A friend of mine is battling toilet training. She asked my advice and all I could offer her was good luck. There is nothing more difficult as a parent than toilet training a toddler. You can deal with sleepless nights, but eventually a child will sleep. They will either learn that they can cry themselves to sleep or they will learn if they cry long enough they can sleep with you. Either scenario, a child will learn to go to bed. You and/or your child become sleep trained.
You can teach your child to count by rote, learn their letters and dress themselves. But potty training? Exactly how do you explain to a child who has almost no language skills how to work their bladder system? They can barely feed themselves without issue. How exactly do you let them know what a full bladder feels like? To even describe the sensation, there are no words. It is not something you can model. You cannot play/act it out. You cannot say “watch mommy” because while they see you sitting on the toilet they cannot see the inner workings of how it happens.
It is easier to teach your child algebra than it is to teach them how to use a toilet.
When my oldest daughter was young she was in a Montessori daycare that only went to age 2.9. After that she would need to transition to another school. One that required all children, upon admittance, to be toilet trained. It still amuses me that the Montessori school philosophy of “let the child lead” includes everything but potty training.
About six months prior to “graduation” I began to panic. My daughter showed absolutely no interest in the “potty”. During Spring break I was determined; we would succeed by eliminating diapers and putting on her big girl panties. Here was my brilliant if misguided plan:
Put on panties
Wait for her to tell me she had to go the bathroom
Run like hell to the bathroom
Here is what happened:
Put on panties
Walk to the living room
She peed and said, “WHAT HAPPENED”
All over the hardwood floors, with a dog ready to mark his territory. As I am a slow learner, it took the rest of the day to realize this wasn’t going to work. I tried to reason with a two-year old. “Honey, you know that feeling you get right before you pee all over Mommy’s floor? That means you have to go to the bathroom”.
I tried, in vain, to explain how it works. I tried to make her pay attention to her body. I tried bribery. I gave her an M&M every time she was successful. I ate most of them.
After a few days of complete potty failure I was tired of doing laundry, cleaning the floor and keeping the dog at bay. I lit on what I think of is a brilliant plan. I went and purchased the pull-up. Realizing it was a diaper and she wouldn’t get the feeling of being wet, I put her underwear on UNDER the pull-up. Now when she messed, it was contained but she felt it. I thought this was the perfect solution. Surely now it would only take a few days for her to understand what it ‘felt’ like to need the bathroom. But I was mistaken. It took forever and she really didn’t mind being wet.
Finally a week before she was due to graduate daycare I realized that while no child graduates Harvard in a diaper, my kid might not make it into Montessori Pre-K. I did what any reasonable, mature mother would do.
I walked her into her first day of pre-K, with a change of clothes “just in case”. I handed her off to the unsuspecting teacher, waved goodbye and on the way out of the parking lot I thought to myself:
I snuck her into pre-K I wonder if I can sneak her into Harvard?