Monday, August 29, 2011

Potty Time! (Struggles and a Solution)

Potty training has been a wild roller coaster ride for us since after Christmas 2010 (when we started potty training Matthew in earnest). Up until today, some days are good, some exceptionally good. And then there are bumpy days when I have a washing machine full of Matthew's pee-soaked underwear and shorts. Bumpy days seem to be fewer and farther between.

Soaked clothes are easily washed. It was the resistant behavior that compounded those "bumpy" days and elevated frustration levels. Matthew's tactics include:
- the "flop and drop" - where he flops and drops to the floor making it hard for me to pick him up to take him to the bathroom.
- swatting at me or hitting me or Elizabeth if she is nearby. This earns him a time-out.
- saying "NOOO!!" and running away from me.
- not cooperating with the toileting process. Sometimes we would be in the bathroom for 20 to 30 minutes just trying to get his shorts back on and getting him to wash his hands. Then it would be time for another potty visit in 30 minutes so it felt like we were in the bathroom all day.

It's a process, right? But was this fighting part of the process too?

I tried to deal with the behavior as best as I could - some days better than others. The solutions I came up with only worked for a few days and then I had to think of the next best motivator for Matthew.

Sometimes taking small toys to the bathroom worked. But then they would distract him from doing what he was supposed to do.

Sometimes making it a game to get to the bathroom worked - like crawling to the bathroom or hopping to the bathroom or taking giant steps to the bathroom. But if there was something else more interesting, then my "game" concept failed.

Sometimes telling him what he could do after using the toilet worked. For example, "Let's go potty and then you can blow bubbles outside."

In the 2nd week of August, I began setting a cheap kitchen timer for every 50 to 60 minutes. I used to set a timer but just for myself to hear. However, this time he would hear it too. It took him about a week to accept this new form of "potty alert". And so far it's been very effective with him. Everytime he hears it, he shouts, "Potty time!" and Elizabeth says it too. It's quite amusing! And that has taken away the Matthew's resistance to me telling him to go to the bathroom. This time it was the alarm telling him to go - loud and clear.

Here is a short video of the timer going off while I'm showing Elizabeth some flashcards.

Of course, there are still times when he will still say no but it hasn't been as bad as it was before. He goes willingly this time. Wow! This timer isn't cheap. It's priceless!! Sometimes he gets to the bathroom before I do and already sits himself on the toilet.

At school, they take him every 50-60 minutes as well and I told them about the success I've had with the kitchen timer. So I think his teacher is using a timer for him at school too. For the past week, he has come home from school in the same shorts and underwear. It's something I always notice when I pick him up from school and I know he has had a successful potty day.

He is learning to hold it in when needed, as he knows that potty time is just 50 to 60 minutes away. He does the potty dance and grunts when he needs to go too. Our next step is to have him initiate, ie. telling someone verbally that he needs to use the toilet.

In the meantime, I'm hoping that the magical kitchen timer's effects doesn't wear off too quickly.

And I'm hoping I haven't jinxed myself by writing about it.



Anna said...

what a great idea. I use a timer when we start for a mommy reminder. Thankfully youngest came potty trained- we taught her how to sign potty so that she could tell us. worked like a charm. Weve gradually been teaching the steps to doing it alone and hope that will be soon.

Rochelle said...

Sounds like a good plan.
Alayna hated and fought me when we first started and I tried to do it on a timed schedule so I quit and what do you know she told me when she needed to go. hmm stinker!

Hope this solution gets him over the hump and it sticks with him.