Saturday, October 3, 2009

What the Potty Taught Me

Potty Update: Currently all four of my children are using the potty, at least part of the time!

Thomas is fully potty-trained, both day and night. Woohoo!

Reagan is daytime trained, but not night. Sometimes, she wakes up dry, but not always. Still a Woohoo!

Jonathan and Zachary are not quite there yet. They both use the potty most of the time, but still struggle with pooping accidents in particular. J is doing better than Z, as he will poop in the potty about half the time (Z almost never does) and will use the big potty when needed (Z refuses to sit on it). But that's okay. It will come in time. I keep reminding myself that Reagan has been using the potty for 7 months and Zachary only 2. These things take time!

Here are a few things I have learned from potty training so far:

1. If you are not a patient person, potty training will teach you to be patient. If it doesn't, you'll go to prison for killing your child. Lucky for my kids, I've discovered that my well of patience only runs that dry after extreme provocation, at which point it tends to refill with a reserve of despair rather than anger. Then I just give up and turn on the TV.

2. The right incentive can work a miracle! The trick is finding the right incentive. I started all the kids out with stickers and candy. The candy type has changed periodically, mostly because Jonathan won't eat M&Ms (he's picky about his chocolate). Currently, we're using Smarties. All the kids like them, and they're pretty cheap as candy goes. Zachary has been the hardest. So far, nothing has been a real great incentive for him, although I admit that I haven't tried as hard to find new and creative incentives for him. I think I'm just over it now.

3. When shopping for underwear, at least in the beginning, buy the cheap ones and get twice as much as you think you'll need. You won't believe how many pairs of underwear a child can go through in a single day. Laundry is my Sisyphean task. I keep doing it, but the baskets just keep filling up.

4. Did I mention patience?

5. If your child sits in a booster seat at the kitchen table, put a towel between the booster seat and the actual chair. This way, when your child has an accident while sitting in the booster seat, it will run through the strap hole and then soak up into the towel, rather than getting all over the actual seat and running off into the floor. It makes cleanup a WHOLE lot easier. I wish I had figured this out a whole lot earlier!

6. Desperate times call for desperate measures. When I started focusing on Zachary, he would sit on the potty, do nothing, and then walk out of the bathroom and pee in the floor. Again and again and again! I put the potty in the living room and let him sit on it while watching TV, but he would do the same thing. He just would not use the potty. So I had to be mean. I sat him on the potty in the bathroom one midmorning and told him he couldn't get up until he put something in it. And I stuck to it. I didn't abandon him in there! I read him stories and sang songs. I brought him a snack with all the juice he could drink! But dadgummit, he was going to put something in that potty! I was prepared to make him eat lunch there, but luckily he finally peed. I really think he was afraid until that very moment. He peed in the potty and it was fine. After that, we made progress. Mean or not, it was worth it!

7. It's amazing what a little praise can do! Lately, one of my struggles is that the kids won't want to use the bathroom before a meal, but then in the middle of the meal they suddenly need to, and if one goes they all need to go, especially if they don't like what we're eating! What has helped the most is this: before a meal I suggest that everyone go use the potty, one child jumps up and actually does what I ask, I follow said child to the bathroom and declare that child the Winner of the Peepee prize! Then all the other kids come running because they want to win the Peepee Prize too. There is no actual prize, just bragging rights!

8. Best way to clean a potty: Put it in the bathtub, cover it in Scrubbing Bubbles, walk away, come back 10 minutes later and turn on the shower. Tada! The potty is clean, and you hardly had to do a thing! (Kudos to Jim for this brilliant idea!)

9. When training multiple children at the same time, resign yourself to having to give equal rewards regardless of individual skill levels. Just because Reagan quit getting candy every time she pottied months ago, when I started with the boys, we had to go right back to it. In her 3yo mind, it just wasn't fair any other way, and I didn't need that extra stress.

10. It's not fair to the fourth child that he doesn't get the same patience and attention that the first child got, so keep that in mind when it seems like he's going to start college in Pull-ups. He won't. Hopefully, he won't even start kindergarten in them.

Hopefully. I'll keep you posted.

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