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Potty Training
A special by our Content Manager

As a first-time mother, I have watched my two-year-old daughter, Erica come upon and conquer many of the normal milestones of a typical child. In fact, in most instances, she was quite advanced in her development; before she was six-months-old, she was sitting up, by eight months, she was pulling herself up on furniture and "cruising" around the living room, and at 10 months, she took her first step. Erica also began talking early, and she now boasts a nearly fifty-plus word vocabulary that continues to increase every day.

Along with her obvious physical and mental development, her psychological development too, has come into its own. She has the will of a bull coming out of the shoot at a rodeo. When Erica realizes that she has control over a situation, she takes it and doesn't let go, and I pity the poor rider who is on her back trying to take hold the reins of control. (I'm told her mother was like that too at her age, but I won't admit it.)

 A newcomer in the game of parenting, I foresaw the next developmental milestone out in the distance way before Erica did, potty training. She was nearly two now, and I believed it was high time we said bye-bye to Huggies. Besides, there were plenty of other things I could spend $25.00 a month on.  And so, the preparation began. I searched out and interviewed as many experienced trainers as I could find to get their thoughts and advice on potty training. How do I know if she is ready? Do I buy Pull-Ups or training pants? What strategies worked for you and which did not? How long will it take? My list of questions went on and on.

Then I found the book. Potty Training in Less Than a Day was the answer I was looking for. I read it cover-to-cover in two days, and while I began my reading as a skeptic, I was a born again believer at book's end.

 The step-by-step procedures were well defined; using a dolly that wets, Erica would learn to take dolly to the potty, after all, the best way to teach a child a new skill is to have the child teach that skill to someone else. After dolly has learned to keep her pants dry and use the potty, it would be time for Erica to do the same.

During this training, keep in mind that Erica is being offered as much to drink of her
favorite beverage as she will take, thus filling up her bladder for the obvious end result. She is also constantly being asked every five minutes  if her pants are dry. If they are, she gets a treat from the many choice selections I had available to her:  M&M's, potato chips, and her very favorite, jelly beans. After drinking at least 8-ounces of Coke in no more than 45 minutes, the training would really begin. She may have an accident to begin with, but in that instance, there was another set of steps to follow just for accidents. I would help her "practice" going to the potty over and over, ten times in a row to cement into her brain that wet pants were not acceptable, and how she could prevent having them next time.

This no doubt was an intense training approach; our entire day was to revolve around the potty. We would talk of nothing except the potty. We would talk about how grown up she would be when she learned to use the potty. We would talk about everyone else she knew and admired who used the potty. We would talk about potty even when she tried to change the subject. Potty, potty, potty. Radical as it seemed, I believed without a doubt she could do it!
She didn't do it.
The element of control is very powerful to a child.  As children begin to become more and more aware of their individuality, they learn what they can control a lot sooner than what they cannot control. 

As much as parents want to continue to guide and teach their children, more and more, their children want to learn on their own terms, in their own way.
It was obvious to me that Erica understood about the potty, and she displayed many signs of readiness for training. She could lower and raise her pants, as well as understand and say the necessary words that communicated potty. There was no doubt that she knew what the potty was used for; however, it became quite evident after our Day of Potty that she wanted the control and ultimately had the control over when, or even if she would use it. This was a power struggle I would not win, and she knew it.

This was the crucial point of awakening for mommy; do I forge ahead, or retreat?
It is here where many parents commit a grievous error. It is here where many parents also make the same error I could have made: Forcing Erica to learn a skill she was not ready to learn.
At the tender age between 18 and 36 months when most parents initiate potty training, it is important they first determine their child's readiness to learn this new skill, and have the patience to back off if their child is reluctant or shows no interest, as Erica obviously did.
When the training is forced on an uninterested and unmotivated child, the end result is often a tired and frustrated parent.

Frustration is not exclusive to parents either; children who are not ready to potty train, but are forced to, can also end up feeling equally if not more frustrated than mommy and daddy, and often the effects are far worse for the child. They can develop a very real fear of using the toilet, and will avoid having to perform the skill at all costs. For many, "holding it" is a real problem; they will not allow themselves to have a bowel movement for days, ultimately causing themselves physical agony, and their parents total and complete frustration.
So what is the answer? For parents like me who are facing this issue, what we want most is a magical book with the answer to our problem. A simple answer that will take our uninterested and unmotivated child and give them the desire and motivation to learn this new skill.

But we all know it does not come that easy. For me, I have resigned to approach the potty issue with a much more laid back attitude. I still talk about the potty, I still encourage her to at least sit on the potty, and I regularly remind her that "big girls" use the potty instead of diapers.

I know my words are reaching her, but for now words are all I am contributing to the cause; when it comes to Erica learning to use the potty and saying bye-bye to diapers, it is going to be her way, and in her time.