I mentioned a little while back that we were working on teaching Kale to potty. Enough time has passed since I posted that at the end of September that I think what I am about to post here will not come back and bite me in the arse (oh please oh please oh please) and I think I can safely say we are a diaper free household.
A few people asked me how we did it, and so I’m outlining what we did to teach Kale to potty, below. There needs to be a few disclaimers, of course: every child is different, there is no right method, you need to trust your instincts about it. So, with that in mind, I present my opinion of what worked for us.
I got my hands on a copy of 3 Day Potty Training, which essentially is a e-book that guarantees to have your child potty trained in 3 days if you follow the method described exactly. You can’t get a lot of information about the book from their website. You also can’t find out much more about the cost of the book or anything without joining their “help desk area” and providing a name and email address. The author believes strongly in her process and believes that any child can be potty trained using her method. The method is copyrighted and the long and lengthy discussion at the front of the book tells you all about that. It is essentially a positive reinforcement based, intensive 3 day process aimed at children 22 months and older.
All along, Ross and I have attempted to parent intuitively (as in: trust our guts and trust our abilities to be parents) and something felt wrong in my gut when I read the 3 Day Potty Training book. What bugs me isn’t so much the author’s suggestions and “method”, as it is the way she has marketed herself as being this know-it-all who has successfully potty trained a number of children. I dislike the style it is written in (at some parts, the author writes “I need you to” blah blah blah) as it makes me feel as though as a parent I am incapable of doing this on my own and she needs to step in and do it for me. I also dislike the design and layout of the book – a fact that shouldn’t have much bearing but apparently does when I’m already annoyed. Regardless, despite the success and positive reviews many people all over the internets (including my friend who recommended the book to me in the first place), I elected not to use this book’s methods.
When I was pregnant, I was given a copy of Your Baby and Child, by Penelope Leach. She is a British psychologist who writes about raising children 0-5 from a perspective of cognitive development. I have found this book to be terribly useful as a resource for us (Sidenote: I just uploaded a book list page – go check it out. Or not. Whatevs.) So I consulted Penelope as to her take on toilet training which essentially read: Yeah, kids, they’ll develop on their own time. Practice patience and love and stuff and be prepared for accidents. Which is basically what my gut said too.
So, away we went on the Potty Train. Toot, toot!
Because we cloth diapered from about 3 months, Kale had a really good understanding of the idea of being wet or poopy rather than clean and dry. Modern diapers do a good job of preventing diaper rash with all their “moisture wicking” and what not, but once children are old enough to be aware, I think modern diapers also prevent kids from understanding the different of wet and dry.
I bought both a potty seat and a potty chair for Kale to use. They were kicking around our house months before we actively decided to use them. That potty chair was a very well loved toy storage container for quite some time, but I made a point of always putting it back in the bathroom. We also let Kale come into the bathroom with us and explained what we were doing. It was really important to us we get the idea across that pooping and peeing are normal human things to do, and while they are generally done in a private room, they are no big deal.
We also started talking up a blue streak about being wet and poopy or clean and dry while we were doing diaper changes, pointing out when a diaper was poopy. Having him watch while we knocked the poop off the cloth diaper into the toilet helped a lot to visually illustrate POOP as a concept – and we talked a lot about how poop went IN the potty. We tried catching the poops as much as possible.
I wanted to buy some of the typical waffle fabric training underpants but for the life of me I could not find them anywhere for boys. They were all pink and Dora’d and Barbie’d. I wanted plain white waffle-fabric underpants. Instead, I bought underpants from H&M, Old Navy, and eventually, Target. Because we let Kale wander around the house naky with some regularity, I figured that it would be simple to try on underpants. Hoo boy was I wrong, wrong, wrong. While he would happily wear underpants on his head, it was the Worst Thing in the World to think he’d wear them normally. After some sleight of hand and “Special Treat” bribery, he started wearing underpants over his diaper all the time.
Meanwhile, we were actively encouraging Kale to announce when he needed to (or was) peeing while he was naked. We started running with him to the potty and rewarding him if he managed to get even a single drop in the potty. There was lots of high pitched exclamations of happiness, lots of high fiving, and lots of talk about “Special Treats”. At first, Kale was offered one Smartie for a pee on the potty, and two Smarties for a poop. While we didn’t use these as a bribe (as in “if you do this you get this”) we certainly used them as rewards for doing what we wanted. Kale was very hesitant to poop on the potty, but within a week he was regularly coming to us to pee – with or without clothes on. Most of the time we made it and occasionally we didn’t. He was doing really well with pees, and there were one or two poops that seemed to happen accidentally.
All of this activity took place at home. When we went out we still used full diapers. The first time I decided to take Kale out without a diaper was to the grocery store one Saturday afternoon. I hounded him incessantly when we arrived – how if he wanted to go to tell me, all he needed to do was tell me blah blah blah. Finally, Kale said “Mummy I’ll tell you when!” This was an important reminder for me as I hadn’t wanted to pester Kale about going – and really wanted him to always think he was in control of his body.
At this point, Kale was diapered only at night. Early on he had no trouble staying dry for his naps, and I felt a few wet sheets would not do him harm so we soon skipped the nap diaper altogether. I posted around the end of October (about a month after the process had even been as a seed in my mind) that it was going well. We scaled back the “special treats” and only rewarded for poops, and then only rewarded if he reminded us. The special treat jar still sits on the shelf in view and now it gets used for other rewards.
Kale was waking in the night and coming to get us if he needed to use the potty. We decided to ditch all the diapers completely at this point, so I packed up all the cloth diapers and gave away the few remaining disposables we had on hand. We considered Kale to be a successful potty trainer at this point, despite an accident or two.
We now go out with Kale’s bag of goodies. In it is spare socks, underpants, and and pants, as well as a wet bag and flushable wipes (at home we use both toilet paper and the cloth wipes we used for diapering). We haven’t had to use the emergency bag in a while, and I’ve noticed we’ve gone out a few times without it. I trust that Kale will tell me when he needs to go – the fear now is whether we will be able to find a potty in time. I have become a master at finding public toilets wherever we are and more than one bus has been missed because we needed to pee.
Now we are encouraging Kale to going all by himself (pants down seems easy, pants up can be complicated), appealing to his toddler assertion that he do everything by himself. We will soon start encouraging him to become involved in the wiping part – although I’m prepared to be doing that for a number of years to come judging by what some friends are telling me. Soon we are going to work on standing to pee. Right now, I’m happy with how relaxed the entire process has been and am satisfied with where we are at.