Potty Training Tips, Tools and Toys: By Any Means Necessary

potty trainingI recently bought the last box of Target-brand diapers I’ll ever need – assuming my children will one day spring for their own kids’ diapers.

So how did we get here?

Potty training is an inexact science, one based on both fuzzy math and biology. Some kids simply aren’t ready to potty train according to a father’s timetable.

There are at least 3 major strategies to potty training that are popular in the U.S.: 

Potty Training Boot Camp –  This involves spending three full days inside with a naked toddler. You feed the child lots of salty food and juice to stimulate his need to urinate. At the end of your three-day boot camp, you will likely NOT have a fully potty-trained child. You will however, have a child who understands the sensation of peeing and pooping, is comfortable with the potty, and has had some success peeing in the potty. Most of these programs require that after the initial boot camp, you NEVER use another diaper during the day. You will likely need to remind the child to go potty at regular intervals and you will have accidents. Some of these programs mandate no pants or underwear in the house for three months after your book camp session. The biggest pro of this system is that it gets your child to a relatively high level of proficiency in a short period of time.  The biggest con, of course, is that nightmare-ish three-day span and the accidents to follow.

Child-Centered Potty Training – In this method, parents do not push the child to potty train. The child is in diapers until he decides to start peeing in the potty.  The major pro of this method is that you put off potty training tantrums, once a child decides they want to use the potty, they probably catch on quickly because they are probably older and it is self directed.  The major con is that you may end up with a 4-year-old who still uses diapers.  There were a few children in our son’s class who did not appear to have any developmental delays and were in diapers at the end of the school year when they were all roughly 4-years-old.

Slow and Steady – This method is initiated by parents and its less intense than Potty Training Boot Camp.  It requires encouraging your child to go potty multiple times every day without any boot camp theatrics but does not force the issue in times of conflict. One con to this method is that it may confuse the child because he or she may be in diapers or underwear depending on what is going on that day.  This is the method my wife and I chose to potty train our boys.

Elijah was potty trained at 2 1/2, and we’ve essentially declared victory with Benjamin’s potty training at about the same age. Ben mastered peeing in the potty early on, but no. 2 proved a challenge.

Tools for the Trade

Here are some tools that could come in handy during the process:

A child’s potty seat – the kind that fits over your existing toilet seat. We own two, and it’s worth investing in several to cover all the bathrooms in your house.

A child’s portable potty – Get used to seeing this in the trunk of your car. Don’t leave home without it, unless you want to spend precious time scrubbing your child’s car seats to get rid of that funky smell.

Stickers, treats or trinkets – We call it motivation. Others may see these as bribes. We found they work like the proverbial charm. Note: If you have more than one child consider rewarding all the children after a successful potty moment. That unifies the children toward a common goal and prevents jealous meltdowns.

Clorox wipes – Get ready to clean up early and often.

Potty-themed books: – These stories help your child understand the process behind going to the potty and offer fun characters to make it a slightly more cheerful process.

Daddylibrium had a little outside help with Benjamin’s just-wrapped potty training. Two companies sent material to help us with the potty-training process with the understanding I would review each objectively:

VibraLITE’s “MINI” Model VLM-LBK vibration alarm watch is all black with a leather band that has an adjustable buckle for small wrists. Our boys love wearing watches, so that worked in our favor. The watch’s cool exterior appealed to our older son, who often wore it around the house, allowing him to take part in Ben’s potty-training process. Timing is crucial while potty training, and raising toddlers on the best days is a distracting gig. So those cheerful alarms came in handy.

The 20-second silent vibrating alarm is a nice choice for a more soothing reminder, one that doesn’t leave your child annoyed or bothered every time it goes off. You can also select a sound alarm or sound plus vibrations.

Daddylibrium also received a potty training kit that included a second watch/timer plus a few more helpful items.

PottyTime_Products_All_horizontal_PrintThe Potty Time package comes with a DVD, alarm watch and a comfortable potty seat perfect for little bottoms. The video, hosted by Emmy nominee Rachel Coleman, offers a colorful series of songs and skits meant to coax your toddler to the bathroom. Benjamin watched most of the video, although his attention did wander at times. The video features sign language, an addition some parents may find very helpful, and the production levels are impressive.

Coleman is a pro, never appearing too enthusiastic for the job at hand, and the presentation shows both potty training accidents as well as bonding moments between parent and child. Fathers may glean more information from the video than their kiddoes.

The DVD comes with a 9-track CD with potty-themed songs honoring successes and helping your child understand how his body works. It won’t replace “The White Album” on your iPod, but it’s a tuneful grab bag of material that could leave an impression on your potty trainee.

The Potty Time Reminder Watch is a colorful green and white wristwatch featuring alarms that go off at 30, 60 or 90 minute intervals. The alarm consists of cheerful music and a blinking light, which makes those “magic” moments feel more special.

The Potty Time Web site features more goodies for parents, from a blog on the subject to downloadable flash cards and charts to help with the process.

The Bottom … Line

Potty training is a chore, and there’s no “one size fits all” method for getting it done. Fathers must be flexible, patient and well armed in order to complete the process. There will be accidents, set backs and embarrassing moments, no doubt. Sometimes you’ll get all three on the same day.

The best way to start the potty training process is to watch for clues from your child. They will often tell you the time is ripe to start potty training. They become aware of their pee and potty times, start talking about them generally or somehow communicate an awareness of how their bodies work. That’s the first step in the long-awaited retirement of the diaper pail.

It’s worth the effort in the end.

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