Let me just start out by saying I could not care less how anyone else potty trains. To each his or her own, whatever works for you, do it. I am not emotionally invested in anything potty training related beyond my own personal hope that I will be done handling human feces as soon as humanly possible. That said, I had pretty good success with my first child, my daughter. I attributed that success to the fact that she was an early talker and a very good communicator. I simply told her what we were going to start doing and then we did it. She caught on very quickly with the help of lots of naked time and readily told me when she had to go, whether we were home or in public. Yes, I did clean up several poop logs and pee puddles from my (at the time) hardwood floors. I also changed lots of outfits and learned that the beanbag chair combined with the TV was an enthusiastic invitation to pee one’s pants. But my point being, I thought my daughter was just a fast learner.
I had also been told by many people that boys are more difficult to potty train. So, when I first realized I would be potty training one, I lowered my expectations drastically. Then my son turned out to be a late talker. In fact, he is almost 15 months old as of this writing and his vocabularly consists primarily of “uh oh,” “cracker,” and a lot of grunting and pointing. Although we have tried to sign with him, he REFUSES to use the sign for anything in plain sight that he can grunt and point at. I can sometimes get him to sign milk. His signs for cracker, more, grapes, sit, and time are all identical, but I know he has a rather extensive signing vocabulary because he responds to my attempts by looking at the item in question or more frequently by grunting. Communication has been…frustrating. So I really didn’t expect much and sort of lost my enthusiasm for trying to potty train him early. I figured all along that I would start once he started talking. As it turns out, speaking is not a necessity for potty training. Yay!
We have a potty in our kitchen. It’s for Dagny to use because all of our 2 toilets are upstairs and it can be tricky getting her butt onto the toilet in time…at least it used to be back when Bode was still nursing and just learning to crawl. Life was somewhat hectic back then. Anyway. He has been fascinated with her use of the potty for as long as I can remember. And he started sitting on it and imitating her a while back. I starting thinking maybe all the opportunities for him to watch and learn might pay off. And pay off they did! My almost 15 month old is autonomously going to the potty and depositing both number ones and number twos. (Tangent… The first time I used that terminology to refer to human waste in front of Dagny, she immediately asked me, “What’s number three?” I still get a chuckle every time I think about it.) Anyway. So how did I get him to do that?
I took his pants off.
Yep, that’s pretty much it.
A couple months ago B got a pretty bad yeast rash on his belly. I was treating it and treating it but nothing was happening so I moved on to supervised naked time. What that means is I would take off his diaper and promptly get on Facebook. Usually my Facebook time would get rudely interrupted by Dagny yelling, “BODE PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!” So I would drag myself away from the computer and clean it up, put him on the potty and tell him to pee in the potty. I am not going to lie. There were a couple of times when instead of PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED, Dagny yelled POOOOOOOOOOOOPED. Those times were not so fun. One time in particular was very messy. That time Bode actually notified me himself. He has a special grunt that means, “Come here and see this RIGHT NOW!!!!” Either that or I have a psychic connection with him and I suppose either option is equally plausible. Anyway. There were maybe 3 such instances where he basically told me he pooped and a couple where I actually saw him get “the look.” (See I’m not ALWAYS on the computer.) The key here is what happens next, I think. I grab him and run him over and sit him down on the potty. Then I take the logs and place them in the potty, tell him we put the poop in the potty, then I clean up everything while keeping him from touching said logs. The most effective teaching moments (I think) are when you can catch them between their “oh shit” moment and the poop actually hitting the floor. If you are lucky you get them to the potty and the poop ends up there as well. Then you throw a huge fanfare, cheering them and congratulating. I can tell you, my son LOVES being praised for going potty. He loves praise, PERIOD. Nonetheless, you can imagine my surprise when one day he was running around naked and ran up and interrupted my phone conversation with his “Come! Look! Now!” grunt, accompanied by POINTING, which translates to very urgent, only to find him pointing at the potty. I followed him over and to my continued surprise he pointed into it rather than sat down. And sure enough, there was a tiny little log in there. After I picked my jaw up off of the floor I cheered and snuggled and spun him around…all without touching his poopy butt, mind you. We wiped him and that was that. He has continued to poop and pee in the potty all by himself as long as he is naked. He has also continued to notify me of his exploits so he can get his loving praise. And he has started trying to bring the potty bowl to me sometimes, which has resulted in a spontaneous manifestation of ESP on my part. If he has a diaper on he will pee in the diaper most of the time, but occasionally he will come to me (or whoever is nearby) and point at his crotch. Or he will go sit on the potty fully clothed and void into the diaper. I cannot really explain how thrilled I am about all these developments. I had lost hope of getting him out of diapers before 3 years old and here we are at 14 months and he is doing great! I’m not really sure how to make the leap to having him tell me about diaper “accidents” and public pee moments, but that is my next goal. I bought him some briefs, so we might have to endure a rough period of lots of outfit changes until it sinks in. Or should I say soaks in? But here we are, my non-verbal son is on pace to potty train earlier than my daughter did.
Now, I have some opinions on potty learning readiness that I know not everyone will agree with. I firmly believe (especially now) that kiddos are “ready” as soon as they can walk. Some people would say they are ready much sooner, such as 6 months but I don’t really count anything that is not somewhat autonomous. I think that if you miss this early window, you are in for a potentially complicated potty training experience. I’ve heard a lot of grief from friends who trained a bit later, and I’ve also heard from friends who waited until the last possible minute and their kid trained in a matter of days. When kids are 1 year old, they are still doing everything you tell them for the most part and desperately seeking your approval. At 2-3 years they begin to assert independence and that means they defy, defy, defy to see what you will do. They also start to find your exasperation VERY entertaining. So one can begin to speculate as to how developmentally this could create a rather unpleasant circumstance for teaching toilet training skills. Now to counter that, at least in my experience a few poops on the floor seem to be par for the course along the learning curve. It just happens that for me, I’d rather clean a log (or even 5 or 6 logs) from the floor than change another 2 years worth of diapers. And for that matter, buy another 2 years worth of diapers. For some people it’s the other way around. As parents we choose our battles. But it’s nice to know that there are alternative battles on the potty training frontlines, and that is why I share this with you today. Best of luck, fellow parents, and remember…no matter how hopeless it seems right now, eventually they will be out of diapers, even if it takes peer pressure to teach them.