Being that I was a nanny for nearly a decade (and having been a mother for exactly four years), I've come to think of myself as a potty-training expert. And as such, I'll impart my biggest secret: there's no such thing as a potty-training expert.
The only consistent thing I've learned is that there is no consistency, young children are feral beasts, and - should you choose to go down this road of bathroom readiness - you're going to be covered in lots and lots of pee. (A disproportionate amount to the size and hydration needs of your child, in fact.) Each kid is painfully, hilariously, exhaustingly different. What works for one (bribery, sticker charts, excessive praise) will not work with the incentives required by her sister (being naked for roughly 13 hours and being allowed to poop directly into the bathtub).
However, I can share my three tried-and-true potty training Do Nots:
DO NOT demand that your infant start training on your schedule. Listen, I know newborns in the '50s, like, came out ready to be held over toilets and it was a big source of pride whose kiddo was sans nappies the soonest, but if you're running to the bathroom with your baby every twenty minute . . . then who's training who, exactly? I don't like anyone enough to hold them over a toilet every twenty minutes. Also, this was the generation of iodine suntanning and children roaming freely in the backseat of Buicks, so is this method of bathroom elimination still the most relevant? I think we can all agree that it isn't. (Anecdotally: I once nannied for a kid whose parents took away his diapers at 18 months and enforced a strict potty schedule. He cheerfully responded to this tactic by peeing all over the bathroom walls whenever he spied a toilet. Fun!)
DO NOT do it "on their schedule" or "when they're ready." Having lived with my preschooler and toddler for enough years to make them preschool and toddler-aged has taught me a few things. Namely, that if you leave a timeline up to a little kid, nothing will ever happen. Turns out, no one ever needs to go to the bathroom. Or have their diaper changed. Or find that other sock. Go away, please.
DO NOT assume that someone else will just do it for you. Like an older sibling. Or the dog. Or a passing neighbor. The former only works if you want your younger child to think that decorating the bathroom mirror with shaving cream is part of the potty process. I've heard. Plus, big sisters get inspired in the bathroom, and this "inspiration" yields results such as fancy haircuts, lipstick tattoos, and the ol' favorite: How Far Into The Toilet Can You Reach Your Hand? (No one wins that game.)
I realize that this list may have all but negated the chances of your child being potty-trained in a timely fashion. These things happen. My [shaky] advice on what you should do? Treat potty training like guerrilla warfare. Jump in at the slightest chance of bathroom action and shove 'em on a toilet with a book. And then back away, hiding behind the couch until you sense that someone's about to do a naked lap around the kitchen. Talk about the bathroom process- but not too much. Enough so that your child has the basic information necessary, but not enough to think you're actually invested in the outcome.
Yes, I'm advising that you treat your little kid like the family cat.
But fear not, things will be totally fine. As every seasoned parent has ever told me, "No one ever went to high school in a diaper." Kids somehow just figure it out along the way and end up being completely good, usually slightly earlier than that.
Except for that one kid whom everyone has a memory of - the one who could never quite make it to the boys' room. But I'm sure he still grew up to be a good person.
And isn't that the ultimate goal?
That, and pee-free couches. Good luck.
Keely Flynn is a Chicago playwright, freelance writer, and blogger living with three young children, an extraordinarily tolerant husband, and two cats who just try to make it through the day without being ridden like ponies. Check out her personal blog, lollygagblog.com.
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