I thought it made for a splashy little headline.
As anyone with a two-year old will attest, your main goal is to civilize the child by the time they enter school. No throwing stuff, no swearing/punching/biting/screaming, and above all, please go pee-pee in the potty.
I'm happy to report that while the Bear still chucks cars all over the house and swears like a sailor, at least we can check one thing off our list. This is how we did it:
1.) Recognize there are levels of potty-training
This is something I did not think about pre-potty-training. No kid is going to pull down his pants, go on the big boy potty, wipe himself, pull up his pants, wash his hands, and go on his merry way under the age of three. I have no idea when this happens, but it's not obtainable now. We are looking for obtainable change, based on our child's level of functioning, not perfection. The whole thing is a process.
So based on my experience, I came up with this:
Level 1: Ability to go sit on the potty and go pee and poo when prompted by an adult.
(the first time this actually happens, you and your spouse will likely be reduced to tears of joy. We were.)
Level 2: Ability to acknowledge they need to use the potty and are able to hold it (including naptime and bedtime)
Level 3: Ability to go pee and poo on the big potty (and acknowledge when they need to go and ask an adult for help). This includes using the restroom when out of the house.
Level 4: Ability to pull down one's pants, use the restroom, flush, wash hands, and pull up pants, all on his/her own.
Level 5: Cleans the bathroom, including wiping down mirrors, scrubbing the toilet, and emptying the trash
Based on my levels, Brian is only Level 4 potty-trained. (haha).
Anyways, our three-day method worked like a charm but it only gets you to Level 2/3. To reach Level 4, we just need time, opportunity, and patience. (and the occasional change of clothing.)
2.) Read this article - read the whole thing!
I love Baby Center.
I don't necessarily agree with everything in the article - like watching your naked kid run around for weeks - but it is a great basis for starting.
Go big or go home, folks. Look at the signs of readiness, set a date to start training, and then go for it. I think there is nothing more confusing to a kid than going back and forth between diapers and underwear. As a parent, however, there is nothing more terrifying than going out with a kid in underwear. I literally had to talk myself down, saying "There is nothing wrong if he has an accident. I have a change of clothing with me, and it's nothing but a hiccup. This is nothing to freak out about." And it helped me cope with the big changes going on with the Bear. I could only imagine how the Bear felt (poor kid.)
3.) Think like a drug dealer
I'm not kidding.
Think of it this way: what's your child motivation for going in the potty? I can tell you, I've yet to meet the two-year old that is conscious of social etiquette and personal hygiene. These are not driving forces behind the behavior of a toddler. Toddlers are motivated and attracted to certain things, and I'm guessing that since you know your kid, you know exactly what his or her motivation is. For ours? One word:
So borrowing a page out of the playbook of a friend (Kori Z!), we listened very carefully to her description of "the prize table" - i.e. a table or counter space in the home dedicated to super-awesome-amazing prizes that are awarded to anyone who goes pee or poo on the potty. Our table magically appeared on the morning the training began and included Matchbox cars, big trucks, M&Ms, marshmallows, stickers and gold stars. Scotty was allowed to see everything on the prize table but in order to touch the prizes or actually get a prize, he needed to use the potty.
This, combined with the Baby Center article, was like found money for us. It was like stealing. Or selling drugs. Give 'em a taste - and they'll keep coming back for more.
By the second day of potty-training, I'm 100% sure that Scotty was totally mocking us. He didn't have a single accident that day because he was damned sure he was going to get a truck/car/bus or M&M. I had bought a four pound bag of M&Ms from Costco, and the mere sight of that brown bag was too much for him to bear. He. Must. Get. M&Ms. And all he had to do was go pee on the potty? Easy-peasy.
And a potty-trained child was born. It's been 14 days without an accident, and the kid is dry at naptime and bedtime. He's made potty at stores, restaurants, and parks.
It's truly a potty-training miracle.
Someone please go knock on wood for us.
4.) Miscellaneous Tips and Suggestions
Now that we're in the thick of this process, these are my suggestions for those of you about to embark on it:
a.) Let the child pick out the prizes for the prize table. We blew our budget at Target buying trucks, cars, and stickers. But I didn't care - if Scotty wanted it, he got it. We ended up with about 15 cars and a whole bunch of stickers and candy. The kid was so stinkin' excited about getting his prizes that even now, when he gets a new truck, he asks me, "Prize table?"
b.) Skip Pull-ups completely. These things look and feel like diapers. Very confusing. Best advice I got was to skip them completely - and I'm glad we did. It just prolongs the whole process.
c.) Let the kid feel wet. Slightly startling, yes. Important? Totally. Does it mean more laundry for you? YES. But at least we're not beating clothing against a rock in a river, right? I mean, it's just a few extra loads.
The day we started, we put Scotty down for his nap in underwear. He was not happy. But he did fall asleep - and he did wake up wet. And we took him over to the potty, sat him down, let him go pee in there, and then promptly changed all of his sheets and blankets. No big deal. And that was the last time he woke up wet. It's easier, yes, to put him down in a diaper or something absorbent, but he'll never learn if he can't feel the wetness. However...
d.) Acknowledge that night time is REALLY scary. Thankfully, we've never had an issue with Scotty sleeping through the night. He's now in his big-boy bed and he remains with his head on his pillow, under his blankie, the whole night. We were going to put him in underwear for night time right from the start, but both Brian and I chickened out. We REALLY like our own sleep, and the thought of having a night-waking child was too much for us. Plus, we have about 10 more diapers to use up. So, we put him in a diaper for now, but I'm happy to say, it's totally dry in the morning. And Mom and Dad have had a good night's sleep so we're not insanely cranky. In ten days, though, when our diaper supply is up...well, you might have a very angry blogger on your hands. Just be forewarned.
e.) You may want to do this on the sly. Brian and I were both incredibly stressed out by this whole process; it may sound easy now, but it's a lot for parents to take on. Honestly, it felt a little like having a newborn again: the constant communication with the spouse, taking turns watching the child, staying home a lot. We were exhausted - but happy - after the three days.
So instead of broadcasting the news to our friends and families, we chose to keep it within out little triad (for the most part) until we had good news to share. I know your aunt/mom/neighbor's cousin's brother's uncle has an awesome way of potty-training a toddler, but for now, we're going to go with our own plan. And if it was a major bust, we were going to (quietly) try again in six weeks. And no one was the wiser.
And with that, I'm very happy to report we have a Level 3 potty-er on our hands. All of the prizes are gone - they were snatched up within a few days - and Scotty has even forgotten that he gets M&Ms after each successful trip to the potty. He's just happy to not be in diapers anymore.
And so are we.
Thoughts? Questions? Angry comments? Let me know - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll respond.