And Just Like That Our Little Lady Was Potty Trained

Potty training is one of the biggest events in early childhood and everyone appears to have an opinion. There are countless books written on the topic and the Internet is flooded with tips. Although I found the advice useful, every child is different and my daughter’s potty training journey didn’t replicate any of the plans I read online. Her journey from diapers to underwear was individualized and unique, just like her!

Now I have to confess something…our potty training adventure wasn’t exactly as quick as the title of this article implies. In fact, as I browse through old pictures I realize I have been doing things to prepare for this day for an entire year!

Although my parents never mentioned it I could tell they were wondering if I was ever going to potty train my daughter. After all I was potty trained before the age of three and in a little over a month my daughter will be three and a half! I began to feel like I was a bad mommy since all of my daughter’s friends were fully potty trained; many for almost a year now! With some, the parents were forced to speed up the process because of daycare. Some of her friends showed signs of readiness and potty trained at an early age while others had baby siblings on the way and potty training their oldest before a baby was added to the family just made sense.

Since I spend most of the time at home with my daughter and she won’t start preschool for another four months, we had plenty of time to spend on potty training. I carefully observed her for readiness signs and created a potty friendly environment for her to learn in. I believe in child centered learning but there are a lot of things that need to be in place for success. My daughter wouldn’t be potty trained without purposeful intent by me, her teacher. Below I describe the steps I took on our “tear free” potty training journey.

Modeling- When my daughter was very young I took her into the bathroom with me. Through watching me she learned the steps: sitting on the potty, wiping with toilet paper, flushing and washing hands. Although at eighteen months she wasn’t ready to abandon her diapers just yet, she often mimicked me by grabbing a fist full of toilet paper and pretending to wipe herself while she was fully clothed! As Lillian got older, many of her friends were toilet training and during play dates she saw her friends go potty. Through modeling, especially by her peers, Lillian showed more interest in going potty.

Picture Book- We began reading books about going potty shortly after my daughter turned two years of age. A friend gave us the book, “A Potty for Me!” by Karen Katz and it became an instant favorite. Around this time my daughter went through a Daniel Tiger phase and she fell in love with the “Daniel Goes to the Potty” book that comes with a button that makes a flushing sound. The reader is encouraged to press the flush button each time Daniel Tiger uses the potty. The book follows the same storyline and includes the catchy “potty song” that appears in the Daniel Tiger episode “Daniel Goes to the Potty.” “Everyone Poops” is a classic by Taro Gomi and we enjoyed learning about different kinds of animals and the various ways they go to the bathroom.

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A few of our favorite potty themed picture books.

Selecting a Potty- Lillian helped pick out a little Minnie Mouse potty at the store and both sets of grandparents bought matching ones for their homes. This consistency proved to be helpful because Lillian didn’t regress when she spent the day or night with her grandparents. At first she sat on her potty but after awhile she occasionally went on the potty. She role played by having her stuffed animals use her potty. Her little potty is located in our master bathroom and that is where it has stayed throughout the entire process. Even though Lillian had her own little potty she sat on the big potty sometimes. In fact she loved trying out potties in public places and at family and friends homes. We never had a problem using bathrooms in public places because Lillian learned early on that there are potties everywhere!

Lillian’s Minnie Mouse potty.

Motivation Chart and Rewards- A few months after Lillian turned three I introduced a sticker chart for extra motivation. I waited until the holidays were over and we were back to a “normal” schedule with no out of town trips planned or any other unusual distractions. But the chart I selected simply wasn’t working. The goals on the chart were too ambitious for her and she wasn’t earning any stickers. I looked online and found a Paw Patrol Potty Chart! Click on this link to download the chart. paw-patrol-potty-training

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The Paw Patrol chart that was a huge success!

Lillian is really into Paw Patrol and the tasks on the chart were attainable for a beginner. (Told an adult I needed to go, Pulled down my pants, Sat on the potty, Went in the potty, Washed my hands) After she filled an entire chart with stickers she got a small Paw Patrol toy. The chart followed her to her grandparents house and we made sure to add stickers if she went potty while we were away from home. When she began to show success and filled up the chart at a faster pace I changed the categories on the chart to include two columns for “Went on the potty” and then added a column for “Went poop on the potty” and “Staying dry all day.” This gradual release of increased expectation proved to be very successful.

Big Girl Underwear- I bought Lillian Minnie Mouse underwear when she was two years old. She showed no interest in wearing them. One day she spied some Paw Patrol underwear at Target and she got so excited I bought them. But she still refused to wear underwear. I thought starting her in pull ups before underwear would be successful but she showed little interest in wearing pull ups (even though they are very similar to diapers.)  So to my surprise we potty trained in a diaper. She would pull down her pants, rip off her diaper and pee in the potty, so I simply went with it. At first it required suggestions from me but soon after she was running to the bathroom and going independently. On Easter Monday I asked her if she wanted to wear big girl underwear and she said yes! She stayed dry all day and after that she never wore diapers again!

My daughter’s potty training story reminds me that sometimes all it takes is time, motivation and a little bit of encouragement for something to happen. Forcing someone to do something before they are truly ready causes tears and frustration for everyone involved. Learning is a process and everyone learns at his/her own pace, following a timeframe that often doesn’t match our own expectations.

Why I Cried During Paw Patrol Live

My three year old daughter loves puppies and like many children her age she is obsessed with anything and everything Paw Patrol. If you have a preschooler in your life you probably know Ryder and his team of search and rescue pups that protect the residents of Adventure Bay. What started out as an animated series has grown into a franchise filled with a collection of toys and merchandise from books and games to plastic plates and underwear! And to bring the pups from Paw Patrol directly to boys and girls in cities across the world there are currently two touring live stage shows.

Now why did I cry at the show? Well, you might think I cried because spending two hours in a theater filled with preschoolers on a Saturday night isn’t exactly on my bucket list. Or that I cried because my family paid $376.50 for five center aisle seats to see Paw Patrol Live! (this included a discount my friend got us from Citi Bank) My husband felt like crying when he found out he was going to spend a Saturday night seeing Paw Patrol Live while the St. Louis Blues were playing in the arena right next to the theater! But the tickets were a Christmas gift from Nana and we all piled into the mini van and willingly went to the show because it was a dream come true for our sweet little Lillian.

I shed a few tears when the curtain opened and the music started playing and a huge smile appeared on my daughter’s face. Imagine her excitement seeing the beloved characters she reads about in books, sees animated on the screen and loves on toys and puzzles, magically come to life on the stage right in front of her! When Ryder introduced each of the pups on the Paw Patrol team she clapped her hands and sang along to the theme song. I enjoyed watching my daughter more than the show! I delighted in seeing my parents smile sweetly at their little granddaughter, knowing they had made a little girl’s dream come true! And the enthusiasm continued until the actors took their final curtain call and the lights came on.

Seeing the joy on my daughter’s face and experiencing this event with my husband and my parents certainly brought me joy. But what truly brought tears to my eyes is when I suddenly realized that my parents, my husband and I wouldn’t be sitting in this theater, at this particular moment, seeing this specific show, if there was no Lillian. My mind rushed through all of the wonderful things we have done together and all of the experiences we will enjoy in the future because of the little girl sitting next to me. I looked around the theater and every adult was accompanied by at least one little person between the ages of 2-6! I felt honored to be a member of this elite group. Membership I feel privileged to have received and that I will never take for granted.

For a brief moment I went to a dark place and I thought about a life without Lillian. It isn’t something I can ever imagine now but at one time prepared for. During our final IVF cycle (our fourth and final cycle) my husband and I had to accept the statistics and come to peace with the fact that we may never have a child of our own. I thought of the women who continue the fertility struggle and those who may be dreaming of sitting in my seat at the theater at this very moment. My husband and I would have had a blessed life no matter what the outcome but it wouldn’t have been this life. We may have adopted a child or fostered a child but we wouldn’t have this child. We wouldn’t have Lillian and we wouldn’t be sitting together as a family at the Peabody Opera House on this January evening enjoying a performance of Paw Patrol Live.