I was listening to a couple of parents going back and forth about potty training the other day and decided that it’s time to end the mystery and open this up as a topic on my blog. I believe it’s a universal truth that the idea of teaching our children to use the toilet strikes fear in the hearts of most parents. For some reason we feel inept and unqualified to instruct others on this simple, yet necessary, life function. How could this be? Throughout our parenting careers I am sure that greater challenges have presented themselves and I’m willing to bet that we attacked many of these challenges with confidence and zeal. But the thought of training our kids to use the crapper sends our anxiety levels through the roof- I have to wonder why we are so intimidated?
Connie and I were like most parents when it came to the process of potty training- we had yet to reach the Zen level of enlightenment that we enjoy now. So we did a lot of research before Mack was even remotely ready to make an attempt at the big white bowl. I’m pretty confident that we did more research on his topic than any other aspect of parenting to include the birthing process. We went straight to the web and then to the library, to collect as much information as we could. There are a ton of self proclaimed experts who have made a fortune selling their philosophies on the perfect potty training technique- Snake Oil salesmen, brokering hope to an intimidated demographic. We fell in rank and file. We believed that in order to successfully conquer this monumental quest we would need professional help- and a lot of it. So we read; and we contemplated; and we discussed; and we joined support groups and…well you probably get the point. We made things a lot more complicated than we probably should have. But before I give you our method (for free mind you) let me explain how life altering potty trained kids can be.
Getting your kids out of diapers is one of those milestones that I would place next to baby‘s first words, first steps or college graduation- it’s simply that huge. If you’re still smelling of baby wipes and carrying around a 40lb diaper bag everywhere you go let me paint a picture of what life will soon be like. When your kids finally say “enough is enough” and join the civilized masses you will no longer be faced with several ugly tasks. For instance, you will no longer be required to wipe another person’s butt. Think about it, I don’t know a single parent who has muttered these words- “You know what dear, I sure do miss wiping Henry’s ass- I think I’ll give him a call this weekend and see if we can arrange some father-son time”- reason being, wiping a kid’s butt is gross. Changing an occasional diaper might be a novelty for non-parents- but it’s not if you’re doing it 24/7.
But wait there is more. When your kids are potty trained you can skip right past the diaper aisle at the grocery store without a second thought as to if Huggies are on sale this week. Friggin glorious. Personally, that’s how I knew that I had turned a significant corner on parenting. I started to walk down the baby aisle when I realized there wasn’t a single item on my list that I needed in this area of the store- Holy Shit, I’ve been liberated! No more diapers, no more ass-wipes, no more butt cream- all of that cash instantly redirected to my robust home equity line of credit. I was beside myself with glee, overwhelmed with joy. I ran past several parents perusing infant diapers (whoa! they have a long way to go) to find others who had escaped diaper hell. It wasn’t hard to find them, they were smiling and had fat wallets, and when they saw me coming they opened their arms to welcome me to their society of survivors. Sure was nice to find others who could understand the significance of the moment.
There is so much more to life when your kids are no longer pooping in their pants. No more changing tables in gas station rest rooms that looked like they were used as a card table for a band of Hobos. No more 30-minute diaper bag packing process. No more running to the convenience store at 3 a.m. because you’re out of wipes. No more gut wretching odors when your trapped in traffic and one of your kids decides to drop a deuce in the back seat- anyone go through that, I speak from experience not somewhere you want be. I can’t emphasize the magnitude of this life altering stage in parenting enough. In our home we celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the day our kids learned how to use the toilet.
Now on to our method-
When we decided that it was time to potty train Mack, I was unfortunately deployed to Iraq and unable to participate. When it was Cayden’s turn I was not so lucky. My wife allowed me to take the lead on this evolution as payback for not being around the first time. I felt up to the challenge as stated earlier, I had read plenty of books; watched plenty of videos; received on-line help etcetera. Even though I had all of this knowledge packed into my head from previous research I felt it prudent to see if anything new on the topic had come out in print. I found a new book, I read one sentence and then put it away. The sentence stated “Talk to the child before beginning potty training and see if they are ready to participate”. Made sense to me- I wonder if Connie did that before potty training Mack? Truth be told it does not matter what type of approach you take, if the kid does not feel like participating then guess what? You’re not going to be successful.
On the big day (choose a weekend) I sat Cayden down and explained to him what we were going to attempt. I gave him two things- a brand new pair of “Thomas the Train” big boy underpants and a book about a little boy learning to use the crapper. We talked for a while about how “big boys” use the toilet and not their pants and then I asked him if he was ready to try it. Cayden has always been an easy kid with a great temperament- no surprise he was ready to give it a shot. And so began the brainwashing evolution known as potty training. Here are steps I took.
I let Cayden wear his new underpants (but only during the day at first).
Then, every hour I walked Cayden to the potty and helped him undo his trousers. I showed him how to aim and then we stood there and waited, we waited some more, and then we waited for a little longer. After a while we ceremoniously wiped the rim of toilet with paper and flushed- flushing was the highlight for Cayden.
At bed time I put him in training pants. Every few hours I would get out of bed, grab Cayden and take him to the bathroom. Same drill as the day time evolution- only difference is I had to hold Cayden’s body erect otherwise he would have fallen into the toilet. Most of the night time trips he couldn’t remember because he never woke up. Every so often I would alternate standing to sitting in case he had to do more than pee. I can’t begin to tell you how many minutes I logged crouched in front of the toilet with Cayden’s butt on the seat and his head on my shoulder sound asleep.
We did this drill all weekend until he actually let a little fluid go into the bowl- amazing! At that point I experienced a flash of euphoria, I saw the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, a bush was burning in the back ground, flowers sprouted from the frozen earth and my childhood pet came back to life. That is how right the planet was at that one single moment. Cayden danced- and then refused to flush until everyone in the family and a few neighbors got an opportunity to view his accomplishment. From there it was easy. Sure we experienced some set backs and an occasional accident, but all said and done it was pretty smooth sailing- together we had managed to accomplish a huge task as father and son.
A little additional advice for those of you who have kids just beginning to use the toilet. Teach your kids to put the seat up when they pee, but teach them to put the seat down when they need to have a bowel movement- Cayden has gone for a swim more than once because he has forgotten this bit of advice. Multiple kids peeing in the same toilet at the same time equates to wet smelly kids and a damp floor. With newly potty trained children wear shower shoes in the bathroom at all times, re-read the statement above for further explanation. Newly trained children abide by the principle “the more paper the better”. In following this adage they will use an entire roll of toilet paper to wipe their tiny buttocks. So that being said keep a plunger near the bathroom but out of the reach of your kids who will try to serve each other lucky charms out of the cup end.
Happily at this stage in our lives both kids use the potty with a certain degree of expertise. I do realize however to expect ebb and flow, some days are better than others. I still must remind Mack to flush the toilet on occasion- this is confusing for him. His response to me asking him to flush is simply, “But then no-one will see the poop”- yes Mack that is the idea. To him a really good bowel movement is worthy of praise and admiration from family and friend alike.
So that is my adivice, it can be done. You and your child can pull this one off. It takes about one weekend’s worth of effort but it pays off huge dividends.