Two weeks ago, my two-year-old son, Edward, decided he was ready to potty train. He had wandered into the bathroom while one of his older brothers was using the facilities and was impressed. He'd seen this many times before, but it all seemed to click this time.
"Eddie do it," he said, ripping off his pants and diaper. "Eddie go pee, too!" And he did.
I admit, I wasn't quite ready to take on the job of potty training, but I wasn't going to let this, ahem, golden opportunity pass.
Potty-training a toddler is something most parents both dread and anticipate. It's messy and inconvenient and often frustrating, but when it's done, you're finished with diapers for that kid. Rejoice!
But to get to the joy, you have to go through the work.
There are many methods to potty train a baby or small child. I think most of them are fine, so long as you get to a diaper-free child with a minimum of unhappiness for both parents and kid.
Here are a few of the methods I've either used or observed friends using over the years.
Diaper freedom, a.k.a. elimination communication
This method of dealing with a baby's waste is common throughout Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. It gained popularity in the West with the 2001 book Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene.
The author, Ingrid Bauer, had observed mothers in other countries who never used diapers with their babies, and tried their methods when she had children of her own. It involves observing babies for cues about when they are likely to go.
While potty training isn't the goal, it happens fairly quickly nonetheless. A good friend of mine has used it with both her boys; both used a potty as infants and were pretty well accidentfree by their first birthday.
Toilet training in less than a day
This method was developed in the 1970s by psychologists Nathan Azrin and Richard Foxx. They were working on a method to pleasantly teach toileting to adults with severe developmental disabilities. Once they figured that out, they modified it to suit small children.
Their book is still published with its original illustrations of a '70s housewife training her smallest son.
The dated references are a scream, but the methods work.
The basic tenets are: practising each step of pottying with the child, from pulling down the pants to going on the pot, to emptying it; rewarding the child with plentiful food treats each time you check his or her pants and find them clean and dry (but not for actually going potty); and making the child clean any accidents.
I've used this method with my three oldest. It means devoting most of a weekend to the method, in my experience. My kids did have occasional accidents after training, but not many.
Old-school potty training
Take away the diapers, put the kid in underwear, and take him or her to the potty every hour or so, and when he or she usually goes - or when they announce they need to go. Add treats as a reward after pottying if you wish. I'm using this one on Eddie right now. (If it doesn't work, I can always do a weekend with Professors Azrin and Foxx.)
This one seems to work best with the motivated child who already wants to go potty.
No matter what method you choose, older siblings can be great allies. They can demonstrate, encourage and cheer. In my house, if the potty-training child gets a treat, everyone gets a treat.
This leads to three older kids quizzing Eddie about whether his pants are dry and whether he wants to go potty and get a gummy bear.
I think I'd better tell the older kids to back off, though.
"Oh, come on!" Eddie announced in exasperation the other day after all three siblings tried to convince him to go to the toilet in less than 10 minutes. "No potty now! Eddie watching Thomas!"
The big kids had a solution; they parked his potty in front of the TV.
I think they are going to be annoyed when Eddie is trained and the treats stop.
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