Posted by: laughs4dads | May 3, 2010

How To: Potty Training

Psychologists tell us that potty training is one of the most traumatic periods of anyone’s life. I totally believe that to be true. I know that potty training my daughter was certainly one of the most traumatic periods of my life.

More than any other part of childhood, this is where a wrong move on the part of the parent can turn a future president into a future kindergarten teacher who wears her hair in a tight bun.  An experienced psychologist, well-versed in the many ways to extend expensive therapy sessions for decades or more, can blame just about any mental or personality disorder on bad toilet training.

Because the enlightened parent knows how crucial this period is, he or she is likely to be a nervous wreck.  This is the wrong attitude.  After all, how will your child ever learn not to pee in her pants if you’re peeing in yours.

There are as many theories on toilet training as there are about whether or not Elvis Presley is still alive and, if he is, where he shops for clothes.  All of these theories, invented through the years by competent, anal-retentive child psychologists, leave out one very important point.  There is only one person who knows when she has to go to the bathroom.

And she ain’t telling.

Some friends of ours once told us about a couple they know who decided to potty train their son the same week they took away his bottle.  Their son is now the youngest inmate at a maximum security asylum for advanced neurotics.  Okay, I’m kidding (I actually don’t know what became of the kid). But, obviously, this is not the best way to go about it.

The first step is to show your child that the toilet bowl is not what she thought it was: a small wading pool.  One way to do this is to let her see mother going to the bathroom and perhaps hear mother utter some sighs of relief. (I highly recommend same-gender demonstration in this instance to avoid possible future confusion involving public restrooms and, perhaps, clothing preferences.)

Some experts recommend turning potty-time into fun-time so that the child learns that going to the bathroom is a pleasant experience. I believe Barbara made a crucial mistake here.  In order to get Casey to sit on the potty, Barb started reading stories to her while waiting for her to go.  Casey then had no issue going to the potty, but she didn’t necessarily do anything while she was there; she just liked to hear stories.  I used to feel sorry for her future husband or roommates, thinking that Casey would undoubtedly become one of those people who ties up the bathroom for hours while reading War and Peace on the bowl.

Anyway, once the child knows what the toilet is for, she will start wanting to go to the bathroom.  Congratulations!  You’re over the first hurdle.

Now you’ve got to get the kid to notify you when she has to go.  This will, hopefully, be advanced notice that gives you enough time to remove a diaper and transport said child to the nearest facility.  This is not likely to happen, however, since babies’ internal organs evidently send the message to their brains with about as much haste as third class mail.  Casey, for instance, used the word “potty” to mean “I am peeing at precisely this moment in time.”

But things get better.  Soon, your child’s control will improve so much that she will only have to go potty when you are three million miles away from a bathroom.  And, boy, will you feel guilty.  After all, she’s being such a good girl, and now you can’t uphold your end of the bargain.  You scum.

Modern industry has done all sorts of things to help out parents at this stage of development.  If you want your child to use the grown-up toilet, you can buy a little staircase to help the kid get up there, and a sort of converter that shrinks the seat size (disturbingly, they also have these for cats!).  As an alternative, there are a variety of free-standing potties on the market that are kid-sized and kid-height but completely manual when it comes to emptying.

Barbara’s philosophy (I took, if you’ll excuse the expression, a back seat in potty training) was that Casey would learn it when she wanted to, and that there was no hurry, especially since Barbara preferred changing diapers over emptying potties.  That way, Barbara figured, there would be no trauma, and our daughter would not end up being one of those people who wash their faces thirty times a day.

Oh, yeah, one more thing.  There is an item out there called “Tinkle Targets.”  These are tiny bull’s-eyes that you can float in the toilet bowl so that your little boy has something to aim at.  Neat, huh?  Turn it into a game.

Just watch out if you ever happen to pass by a shooting gallery.

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