Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our Potty Training Journey: A Matter of the Will

I have only potty trained one child, so I am by no means an expert! But I definitely had my share of frustrating days and learned a lot from it, so I wanted to share with you how it went. Let me start by saying that I have an amazing dear friend who decided to try early potty training with her absolutely adorable baby. She started started getting her baby used to the potty when she was only a month old. I know, it sounds crazy, but she had amazing success with it and her baby was pretty much potty-trained by 13 months! I just think she is awesome! Click HERE if you want to see the book that inspired her to try it. I was personally not brave enough to do such a thing, but when I found out that we were pregnant again and would have a new baby when Karis was just 20 months old, I decided to try to get Karis out of diapers before the new baby came... 

Attempt #1
 -- Karis was 17 months -- I had read The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers and was planning to use her method for potty training at a younger age. I tried to get her to just sit on the potty but she was deathly afraid of it and screamed bloody murder. In retrospect, I should have bought a bjorn pottythat is recommended for early potty training because it has great support and younger babies feel comfortable and secure in it. But I just decided that 2 in diapers wasn't the end of the world and we would try later :)

Attempt #2 -- Karis was 22.5 months and very excited about her little pink potty this time. I decided to use the method in Gary Ezzo's book because my sis-in-law had great success with it. Basically, you praise the child for staying dry rather than for using the potty. So we checked her diaper every 20 minutes, but it was always damp. I moved the timer down to 10 minutes, then to 5. It seemed that Karis was always a little damp so it was hard to reward her for staying dry. I think she just didn't have very good control yet. We had a very messy first two days, great success the 3rd day, and then on the 4th day Karis went ballistic and ran screaming away from me every time I even mentioned the word potty. I didn't want the potty to be a power-struggle, so I decided to follow everyone else's advice and wait til she was at least 2 before trying again. I still think the premise of the book is great and would work well if your child is ready, but Karis just couldn't seem to stay dry for any length of time. She just wasn't ready yet.

Final and Successful attempt -- Shortly after Karis turned 2, I started noticing that she was often dry in the morning when she woke up and after naps as well. And a lot of times I would go to change her diaper and it had been completely dry for several hours. I knew she was ready for potty training, but we had a lot of fun summer traveling ahead of us and I really didn't want to worry about finding a potty at the beach :)

When we finished our travels, we had 2 difficult weeks getting Karlie to sleep well again because all the traveling had really messed up her schedule. After we got her all straightened out, I told Mark that I ought to take the plunge and potty train Karis . He begged me to wait because we needed to have just one "normal" week after all the craziness of the summer.

Apparently, Karis did not want to wait because on Wednesday, she randomly asked to use the potty and stayed dry all day! I was utterly amazed at her perfect potty day but figured it was because we had just been reading this book and this book that we had checked out of the library. Needless to say, I highly recommend them :)

So with her leading, we took the plunge. Karis had her ups and downs for a couple of days and was very excited about her new underwear, going potty, and then getting her treat (some frozen smoothie, healthy chocolate candy, or power balls ). But then she simply stopped wanting to go potty at all. She would sit on her potty just fine while I read her books, but she never filled it up. One morning she started looking very uncomfortable around 10:30. So we sat on the potty for about ten minutes. Nothing happened, so I let her get up. But then she looked like she needed to go again, so we sat and read some more. (I put her potty in the living room so I didn't have to drag Karlie in the bathroom every time :) This went on until noon and we had to go eat lunch before naps. The minute I reached in the fridge, she went used the bathroom all over my floor. I was sooooo frustrated! I had wasted my whole morning trying to help her go potty and we still ended up with a mess!

Once I put the girls down for a nap, I called my Mom for advice. She recommended that if I was certain that Karis needed to use the potty, to tell her she had to sit by herself in the bathroom until she could see it in the potty. This would help her to focus on the job at hand. As soon as Karis woke up, I told her the new plan. She wasn't happy about it, because she had really enjoyed my attention when I read to her on the potty all day long :) It became a discipline issue immediately, which I had hoped to avoid. But it worked instantly! As soon as she knew she would get a spanking for leaving the bathroom early, she did her business immediately. I only had to discipline her the first 3 times, and from then on she happily did her thing. And the excitement on her face when she realized she could do it was enough reward to cover all the spankings :) For the next 2 months, she would run out of the bathroom with her undies around her toes, carrying her little potty seat to show me her success, yelling "Yay Karis!!!!" at the top of her lungs. It was hilarious and I was just so proud of her! Karis never looked back after that day and pretty much never had an accident again.

Summary: I know that all children are different, but for my sweet, stubborn 2-year old, discipline was definitely the key to teaching her one of the most basic skills of life. Potty training was fun for her at first, but when she grew tired of it, she needed to know that she could do it and that it was important to Mommy and Daddy. After that realization, she never looked back and has used the potty cheerfully without any accidents ever since!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Traveling with Little Ones...

I've found that traveling with little ones is utterly exhausting, but very rewarding. I love all the fun memories we make and hearing my 3-year old talk about a trip for months afterwards. I am constantly amazed by all that she remembers!

Our amount of travel varies in correlation to the stages of our kids. For example, Karlie (now 16 months) absolutely HATED the car until she was a year old. She never fell asleep, even as a newborn, and I would spend the duration of our car rides turned around in an illegal manner, trying to soothe her. So her first year we traveled as little as possible. Karis (now 3), on the other hand, was an easy baby and we went on many trips throughout her first year.

Our current normal travel consists of a 3 1/2 hour trip every few months to see the grandparents and a few trips to the beach during the summer. Since our girls are at pleasant traveling stages right now and we know that next year will be more difficult with a new baby, we have decided that this is our summer/fall to travel a lot! We just recently made a huge (for us :) 7 hour trip to Seabrook Island and although the car ride was very taxing, it was well worth it! (I blogged about what I learned that particular trip HERE.) Visiting the grandparents is usually fairly easy, because once we arrive, they take care of everything! But beach trips take a lot more planning and that is currently what is going on in my head right now. Here are my thoughts/tips in no particular order:

I totally agree with Leah that snacks are a huge help! Bring lots of snacks and save them for when the kids get fussy. Here is a list of my favorite healthy snacks that I now reference when planning for trips.

Consider having the kids split a "normal" meal instead of buying them each a kids meal when eating out.My family doesn't do fast food. I'm kind of a health nut, and I'm actually starting to rub off on my husband (finally!). So on car trips, we usually stop at someplace like Cracker Barrel. (We figure it is the closest to real food we can get on the road). We love it because it gives the girls a decent break so they can stretch their legs and it helps to get some energy out. Last time, we raced them up and down the porch and danced for about 20 minutes before getting back in the car. I'm sure that people must have thought we were crazy, but it really helped the girls. Cracker Barrel is more expensive, but splitting the meal saves money. Last time, the girls and I all split a grilled chicken tender meal. Because of all the sides and bread, and it was plenty for all 3 of us.

Buy a new CD or "hide" a favorite one for about a month before a big trip. Save it for when the ride gets too long and the tempers get short. We stumbled upon an old favorite on our last trip and I was amazed at how excited the girls were to hear it again and how they instantly calmed down and stayed peaceful for the duration of the CD.

Stickers can be entertaining for quite a while! I randomly bought a pack of those neon circle label stickers at the grocery store as we were leaving town and they turned out to be the best distraction for my 16 month old. They were really easy for her to get off and she was quite happy decorating a notebook (and her car seat :) for a good 30 minutes! My 3-year old LOVES sticker books (a book with a bunch of stickers in the middle of the book and she has to figure out which page they go on).

Take lots of pictures and put them in some kind of a book as soon as possible. My daughter LOVES looking at pictures of past trips, and it helps her to remember even more. She still talks about a beach trip we took when she was just a year old because she looks at the pictures so often.

My main job when preparing for a long trip is meal planning. Our family usually tries to save money by using our kitchen instead of eating out. We might have one special night for eating out, but the rest of the meals are up to me. As much as I enjoy cooking, however, I don't want to spend my vacation slaving away. Instead, I make ahead several of these meals that freeze well and have them all ready to go in the oven when we need them.

My husband prefers duffle bags over suitcases because he says they compress easily for packing and only take up as much space as we pack. We bought THESE inexpensive bags at Target in different colors for all of us and we have been really pleased with them. Every time he packs the car, my husband mentions how glad he is that we switched to duffle bags :)

wagon is helpful for almost every trip! We just recently got a van and have been able to bring our wagon on trips for the first time. We have taken it on a camping trip and a beach trip and have been incredibly thankful for it both times! On our last trip, we packed all the beach toys right inside it and it was all ready for us when we arrived. Our particular beach had a LONG trail to get to the shore and the girls were always grateful for a ride home after playing all morning in the hot sun.

Go with grandparents or friends whenever possible so that you can relax more and maybe even get a date with your husband!