The potty train has left the station.
It’s quite a relief, considering I started stressing about potty training before our daughter Chloe was even born.
Anxious to get it over with, I was ready to dive in at 18 months the early end of the age when experts suggest starting to train. But Chloe wasn’t having it. If we tried to get her to sit on the potty, even with her clothes on in front of the TV, she screamed and kicked the bowl away.
We backed off for a while but, wanting to get her out of diapers before the impending arrival of her new little sister, we decided at 21 months that we’d better buckle down.
Too, we had heard about parenting guru John Rosemond really laying into parents who missed that critical training window between 18 and 24 months.
“The post-1960s recommendation to wait until certain bogus readiness signs have emerged and let children train themselves has proved a huge flop,” he wrote in a recent column. “It’s transformed something a pre-1960s mom did in a week or so, with little hassle, into the most stressful parenting event of the preschool years, often dragging on for months.”
Rosemond (whose column appears Thursdays in The News) has said that when parents wait too long to start potty training, it makes it difficult for the children to learn. They start holding their bowel movements, they get digestive problems, and eventually they’re arriving at their high school graduation wearing size 14 diapers.
Or something like that.
There are two schools of thought on this. There is the “child-centered” approach, popularized by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, in which parents wait until the child shows he is ready to get rid of diapers, then the adults follow his lead, at his pace.
Then there’s Rosemond’s stance that waiting beyond 24 months to start training will set your child up for failure.
I guess, in waiting until Chloe was at least not furiously opposed to potty training but not allowing her to call the shots for too long, I chose a path somewhere in between.
If not for the fear instilled in me by Rosemond’s 24-month cutoff, I probably would have taken a more leisurely approach and waited to try again when I – not Chloe – was ready.
In fact, waiting is something more and more parents are doing. Before the advent of disposable diapers, 90 percent of American children were potty-trained by 24 months, according to a Harvard study. Today, only 4 percent of children that age are out of diapers.
Statistics like that certainly lend credibility to Rosemond’s approach. They were enough to convince me that my little girl was capable, whether I felt personally ready for the task or not.
It just so happened that, after a few days of telling Chloe she would soon “say bye-bye” to diapers, she asked me to take her diaper off so she could play without it.
“OK, but if you don’t wear a diaper, you have to go pee pee on the potty,” I told her.
“OK,” she said.
We took her diaper off, I led her over to the potty, and she sat down and peed.
Just like that. I was so happy, I nearly cried.
We decided we would go cold turkey that weekend. Experts suggest you pick a time when you can spend at least three days at home. We used that time to prepare.
A friend had suggested a book called “Potty Train in Three Days,” by Lois Kleint. All I could find at the bookstore was “Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day,” which sure sounded tempting, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
Instead, I read an article on BabyCenter.com that summarized Julie Fellom’s Diaper Free Toddlers program. You show your child how to use the potty, stay home for three days and let the little one run around naked. You keep a potty in whatever room you’re in.
If they don’t get the idea of using the potty at first, they get the picture once they feel the sensation of pee or poop cascading down their leg. Soon, they naturally decide they would rather go in the potty than wherever they are standing.
You’re also supposed to give them lots of salty snacks to get them thirsty and give them lots to drink, so you have plenty of opportunities to practice.
The real world
I was leery of letting Chloe loose to pee all over our new rug – and couch, and bed, and everything else. But she did great.
She had only a couple of accidents that first weekend. But when real life resumed a few days later, things got more complicated. We went to a birthday party at my sister’s house, where everyone was fine with her running around commando in a dress. But for a larger gathering at my in-laws’, she wore a diaper.
Then, of course, if we had to run errands, I would slap a diaper on her. And I still diapered her overnight and during naps.
So, when we tried to make the transition from naked to wearing even just loose pants or underwear, all bets were off. I knew Pull-Ups were a no-no, because they felt just like diapers and caused confusion. But I didn’t realize, until I read Rosemond’s scathing response to a reader, that wearing diapers sporadically could be just as confusing as wearing Pull-Ups all the time. I was teaching my daughter that sometimes it was OK to go in her pants and sometimes it wasn’t.
So, I put the diapers away, and we went cold turkey. After only two days, she woke up dry as a drum. She held it through her nap and a long car ride, too! Any accidents since seemed to be because she was so caught up playing.
Accidents will happen, but we managed to ditch the diapers inside Rosemond’s magic window – and do it before the arrival of her sister.
At least I know the potty train is on the right track.