Potty Training Boys: The Battle of Yellow River
In the history of human conflict, a few great battles will endure for all time. Custer’s last stand. The Battle of Britain. Midway. Potty training. If there is a challenge guaranteed to bring on gray hair and a nervous tick, the move from diapers to big-boy pants is it. Some people will tell you it’s a breeze and not to let it worry you, but most parents know it is the rare child that gets this without help and a large dose of patience. So what can we do to help the little guy’s transition to the wonderful world of flushing?
The first thing is vigilance. Potty training isn’t always going to work according to our schedule; it is best set to the child’s. Look for the signs of awareness in your little man: does he know when he is wetting? Does he hide when he is filling his pants? These are signals that he is beginning to understand the workings of his body. Confirm with him that he knows what is happening and celebrate it! “Woohoo, we did a (insert cute euphemism here)!” It may surprise you when he moves from saying “I did …” to “I’m doing ..” to even “I need to…”
From there it is a matter of persistence. Expect accidents and roll with them; we too once left puddles on the floor. One way to avoid this with boys is checking regularly on the state of their bladder. Even when he is aware of how his body feels when it needs to go, a little boy will generally suffer from the same malaise as males of every age: a singular focus. We men get busy with one thing and everything else in the world fades from sight; two year olds are exactly the same. They are so intent on the plastic dinosaurs waging war in front of them that they will not notice the warnings from their body until it gets warm and damp underneath them. As a parent, you need to check regularly if they need a potty break. The answer, of course, will be ‘No’ because no-one wants to put down the dinosaurs at such a pivotal moment in prehistoric relations. However, insistence is the key. I often told my son how sneaky a ‘pee’ could be, and that we should check if there wasn’t one hiding in there. Of course, everyone concerned is very proud when we trick one of these out of hiding and into the potty. Seeing your positive response to even a reluctant potty break usually brings about a smile.
Once the expectation is clear, help them aim high. Rewards can be very useful but are a two-edged sword. They need to be desirable, but if you start big, you can’t downsize without diminishing the incentive. A sticker chart is a useful device here. Start with only a few spaces to fill, and a visible reward. We sat a new toy car on top of the refrigerator and it oversaw the addition of the stickers with each success, waiting until the chart was full and it was “allowed to come down and play.” Once a chart is filled, find a new reward and make a new chart, with a few more spaces than the last one. Once the process of using the potty becomes routine, switch to charting dry days instead.
Whatever the process adopted, consistency is a must, as well as a sense of humor and a huge well of patience. It will happen eventually. Some day this little guy will be at college or running for office or piloting a 747. He will get this well before then, so don’t sweat it too much.