In my time as a nanny, I have had the pleasure (cough) of potty training four children. I would never describe myself as an “expert in potty training.” Mainly because it is a weird thing to brag about. But I do have some hysterical stories from my attempts to help toddlers through this major milestone.
When I started working for Sam’s family, he was about to turn three years old. He had fully mastered peeing in the potty, but pooping was not going to happen. Sam’s older brother Adam had been potty trained for several years. The boys’ parents had used pennies as a way to encourage Adam to use the toilet, and were doing the same with Sam. A common theme throughout all my potty training experiences is bribery. More importantly, the right kind of bribery. Now while Adam had been cool with getting a penny every time he used the potty, Sam didn’t really see the value in money.
I made the strategic decision to switch from pennies to M&Ms. Sam would get one M&M if he peed in the potty, and two if he pooped. After one day, Sam stomped into the kitchen and demanded “I WANT MY M&MS!’. I calmly explained, he would have to go poop on the potty. Sam turned on his heels, stomped into the bathroom, and let out a deafening trumpet of success. He came stomping back out of the bathroom and declared “THERE”, and pointed to his masterpiece. He received 2 M&Ms.
Sam’s little sister Lizzy had a different kind of adventure toward potty training. Suddenly Lizzy would be missing for long stretches of time, and inevitably I’d find her in her mom’s closet pooping in her diaper. It felt like it was time to start potty training. We got out all the books, all the potty chairs, and the giant bag of M&Ms. But as much as we talk about it, and sat on the potty, Lizzy would somehow disappear to go poop in Mom’s closet. One day I even tried not putting a diaper on her, and watching her like a hawk so she couldn’t escape. But somehow, she escaped from my site, and YES I had to clean poop off of the closet floor.
As luck would have it, we were seeing her pediatrician that week. I asked the doctor what the deal was. Lizzy showed all the signs of being ready, but wouldn’t do the deed! The pediatrician simply told me, Lizzy wasn’t ready. Even though she was exhibiting the signs, Lizzy was still too scared. I decided to leave all the potty-training things out, but I completely backed off. We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t practice it. We just left everything alone. Then one day, I was getting Lizzy ready for a bath. I was focused on getting the water going when Lizzy gasped! I turned and there she was sitting on her potty. Her eyes were as big as saucers as we both listened to the pee go in the potty. I screamed with excitement and showered Lizzy with kisses. Adam and Sam ran in and we all had a big celebration around a little toilet filled with pee.
I started taking care of Peter when he was eight weeks old. I had learned by then to take my time with potty training. When he is ready, he is ready. Peter started showing the signs of being ready to potty train. I’d come to get him at nap time, and would be greeted by a bare butt and a wet diaper dramatically flung across the room. I lost Peter in the park for a few minutes and found him hidden behind a bush to pee. It was obviously getting close to time. I advised Peter’s mom to just buy a little potty to have for when Peter was ready. That night when Peter’s mom showed him the potty, she simply explained that when he needs to poop and pee this is where he sits. Peter shrugged and said “okay”, and proceeded to sit on the potty and pee and poop. What. The. Heck? It is never that easy. NEVER!! His mom and I hypothesized that at Peter’s Mother’s Day Out, there was a little girl in his class potty training. We think he must have seen her and gotten used to the idea of using a potty before we even brought it up! Maybe the universe decided to give me a break on the third toddler. They knew I’d be potty training a lot of kids and thought “Make this one super easy to potty train. Give her a break. But then make him wet the bed for like four more years. Don’t let her get cocky.”
Peter’s little sister Josie was my most recent potty trainee. When you get to the fourth one, there just aren’t that many surprises. Oh, you’re hiding behind the couch to go poop. Oh, when I put you on the potty you hold it in because you’re afraid for it to come out. Oh, there is a soaked diaper wedged in the back of your drawer. The routine becomes the routine, and you just wait until they are ready to take the plunge. She did ask if she could sit on my lap while she went to the bathroom. That was a new one. The one thing we had working for us was Josie’s love of accessories. The idea of having her own princess underwear was a big selling point for potty training. Then the understanding that if she peed, she would be peeing on one of her favorite characters! Heck no, give me that potty chair!
Potty training is a literal dirty job, but I’m happy to do it. If I could give any advice to parents, I’d say that potty training is like the weight loss secret of the kid world. No you can’t do it in a weekend. No there is no quick fix or easy way to do it. It takes time, it takes patience, and if you keep at it you will reach your goal!