Before I toilet trained my oldest, people warned me that it would be the toughest thing I would ever have to do as a parent. I thought that was a tad over-dramatic, and in fact, when I did train my daughter at the age of 28 months, it wasn’t a big deal. She was my only child at the time, and I had the ability to sit with her for three days straight, following her around the house with her little princess potty. It was a great success, with hugs and kisses all around, and plenty of special treats thrown in for good measure. This is easy, I thought. I got this in the bag.
Then, my next two boys came in quick succession. Having two kids in diapers wasn’t fun, and although I know some people who have done it, I just wasn’t up to toilet training my toddler at 18 months. I pushed it off until my son was at the ripe old age of 30 months, and needless to say, his diapers were not for the faint of heart.
So with my baby tucked under my arm, I pulled out Shayna’s princess potty and instructed Yehuda to sit and do his business.
I have to admit, the process was really tough. Coupled with the fact that my baby does not like being put down ever, and that Yehuda, though excited at first at the prospect of all the treats he would get if he went to the potty, quickly got bored of the whole thing and refused to sit on the potty by the third day, I felt like throwing in the towel too many times to count.
But his third birthday was rapidly approaching, and I wanted him toilet trained before our family trip to Israel a couple of months down the line. Giving up wasn’t an option.
Once I decided that his diaper was not coming back on, I took his accidents with more sagacity and increased the value of his prizes. Although my home is primarily whole-grain, low-sugar, and recently I’ve joined the organic, locally grown bandwagon, and stocked my kitchen with as many organic products as my husband could tolerate, I decided to sacrifice my nutritional ideals for the time being, and bought more exciting treats. Every time he sat on the potty, regardless if anything came out or not, he got a jelly bean. When he had three dirty accidents in a row, I bit my lips, took some deep breaths and reminded him that we use the potty because he was a big boy now, and showed him the bag of bazooka gum I bought just for him. And when he said, “I’m not a big boy,” in his little boy voice, it just broke my heart.
I gave him a big hug and tried again.
I brought him to the potty every half hour, and read him long Dr. Seuss and The Berenestein Bear books, hoping that would help him relax. Finally, on the sixth day, after yet another marathon session of library books, it worked! Oh, the joy and excitement. Everyone danced around him, and he got to hand out treats for all.
Eventually, by the end of the second week, I felt that he got it and we could say he was trained. He does still have occasional accidents every now and then, especially if he is distracted by a toy or game, but generally if he is reminded to go to the potty every hour or so, he stays dry. Interestingly enough, he was able to stay dry overnight almost right away, even before he was able to stay dry during the day.
When we took him with us on a Shabbaton a few weeks later, he stayed in underwear the whole time. In a couple of weeks we will by flying to Israel, and although I’m fairly confident of his ability to tell me when he needs to go, I will put a pull-up on him in cases the lines are long and Yehuda doing his cute potty dance isn’t enough to convince people to let us cut the line.
This is an important developmental milestone. It’s incredible to see the transformation from him never being aware of his need to go to the potty, to being conscious of it in just a couple of weeks. And what’s even more remarkable is that it shows this typically rambunctious two-year -old that he can control himself if he chooses to do so. The future looks bright.
If you think about it, this is an incredible lesson for us to learn from our little ones. Often we have deeply ingrained habits that feel impossible too change. But with enough positive reinforcement and commitment, anything is possible.
P.S to all busy ladies! To minimize stress and maximize pleasure, its time to start your Pesach cleaning, now that Tu B’Shevat has passed. Happy cleaning!
About the Author: Pnina Baim’s newest novel, “A Life Worth Living”, about finding happiness and meaning in the land of Israel, is now available at all online retailers. Contact Pnina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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