Potty training. It sounds so cute and harmless, like something that could be done in a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. While some may think getting someone to "do their business" in a toilet is simple, parents know it is anything but (no pun intended). Hours spent sitting on a cold, hard bathroom floor. Money spent on treats to bribe your kid. The hope that someday you will live in a world where you are no longer the designated "wiper." Any mom can attest to the fact that potty training can be one of the most difficult and stressful parts of parenthood. To get us through these trying times, mothers will often revert to the Seven Steps of Potty training to help them cope.
1. Shock or Disbelief
This is the first stage of potty training. You may have trouble coming to the realization that soon, you will never have to go out for a 2 a.m. diaper run again. It may seem completely unreal to think that you will never have to worry about the possibility of having poop under your nails. It may seem completely unfathomable to live in a world where you don't sniff your child multiple times a day to see if they peed. You may not even be able to imagine a life without diaper changes.
Based on your child, the second stage may come very quickly or after some time. This stage occurs after the realization that potty training is about as easy as climbing Mount Everest. You may want to deny the inevitable and go back to a time when peeing involved a quick diaper change rather than 45 minutes of sitting on a cold bathroom floor with a bag of M&M's.
This stage can be intense. Don't be surprised at the level of hatred you develop for all things bathroom related. You may find yourself snapping at people when they bring up the subject of anything "potty" related. The words "pee pee" and "poo poo" may result in tensing of the body and an uncontrollable scowl on your face.
This stage is both a blessing and a curse. Bargaining and bribing your child seems like a great idea at first. Positive reinforcement is a great way to potty train your child, right? Wrong! You will come to find that they will begin to expect a gift for everything. Putting socks on, eating lunch, putting toys away -- you name it. A typical bargaining experience might go like this:
"If you poopy in the potty I will give you two M&M's."
"OK, then. If you pee pee in the big girl potty I will give you four M&M's and a stuffed animal."
"Ummm, OK. How about you just sit on the potty and I will give you 20 M&M's, a stuffed animal and a new set of Legos?"
This stage may have a detrimental effect on your sanity and your bank account.
What am I doing wrong? Why can't I teach my child to use a toilet? Is this my fault? Maybe I should have made her listen to Mozart in the womb. I bet letting her watch Nick Jr too young is the reason she won't poop on the potty. Oh my god, I'm going to be responsible for the only un-potty trained 16-year-old EVER!
At this stage, you have probably experienced a lot of long restless nights, tantrums and tears (sometimes even from your child). You may be thinking that you are worthless as a parent and that there is no hope that you will ever transition your child's bathroom status from Pampers to porcelain. The important thing to remember is that it will get better. Even on the worst days, when you've cleaned up yet another pee pee puddle from the living room floor, there is always tomorrow.
7. Acceptance and Hope
The last stage on the potty training process involves dealing with the fact that the days of simple diaper changes are a thing of the past. You (and your child) have no choice but to move forward. Potty training is simply part of the life process. It's time to accept the fact that hours of your day will be dedicated to sitting by a toilet and making up songs like "Pooping on the Potty is So Much Fun." It may be a tedious process, but it is time to hand over the reigns of butt wiping to your little one. And hope. Hope that you have done your job well enough and maybe, someday, your child will learn to wipe well enough that the undies that go in the washer may be skid mark free.