Ah, potty training. It's a milestone that every parent dreads almost as much as they look forward to. It's the inevitable bridge all parents have to cross at some point, so parents might as well learn the rules for surviving potty training before embarking on this sticky, urine-covered journey that can leave you both celebrating properly discarded poop and screaming into your pillow for fear you may go somewhat insane.
Potty training is the worst, right? I mean, at least I think it is. As I type I am knee-deep in a pile of tiny underwear that are the direct result of potty training. I can tell you from my own personal experience that attempting to teach your kid how to use a toilet will possibly drive you to the brink of insanity, and when potty training isn't working, you're probably going to want to seek refuge one wine glass at a time. It's sticky and smelly and gross, and the emotional stages of potty training have lead me to pouring a strong drink (probably before many would consider it socially acceptable to do so) on more days than I'm comfortable admitting.
However, in recent weeks, it seems as though my son has turned a corner. He has voluntarily forfeited his bulky diapers for his "big boy pants," and seems as though he's dangerous close to becoming an independent pooper. There have been plenty of days, leading up to this point, when I wondered if the potty training was working, but I can confidently say that, yes, it was and is. I am cautiously optimistic that my son will be able to pee independently in just a week or two. It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
During this painful journey I've learned a lot, both from parents who shared their potty training tips and from my trusted friend, Google. Since my son is well on his way to living a diaper-free existence, I think it's only fair that I share some of the lessons that I learned the hard (and sticky) way. Honestly, I wish I'd known the following nine rules before I started trying to potty train because, well, I probably wouldn't be knee-deep in tiny underwear right now, if I had.
Pay Attention To Their Bathroom Habits Before You Attempt Potty Training
You need to be aware of your child's bowel movements before you start potty training. A child's poop should be mushy and plentiful, and on a consistent basis, before they start to learn how to use the potty on their own. If their poop is hard, or small, it most likely means that they're constipated, and potty training a constipated baby is, well, kind of awful. If your child is constipated and tries to go #2, it's probably going to cause them pain. They might associate that pain with using the potty, and trying to help a child unlearn a painful experience is an uphill battle.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is your child's bladder control. How long and at what age a child learns how to use the potty varies greatly from kid to kid. Some kids catch on quick, while others might seem like they're never going to get it. Most experts don't recommend trying to potty train a child before they're two, but they also say that there is no magic number when it comes to potty training your child. Typically, between the ages of two and three is the ideal time to start potty training, but your child will give you potty training cues that will help you figure out when they're ready. Even then, it could take a while before they've mastered their new throne, so just try to be patient with them.
If your kid isn't getting it right away, don't worry. We all thought that we'd have our kids potty trained by a certain age, and in a certain amount of time, but that's just not realistic. Every kid and every situation is different. Some learn in a week; Some learn in a month; Some, well, some take even longer and that's not indicitive of their intelligence or your potty training ability. It really just depends on the situation. Don't burden yourself or your child with unrealistic expectations that might end up disappointing you both.
One of the most important parts of potty training is a parent's dedication to observing their child. Pay attention to potty training cues, like your child's coordination, their interest in the potty, and the physical signs that they're using the bathroom (faces, restlessness, "potty dance," etc). By the time your child is old enough to potty train, they will have learned to communicate with you to a certain extent, and you will have learned some of the patterns of their bathroom habits, too. If you're just vigilant in paying attention to what your child might be communicating physically and verbally, your potty training adventure will run much smoother.
Be Positive And Encouraging
When your child executes their bathroom business correctly, let them know how proud you are. Be their biggest cheerleader when they succeed, and their greatest source of encouragement even and especially when they don't. It's disappointing when their potty training gets derailed, but it doesn't mean that either of you failed. Encourage them when this happens, and always let them see your optimism. If you believe they can do it, they will learn to believe it, too.
I made the mistake of not being consistent when I first started to potty train my son. He would wear underwear for part of the day, a pull-up for another, and a diaper at bed time. The lack of consistency confused him. How did I expect him to get into a solid routine when there wasn't a solid routine in the first place? I was just so busy working and taking care of his brother and other people in my family, that I didn't give his potty training the commitment that it really needed. So, for several days in a row, potty training became priority. We did the same thing, the same way, every single day and it worked. He's not perfect at it, but during the day, he's got the potty mastered.
Keep Plenty Of Cleaning Products Readily Available
There's going to be urine in places where it definitely doesn't belong (read: the walls, your hair, your hands, the floor, your dog, the shower curtain, your bed, your couch, etc). It's gross, yes, but it's virtually unavoidable. Just keep plenty of hand sanitizer and bleach on hand, and you'll be just fine.
If It's Your Thing, Keep Alcohol Handy (Or Just Find Other Ways To Relax)
Trust me, you're going to need it. If you don't appreciate a glass of wine at night, find other ways to relax and make them part of your routine. Read a book or take yourself to a movie or just sit in silence, just do something that can help you find neutral and re-charge for the next pee-filled day ahead.
Remember, They Will Get It. Eventually.
Yes, they will get it. I promise, you won't be sending your kid off to college or the military or their career with a package of adult diapers. It's going to take a little time, and a lot of patience, but eventually they're going to figure it out. Every kid learns at their own pace, so don't feel embarrassed or pressured or like a failure if your kid hasn't mastered the toilet by the time you think is right or around the same time as someone else's kid. It's your job to stay positive and to encourage them constantly and throughout the entire painstaking process. It's frustrating, sure, but that's just par for the parental course, right? Take the good and the bad, the pee with the potty, and celebrate the poop, because it's worth it.