Potty Training Pre-Work

I’ve been thinking about what I was going to write about potty training for a few days, and what I realized was that I couldn’t just jump in with how I did it (or, rather, set the stage for El Chico to do it). I approached it in a different way from a lot of people I knew, but in a very similar way to other parents I know. So I tried to figure out what it was that made different potty training approaches different so I could lay out the choices.

1. The Communication Approach. (This was the way I went.) This approach assumes that the goal of potty training is for the kid to recognize that s/he has to go before it happens and in enough time that an appropriate toilet or toilet facsimile can be reached. The goal isn’t to get the kid to be able to hold it for long periods of time (although obviously an older kid can do this), but just to recognize the feeling and let you know with enough warning that there’s nothing on the floor that requires cleaning up. In other words, the kid needs to be able to decipher the messages his/her body is sending. At the same time, this approach assumes that forward progress is being made when the parent and child can communicate about peeing and pooping (I almost wrote "toileting issues," but come on now), and that any day when you’re having some conversations about the potty is forward motion. Part of it is also that the more you talk about it the more the child learns to decipher the feelings s/he’s having and connect them with the ideas of peeing and pooping. This approach lines up pretty well with the ideas behind elimination communication, although obviously EC is for little babies and not toddlers. The method is a lot of talking about it and creating situations for the kid to have pee and poop-related experiences.

2. The Control Approach. (I’m not trying to use the word "control" perjoratively, so I hope it doesn’t sound like I am. This approach would stress me out, but I think it’s great for other people.) This approach assumes that the goal of potty training is for the kid to be able to hold it long enough after s/he tells you s/he’s got to go to be able to make it to the toilet or potty. It’s probably a semantic difference from the goal of the communication approach, but whatever, I’m kind of a pedant sometimes. At the same time, the parent is trying to train/control the child to be able to control himself or herself. Forward progress is made when the child pees or poops in the toilet or potty, and  charting helps keep track of progress. The method is using rewards as motivation for pottying.

3. The Control/Communication Combo. This approach is kind of a mishmash of the two. Some people seem to be able to use them together to get the kid to be able to listen to the signals, but more on the parent’s timeline (which, dude). Other parents seem to just get it all mixed up toegether and end up stressing everyone out.

Does anyone have another framework? I couldn’t think of any that weren’t one or the other or a hybrid.

I think you need to decide which way you want to go and then base your plan for potty training on that. It’s going to depend on your personality (are you the kind of person who needs to be actively working a plan, or are you someone who needs to watch things unfold?) as well as your kid’s personality (if you have a kid who digs in his/her heels you’re shooting yourself in the foot by bringing control into it, but some kids seem to need pushing or a lot of structure).

So chew on that overnight and we’ll start with some of the logistics tomorrow. If you used a control-oriented approach, I’m going to need some help with reviews of the various methods (that one-day thing with the doll and the snacks, for example, vs. the weekend method, etc.). I’ll also be mixing in some regular Q&A’s this week just so we don’t get too tired of all the poop talk.