Saturday, January 11, 2014

Potty Training the Twinnies

I begin with this disclaimer...

We stopped and started potty training on several different, very stressful days (I'll call them mini-lessons) since the girls turned two. There were tears. Some of them mine. There were accidents. And I gave up. I decided to wait until the girls were ready.

Now, in the dead of winter, I've had enough of diapers and diaper pails and I decided to go for it. Hardcore. Not buying anymore diapers or brand name pull-ups (an expensive alternative to diapers), (just overnight diapers and the occasional generic pull-ups for longer trips away from home in case there is an accident). I started on a Tuesday and now it's Saturday and we're doing GREAT! No accidents today, and the girls went to the toilet BY THEMSELVES, with no prompting from me, to do their BM's.

I read some articles, asked friends who've been there and done that, and read blogs about potty training. I surfed on Amazon for potty training books, reading comments etc. I'll share some things that I've experienced and that have worked for me and mine.

My process. In the beginning, I'd give out a couple small treats for just trying (a couple of M and Ms candies), then more candies (three or four) for successful attempts, taking opportunities to teach them how to wipe as they gradually took over that responsibility. I still wet wipe BMs when they are done to avoid the dreaded, itchy anus and jay jay contamination. Let's keep it real.

I kept them in big girl panties until nap time, then changed to pull-up and then back to big girl panties until bed time. During my initial attempts at potty training, back when I found out they weren't ready, I had them naked from the waist down. Quickly, I found panties kept things, um, dryer for the furniture, and less messy. Big girl panties all the way, unless you like the smell of butt. And there is quite a bit of explaining and reminding to do.

I discovered that it's important to remind them to go more often when you are pushing fluids on them (every 20 minutes or so). I decided not to do that after there were several accidents and both kids were peeing seconds apart. I just stuck to our normal juice/water/milk routine and let things happen gradually. In the beginning days you have to remind them to go every half hour or hour (especially when they are watching TV, they get caught up in the show and then there are accidents. I found this was an excellent opportunity to show them we can pause the show we are watching and return to it, or take a commercial break ;). I explained that big girl panties don't absorb pee pee. I've caught them pooping in their panties, and we've rushed to the toilet. I've also waited until one was done pooping in her panties (because I caught her and she freaked out) and then took her to the toilet explaining their was less mess if she could do it ON the potty. I showed her the messed panties and calmly explained how much less effort it was to do it on the potty. No shaming or punishing required. Potty training is a process, and mistakes are to be expected. You and they are LEARNING.

We, ourselves are still in the process of learning together. The girls are still wearing overnight diapers. The next phase will be graduating to getting up in the night if they have to use the potty. I'll have to post updates as we explore THAT phase of the process. I encourage YOU to keep moving forward, and to not feel defeated when you have to take steps back. And so I share these highlights with you that we have learned along our potty training journey.

Wait to potty train until your kid(s) are ready and wanting to do so. Look for signs of readiness. These signs are physical as well as cognitive! Just because your girlfriend had her kid trained at 18 months or under two years of age, doesn't mean you and yours will be ready or able to keep up with the Jones'. You and your kid(s) don't need the stress that comes with forcing the issue. Most kids train successfully between 2 1/2 and 3 years old.

Have a plan. Be consistent. Have your potty training supplies on hand. Don't try and wing it without the necessities or without mentally preparing yourself for the challenge. Expect accidents, messes and even some resistance. For me, preparedness was a basket of big girl panties in the bathroom (the kids can help pick these out to get them excited about it), along with a thing of wet wipes and a bunch of pull-ups for longer trips out of the house. Have a couple of little potties on hand (one for each bathroom they'd use). I also had potty seats to sit on top of the big potty so they'd have a choice. I eventually got them to use the big potty with the mini-seat on top and used the small potty as a step stool.

Buying off-brand pull ups will save you money. My kids treated pull-ups like diapers until they were ready to keep them clean for real. First time parents get suckered into brand name everything first time around. Diapers and potty training paraphernalia is no different, I'm sorry to say. Now I buy White Cloud brand and they do the trick just as nicely as the other brand that costs more.

Your own enthusiasm is contagious! You can help get them interested in the process. Talk about how you've seen their interest/readiness. PRAISE is the number one reward and motivator. If you're excited, they are more likely to get excited and stay excited too. Excitement on your part, smiles, high fives is the BEST.

Rewards can work and they don't always have to be food! In addition to candy, my girls also enjoyed stickers they got to put on a piece of construction paper. They got to choose the color and where it was hung up. It read "(insert toddler name here) is a BIG GIRL now!!!" I started rewarding for trips to the potty with M and M's but I had to move to mini-marshmallows and dum-dums (for poops) because I was eating all the M and M's at night when the kids were in bed, and when they weren't looking. Handfuls. Cramming them. Into. My. Mouth. (hanging head in shame). I'd like to point out that I chose the reward sometimes (around mealtimes, it wasn't a food reward), other times, I let them pick marshmallows OR a sticker. NOTE: Make sure they understand what OR means if you are offering two food choices. ;)

Teach proper wiping and hand washing. Demonstrate. Invite them into the bathroom when you are using the toilet. Model proper wiping and hand washing techniques. Show them how much toilet paper to use and remind them to let you help. Guide them on when to go back for more toilet tissue, and model front to back wiping. I remind them to let me wipe them and to dab the front AND the back to catch the inevitable dribbles. Wet wipe finish for number 2's. Guard the toilet paper. Until they learn self-control, they may think the TP is a toy to pass the time as they sit on the potty. I had to put mine out of reach until the twinnies learned some restraint. Finally, try and get them to wash with soap and make bubbles for 20 to 30 seconds before rinsing. Sing the ABCs! Sing Happy Birthday twice! Front and back of hands and in between the fingers!

Keep a stiff upper lip. The majority of kids won't go to college in diapers. Get a support group of veteran potty trainers to praise your potty training status posts on FB and be encouraged.

You're story will be different than mine but parts may be the same.  This is what worked for me and mine. Some parts of our stories will diverge or overlap. One thing is for certain, it's a journey parents of young children can relate to, unless you pay somebody to potty train your children for you, and then I'm jealous.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Keep Moving Forward

It's the first day of 2014. Firsts are about beginnings, fresh starts, and today was not that great. We failed to make it great. EVERYBODY woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and it Just. Got. Worse. until the day ended. We're in the middle of a very sleepless week. The girls have colds and one of them is on steroids for croup, which in turn make her even more hyper than usual. Nobody has a whole lot of patience to share. Everyone needs a break and nobody is getting one. It's just one of those times in life when you have to keep your head down and keep moving forward.

Wade through the mucous, the midnight wake-ups where they cough and choke on it, and the pacing of the floor carrying a 31 pound toddler. Find the shower nozzle in the dark and make a steamy room to ease her congestion. Sit on the toilet and wrap her in a warm blanket as you cradle her gently, trying to find a comfortable position, and stay awake until she can breathe more comfortably and stop her coughing fit. Change it up and hold her in front of an open window and feel the cold air on your faces. Put her back to sleep, only to finally get yourself settled, and she is awake again. Try not to be jealous of your sleeping husband who doesn't do middle of the night wake-ups because he works.

Thankfully, after a day and a half on the steroid, she is starting to feel better and the barking cough is going away. I just want to feel like I can get some quality sleep again and not have to camp out in my kids' room until they sleep.