We’ve had about two dozen little ones live in our house, between our permanent children and the many foster children we took in, so I’ve got a bit of experience in teaching kids to use the potty, but I have to say that I’m quite surprised at how this latest experience is going.
When my eldest was a little guy, I remember trying to teach him to use the potty. We read books, watched videos, and I sat him on the potty over and over again. I followed advice from other parents as well as parenting experts and used little treats to motivate him–until I learned that he was too smart for that. He quickly figured out that if going on the potty meant a piece of candy, then he was going to go just a teeny tiny amount, collect his candy, and then come back again and get another piece of candy, and drag it out as much as he could. I wasn’t a big fan of handing out candy to little guys, and I quickly ditched that method once I realized what he was up to. I tried multiple times to teach him to use a potty but was forced to give up when he resisted, waited a while, and tried again, and waited some more. Eventually I got him trained, after lots of false starts, when he was about 3 and a half. I think he’d been ready for some time but saw no point until after a hurricane came through; I explained that the electricity would likely be out for a couple of weeks and the rain made it impossible to hang out laundry to dry, so I really needed him to quit wetting cloth diapers and instead use the big boy underwear he had in his drawers, and he put on underwear and had no accidents–day or night. It took us a long time to get there, but then suddenly, he was ready and the job was done.
Since then, I’ve learned not to rush it. Pushing a child who isn’t ready just seems to make a lot more work for me in the long run. I’ve made my peace with washing tons of diapers until the child seems interested. I’ve abandoned the use of treats, though I use compliments and cheers liberally. Still, the process has involved a lot of motivating the child, trying to get the child to see the point of leaving diapers behind, and encouraging the child to take the next step.
But our youngest has been a different story. A couple of days ago, he told me his diaper was wet. It wasn’t, but he’s been telling me more and more often when he does wet it, so I reasoned that he may have been ready to soon wet it; hence I set him on the potty for the first time ever at age 2 1/2. I figured he wasn’t ready yet for actual potty training yet, though I have prepped him some as I’ve read him some books and shown him some videos about using the potty. Plus, he’s been commenting lately about bigger people using the toilet rather than wearing diapers, so I knew he was interested in the concept. The two of us sat in the bathroom, and after about twenty minutes, he urinated in the potty and was very proud of himself. Now, here come the parts that surprised me.
A couple of hours after using the potty for the very first time, he asked if he could sit on it again. He actually asked to try again, rather than me suggesting it. Again, we sat in the bathroom for about twenty minutes; he had to be coaxed to get up and get dressed again because he wanted to stay there longer. The next morning, he got up and came into our bedroom at about 6:30 a.m. and immediately asked if he could go on the potty again! I haven’t pushed or prodded at all. In fact, I haven’t suggested it since the first time. This evening, after he’d urinated on the potty again (and had, earlier in the day, managed to defecate a bit on it), he announced, “Me love going on me potty.” Okay. Wow. What two year old makes such a declaration. Tonight, again, he wanted to try it.
I hadn’t been ready to potty train him yet. I figured I had a few months to go yet. I wasn’t ready to face those moments when a little one suddenly yells, “I’ve got to go. Now,” and a run for the nearest bathroom must follow immediately. But he seems to be ready and willing. Of course, maybe it’s an idea that will lose it’s thrill in a day or two, but I’m willing to guess that he’s enamored with the idea of keeping up with his bigger siblings and giving up diaper rashes (and I’ve explained to him that using the potty will stop them), and that because it’s his own idea, he may want to stick with it more than if I’d been pushing the idea on him as hard as I have so many other kids. Of course, only time will tell for sure.