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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Potty Training.....

I've hesitated in posting this because, well, Ellie isn't potty-trained yet.
So who am I to be handing out advice?! Maybe I should define the purpose of this post.
I'm not telling y'all how to potty train a child. For sure.
I'm not writing a book or a manual, so don't quote me.
But, I would like to note (for personal and public instances) what is working for us in the potty training department.
Sometimes during this process as a first-time mom, I'll apologize to Elliott because I feel like everything is trial and error.....and that's my fault, not her's.
Alas, maybe that will make her a stronger person in the end?!
Because I tell with many milestones in Ellie's short life so far, we are going at this one essentially blind-folded! Every book I read told me something different, and every person I asked for advice had different tips or methods to try. So we've tried a little bit of everything, and I want to document it (and there will for sure be more where this came from, once Ellie is certifiably-potty-trained).

This little (extremely looong) post is not meant to be an exhaustive guide on potty-training, but I've found that many books don't give you any "real" information. They give you history and facts and statistics, but they often leave a parent wondering "how do I actually DO this?!" My hope is that by giving you a peek into our potty training days, you might gain your own ideas about what potty-training actually looks like. There's lots of accidents, lots of praise and encouragement, lots of poop and pee talk. But, this is real. A real-life look at what's working for us. Every child and family will find what works for them, so I encourage you to take the advice that sounds good to you, and feel free to leave any feedback with tips or tricks that I didn't mention here.

Where When How to Begin
I had intended on beginning potty training as soon as Elliott could walk.
We bought her a potty chair for her first birthday, and started to put her on it. Then I guess I chickened out. My childcare provider sounded a little skeptical at the time too, so I decided to wait a little while. (Tip #1: any and all childcare situations should be on board with potty training. Being on the same page will save your little one a lot of frustration and accidents).
Here we are, six months later, and I've finally decided to take the plunge! Even though she's fairly young, I decided to take an "all-or-nothing" approach. That is, we practically tossed diapers out the window!!

The first few days were spent isolated in our kitchen, armed with:
~ a potty chair ~
~ wipes ~
~ small (edible) treats ~
~ snacks, as well as juice and water! ~
~ lots of towels and cleaning solution ~
~ training pants and/or underwear ~
~ books, and easy potty-time toys and activities ~
~ lots of patience and positive reinforcement!!!! ~
Why were we in the kitchen? Because in our house, it just made sense. There is plenty of room to roam and play, and it is the largest area in our house with "cleanable" floors.....if your house is wall to wall laminate flooring, then maybe you don't need to trap yourself in the kitchen. For me, I knew that potty training was going to involve a lot of accidents, so I tried to think of fun things for us to do while trapped in our kitchen (baking cupcakes, floor activities, movies on the iPad, etc).
No, that's not a bruise on her back. It's a Mongolian spot. And I think it's cute :)

So, we just went for it. I committed to staying at home for two to three days (which didn't totally happen), and let the girl run around naked in the kitchen. For Ellie, she really had to learn what was going on inside that diaper, and the only way to figure that out was for her to be naked from the waist down. Yes, that meant lots of pee on the floor. But, I was watching her like a hawk, and anytime she started to pee, I quickly whisked her to the potty while saying "You're peeing! Pee Pee goes in the potty!!" I used "pee", "pee pee", "poop", and "potty" probably way more in those three days than I would like to admit.
But again, she had to learn.
She needed to know what was happening down there, what to call it, and where to put it.
A few times throughout the first day, I would set Ellie on the potty at the "right" time....she had to pee, but didn't know it. I guessed, and I was right. Those moments made for great opportunities for her to succeed, and she would get a small treat for each time that happened (a marshmallow, or a chocolate chip, etc. And please note that Elliott is not usually motivated by food...but trust me, sweet treats will get 'em every time :). Other times, I would have her sit on the potty for a longer period of time, just to get comfortable with it. For those times, we read lots of books or watched videos on the iPad (a great recommendation from my friend Amanda, who has been a constant source of knowledge and support during this process). And still other times, Ellie would start to go on the floor. I would tell her what was happening and that she needs to go potty. (Tip #2: patience!!! Please, do not yell or sigh if your child has an accident. They can sense your frustration, and they certainly don't need to hear it! Stop and take a moment before you react, and stay calm. Encourage them when they succeed, and try to not respond at all if they mess it up)

By the second day, I knew we were making ground. And I was so excited! She was seriously getting it, and if you want to know what mama pride feels like......go ahead and potty train your 18 month old :) It seriously feels like they are the most amazing being to ever walk the planet! You'll think they're so smart and talented and advanced (and then they'll pee in your shoe.....true story). Yes, by the end of the first weekend, Elliott had learned some bladder control: as opposed to peeing a tiny bit every couple minutes the first day, she could now "hold it" and pee more at once and less frequently. She also knew what exactly the potty was for, and what "peeing" and "pooping" felt like. These are all very basic principles that youngin's like her need to be taught (a three year old going into potty-training might already have these abilities....but then again, I've never potty trained a three year old so I can't really say).
Tip #3: Lots of Fluids!! More fluid = more opportunities for practice (and success!)
She wasn't, by any means, potty-trained though. I could feel my frustration building. Anytime I put a diaper on her, she would go in it, and not even tell me.

What We're Working on Now
Once she had these basics down, I felt like it was time to do something. Elliott needed to learn how to communicate to me when she needs to go potty, and she also needed to learn that peeing or pooping in diapers and/or underwear is not right. I had a funny thought right then that gave me renewed patience for my little one: When we have an infant, we teach them to pee in their diapers (ie, you're changing your baby and they beging to pee all over....our first reaction is to quickly cover them up with a diaper and we yell and shout if they pee on us.....). And now, as toddlers with their own ideas and wants, we expect them to UN-learn this. Why is it all of a sudden NOT okay to pee in the diaper?! Isn't that what we've taught them all along?
See? Potty training can be exciting!!

This revelation gave me a new perspective, and encouraged me even more that this can be done......that I need to take responsibility for what I've taught my daughter, and with grace and patience, she will learn a new way to do things.
So, we entered the second phase of our training with confidence......and out went the diapers.
Now, I still put a diaper (cloth or disposable) on her for naps and bedtimes, and for long trips away from home and/or bathrooms. The rest of the time, it's cotton undies. I strongly recommend Super Skivvies, a product that I've reviewed here on the blog before. They're amazing training underwear that will save your carpet and couches, and can still be used once you're youngster is officially trained. The best part of these for Elliott is that the extra small size is a perfect fit! Have you ever tried a pair of Gerber training pants on a little skinny-minny?! Even the 2T is ginormous!! (and if your only option is Gerber, then I say hot hot wash, and extra hot dry....they'll shrink just a little)

Tip#4: Throw out the diapers!! It will give you and your little one a boost of confidence (and, then there's no turning back! Ha!)
So, we still have many accidents each day. But Ellie knows what she is supposed to do, and having her in underwear encourages the adults in her life to be proactive about getting her to the potty in a timely manner. Her babysitter is so supportive, and that is helping a lot with this process! I'm working on teaching her to tell us when she needs to use the potty, and encouraging her when she is able to keep her underwear dry. (Tip #5: invest in plastic pull-on covers, they're a life-saver at this point! And, Gerber sells them in 0-3 and 3-6 months which are actually the perfect size for toddlers!)

Elliott might be potty-trained by next week, or she might be potty-trained by her second birthday. I'll be sure to give you an update when she finally "gets" it. But for now, I am so proud of her accomplishments! This is so much to learn, and she's taking it all in stride. And I have the satisfaction of saving quite a bit on diapers every single day! Woohoo!
Seriously.....Super Skivvies are amazeballs!

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jill said...

go ellie gooooooo! this is a great post! im always looking for tip and tricks and experiences to put together my own plan for us! :)

Mandy@ a sorta fairytale said...

I think it's awesome that you're doing this. I take Bennett to the potty frequently, just to get him comfortable. I'm not quite at the point of "training" yet, but I when I do - I will be coming to you for help! :)

amy@agoodlife said...

oh man, i am so intimidated by potty training... i don't even wanna go there for a long while. but the diaper changes are BAD too, so whattya do?? yikes.

great tips, i will definitely come back to this. and i LOVE the iPad on the potty idea!

nicole. said...

congrats mama. thats exciting... i know exhausting and frustrating... be soooo rewarding when they finally get it.

i remember the first time braeden said, mama i have to go poop, walked in and went on the big potty.


{both my kids had mongolian spots, cute}

Amanda Michelle said...

awesome post amanda! ellie is doing such a good job! so proud of you!

Wendy said...

This is a great post! I always feel really overwhelmed when I think about potty training. Ellie is such a smart cookie!

Christa said...

we will be potty training soon... this really helped :)

Barbara said...

I love that you posted this!!! I'm always looking for potty training tips and stories. I just bought Isla the same potty today...color and all. Isla's not ready yet but when she is I'll be ordering those great undies you told me about! Ps Ellie is so cute!!!!

Kiara Buechler said...

Great post Amanda! It is exciting to see that progress can be made at this age, and in such a short period of time. So what if she isn't fully trained, she is well on her way!

j.c. delgaudio said...

Try the towel potty training method.