Monday, 12 August 2013

unexpected life lessons while on the potty

VANESSA BRADY makes up a great kit at
Love the wine and chocolate!!
Remember this post from last week on potty training? Well, here's the surprising follow-up; It was me, not Sera, that had the biggest chance for growth and learning from the experience and that it was me learning the life-changing lessons.

Let me elaborate.... The week started out well with everything going to plan. I would remind Sera it was time to 'go potty' and she would happily go to the bathroom and Sera have successes on the toilet.   We'd put up her stickers and do the happy dance and congratulate her and pretty soon she got into a routine.  I felt pretty great, but there was a but.... Once she knew that she was capable of success she lost interest. It was more fun to play or watch TV or simply say 'no, no no' when reminded to use the bathroom. Stickers and dancing didn't work anymore.

So I thought I needed new rewards.... jellybeans? That worked until we ran out of pink ones. Hello Kitty toilet paper? That only worked if she was allowed to have the whole roll... pleading didn't work, dragging her to the bathroom didn't work, withholding fun ('we can't go outside till you go to the potty') didn't work, threats didn't work, jokes didn't work.... it was all 'no, no, no' (and she came up with an adorable head shake and finger wiggle that goes with the words too, in case I didn't understand). By Thursday we were having regular screaming matches on half-hour intervals followed by what seemed to be deliberate 'accidents' and I knew I had a full-blown power-struggle on my hands. My mind started reeling, envisioning months of cajoling and fighting to come and I considered just giving up on the whole thing.  I didn't want to be the kind of nagging, manipulative mother I was becoming and thought I had to be to ' get the job done quick and easily' (to quote myself). I even spent all of Sunday morning with her in diapers again.  This wasn't working.

And why would it?

Sera didn't ask to be potty trained. She didn't say 'Hey mum, can you interrupt me every half-hour to make me go sit on the toilet to see if we catch the exact moment that I have to go from now on?' So why would she want that? And why would she be cooperative towards it?

It's that old saying that 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink'.  I can't make her learn to use the bathroom any more than I can make my horse drink on command (I don't actually have a horse, but if I did I couldn't make him drink on command of course, of course).  So I have decided that I will treat potty-training in that manner from now on.  I will lead and direct Sera towards using the bathroom and no longer using diapers, but I won't force it or even focus on it too much. Che sera sera, what will be will be.

What has been and is, is a very pleasant day in contrast to previous potty-training days. This morning Sera asked to be changed out of her night's diaper and chose her own underpants followed by me gently reminding her to 'listen to your body' on regular intervals but never suggesting that she actually go in the bathroom.  She has been following me into the bathroom when I go and asking me if she can do to and then managing to keep herself dry, so that's a plus!  Later on in the day when she told me she had to go I asked her what she wanted to do and she said she wanted to go in her underpants. I told her that they would be dirty and asked if she was sure. She said yes but then changed her mind (a little too late) and afterwards told me that she doesn't like to go in her underpants anymore.

That's pretty good isn't it?

As in all parenting steps, this is a new learning experience for me. I am learning that instead of being controlling, I have to control myself and my instincts first. Of course I don't want her to make herself dirty, but it is her body and her phase in life, I'm just here to guide her.  The experience (especially how I felt during and after the screaming matches) taught me that I also don't have all the parenting skills I would like to have and that some of the things that I have been doing are not working for me and my family. It's time to research other strategies.

I have come across something that looks interesting and promising and am starting to read up on it now. It's called Positive Discipline and if you're interested too you can have a look .... the post that really switched on the light for me about potty-training in particular was this one.

I still think that the books and the potty party idea from the previous post are great tools in terms of guidance for new potty-trainers, but I was doing the follow up all wrong.... I have to work with my child on this, not against her.... she has to want to master this new skill and I can't force it on her no matter how ready I am.  I still don't intend to put her back in diapers, just plan not to stress so much as she comes to the conclusion that wet underpants are no fun on her own, in her own time (I hope soon though!).

I'll let you know how my new strategy goes, in the meantime, there's still wine and chocolate (and jellybeans - every colour but pink!).

I'd love to hear how your potty training experiences went and if you met the same challenges I'm facing. Please leave some comments!

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