I promised I would blog about my potty training methods:
Being a mother of four, I’ve tried different potty training methods with different children and had varying results.
Elizabeth was late to potty train for a number of reasons: Imogen was born when she was 16 months old and by the time Imogen was 6 months old (and I suppose I would’ve been thinking about potty training her) I had really understood that Elizabeth was ‘different’ to other children. From Imogen’s arrival Elizabeth changed. She changed over night. She acted as though there was a wall around her and she just cut herself off from us all. It was very hard to see her withdraw into silence and I felt an enormous amount of guilt about having a baby whilst Elizabeth was still a baby herself. I ended up with post-natal-depression. Or just depression, I don’t really know which! My mother was very ill at the time so that took it’s toll on me too. Obviously looking back on the situation and understanding Elizabeth with my experienced eyes I know that Elizabeth withdrew because she didn’t know how to cope and that what I thought was her being upset and heart-broken and jealous probably were none of those things! She isn’t really a jealous person and is pretty accepting of new circumstances, but during the acclimatisation process she withdraws in order to adjust. So lining up cars and making picnics so that the play-food was on the plates just ‘so’ and silently sitting in a blanket-fort was just her little aspie way of processing this noisy new arrival.
Once Imogen started having an opinion on things, Elizabeth started lashing out and hurting her which meant that Elizabeth was getting told off a lot of the time. We were very worried about her destructive and aggressive behaviour and her periods of silent withdrawal. If I read a story to the girls, Imogen would sit on my knee and cuddle up whilst Elizabeth would sit off to the side, her back to me listening to the story and occasionally turning to look at the pictures. I was devastated. I took her to the GP and the Health Visitor sent a behavioural-specialist round to the house. I was told that Elizabeth was perfectly fine and that she and I were just a ‘bad fit’ personality-wise. I can tell you right now that hearing a professional tell me that I was a bad fit with my own beloved daughter was heart-breaking. Paul came home from work that evening to find me a snotty sobbing mess! Together though, we sat when the girls were in bed trawling the internet looking at ‘symptoms’ until eventually we found ‘Aspergers Syndrome’ and knew that our Elizabeth was just a little aspie with a different operating system to the rest of us! From that point we were on our journey not to ‘fix’ her, but to understand and help her. To be honest, potty training was very low on our list of priorities!
In addition to her Aspergers she also had what the GP called ‘toddler diarrhoea’ which basically meant she was pooing about ten times a day and it was so runny it missed the nappy and went straight down her legs. It meant she wasn’t ready to potty train and she couldn’t go to play-group either. I took her again and again to the doctors and was just told she would grow out of it until I eventually had her ‘Vega tested‘ and we discovered she had allergies to certain foods. Within 6 weeks she was cured and I started potty training her. She was almost three years old.
The method I used was from an old book I bought on Amazon. I can’t for the life of me find the title and I think I lent it out years ago and never got it back…but it was a ‘potty training in one day’ kind of book which claimed to be ‘brand new’ and ‘cutting edge’ except when I opened it I realised that it was first published in 1978 or something like that! After I’d finished laughing at the fact that I should keep treats in my apron pockets! I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to read it through and I was glad I did because two days later Elizabeth was trained in the day-time and 6 weeks later Imogen was trained too!
It really was an amazing book! Basically, you don’t reward the child for peeing in the potty, you reward the child for DRY PANTS. This means that the impetus is on them to keep their own pants dry (rather than on the adult reminding the child to use the potty). And the extra extra genius thing about the book (I thought) was that the plan works BECAUSE of the rewards. My kids drink water, generally so this worked really well for us: just for the one day you buy different flavoured cordials and buy curly straws etc and you have drinks on hand all the time. You also buy salty snacks just for that one day. Something like pretzels with the little bits of salt on. Obviously this wouldn’t be my snack of choice for a small child because of the salt content, but the plan is to make the child feel thirsty. So you say “Have you got dry pants?” and the child says yes, you check their pants and praise them “Wowee! Well done! You have dry pants!” and you reward with either a drink of juice or a little salty snack. The more they drink, the more wees they do and the more opportunities for success there are.
The book suggests you buy a million pairs of pants and have two buckets in the room with you, one for dirty pants, and one with water and a cloth for clean ups so you don’t have to leave the room. You don’t disapprove of wet pants, you just reward dry ones. Talk about how lovely dry pants are. Thomas the Tank Engine likes dry pants…Fifi Forget-me-not likes dry pants…you get the idea!
Well it took Elizabeth three days and we were done. But Imogen had been watching, and taking notes it seemed! So by the time she was about 17 months she decided she wouldn’t be wearing a nappy any more and was a little flasher, stripping off at every opportunity! She refused to use the potty though, preferring to ask for her nappy to be put back on. So by 19 months she was ready to do a day of pretzels and cordial and I had two out of nappies. Elizabeth needed her nappy at night until about two weeks before her 8th birthday though read here about apsergers and nocturnal enuresis, whilst Imogen was dry at night within a few weeks of being dry in the day but of course she’s neurotypical.
I followed the same plan with Leon when he was about 2 and he was dry in the day within a couple of days and at night a few weeks later.
With Oona I have done everything differently!
I told you I’ve done EC with Oona? Well she really REALLY doesn’t like nappies so for ages we’ve been only using nappies when we are out of the house and Oona has worn her blueberry training pants in the house. We have done a LOT of talk around ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ as concepts. We feel the wet pants and say they are wet and we sniff them too and say we can smell a wee (not in a disgusted way, in an observational way, don’t go thinking I rub her nose in her wees!!) We feel the dry pants and sniff those and say ‘mmmmm nice dry pants’! If she spills a drink we say it’s wet…you get the idea.
When she turned 17 months we bought a new potty:
to replace the little ones we had from Tesco… this one allows her to sit down with her feet on the floor and her legs at a right angle. She rests her arms on the bear’s arms and I can see that she feels comfortable. Within 20 seconds of this potty being out of the box, Oona had weed on it! And she hasn’t looked back. I haven’t had to do any pretzels and juice. I had already done the ‘dry pants’ work and she was happy to keep them dry. She manages to keep dry in the house pretty much all day long although I’ve had a couple of hellish days where she seems to wee everywhere, generally we have 100% success rate. When we go out I use the blueberry trainers as she sometimes wees when she is in the car and can only tell me she needs to go about 5 seconds before she goes so it’s not like I can pull the car over and get her on the potty in time! But they are fantastic for catching just one wee and usually her tights and dress are dry if she has a little accident.
So hopefully that’s it for me and potty training! At the moment when you see me out of the house you will see me dragging along a huge red bear-potty with me…because Oona won’t wee on anything else…but hopefully I will be able to phase that out soon!
Wish me luck with that!