I remember the first time I tried to potty train my twin daughters. It was right after they had turned two and I knew I was going to be off work for five straight days. Visions of dollar signs were floating in my head as I thought about how great it would be to stop spending so much money on diapers each month. As a first time mom, I was excited about tackling this task and threw my children right into my own version of potty training boot camp. One day diapers were on, the next day they were off! My five-day project was up and running.
Too bad my kids weren’t on the same page.
After many days of wet clothing, pee all over my house, unhappy children, and countless loads of laundry, I completely broke down. Sobbing on the phone to a good friend, I cried about what a failure I was as a mom and how my children were officially going to be in diapers until the time they graduated from college (I’m nothing if not rational during times like these…aren’t we all?!?!?). But in between the tears and hysteria, I came to a very important conclusion…
…ME being ready for potty training was different from my KIDS being ready.
Defeat was hard to admit, especially when it came at the hands of two urine soaked toddlers, but with my head held high I moved on to Plan B.
Plan B was much less intense than my original plan. I simply put two portable potty seats in our downstairs bathroom. I didn’t push the kids to sit on the potty seats, but encouraged them to sit on the potties whenever I was in the bathroom. My bathroom time, which had once been my 30 seconds of alone time during the day, quickly turned into a major party every time I needed to go. The kids cheered for me, and every once in a blue moon we got to cheer for one of them when they would pee too.
Several months later, I started noticing some changes in my girls. Their wet diapers were getting to be between 3-5 hours apart. As they heard me talking about using the bathroom, they started verbalizing things too and would tell me when they were peeing or pooping in their diapers.
Once they started showing these signs of potty training readiness…you know, those same signs I apparently could have cared less about during my first attempt…I decided it was time to jump back into the game.
I took my girls to the store and made a huge deal out of letting them pick out their very own “big girl” underwear. We came home, washed them, and I sent my girls off to bed with promises that they could wear their new underwear the next morning.
Then, I had to put my game plan into action. On the kitchen table, I stacked all the underwear together along with baby wipes, extra towels, etc. It was my own little “potty training command post”. With the help of a glass of wine, I mentally prepared myself for what was to come the next day.
When morning arrived, the girls were so excited to put on their “big girl” underwear. I promised them their choice of a sticker or one M&M anytime they peed on the potty and two stickers or two M&Ms if they pooped. I wish I still thought that only TWO M&Ms was a super prize!
That first day, I:
• probably asked the two of them if they needed to sit on the potty at least 50, 000 times. “Anyone need to go potty? What about now? Does anyone need to go NOW?”
• filled them up with LOTS of liquid…juice boxes, water, popsicles, etc. so that they were OFTEN feeling the urge to use the potty
• set a timer so they were sitting on the potty at least every hour (every time they would successfully use the potty I would reset the timer)
Each kid had a few accidents that first day, but they both had lots of successes too. By the second day, they were having fewer accidents, and by the fourth day, they were both completely accident free!
This was what worked for us with potty training, but I have definitely learned that potty training is not exactly a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing. My biggest pieces of advice though? That is if you want advice from someone who had to try this whole thing twice?!?!?
• Bring your patience!
• Find someone who has been in your shoes that you can use as a support person to give you ideas/suggestions, talk you off the ledge…whatever you need! It helps to know you aren’t in this alone and that other people have been where you are…especially when you are cleaning up your 8th mess of the day and smell like urine
• During the initial phases of potty training, bring a portable potty seat in the car with you when you go places. I found this to be much easier than running to public restrooms, plus my kids were used to using that potty at home, so it made them comfortable when we were out in public.