Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Toilet Training: Our Strategies

I am not suggesting by any means that I am an expert on this subject - heck-to-the-no! I am however submitting my offering to the online Potty Training library - because I know I like to consider an array of tools and strategies for managing a new learning experience before I'm knee-deep in it (bad imagery?) and I don't want to be a taker alone.

I sincerely believe a wide and diverse range of approaches to Potty Training work, I also believe they all have a two things in common a) Consistency and b) Patience. The way my friend, Tessy, potty-trained her son, for example - amazing; entirely different from what I ended up doing, but undeniably awe---some. Both of my sisters have already been through this, (one more than once), as have my sisters-in-law - and I heard their theories - again, all solid - but different from how things played out in our household. What we all had: an interest in keeping our own rules, once set, and sticking it out; consistency, and patience.

Again, readers, this (lengthy) post is intended for the smaller audience within my small audience for whom this is relevant, and of that bunch I expect picking and choosing from the headings below to help you in your quest!
Our Preparation:
  • Talk about it.
  • Show her pictures of other kids on a toilet (I kept some in the nappy caddy she could hold every time I changed her so she was thinking about the upcoming transition every time she defecated).
  • Talk about what she did in her nappy.
  • Get her to pull her own pants down and up for changing times, and when dressing and undressing.
  • Leave the bathroom door open when willing examples are using the toilet.
  • Practise sitting on the toilet, lid down (clothes on).
  • Invite Esky to pick her new underwear.
  • Talk up the "special" cushioned seat she will use on the toilet.
  • Invite her to bring a "friend" to sit on a potty while she is using the toilet.
  • Enthusiastically explain how the reward system will work.
Our "Rules" / Plan of Attack:
  • Start when she and I seem ready for it and relaxed about the idea. (This was when things were a little more settled after the baby's arrival, when Esky was 25 months old, and when I felt I had enough energy and sleep to do it without my husband at home 90% of the time.)
  • Once we start, there is no turning back.
  • Starting means taking the nappy off during the day, and putting underwear on.
  • Esky is to be asked 20-minutely if she needs to go the toilet, and put on the toilet hourly whether she says she needs to go or not.
  • She should always "try and see if there's anything" after eating, or sitting for a long period, and before and after sleep.
  • A nappy is still to be worn at night; night-time mastery is to be treated as a separate kettle of fish.
  • Pull-ups are only to be used for times when it would be very very difficult to deal with an accident, but routine is still to be maintained - they were a precaution, not a fallback. This meant Esky wore them to church (1 hour sacrament meeting, 2 hours of Nursery), and out once to run errands, early on.
  • Maintain calm at all times. The outlook is always sunny. Disappointment from her is okay, calm commentary in return is the answer. Key phrases include, "We'll keep trying, and we'll get it right!" "Maybe next time!" "It's okay to be disappointed, because it will be really cool when you get it right. It's time to smile again now though, because you will get it right!" "Thank you for trying." "It will be nice when you are clean, won't it!?"
  • When accidents happen, Esky still needs to go and sit on the toilet to "finish" the job - even if it is obvious she has emptied her bladder or bowel.
  • While Esky is sitting on the toilet after an accident, be cheerful, calm and happy to talk - from a distance - but explain you need to clean up the mess.
  • Always wash and dry hands, whether there were results or not.
  • Activities on the go when a scheduled visit is due should "pause," but explain sometimes we do have to plain stop what we're doing to go, it's part of life!
  • Record the timing and details of how it all goes down (everywhere) for a few days, because we are learning too!
Our Rewards:

In addition to hugs, kisses, and victory dances...
  • Flushing the toilet. You only get to flush when you do something, dear girl. She'll be able to reward herself for a lifetime - we're generous like that.
  • Ring that bell! (Let the world know of your success! Okay, the household. Okay...those within earshot in our household.)
  • Stickers on Esky's "Toilet Chart!" A toot on the toilet = 1 sticker; pee in the toilet = 2 stickers; poo in toilet = 3 stickers. I drew our toilet on a piece of A3 card because I felt an arbitrary table would mean a lot less to my 2-year-old than "filling up her toilet."
  • Praise. This was not limited to the actual event, but went on for a time after each success, or any time I felt like bringing it up again and praising her. I also praised her (when she could hear) when talking to others a lot.
  • Chocolate Raisins. I didn't plan this one - she asked for this reward! I would have gone with yoghurt-covered raisins, personally...or maybe just plain ol' raisins...although I was trying to execute our plan without food. But again, she asked. She was sitting on the toilet when she said, "If I do pee in the toilet, maybe I can have chocolate raisins!" And that was when I sold my soul.
Our Results:
Note: Esky has worn disposables up until now. I think this is a huge consideration in setting your expectations (which is risky business at all, in my opinion). But when you are giving yourself hope or want some idea of how long it could take, I think one should keep in mind that a child who hasn't been in cloth needs time to learn what it feels like to be wet; children in cloth have known every time they've urinate for a long time, and so their potty training commenced much earlier.
  • After 3 weeks of regular accidents, she had four days of being dry! We're still working on the poop, however.
  • When I say "regular," for the first few days, I mean in a single day she could pee eight times on the floor, and poo once. I wasn't sure how often it was going to be, going into this, it would have been nice to have an idea (again, ballpark - all kids are different!)
  • The first time she urinated in the toilet was a fluke during a timed visit.
  • At the two week mark we had a few more successes at timed visits, then a request to go and peeing immediately on arrival! Then a few days of nothing going in the toilet from any orifice again.
  • The accidents started to happen less often in week two. There wasn't necessarily lots more success either - just less frequent peeing on the floor (more bladder control).
  • Then the successes started, and became more of a norm right off the bat - with an accident becoming the anomaly.
  • Esky started to have dry nappies most mornings during week two. Last night she asked to go to the toilet after being asleep for an hour so (she hadn't managed to summon the waters at the scheduled before-bed sitting), and at 8:00am this morning she woke up requesting a trip to the toilet. It's looking like night control is going to come all on its own!
  • After two days of all pee going into the toilet at home, The Supermarket Miracle took place.
  • The next day she also went when I took her for a timed visit midway through her Nursery block, at church.
  • When accidents took place with the Pull-ups, she (thankfully) still knew. I'm not sure she would have if she'd worn them all of the time. I'm also not sure if we'd be buying anything but potatoes each week. She treated them like underwear, following our cue, and waddled to me when she peed, explaining she had done so, by mistake. Great for occasional use, in my book.
  • The routine of sitting on the can after an accident and taking care of the mess (two concepts) was important to us because I didn't want her to decide that it's easier to "Just go, man" - because sometimes playing is too fun to take a break. I figured if she learned she was going to spend time on the seat either way, one way with company and clean, the other without and waiting...she'd maintain an interest in going in the right place. I never tried to make it feel like a punishment, however, but a natural consequence. I kept a real close eye on my tone of voice so that it was clear I still loved her guts, but must clean up the accident.
  • My sisters passed a toilet seat insert onto us - it was designed to go under the seat, and slid a lot less than the ones you put on top. It was fantastic! That was, until it snapped and Esky folded in half and sunk into the bowl so that her legs and arms were pointed upwards. Surprisingly, she hopped right back on the throne when Haki arrived with a new ($7.00) cushy seat before her next scheduled visit. Thattagirl!
  • One of Esky's flukes happened while we were playing catch with a large balloon while she was sitting and waiting for something to happen - she released the balloon, and released some other muscles too!
  • I'm glad I waited until it had been a few months since Ivy's birth for her sake too - the poor girl has often been unlatched and laid on very short notice.
  • When Esky becomes aware there's something solid ready to make its way out her rear there's very little time. There's a flash of realisation across her little face, and then there's a look of alarm - as though to say, "This thing is coming whether we like it or nooooot!" Her legs freeze. After seeing "the" face one time in the kitchen, I attempted to circumvent the turd's premature arrival by scooping Esky up and carrying her like a table through the house to the bathroom - that thing was already turtle-heading! I then held her vertical over the bowl and watched the earth-bound stool splash into its new home. I turned to an onlooking, awestruck Haki and said, "I'm counting that." ...but the table dash has not been repeated.
Our Practical Tips (things that made my life easier, at least):
  • I decided to embark on this learning curve in winter. In a home with very little insulation and a dusting of snow outside. I could have waited a half-year for things to warm up, but Esky had expressed interest in going on the toilet...and I didn't want to ignore her readiness. Back to the winter thing. For me, it was a lot easier to keep Esky in knickers and stockings on her bottom half - rather than knickers, pants and socks - the stockings dried fast on the clothes-horse, and for the number of changes I was making, it felt like it simplified things.
  • Scrub it straight away, I say! I'm determined any waste can come out if you get hot water and a brush on it immediately.
  • Pull-ups allow the training to continue, but pulling them up and down like underwear and treating accidents exactly the same was important to keep up the illusion. (I was gifted two packs of these and asked to review them here. My honest opinion is that putting my kid in those full-time would have been expensive and ineffective. I think over time she would have concluded they weren't that different from nappies. There's a powerful lesson to be learned while standing in one's own puddle.) For us, these are for occasional use - one or two Pull-ups a week. Big plus = she did feel wet initially when she had an accident in them (would this apply as well to former cloth-users? Maybe not) Kiwis can request a sample of these from the Huggies website for their quest.
  • When Esky first fluked releasing her pee at the right time, she was touching her belly button. I noticed this, made a joke about it being her magic button, and she's been pushing it ever since! Maybe it's worth watching what your little one is doing closely so that when the light-switch moment occurs, you can replicate the experience for the next scheduled visit. I've read that making sounds for really young ones is what helps with elimination training ("ssssss" when they're peeing and grunts during a poo). If I did it again with Esky, I would have come up with a code word every time I saw her pushing in her nap, and then used that code word on the toilet when it was clear she was ready to clear things out....because now, we're making 5-8 trips to the toilet where she thinks she's ready for some pushing, but leaving again without any show. I'm pretty sure she's aware of a need a lot sooner than it's ripe and ready (/shudder), but it's not until there's a pressing need that these things are comin' out (/second shudder), and that's going to take some more time. Oh, for a code word so she'd learned the identify the muscles earlier.
  • Old towels absorb a lot. Getting pee before it is absorbed in carpet also makes a big difference (it often pooled on the surface for a bit first, for us).
  • Reading, singing, and talking while waiting can be a positive experience. Esky's learned "Hello, Thumbkin," all of her lower case alphabet characters (excepting 'b' and 'd') and has developed some seriously astute "I Spy" skills.

Want to share yoooour strategies? Already shared them somewhere? You are most welcome to wear the mantra badge below on your post or sidebar - to show you survived, or that you're going through it. Or don't, that's okay too! I welcome your favourite tricks and traps of the toilet training trade in the comments below, either way. Links to full posts on the subject are perfect as well - I'd love for anyone "preparing or despairing" to feel like they've struck the motherload!

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