Potty training has been an overwhelming success at our house. It's taken some adjustments, not only from Avery, but from me and Jason as well.
Potty training was just, well, an overwhelming thought to me for the past two years. Of all of the things I wasn't looking forward to doing, this was it. And mainly, it was because I had no idea what I was doing or what plan I had "going in."
Much like anything with kids, every kid is completely different and every parent is different and so every milestone, in which you must transition a kid from one thing to another is going to be different. For us, the biggest milestones we've hit so far have been weaning from breastfeeding, getting rid of the pacifier, and sleeping through the night. All of those things feel like they worked themselves out, but I don't really know why that is. I guess it's because I've just gone with the flow and not held on when a stage was passing, so I wasn't resistent to it. Potty training is not different in that regard.
Avery has always picked up on things very easily, so it was tempting to start potty training her before she was ready, with the thought that she was smart enough to catch on. Well, potty training is just one of those things that just because you are smart, doesn't mean your body is ready to start too. We tried once and realized very quickly she just didn't want to try. So, we didn't force her. Instead, we just thought we would try again. We watched for cues like, telling us when she is peeing her in diaper, wanting us to change her right after she goes, stuff like that. I also decided to follow Jason's lead and do what he did with the other two, which was let them be naked. So, that's what we did. I was home for a week and we let Avery run around with socks and long shirts and nothing else. That worked great! But when we would put Pull-ups on her, she would go in her Pull-ups. And putting real underwear on her did nothing, either. She is just now getting to the point where her Pull-up is dry all day, and it's starting to stay dry at night as well. She will wear real underwear if we are at home or she is near a restroom, but if we know we will be running errands and in a car for a long period of time and we can't stop for a break super easily, she wears a Pull-up. She doesn't like going in it, but at least it's there just in case she can't hold it.
I thought I would put together a list of tips and tricks I've learned over the last few weeks that have really helped me.
1. You simply can't get frustrated. Potty training is frustrating, no doubt. You put them on the potty and they don't go. Or, they have an accident and pee in a closet when they first start. Or, they need to poop and you've put them on the potty 10 times that day, and nothing happens. You can't get frustrated. You can't "yell" them into going. You can't force them to go, you can't spank them when they have an accident, or punish them at all. It is completely and totally counterproductive. You are dealing with a child's body and parts they don't know how to control just yet. You can't get upset when they aren't doing it at your pace.
2. You have to be at their beck and call in the beginning. When they say, "I have to go potty!" you can't expect them to wait until when it's at your convenience. You put that fork down, pop them out of their booster chair, and take them to the potty. Or, you get them out of the car seat you just spent five minutes putting them into, turn off the engine and roll back into the garage and take them to potty. It's just part of the deal. Expect to be late to work somedays. Expect to stop playing or watching a movie or working or whatever you are doing to take them to potty.
3. Find the "carrot" and reward, reward, reward. At our house, M&Ms were the reward and she got a few every time she went to the potty. Sometimes, even for telling us she had to go. But you have to find whatever it is that they love and give them that. Who cares if it's a little extra sugar? I mean, this is a big deal, you get rewarded for things in your life, shouldn't they? You can't give them candy forever, and now, she doesn't get M&Ms every time, but when she asks, she still gets them. And be excited and praise them to death! The more positive reinforcement, the better! She still gets a "yay!" every time, even if she doesn't get candy. And now, we get a "good job, you get M-M-Ms!" when we go, so that's nice.
4. Find the seat they like and use it! There are two types of potties they can use. They can use a potty chair, which is a small chair just for them, or the seat that goes on top of the regular potty. I have both and Avery just has never used the little potty. Not once. So, I've never tried to make her. She has always used the potty seat. In fact, Jason trained her to put her hands down on the big potty, so now, she doesn't even use the potty seat anymore, if it's not close to us. And it's fine. She likes (and this sounds gross) but she likes to watch herself go and likes seeing it get flushed. So gross, but hey, they are curious! So, if one isn't working, just try another and see if maybe they like one more than the other.
5. If they aren't ready yet, just wait a few more weeks and try again. the biggest tip I've learned is that when kids aren't ready, they just aren't. And there is nothing worse than forcing a kid to potty train who isn't ready.
6. Try not to compare your kid's readiness with other kids. This is really hard, because as a mom, there is always that tinge of jealousy and/or competitiveness that tells you that you are a bad mom if your friend's child was potty trained at 18 months and yours is two and still using diapers. Every kid is different and I was always prepared just to let Avery tell me when it's her time and be happy when it happens for her, at her pace!
7. Don't go past the point of them being ready. I think something that might be worse than making them go before they are ready is making them wait until after they are ready. After a certain point, if you wait too long, they get stubborn and just don't want to do it. Don't let it being inconvenient or not knowing go past their prime-time.
8. Expect that this is harder on you than it will be on them. Potty training is hard on you, it is. Pull-ups are more expensive than diapers. You have to stop what you are doing to take them to the potty. You have to clean up pee-pee off the floor. A car ride is interupted several times because they have to go. You are late to work/church/etc because of having to go. You wait and wait and wait for them to go #2. I mean, let's face it, it's hard! But expect it from the beginning and it's easier to take, for sure!
9. Appreciate that even though it's difficult, and frustrating, and hard to do, and etc etc etc, it's one of their last milestones from transitioning from a baby to a big kid, so enjoy it for what it is. I love watching her be proud of herself when she "goes." I love getting rewarded myself for going potty because she sees it as such a positive experience. I love that I am not going to have to buy diapers every week, anymore! And I love that my daughter now knows what it's like, and is old enough, to appreciate that she is accomplishing something that is very important!
Hang in there and good luck!