Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Potty Training and Poop Prize Charts

Welcome to my lengthy post about potty training. I wanted to write so much in order to remember every thing for the next time around with Baby Huck. Enjoy!

Last year I shared with you my thoughts on potty training Little Olive. That was August '11. It is now May 2012, and with LO being 30 months, I'm happy to say we have quite possibly arrived at Potty Trained Station. She hasn't had an accident in a while, so I'm going to knock on wood and stand proud. If you'd like to know how we got here, read on.

Pre-Potty Training Mindset
I was in no hurry to potty train. People would ask curiously about her Potty Training Status and observe that she was ready and would be training soon. I didn't mind...I was confident in my decision to wait. I'd seen setbacks and regression from pushing this too young. Besides, no way was I going to train my little child in the chill of winter. Imagine dragging a toddler and a newborn into public restrooms and fumbling with hats, coats, and boots while she sits on those dirty toilets. Not my cup of tea. Besides, she hadn't told me she was ready yet. With all seriousness, I was waiting for this announcement.

When it wasn't happening, I began to wonder if I was doing her a disservice. A part of me felt a little lazy for not training her. I pulled out The Baby Book by Dr. Sears and read every word about how he trained his kids. After that, I closed the book and looked at my husband. "We're training tomorrow."

What changed my mind so quickly?

It was the realization that Little Olive had all the ready signs:

1) Child is able to understand or make simple requests (I guess you could call this simple? "Mommy, I'm hungry. I would like peanut butter and jelly swamich - well, no I want peanut butter on a spoon. Not jelly on a spoon. Just peanut butter! Not a peanut butter and jelly swamich.")

2) Child is able to pull down/up pants (child has been changing her clothes hourly since she learned what dresses are)

3) Child recognizes body functions ("Mommy, I pooped in my diaper. Tan you change me, please?")

4) Child is able to "hold it" for a couple hours (check)

5) Demonstrates a desire for independence (you could say that)

6) Has words for urine and stool (poopdog, poopybottom, and peepee crack her up whenever she says them *in a goofy voice, of course*)

First Day
It was Monday morning. I was ready. I felt like the Target Lady talking to herself in the mirror before Black Friday. Around 8am I explained to Little Olive that we were not using diapers anymore. She covered her face and started bawling her eyes out.  It was as if I told her all the chocolate in the world had gone to sleep. I was not expecting that reaction! She slowly recovered and we went about our morning in underwear. Within two hours, she had soiled all pairs. We did a load of wash together as I explained to her (yet again) that she needed to tell me before letting the peepees come out.

Not going to lie, I started feeling discouraged. Was I just wasting my time? Was she ready?

That afternoon, she stayed dry. I was pretty amazed!

Second Day
We had one accident in the morning. Otherwise, she was dry! I was floored. Was it possible for a child to do it so easily? Good for her. We were so proud.

The next two weeks
I forgot to mention...this potty training success was pretty one-sided on the urine/stool spectrum. Little Olive showed determination when it came to going peepee in the potty. She was really understanding what it felt like beforehand. We'd ask her if she had to go, and sometimes she would say no. We learned quickly that forcing her to sit on the potty (because it had been a couple hours) was honestly a waste of time. She really knew when she had to pee and when she didn't.

But...(dun dun dun...)

Poop was not happening. She knew she had to go. We'd run to the bathroom, sit on the potty, wait a while, then she'd get up. We'd go play. She'd announce she had to go, we'd run to the bathroom, sit on the potty, wait, and still nothing. We would do this many times until she would just have an accident in her undies while playing.

Out came The Baby Book. Dr. Sears suggested putting a diaper on the child and having her do her business in the bathroom, so that hopefully she would make the connection. We tried this, but Little O flipped out when I suggested a diaper. I'd give her a choice: the diaper or the potty. She'd sit for a while, but guess what? Nothing would happen.

I would firmly (but still kindly) tell her after each accident that it was not ok...that big girls didn't go in their underwear. That she went peepee on the potty, and that the poopy goes in there too. She hated the accidents...she would come to me crying after each time.

With all honesty, I wasn't frustrated. A lot of mommies shared with me that their children did the same thing for a while...and that eventually they went on the potty. So I was okay. I was using positive reinforcement and encouraging her and cheering for her every time she said she had to go. But something just wasn't clicking with her yet.

Then I read about a mom who used a Prize Chart for her child, and within a few days, he was golden.

The 180
Now, I admit it. I am against prize charts. After all, what about intrinsic motivation!?

Little Olive's Prize Chart
But it sounded pretty tempting, so I decided to give this a try. I made a simple 5X5 chart with "Prize!" at the end of each line. 

The plan was that after each time she went poop on the potty, she'd put a sticker up all by herself. After 5 stickers, she'd get a prize. I brought it to her, showed her the chart and stickers, and explained what we were doing. I taped it onto the wall and just wanted to see what happened.

I kid you not, she pooped five times that day on the potty. I seriously was not prepared for it - I even had to make up a prize that night because I hadn't planned ahead that far.

Here we are, almost a week after starting this chart, and she has not had ONE accident in her underwear. 

This picture was taken a couple days ago. We're almost to her 4th prize right now. I make the prizes simple things, like pieces of chocolate, or a notepad and a pen (because she looooves her notepads and pens). I just find things to wrap up and she is so excited. At the end of the whole chart, I want to get her Buzz Lightyear underwear. We aren't the kind of family to buy things all the time...but I think she'll deserve some new undies.

My Thoughts
I never thought I'd be a prize chart parent. Like, never ever. But whatever it was that was keeping her from pooping on the potty went away as soon as she started putting up her sparkly chicken stickers.

There are a few reasons why I think this way worked:

1) After her initial breakdown over saying goodbye to diapers, Little Olive was excited about going on the potty in the beginning. I didn't need to bribe her to get started.

2) We waited until she was older and understood everything that was going on.

3) After she got comfortable going on the potty, we took it up a notch to get the poopies out.

If someone asked me, I would advise holding off on the prize chart when first starting out potty training. I'd only use it if there was a reason. In a perfect world, on a nice piece of paper, she wouldn't have needed prizes. But in a perfect world, adults wouldn't need incentives either. And I don't know about you, but I love me some extra credit. :)

So thanks for reading, and as always, thoughts, suggestions, and comments are always welcome!

1 comment:

i.ikeda said...

Yay, I'm so glad it worked out and she's all potty trained! I'm all for intrinsic motivation too, but in this case I think it was there already, and the chart just added a complement.

In your Aug post I mentioned that we got reeeeally lucky with N. potty training herself at 24 months. Who knows what's going to happen with this baby...