I thought potty training was about teaching year child a key life skill but within a few minutes of beginning the training on our 20 month old, I realized that he wasn't going to be the only one learning.
Choosing to try a very focused training method (using the "Toilet Training in Less Than a Day" book) at the minimum recommended age of 20 months, I should have known it would be a challenge.
The book outlines that there are three prerequisites for beginning potty training using their method:
1. Physical Readiness
The child must be able to walk around the room easily on their own.
They need the dexterity take down and pull up underwear by themselves as part of the training.
2. Bladder control
Can they stay dry for several hours at a time?
Do they seem to know they need to pee?
3. Instructional Readiness
Can they understand & follow instruction?
Although Sebby seemed to meet all the prerequisites that the book outlined, there were some roadblocks to progress due largely to my weaknesses in parenting. He understands very well and follows instructions when it comes to everyday things like pointing to objects and helping around the house but he isn't accustomed to being always expected to stop what he is doing and obey right away. He is also used to me giving in easily when he begins to get upset, usually by letting him nurse to calm down.
Other roadblocks we faced have to do with Sebby's temperament and personality. He is very active and never really sits. Over the past few weeks, he's gotten increasingly good at independent play and as a result, he tends to get so focused on what he's doing that it is very difficult to get his attention. If you do try to get his attention when he is focused on something else, he tends to get quite upset.
As a result of all of these factors, we had an even bigger challenge ahead of ourselves. I quickly realized that my parenting strategies of communication and follow through with Sebby needed to change ASAP and that the whole process of potty training would be more difficult for both he and I. We both had more to learn than just how to use the potty.
Thankfully we decided to begin the training for a brief time yesterday evening (2 hours) because it gave us enough time to try out the method then re-work a strategy for how to tackle it today. I was so glad that Darren has been around because although I read the book, he did a fine job of identifying aspects of the method that weren't working for us and re-engineer a new strategy to try this morning. He was also far better at training Sebby than I was because he was more able to follow through on getting Sebby to listen to the instructions and not give in to tantrums. There were a few tantrums (one lasted 45 minutes) and they were pretty exhausting, especially for me because he spent a great deal of time demanding to nurse.
Here are a few of the things that we did differently than what the method suggested:
1. Reading on the potty
The book recommended having them sit for long periods of time on the potty at first (10 minutes!) to get them used to it and hopefully give them success at peeing in it at the same time.
Getting Sebby to sit still in any location for more than 30 seconds without a book or smartphone in his hand is impossible. We decided that if we had any hope of getting him to sit on the potty, we would need to do something other than ask him to sit and relax. We chose reading books and it worked! This morning he peed three times in the potty in three hours, all because Darren spent most of the morning reading to him while he sat on the potty.
2. Not using the doll
The method suggested using the first hour of training as a time to have your child teach a doll to go to the potty.
We realized after a few minutes that Sebby had no interest in the doll and wasn't very motivated to teach her anything or even look at her. He didn't even seem to get the concept of teaching the doll so we decided after a short time that we would put the doll away and focus on Sebby. Thankfully we didn't spend money buying a doll, she was borrowed from a friend.
Only this afternoon did Sebby begin to take an interest in the doll, sitting her on the potty and pointing out all of her body parts.
3. Not doing so many practice runs
The method said that if the children had an accident, you should get them to practice the whole series of events from rushing to the potty to taking down their underwear to sitting on the potty ten times in a row.
For us at the beginning, simply getting Sebby's attention and having him follow through on pulling up his underwear sometimes took 15 minutes or longer or worse resulted in a tantrum that lasted 30 minutes. He wasn't upset because he wasn't able to pull up his underwear on his own but because he wanted to play with something else. Or he wanted a snack. Or he wanted to nurse. Or because he had no idea why all of a sudden his parents were being so strict about having him follow instructions right away when they would have normally just let it slide. There was no way we were going to get him to run through the whole series of events ten times. We focused on getting him to obey one separate instruction at a time before advancing to having him obey several instructions.
4. We gave far fewer candy rewards
The book suggested giving praise in various ways including special candy treats. Early on in the training, they recommended giving rewards very liberally as they were learning each little skill in the sequence of events.
We found that the candy distracted from what we were trying to accomplish because Sebby would get so focused on the candies that he would throw a tantrum because he really wanted a candy or some sugary juice. Since he isn't used to having candy, he became increasingly jittery and unable to focus or sit still the more "rewards" he received.
5. Playing in between practice sessions
The book recommended staying in a room with minimal distrations for the entire training time.
We thought that keeping Sebby in the same room for the whole day would be too intense for him. We decided to allow him to take breaks to play in another room of the house. Did he have "accidents" while playing? Yes, a few times. But it was worth our sanity and his. Without taking breaks, I think we would have ended up with even more tantrums and maybe would have even given up.
With these few adaptations to their methods, along with some adaptations to our usual parenting style (not giving in to his tantrums and making sure he followed through on any instructions we gave him), we started to see success by the end of our day today! He peed in the potty several times throughout the day and definitely got used to sitting on it.
By bedtime, he seemed to be really enjoying practicing running to the potty, pulling down his underwear and sitting down. He wasn't running away and getting frustrated when it was time to pull up his underwear after getting off the potty.
It might take another day...or more...but he is definitely making progress. Especially because we realize that he is learning than just going to the potty through this process, we see the value of spending this time teaching Sebby to use the potty although it has been tiring. Since I know that my approach to parenting has to change, it has been a really good exercise for me as well.
Wish us luck tomorrow!