As I stated in my previous post, day 1 had not gone as well as hoped so Matt and I talked about it and we decided to pivot and adjust our method. After some additional research, I read about a bare bottom method that is best used between 15 and 27 months. Stella is smack dab in the middle of that age group at just under 21 months so we thought it might be a good fit.
We woke up on day 2 and removed her diaper, left her long sleeve shirt on and went about our business bare bottomed. Matt had a commitment that day so it was just Stella and me for most of the day. We opted to keep her toys out of the room and TV off to limit distractions so she could focus more on her body signals. We started off with smiles and excitement and I had great confidence that it would be a great day!
We weren't pumping her full of liquids, as we had the day before so we knew she wouldn't be going as much. However, by 10am we had our first accident but it didn't look anything like the accidents the day before. This time, Stella froze when she started to pee. She immediately said, "Uh Oh" and began to get visibly upset because she was peeing all over her legs and feet. Yesterday, although some urine leaked through, she was mostly kept dry by the training pants. Today, she was allowed to feel truly uncomfortable without the restriction of fabric. I caught her in the middle of her accident and we went to sit on the potty. Unfortunately no urine made it into the potty but we were beginning the association between going pee pee and running to the potty. We had 2 more accidents and were well into the afternoon but it was obvious to me that this type of training method had much more of an impact on her than the prior day.
[PAUSE FOR EXPLANATION] I should also mention my timing system that we used between pee pees. Although this wasn't really part of the method, I decided to try and prevent accidents by encouraging her to sit on the potty periodically. I had an incremental time system. The longer she went without peeing, the shorter the time between potty visits. I let her collaborate on which chime would play when the alarm went off so that she was a part of the process and I think that actually helped increase her excitement at the "potty time" ritual. Here is a brief outline of what it looked like:
20 minutes of play time then 3 minutes sitting on the potty
15 minutes of play, 5 minutes on the potty
12 minutes of play, 8 minutes on the potty
10 minutes of play, 10 minutes on the potty
8 minutes of play, 12 minutes on the potty
5 minutes of play, 15 minutes on the potty
3 minutes of play, 20 minutes on the potty
Repeat 3 minutes; 20 minutes till potty came
You may be thinking that I am crazy to make a 20 month old sit on the potty for that amount of time but the reality was that she didn't seem to mind it. We would read to her, sing songs, play on the iPad so she was having fun and in my mind, it was increasing the chance of her having a successful experience that she could model from. Again, this was my own incremental chart that I came up with and not a part of the model so you can choose to take it or leave it. Back to the story...
We were well into the afternoon and had 3 accidents and no successes. My energy and excitement were, yet again, beginning to dwindle. However, I was still noticing a huge difference from the day before. The major differences were that she was reaffirming that she could go several hours between pees and that she was uncomfortable peeing on herself. Both things that lend well to potty training so my hope was not completely gone.
We were now at about 5pm on day 2 and we had not had 1 single success. By now, she was also growing wearing with the "potty time" alarm and she started to fight us when we wanted her to sit down on the potty but at one point, she pointed to the big potty. We had the potty seat insert for our regular toilet so we slapped that in and popped her up on the big potty and sure enough, she focused...pushed and I heard the beautiful sound of a tinkle! I NEVER thought I would be so happy to hear someone peeing!! Matt was home at that point so we all did a huge celebration, danced, sang, ate potty treats and called Grammy. It was exactly what we needed! A success!
It was like a light bulb went off after she had a success in the big potty and the rest of the night was AMAZING! She began to associate the feeling she had when she had to potty with going to the bathroom. She would let a tiny bit out on the carpet, freeze and say, "uh-oh" but would hold it in till we got to the potty and then push to get the rest out. Believe it or not, we had 5 successful pees in the potty between 5 and 7pm (her bedtime). I am sure I looked like the Cheshire cat with my grin going from ear to ear. Talk about a roller coaster of emotion! Whew! But what a way to end the night. Stella was starting to get it and I saw a little light at the end of the tunnel!
Moving on, I'm going to lump days 3-7 together because this part of the roller coaster was not as dramatic as the first few days. Day 3 was a Monday so Matt and I both had to go back to work. We are lucky enough to have a nanny so Stella was able to keep training in the same environment with the same method, even though it was a different person for a few hours during the day. Our nanny was great about learning what we were doing and modeling our system. Which brings me to the results...
Have you heard that song, Opposites Attract? There is a part of the chorus that goes:
We take 2 steps forward
We take 2 steps back
Well...that is how the whole week went. It seemed like she would start to get it and then she would completely revert. I would get encouraged and then completely discouraged. However, I maintained hope because she was having about a 75% success rate on average which was better than the 25% rate that was required (per my reading) to continue on. I kept reminding myself that this wouldn't be something that could change overnight, despite the promises of the 1 or 3 day potty training methods. So we powered through and continued on the journey.
The first few days we continued with the potty alarm and Stella began to enjoy it and get excited to hear the alarm, however that excitement began to fade by mid week so we went back to the drawing table and readjusted. I have to emphasize, AGAIN, that flexibility was our savior during this process...being able to adjust and pivot when needed seem to be what kept the momentum moving forward. When she began to resist the potty alarm (and I'm talking really resist to the point of throwing herself on the ground and crying when she heard it go off) we decided it was doing more harm than good at that point and decided to do away with it all together. We then moved to asking her if she needed to go pee pee. By this time, she had really begun to associate the feelings of her bladder with going to the potty.
It seemed like our vocabulary had been limited to 7 words - "Stella, do you have to go potty?" That was pretty much all we were saying. She was actually very good at responding with a no when she didn't have to go. When she did, she would usually just freeze and not respond so we would rush her over to the potty. We were still having occasional accidents but we were still having a much larger success rate but like I said, it was a 2 steps forward, 2 steps back process and 1 day would look completely different from the day before so we were still lacking the consistency we were looking for and every time we conquered a challenge, another one would make its way to the surface. I'll sum up some of the challenges we experienced and how we overcame them.
Challenges during days 3-7:
- Should we reward partial pee pee in the potty?
- We opted to reward anytime anything made it into the potty, however the amount of the reward varied. 1 M&M for an attempt or very little up to 4 or 5 M&Ms for a complete pee or poop in the potty.
- Temper tantrums around the potty alarm
- We first tried changing the alarm sound to another sound Stella helped choose. That worked for a few potty timers and then stopped working. We then opted to remove the actual timer and continually ask her if she had to go potty knowing that she was going between every 1-2.5 hours.
- Temper tantrums around attempting to sit on the potty
- We began to reward attempts with 1 M&M. She had begun refusing to sit on the potty at one point and we definitely didn't want to make sitting on the potty or going to the bathroom a negative thing so we rewarded attempts in an effort to avoid negativity.
- Accidents on the floor
- When she was sitting on the potty, we would continually ask her, "Stella, where does pee pee go?" and she would say, "Potty!" Then we'd ask, "Does it go on the floor?" She would say, "No." We'd ask if it goes in her pants..."No"...and we kept asking these questions to really drive it home with her.
- Man...this is a tough one because I'm still not certain that we have a system down for handling it besides being aware of typical pooping schedule and continually asking if she needs to go poop or pee pee. We have about a 50% success rate on poop and that is partly because she has been going during her nap when she is diapered and because it is a different sensation and harder to catch "mid-stream" for lack of a better term.
- Refusing to push or try when on the potty
- She began to catch on that she got a treat when she sat on the potty so she would say she needed to go potty when asked, sit on the potty, ask for a treat and then refuse to really try. So we started to only reward effort. This actually became kind of cute because she would push hard and then clap for herself if she tooted. Yes...toots get 1 M&M :)
Stay tuned for Days 8 & 9 (week 2) - The weekend and our first outing in big girl panties!