Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 8, 2013

WHOLE FAMILY: Potty training -- The ultimate elimination game


— People are asking, “Did it work?” Or, with a knowing half-smile, “How’s it going?” The end of summer and age 30 months seemed like a good time to transition our busy toddler from diapers to the toilet. So we’ve been potty training.

And let me tell you: Oh. Boy.

It has been some five years since I last toilet trained a toddler, and, frankly, I just don’t remember what strategies we used then. I also don’t remember the process being this challenging, but you know how memories are. You likely also know how some things get more difficult with age. I’m over 40 now, and those early-morning wakeup calls to carry a sleepy baby to the bathroom are, well, painful.

My husband and I purchased an e-book, “3 Day Potty Training” by Lora Jensen. The book is $24. Lora’s method is lauded, at least on her web site, as “a proven method for easily potty training even the most stubborn child in 3 days or less.” The editor in me bristles because the word “less” should be “fewer,” but that’s a common error, so I’ll give a little grace.

So, did it work? Mothers, little ones tugging at their dresses, are asking me. They’re desperate for no more diapers. I get it.

Well, to assess if something “worked” or not, we first have to know what the goal was. Because Lora’s “3 Day” book is copyright material for which you have to pay, I won’t divulge all its contents. But the goal of her method, if I read it right, is for toddlers to communicate their need to eliminate and for parents to understand that communication and get them to the bathroom in time.

The author also says, “My method teaches you how to completely potty train your child: bladder control, bowel movements, days and nights...”

As far as communicating — we have some success. My tow-headed toddler will yell, “Mommy! I have to peeeee!” and head toward the bathroom on his own. His communication about the other, the poopy that’s flat-out gross to clean up even if you are a nursing student and fine with gross, is more subtle: “My belly hurts” or a sneaky trip to the kitchen, where he squats under the table.

“Ech,” I think, when I interpret the language of him squatting under the kitchen table, “English words would be so much easier to understand.”

But the goal of “completely potty train” in three days? No way. Nope.

I’m sure our neighbors are admiring our new family flag: a mattress cover, a fitted sheet, and a pair of colorful 3T underwear flapping on the clothesline. I’ve done more laundry in the past two weeks than in my toddler’s 30 months previous, I’m sure of it.

My husband and I took three days “off” to potty train. I even said “No, I can’t” to a birth to be home with my peeing peewee! We followed the “3 Day” method to the T — or the “P” if you will — and are still changing sheets twice a day.

We co-sleep, and my husband and I awake awash in urine. Fabulous.

I don’t think I can fully blame Lora’s method, however. We did learn communication, for sure, and we do have a toddler who rarely pees his pants — just the bed. But I had to re-evaluate my expectations, which were no messes and a completely trained toddler, when I started telling people, “We’re on Day 5 of 3 Day Potty Training.”

Here’s what I’ve deduced from our recent experience:

• For whatever reason, bowel movements are more difficult for children. My son seemed to fear them. After a recent success with one on the toilet, he told my husband, “Oh, that didn’t hurt!” It surprised me he thought it would. A few times, I’ve pulled out my birth-assistant skills and talked him down, actually saying things like, “Sometimes it hurts, but it’s OK; you just do it anyway and then it’s over” or “Relax your bottom, grunt a little, and push that poopy out.” Oh dear.

• It’s OK to use some incentives. I never thought I’d parent this way — far too serious and prudish — but we ran around the house singing, “Elijah got Skittles for piddles!” Yep, candy, pretty much every time he peed. It worked, and we are off the candy now. For you natural, no-sugar parents: It’s OK.

• Whether it’s age or environment or whatever, some children just sleep too soundly to wake up and pee on their own. We still have wet sheets every morning, even if we get him up to go in the night. In fairness, I have not been a stickler for a “no-fluids-after-X-o’clock” and we still do a night nursing or two, so that’s likely part of the issue. I’m willing to wash sheets for a while longer rather than deny my baby water or mother’s milk. Nice segue for my last point:

• Like everything else in life, you have to assess and adjust your expectations and your methods for what suits your family and your little one. Get some advice — I listed a couple resources here and there are zillions more — then amend what you need to.

Oh, and lighten up. As my husband promises: “Your toddler won’t be pooping on the bathroom rug forever.” Let’s hope, right?

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”