Friday, June 17, 2016

Potty Training

Well, if you read my coming-back post, you will know that one of my goals this summer was to get Audrey potty-trained.  And, thankfully, I think we’ve finally hit on something that works for us!

To back things up, let’s recount how terrible--yes, TERRIBLE--potty training has been so far.

Audrey showed potty training readiness last June.  Yeah, a whole YEAR ago.  She was interested in watching others go potty, she was able to stay dry for long periods of time, etc.  In all the books I consulted they would print a list of characteristics that show that your child is likely ready to potty train.  She hit pretty much everything on the list.  So, I figured I would give it a go!

Bad, bad choice.  Of course, there was no way for me to know that.  And, given the experiences I’ve had, even if presented with a child very similar to Audrey now, I would probably still have tried the potty.  I guess you never know.  But Audrey did NOT take to pottying.  We decided to do the bare butt method in which you take diapers off so the kid could feel pee running down their legs when they went.  We gave Audrey lots to drink and rolled up the rugs (we were in our old house still at this point thankfully, or we would have had tons of carpet to contend with).  She had some expected accidents and appropriately freaked out that she had peed on herself.  I would rush her to the potty so she could finish peeing in there.  Praise her.  But looking back, she just seemed so confused by the whole thing.  I would set a timer and put her on the potty every time the timer dinged, and at first she was compliant and would sit.  If I knew she was due to pee and hadn’t for awhile, I would give her popsicles to keep her on the potty until she actually went and then allow her to get up.  I would praise her and be super ridiculously over the top about it.  Allow her to play with play-doh as a reward (play-doh was new then).  I kept track of the times she peed and pooped, how much there was, how much made it into the potty, how resistant she was to sitting on the potty.

This was Audrey being "potty-trained" last year, eating a Popsicle and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 

This happened for about two days.  We stayed inside and I thought I was about to lose my mind because I never took my eyes off her the entire time.  It was literally worse than being home alone during maternity leave with a crying baby with no idea why.  I of course had read that kids pick up on this dread though, so I tried so, so hard to be happy and excited and promoting the idea of peeing, thinking that it might just be a sucky week but so worth it in the end. 

The third day I thought we’d made real progress...she was going longer and longer in between pee breaks...we were up to about an hour to an hour and a half!  I put training pants on her (per the method I was following in a book).  She had several accidents and went through about eight pairs of underwear.  Finally I just let her be bare again.  We went several hours without peeing.  “Nailed it!” I thought.

The next day she also went several, several hours without peeing.  In fact, she only peed once that entire day (during her nap when she had a diaper on).  She started to resist the potty, screaming and kicking and hitting and even biting me, which Audrey never did.  She sobbed and threw tantrums if she even looked at the potty.  In the meantime, it had also been awhile since she’d pooped, too.  I tried to give her more to drink, juice even, but she would drink only very small amounts.  It was almost like she was on to me.  I was at my wit’s end trying to keep her hydrated and free of urinary tract infections or constipation...I didn’t know what to do.  Finally, by the end of the week, Kyle took her potty while at church.  She bucked and screamed and cried and hit him, too.  After church that day, we had a very serious discussion that we were doing more psychological harm than teaching her how to potty.  She just wasn’t ready.  We put her back in diapers but left the potty out in case she ever wanted to sit on it.  She didn’t.  And she would scream and get angry if we even suggested she sit on it.  After about two more weeks of that, we put the potty away.  Throughout this time, she still stayed dry in her diaper fairly well, she still was interested in watching us potty, and, thankfully, she began to pee and poop regularly again. 

Okay, so she was too young.  She wasn’t mentally prepared.  That’s okay.  We’d try again later.

By about October, my sitter (who has trained dozens of kids to potty) said she thought Audrey would be ready to try again.  Audrey had noticed that the older three and four-year-old girls wore panties and used the potty, and she wanted to play with and be just like them.  Okay, let’s capitalize on that!  We waited until after we moved and got settled into the new house.  I bought some pull-ups for at the sitter.  After being traumatized the last time, I didn’t have the courage for cloth.  Also, our sitter wouldn’t be able to keep a constant eye on Audrey every second of the day like I could because she also had other kids to watch.  And, in both our house and the sitter’s house, there was carpet in the main living areas where Audrey spent most of her time.  Pull-ups were the right choice there.

Audrey started slow.  She would tinkle in the potty if we forced her to sit on it, and then finish in her pull-up.  It didn’t matter if we or the sitter made her sit there for thirty seconds or an hour.  We tried rewards, but she didn’t show interest in them.  We tried bribery, but nothing.  Sometimes she would refuse to sit on the potty even though it had been hours since she’d last gone.  Just two months ago, Kyle threatened to spank Audrey if she refused to sit on the potty because we knew that she KNEW how to use the potty but was just being obstinate.  He offered her the choice and she took the spanking, which kind of took us aback.  The rest of the day when we told her it was time to potty she would reply, “No, just hit my butt.”

The really frustrating part is that she would teeter back and forth.  Some days she would do really well, and some days she would do nothing on the potty.  We even got her grandmas, her favorite two people in the world, to try to help us.  My mom, who had me potty trained before 18 months, was at a loss.  We would bring her potty out to sit on so she didn’t have to go far to pee, and nothing.  Our sitter did the same, and no results.  When we told her that she couldn’t play with the big girls at the sitter’s house until she peed in the potty, she lost interest in playing with them.  We would ask Audrey where babies peed (diapers) and where big girls peed (potties).  Then we would ask if she was a baby or a big girl.  She would say, “A big girl, but I will pee in my underwear.”  She knew the rules but didn’t want them to apply to her.  AND she would come down hard on any kid she saw who had an accident or who wore diapers, but it never occurred to her that she still did those things.  We just kept consoling ourselves...time, time, time.  No kid goes to college in diapers, right?  RIGHT?!

Finally, a few days after school was out (so only a few weeks ago), it was obvious that Audrey had to poop.  And that she was pooping.  We caught her early, so we rushed her to the bathroom and put her on the potty.  It was traumatizing to her, but she went.  She was so proud that she had pooped in the potty and kept talking about what a big girl she was.  We talked her up, too.  When she pooped a couple of days later, same thing.  She screamed and cried the whole time, but she pooped on the potty.  And she was proud of herself.

At about this time, Audrey went to play for awhile at a friend’s house and this friend had several Disney princesses that Audrey wanted to bring home with her.  I told her if she was a good girl over the next few days (mostly I meant listening, going down for a nap when I told her to, etc.) I would buy her the princesses.  She was, so Kyle and Audrey and I went to the store.  We didn’t find the same ones, but we found a busy book that came with a princess book, eleven princess figurines, a charm bracelet, and a story sheet that you can put your princesses on to play.  We had a sudden inspiration...Audrey had been having a few up days in a row with peeing on the potty...maybe we could make this work?  We made a deal with her.  Do a good job going pee on the potty, and you can have one princess at the end of each day.  A poop in the potty automatically guaranteed a princess right away, no matter the time of day.  She got to pick the princess, of course.  Doing a good job consisted of going without complaint when Mommy or Daddy asked and keeping pee out of her underwear (pull ups).  She agreed, although she probably didn’t realize what she was agreeing to.  We gave her the book that night and put the princesses inside the medicine cabinet in her bathroom so I could open the mirror and show her the princesses I was holding hostage inside out of her reach. 

It. Worked. 

Now, if I would have tried this earlier, would it have probably worked?  I’m guessing not.  Audrey was in the right frame of mind FINALLY in combination with having had a few successful pee days and two poops on the potty (which were rough compared to peeing on the potty).  Also, since I’m pregnant we’ve been talking a lot more about babies and diapers lately, so she’s been seeing diapers get stockpiled again.  She is also very much on board with being a big sister and a big helper, so I think it all finally clicked in her head.  Hallelujah!

There were some hiccups, of course.  She went swimming in her kiddie pool a few times during that first week and twice instead of going inside to pee, she went over and squatted near a tree instead (once was my fault...she had just been in to potty five minutes earlier so I told her she didn’t need to go...oops).  That weekend Audrey went on a trip to Michigan with my in-laws and the pottying was kind of rough since it was a several hour drive and lots of fun in the pool, at the park, and at the zoo.  We waited until after the trip was over to start big girl princess panties.  Audrey has had approximately a few accidents in her big girl panties, twice at the times I was talking to contractors for our bathroom remodel, so I can justify those...she probably was too intimidated by the strangers to come tell me she had to go.  Another day she went through four pairs of panties, but we are chalking that up to her guzzling apple juice (which we usually do not allow).  On the latter day, when she told me she had peed in her panties again, she yelled, "I'm so sorry!  I'm so sorry!" over and over again.

Now we’re about three and a half weeks out from starting the princesses and two weeks out from panties.  We still have some major steps to take, though...she still is afraid to poop in the potty.  We have to sit down and coach her through pooping, if she will do it at all.  Also, she is getting better at lengthening the amount of time between potty breaks (about 3 hours now!) but I’m still the one telling her she needs to go.  This week we are going to try to allow her to figure out when she needs to go and I will be quieter. 

I’m so relieved!  Pun intended!  We are all very excited for Audrey that she is doing so well.  Audrey is so proud to be a big girl.  Audrey still wears pull-ups (now named night-night underwear) for naps and at night, but even those are drier in the mornings than usual, and the naps the last few days have had zero pee in them.  Although we’re far from being completely trained, we’ve come a long way in the last few weeks.  Feel free to put another notch in my parenting bedpost.

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