first or as one travels at first).
Once again I just want to say DO NOT SPANK or SCOLD a child for having an accident. I am SOOO GRATEFUL I felt committed to this as an early mom because we have had 4 children out of our 10 with 3 different physical issues that caused accidents: an ectopic uretor (in otherwords a small tube from the top of the kidney missed the bladder and just leaked like a faucet), a tethered cord (a condition where the spinal cord is thicker or actually attached where it shouldn’t be so as the child grows it causes LOTS of bladder infections and other issues, could result in paralysis), and a spastic bladder (which I’ve heard is rather common among children). It took more than a couple years to find and resolve these problems. It was SOOOOO DIFFICULT to be patient when I didn’t know what was going on, only that I had this smart child that seemed potty-trained having plenty of accidents. I wish now I had been MORE PATIENT still as I remember all too well a couple of melt-downs on my part. I know physical problems are not the only issues children have when it comes to potty-training, emotional trauma or trouble at home can wreak havoc as well. So my last word to you wise parents and grandparents and anyone else helping these little children, BE PATIENT, BE KIND, BE POSITIVE and UPBEAT as you possibly can and KNOW, as my husband said when I was exasperated with a child potty-training years ago “Don’t worry, she won’t get married in a pull-up”. LOL. You never know I suppose ;).
Fifth step: HAVE FUN with this! Point out the little things, the fun things like listening to the tinkle in the toilet – really encouraging to tiny tots – or the fun of flushing! (though this may be all your child wants to do a while). My neighbor said she’d tickle her little ones back to get her to go, I try turning on running water and tickling back to help my little ones go – neither of these work guaranteed for my children to teach them to go but they are relaxing and enjoyable to them. DO NOT get after these tiny ones for a toilet paper problem, but do get some super thin stuff so it won’t hurt the toilet or your budget when they just keep rolling it out and want to use more and more.
AND last but not least, speaking from experience, many children WILL backslide a bit a few months down the road, they get busy and more interested in other things than potty-training again and then for a few months at least you may want to pull out the potty-chart, some new motivation and rewards to keep them on track. (REALLY NOT looking forward to that, hoping it doesn’t happen – but if it does I will rally myself and press forward.)
For now, I am ONE HAPPY MOMMA!!!! These little twins are doing GREAT!! They’ve GOT THIS! And it is the first time in 21 years that my husband and I won’t be buying diapers at the store this month!!! Wow. (Almost makes me sad 😉 – ENJOY THOSE LITTLE ONES!!!)
CaMarie and The Hoffman Crew
P.S. Just in time to surprise big brother Isaac who comes home from his two-year mission for our church in Argentina tomorrow! He hasn’t been with them since they were 8 months old!