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Family CommentariesPotty Training

Potty training:

I consider myself a big failure in the potty training department so don�t even ask me about it.  Perhaps waiting until they are about five would work! ............. Oh okay, if I must say something about the subject........... 

There are at least 2 schools of thought regarding potty training. The first extreme says to train your children early (age one to two) by constantly taking them to the potty yourself. Some people would say that this is really training the parent, not the child, and I tend to agree. 

The second school of thought says to wait, wait, wait, until your child initiates the task by asking to be trained or even training himself. That never happened once in my house. They really didn't care if they were ever trained.  Maybe if I'd waited until they were ten.... 

 The middle of the road people often wait until the child asks to be trained, then put them in training pants and remind them a lot, and then put up with months of accidents until they finally begin consistently using the potty on their own.  Once again, I don't think I fit in either box or anywhere much in the middle either. Here's the way I feel about the matter:

First of all, I hate cleaning up accidents. I guess I don't see the point of cleaning up clothes and training pants when they could be messing in the potty or at least in a diaper. While it makes sense to me to wait until a child is physically and mentally ready to be trained, I don't see why you should wait until THEY initiate the process. You don't wait for them to decide on their own to brush their teeth, or to make their beds, or to wash their hands before eating, or to learn to read, or a multitude of other things, so why potty training? I can't think of a good reason.

Next, I do think you should wait until the child is old enough to follow instructions and to control his bladder, etc. If he is staying dry all night he is probably physically ready.  After that it becomes a matter of education. Teaching him not to fear the potty. Teaching him how to get on and off. Teaching him how to relax and go. Teach him come and tell mom so she can help if needed. Teaching him to wipe and flush and so on. So if it is simply a matter of education, I don't see why it should take weeks or months of repeated accidents before they are potty trained. I know they are smart enough to learn these things very quickly, so that's not the problem. So if they understand what to do and how to do it, and still aren't doing it, then it becomes a training issue.....right?  Seems logical to me.

Here, briefly are some of my experiences with potty training. I am always open to new ideas in this area, but so far I really haven't heard of much else that works better or faster than what I have already done.

My experiences with potty training:

Our firstborn, was staying dry all night from the time he was 12 months old, with no effort on my part.  He potty trained very easily in two days, just after he turned two. I bought the book "Toilet Training in Less than a Day" and used the general principles in the book, and he almost never had an accident after that first day or two. The basic idea conveyed in the book is to 1. Get them used to sitting on the potty before you start, 2. Eliminate all other distractions and devote an entire day or two to potty training, taking them to the potty every hour or less, and 3. Reward them with a candy treat when they go. The book suggests using a doll to demonstrate, but I didn't do that. I only gave treats the first few times, to help motivate and get the idea across. I just generous with verbal praise after that.

Although I tried the same general approach with all of my other children, most of them did not train as early as our first.  Usually I'd try training them for a few days or weeks, then if it wasn't working, I'd put them back in diapers and wait a few more months before trying again. I just assumed they hadn't been "ready" the previous time. Most were trained around age three. If it didn't work without excessive stress the next time, I'd put it off again. Eventually it would work. It took a few days of concentrated work on the matter and a miserable (for me - they didn't seem to mind) three or four weeks of occasional accidents after that, but it'd work. With most of them, I changed from paper diaper to cloth training pants, near or at the beginning of the training. I had to "remind" most of them to use the potty for quite a while even after they were "trained". It was usually weeks or months before they routinely began coming and telling me on their own, without my reminders, that they had to use the potty.

My fifth born was the pretty difficult. After numerous failed attempts with him, I put him back in diapers and waited until he was almost four. One day I took him aside, sat him down, looked him in the eye, and told him clearly and frankly, that he was too old for diapers and from that day forth, he would be expected to use the bathroom. I told him there would be no more diapers and that he would be spanked if he did not �make it.� He already knew all about how to do it, and had demonstrated many times that he could do it, but I reviewed a few things just to make it absolutely clear. I think he only had one " accident" (if you want to call laziness an "accident") the first week, and maybe a total of two or three the entire following month. I followed through a swat on the clothed bottom on those few occasions and that was it. All done with no more laziness problems.

I anticipated that my sixth born would be the biggest challenge of all, since he was with everything else. This was my more impulsive, most active, most difficult to control child. Therefore, I proceeded with caution and dread. I went through my usual routine of checking for readiness, introduced him to the potty, teaching him what to do and so on. I made several failed attempts at actual potty training, but I never put him in training pants. Why set myself and him up for failure and frustration? Eventually I decided to use the method I had used on his next older sibling. I said nothing about the subject for several months - by then he was over 3 � years old. One day when I was positive that he was ready to be train and knew what to do, I sat him down, got his attention, then told him what I expected. It was a very short and firm conversation. I told him he was not to mess in his diaper, period. He was told he would be spanked if he did. The next time he had to do a �big� job, he did it as usual in his diaper. I spanked, firmly and with conviction. I must have got my point across because he only had one minor accident after that.   Two weeks later I repeated the same procedure with the �wetting� part of the deal. I told him I would be checking his diaper and I was NOT to find it wet. The first day I had to spank him once or twice, but only two days later I was able to take his diaper off permanently! By the way, he does not seem emotionally scarred for life because of these very few spankings.

My eighth born was the easiest of all. He had just turned three, and I had not tried to train him before, except to do the same things I'd done with all the others. First I looked for signs of readiness, especially staying dry all night and for longer stretches during the day. I let him sit on the big potty a few times to get used to it so he was not afraid. Off and on before I started, I told him, as I had the others, with an encouraging smile, things like: "Pretty soon you'll be potty trained, won't it be fun not to wear diapers any more? Then you can use the big potty just like Mommy and Daddy!"  Finally, the day I decided to try potty training him, I just had a little talk with him telling him that there would be no more diapers and that he was a big boy now and had to use the potty. It wasn't a stern talk like I'd had with the two who were the most difficult to train. I did not mention spanking or any punishment. I didn't mention any rewards or treats for that matter either. I put training pants on him and took him to the potty after meals, upon arising, before bed, and once in a while in between. I left a diaper on him at night for about a week or two. I didn't do anything special, or anything different than I had with any of my other children. No threats, no bribery, no spanking, no super-duper praise sessions, no letting him run around bottomless, or anything else unusual. Nevertheless he only had one accident that first day and never another after that. He even consistently came and told me when he had to go potty after that! I don't really get it. He was just personally motivated I guess.  I don't think it was anything special I did. 

Note: For information on potty training a Downes Syndrome child, take a look at this website:

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.