The Poop-O-Phobe's Guide to Successful Potty Training

Health & Wellness on 07.15.11
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Tina Lapointe, used under Creative Commons license.

Before becoming a parent, the idea of dealing with all that poop scared the crap out of me. But as anyone with young kids knows, you can't remain a poop-o-phobe for long and continue to function as a parent. (Unless you have a VERY tolerant co-parent, or happen to have a live in nanny.) As Marla noted in her awesome Screw You, New Moms in Bikinis post, poop, snot, vomit and other secretions are just part and parcel of this whole reproduction deal. In fact, come to think of it, it may just be nature's way of keeping over population in check.

But now my 22-month-old daughter, Lilia, is embarking on an entirely new phase of her toilet, errm, career. She's learning to use the potty. And while we've had a few accidents along the way - I am actually pleasantly surprised by how fun it all is.

Here are some things that Lilia has taught us along the way...

Tips for Successful Potty Training

Keep It Fun: As Julie shared in Potty Training 101, keeping it light is key to both success and staying sane. Sure, it's worth encouraging your child to use the potty from time-to-time, and checking when they need to go, but mostly we make a game of it. And we don't get worked up about accidents - they happen, we shrug our shoulders, and gently remind Lilia that the potty is there when she needs it.

Stock Up On Reading: Who doesn't like to read on the toilet? (Actually, I prefer to tweet. But that may be TMI if you happen to be a follower.) For kids, there is an incredible array of potty-related literature out there. However, in the interests of keeping both kids and parents happy, I'd suggest you try before you buy. Potty, by Leslie Petricelli, is both Lilia and her parents' absolute favorite - she squeals along with delight, acting out the urge to go, and screaming at the top of her voice at the joyous conclusion: "Undies!" (Sorry for the spoiler on the ending there...)

Don't Expect Overnight Conversion: Going cold turkey on diapers seems like a bad idea to me. Scraping out poop from underwear is unpleasant at the best of times, but it's definitely something best done at home, and during the day. So we're sticking with diapers for naps, and when on outings, for the time being. Lilia doesn't seem to mind.

Bribe, Bribe, Bribe: i realise there are varying schools of thought about incentivizing behavior change through bribes. (My own wife has cautioned against using sweets as a reward.) But when it comes to potty training, we've found that the twin allure of stickers - and lots of them - and getting to wear undies, is certainly a prime motivator. The other neat thing about stickers is that they serve as a reminder throughout the day of what she has achieved.  

"How did you get that sticker Lilia?", she gets asked, "Potty!" she beams, proudly.
"Where do you get that sticker, Dad?" they then ask, "Errrm", I reply, blushing.

Do As I Say: One final tip that we've found super helpful is to sit right down and go too. Kids learn by example, and at that age there is still no squeamishness or embarassment about doing your business in company. I confess that I found it a little weird at first, but soon found it was all part of the fun. (I've had to find another time to catch up on Twitter, however. But that's something I can live with.)

All in all I'd say the central message of potty training, at least for Lilia, is to let the kid take the lead. Children want to learn, and they want to grow. As long as you provide encouragement, support, opportunity, and plenty of wet wipes along the way, it should all go smoothly. So to speak.

More on Potty Training and Toilet Issues

Potty Training 101
If Pop Songs Were Written for Toddlers: The Potty Training Edition

Parenting Scared the Crap Out of Me... Mostly Because of the Crap