Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Life Lessons in Potty Training

As soon as Constance began walking, I started to hear comments about potty training. I heard it everywhere! I had no idea even where to begin with it, especially since she was only a year old and showing no signs. I mean, she was having more dry diapers, but aside from that, she was busy figuring life out as a mobile person. Soon after her first birthday, I found out I was expecting another baby, so the well meaning comments became more frequent. "Get her outta diapers before the baby is born so you're not changing two kids at once or buying double diapers!"
Good point, right? I thought so! We got some pretty Minnie Mouse and Dora panties, a training potty, and started going!
That sweet age between a year and two years, for us so far, has been the easiest. The kids are learning about everything around them, but they haven't quite discovered the power of their will. I thought I had child rearing all figured out because ... well, Constance was such an easy baby. Potty training would be no different. 
A couple of years later and we have seen many improvements, but Constance still has accidents and is still figuring it out. She thinks if she just changes her undies and cleans herself up that she's okay with messing herself. (#2 mostly) Now that she is a little older and I have learned some things, I know that there would be things I would do differently in all of this. Here's a few things I've learned since those early days of potty training:

1. Wait until the child is ready. Every 15 minutes I would take Constance to the potty and sit her there, as she screamed. I was determined to make it work, so I held her down ... therefore making the whole potty experience a drudgery for the both of us. At about 20 months old, she hated the idea of sitting on that potty.
2. Don't stress out over accidents. I remember when Constance peed on all of my couch pillows at about 2 years old (I don't know how) and I was furious! Every time she would have an accident, I would flip out. Even now, if there is an accident, I can feel my temper flaring, because I hate cleaning these messes. (Cloth diapering was easier.) If I stress out, she stresses out. Constance is my little sensor and she acts out everything she senses me feeling. And nothing gets accomplished.
3. For us, punishment does not work when there are accidents. When we began trying to punish her for having an accident, Constance just quit telling us she needed to go altogether because she was associating the whole potty experience with being punished. Having accidents is NOT a discipline problem, it is simply the child learning. It is best that I just go with it, explain to her that she needs to try to go in the potty next time, and move on. It is what it is.
4. Expect setbacks with sickness and routine changes (including vacations, being somewhere other than home, etc). Constance is pretty good with telling me she needs to go if she is somewhere else, but I have to remind her every so often, or she will just forget. However, if she gets sick, she has a much harder time staying on top of it and it takes a few days after to get back in the swing. I have to do my best not to freak out about that.
5. Remember her age. She isn't a little adult, she is a kid. She needs to be taught and trained.
6. Don't compare my kid to other kids! I have friends who's kids were potty trained by eighteen months and friends who's kids waited until they were four. If I start looking at what everyone else's kid is doing, I am going to feel pressured to push harder and ultimately stress my kid out. Being the mom who pushes their kid to make a point to everyone else is not the proper motivation for child rearing. My motivation is to see Constance one day be a servant for Christ, to work hard, and to succeed at whatever she puts her mind to. If it takes her a little longer sometimes, I have to resist that feeling of being "behind" and just enjoy the opportunity to watch her learn and grow. (This little lesson applies to everything about having a kid. I'm just saying.)
7. Make a big deal out of successes. My brother always reminds me about when I was being potty trained and how when I finally went in the potty, everybody in the house banged on pots and pans. (I do not remember this!) When Constance goes all day without an accident or goes doo doo in the potty (a sore spot for us), I make a big deal out of it. She might get a treat or we might dance around the house singing loudly. Whatever works. Keep it fun.
8. If she is still having trouble by the time college rolls around, I can send her off in Depends. (I'm kidding.)

This potty training experience has been quite frustrating and a true test of my patience, but I know Constance will get it down completely. I don't know why this has taken so long, but maybe The Lord just needed to humble me and teach me patience as I learn how to train this girl up. Maybe He has been teaching me that parenting isn't a 5 step program that fits everyone, that sometimes it'll be nothing like what you thought. Maybe He needed to show me just how my reactions affect my kids and how I do indeed, as the wife and mom, set the tone for the home. My mother in law reminded me a few weeks ago that there will come a time when I long for this age, poopy undies and all, as Constance begins to grow up and go through adolescence. (Come quickly, Lord Jesus!) The best thing for me to do is to keep a smile on, encourage my girl, and to keep working at it with her. This is just one experience of many that will require me to do just that.

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Thanks for reading my post! & God bless! :)