During the months leading up to Olivia's birth I, like most other parents, would daydream about all the wonderful things I would teach my child to do as she got older. Things like how to ride a bike, how to skip stones on water and how to effectively parry an incoming Chun Li super move in Street Fighter. Then the reality of having a child happens and you realize that those things are luxury goals that can only come after you've taught them how to successfully function in our society. It's up to you to get them to eat with utensils, to say "please" and "thank you," to bathe regularly (using soap!) and, our current initiative, how to use the toilet.
Our daycare notified us back in July that they had begun trying to potty train Olivia, which meant we needed to follow suit at home. After reminding ourselves about how lucky and privileged we are to have the people at her daycare taking the brunt of this responsibility, we set forth and bought supplies. Disney themed pull-ups? Check. Potty chart with a cute bunny that is also learning how to go like a big girl? Check. Warm and inviting toilet decoration to entice her to do the deed? Check. We would ask every 20 minutes if she needed to go and reward her (stickers, cookies, scratch off tickets, etc.) when a transaction was completed. The game was afoot.
Olivia showed promise early on, but then things started to fall apart. We'd get reports about how she'd just want to sit on the potty and not do anything, or that she'd just flat out refuse to try. Things at home weren't going much better, especially after she tried prying one of the reward stickers off the potty chart, ripped it and then just shredded the chart altogether in frustration. After a few weeks of this we spoke to daycare and decided to put training on hold and revisit in the winter time when the kids would be inside all day. November rolled around and daycare notified us that Olivia was showing interest again (i.e. sniffing around the bowl, marking it as her territory, lifting the lid and shouting "Is anybody home?" into the toilet), so we picked right back up where we left off and hoped it would work this time.
The second time around began with a bit of a fizzle. She'd only go here and there, then we traveled for the holidays and just gave up during the break to make things easier on everyone. After the new year we vowed to keep on top of things and try to reward her even more for going. We brought back the chart and told her that for every 3 successful potties we'd give her a treat. It could be ice cream, candy, a new (small) toy or she could trade those things in for what was behind door number 2. Sure it's a gamble, but she could walk away with a sweet Chevy Vega...or a llama.
Stickers and prizes only worked so well, and Olivia was doing her best to remain stubborn and only go when she deemed it was time. I decided that enough was enough and did what any modern day parent would do in this situation: I Googled the problem. Of the many tactics I found, these seemed to resonate the most with me:
- Dying the toilet water with food coloring, which will react and change as they go and make fun colors. Make sure you don't use darker colors though, because then they'll question whether they are children of a demon or if they need immediate medical attention.
- Incentivizing the act of flushing the toilet, which is normally off limits for them. Keep in mind you will also have to instruct them on how long to hold the handle for and, depending on your toilet, the ancient art of jiggling the handle.
- Making them feel proud when they actually go. We normally give her a high-five and tell her what a big girl she is, but I think we could step it up a bit. From now on every time she goes there's going to be confetti and balloons falling from the ceiling while a marching band rolls through our apartment playing Queen's 'We Are The Champions.'
- Bringing technology into the mix and getting her a potty seat with an iPad dock so she has something to do while she waits. Adults get to play on their phones or read while they go, so why can't our kids? They'll be out of your hair for a while and it'll only take one or two times before they've accessed your social media accounts or bought thousands of dollars worth of microtransactions in their favorite game. But hey, easy mode parenting!
Things are still hit or miss, however our saving grace could be coming from one of the last places we would have expected: the magical land of Arendelle. Since the summer of last year our daycare has been hosting movie nights on Fridays for kids 4-7 (they have to be potty trained). Parents get to go out and have some fun for a few hours while their little one(s) have some fun of their own. Wouldn't you know it, the next film to be shown is 'Frozen.' If I remember correctly, Olivia's reaction to this news went something like this. Who cares if we already own a copy and she could watch it at any time, this is a chance for her to have a night out with her friends. However, can we get her potty trained in time for this massive event which is circled in purple glitter upon her calendar and she asks about every single day?
I have to admit, things have improved quite a bit since this event came up. At first, Olivia would go potty once and ask, "I go to the movie night now?" It's adorable, but we had to let her down gently and remind her that she needed to keep doing this every day. It's taking some time, but I think it's starting to sink in. Sure, we have days where she's defiant and doesn't want to go for us. We keep reminding her about the movie night, which works some of the time. Daycare is reporting that she's been going fairly consistent for them, which is great news. In the end, all we can do is try to get her to go and keep her motivated. The sticker chart is filling up fast, treats have been doled out and our little girl is well on her way to becoming a big girl who can potty like the big kids do. I'm confident she'll make the movie night and I'm hopeful that she'll keep that momentum going after her 77th viewing of 'Frozen' has come and gone. If not, we may have to bribe daycare to throw it back into the rotation sooner rather than later.