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The drama continues.

When Bean told us that she used the potty at daycare, and in fact even made a “poop” in the potty there, we were dubious. She’s at that age where she tells “stories” (read: fibs) freely, and often it’s hard to know what to believe and what to doubt. But discussion with her teachers confirmed that she was, indeed, not only using the potty several times a day, but actually making the occasional poop in it as well. They said her pull-ups were usually dry when they changed them, meaning that she was doing almost ALL of her toileting in the actual toilet. WOW!

OK, how come we can’t get her to do this at home? When one of us asks her to go to the potty, you’d think the thing was made out of red-hot iron dipped in acid. “Nooooo! I don’t have to! Noooooo” is the typical response. And our toilet is not that much different from the little toilet she uses at school. In fact, we had a potty chair for her once, and she hated it. She prefers to sit on the real toilet, and there was a time when she did so joyfully and frequently – she just lost interest in it at some point.

So anyway, today is a BIG day. Daycare teachers sent a note home on Friday saying our Bean is ready for panties, and that we should send her to school today with lots of changes of underwear and clothes. Fingers crossed, people. I had her in panties for most of Saturday, and she did do reasonably well with a few trips to the toilet, but she still managed to wet three pairs of underpants too…she just doesn’t want to stop whatever she’s doing and pee. I’ll be interested to hear what kind of “panty churn” goes on at daycare today.

Who knows? Maybe they will succeed where I (so far) have failed. I have no doubt that they’re more patient than I am, and they’ve certainly toilet trained more kids than I have (since the Bean is our first and only). Maybe we’re just doing it wrong, and if the daycare ladies can do it right, then I’m OK with that. I mean heck, they get PAID to do this stuff. And I’m not abdicating my parental responsibilities here, I’m just supplementing them with a little professional help. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Right?

Potty training continues apace, and although we seem to be making some progress, for the most part it still sucks!

Listen to me now, believe me later: all these people who claim that potty training is “so easy” and their kids “were potty trained overnight” and “taught themselves” are lying. Sure, there are certainly outliers, but most of these people are full of shit (haha, pun intended). If potty training was so easy and simple, there wouldn’t be a huge industry devoted to potty training books, DVDs, and accessories.

Now, if your kid IS one of those outliers, and it was super-easy to potty train him or her, than here’s some very important advice for you: KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Parents who are struggling with potty training DO NOT want to hear about how your little genius came out of the womb able to control his own bladder and bowels and right now is not only using the potty, but helping you clean it weekly. Just do us all a favor and shut up. I mean hell – if I told you that I’d been laid off from work, what would your reaction be? Would you say to me, “Oh MY job is so secure, I’ll never be laid off!” Gosh, I hope not. I hope you’d say something a little more sympathetic, like “I’m sorry to hear that, is there anything I can do?” That’s the normal, polite, and socially acceptable reaction. Now apply that politeness and supportiveness to interactions about potty training, and we’ll all get along a lot better.

In my own, personal situation, I think it comes down to this: Bean is just not completely ready to potty train yet. Yes, if we tell her to sit on the potty and pee, she can do it. (Of course, she doesn’t always WANT to do it, and this leads to a lot of tantrums, but what are you gonna do?) But she doesn’t show a lot of signs that she herself knows when it’s time to go to the toilet. She doesn’t cross her legs, dance around, or appear to be holding it. She just kind of…goes. It seems like a classic case of someone who just can’t understand or control her bladder yet. So we’ll keep working with her. I guess if she hasn’t made more progress by this fall, maybe we will take her to the doctor just to make sure there’s not some other problem.

Fingers crossed, y’all. Fingers crossed.

Yeah, so this weekend we did some earnest potty training with the Bean and it was…not completely a failure. But it wasn’t a picnic either.

First, we put her in panties all weekend instead of pull-ups. We made it clear that she needed to do her business in the potty, and not in said panties. This didn’t stop her, several times, from peeing and pooping in her panties (and on the floor). Ugh. So we additionally had to start forcing her to sit on the potty every half hour, whether she thought she needed to or not. That helped a bit, and we did it without being threatening or anything. I found bribes were very successful. Example:

Bean: I want to watch Backyardigans!
Me: OK, I’ll find it On Demand for you. But first, sit on the potty for a minute.
Bean: OK.
(…off to the potty we go…)

I’ve also promised her bigger things, like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese when she finally goes a whole day using the potty, and without peeing in her pants once.

Of course this morning we had to put her back in a pull-up and send her to daycare, and I worry that any progress we’ve made will be erased. For now, my plan is to put her in a normal pair of panties as soon as she gets home every day, and keep the positive reinforcement and twice-an-hour trips to the bathroom going, from afternoon until bedtime. I guess if this doesn’t work, I’ll need to think about taking some time off work to spend longer hours with her. But how long should I give it to work?

Here’s the thing: she’s ready. She doesn’t really mind sitting on the toilet, and she’s big enough to get on and off our full-size toilets all by herself. Not to compare her to other kids, but she IS 3 and it seems like 3 is the magical age when most kids start to be potty-trained (and I do understand that accidents will still happen occasionally). She’s honestly been using the toilet occasionally since she was about 18 months old. Sometimes I think we should have pushed it more back then, and never started putting her in pull-ups. Pull-ups are the DEVIL!

What really drives me crazy is the awful, smug parents who seem to be all over the Internet telling me how their wonderful children were fully potty trained at the age of 2. Lucky you, OK? It’s not worked out that way in our house!

So in summary: a weekend of intensive potty training doe snot seem to have “worked,” in that we can’t just send her on her merry way in regular panties quite yet. On the other hand, progress does seem to have been made…but how much longer will it take? At what point do we need to use vacation time to have “Potty Training Bootcamp?”

crankyI’ve run out of ideas, and almost out of saintly patience. Spanking? Not an option and, I think, probably not helpful anyway. Time-outs? Ha, what a joke. Reward systems? Apparently not very motivational. Withholding treats? Leads to more of the same.

What I’m talking about here is the Bean’s awful, horrible, terrifyingly bad behavior. This includes temper tantrums, not doing what she’s told, refusing to cooperate, screaming/yelling/making a scene…ugh. Most of the time she’s a good girl – polite, funny, sweet. But when she’s not – wow, she’s really NOT.

Here’s what happened last night, by way of example. I picked her up rather early from daycare, and on the way home she saw a family walking to the pool with their little kids. She immediately started saying “I want to go to the pool! I want to go swimming!” So I told her, “OK, let’s ask Daddy when we get home.” When we got there, she had some juice and goldfish while Daddy finished up his work, then I changed her into her bathing suit while he changed into his, and the two of them went across the street to the pool together. When they left, I got her to promise me that she would be good, “no screaming, no yelling,” and that when Daddy said it was time to come home for dinner, she would cooperate and be a good girl.

So first of all, that didn’t happen. After an hour at the pool, when my husband told her it was time to go, she freaked out and refused to leave. He pretty much had to pick her up and carry her home, with her screaming the whole way. Awkward, but OK, I get it – this is the first year we’ve started taking her to the community pool and it’s a big deal for her. She loves it, and doesn’t want to leave. She flung herself on the floor and cried and whined when they got home, but actually managed to pull herself together when I offered to help her put on a pretty dress so we could go out to dinner.

So we get her dressed and we go to Ci-Ci’s for the pizza buffet – Tuesday night kids eat free. Yay! It wasn’t awful, and she was pretty well-behaved through dinner. She ate three small pieces of pizza and a few bites of a brownie, and seemed quite happy and satisfied. So far, we’d had a very pleasant afternoon/evening – she got to go swimming, she got to eat out and have pizza, all good. But it was all about to come to a screeching halt.

When we got home, we told her it was time to take a bath, and she FREAKED. Flat-out refused to take a bath, which she’s been doing a lot lately and I don’t understand it – she used to LOVE taking baths! You couldn’t get her to get out of the tub! But no, hubz had to wrestle her out of her clothes and into the tub, where she screamed and cried the entire time while he bathed her and washed her hair. Nothing helped, not the bubbles, not her bath toys – nothing. She wouldn’t even sit down most of the time, just stood there caterwauling while he bathed her. Of course, when he then began draining the water and trying to get her dried off, she suddenly changed her mind and started screaming for more water and bubbles, and refusing to get OUT of the tub she didn’t want to be in in the first place!

These are the moments where taking a deep breath and counting to 10 really comes in handy. Seriously. Cripes.

We then spent the next half hour forcing her into her pull-up and nightgown, and then trying to get her to sit in her time-out chair. Getting into the nightgown was another really frustrating deal – first she wanted her purple Tinkerbell nightgown, then her blue Dora nightgown, then her purple Dora nightgown. When I finally put the one she said she wanted on her, she immediately cried and screamed for another one, but this time I wasn’t biting. I told her she got to choose and now she had to wear what she had chosen. I know she’s trying to exert control with all these mind games and switches (this happens ALL the time) but as a parent, I have to put my foot down at some point, right?

Then we tried to give her a time out in her rocking chair. She screamed, cried, and whined the entire time. It was as if someone were stepping on a cat’s tail for 30 minutes straight! Her complaints added up to: I want my blue nightgown, I want more bubbles (in the bath), I’m not a bad girl, I want to go downstairs, I want to put my sandals on (so she could go outside). For a half hour, we firmly told her “no” and to sit in her chair and calm down. After the half hour, she seemed to tire out, stopped crying, and came to sit on my lap and say she “wanted to be a good girl.” Then she got into bed and went to sleep.

OK, so let’s review: did anything truly horrible happen here? No. But it certainly wasn’t pleasant. One one hand, Bean got to do several things she really enjoys (ride in Mommy’s car, go swimming, go to a restaurant, eat pizza). On the other hand, she followed those pleasant experiences with refusing to do what she was told (take a bath, get out of the bath, get dressed, etc.) and attempting to avoid doing those things via screaming, yelling, and crying. I guess I’m crediting her with too much maturity or adult-style common sense to expect her to be grateful and well-behaved in response to the pleasant experiences, but the suddenly-negative acting out just happens way too much.

How do you reason with a 3-year-old?

I’m crossposting this from my other blog, and it’s a little bit of a downer, but it’s about parenting…

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and books about parenting lately. Not surprisingly, at 3 years old, my Bean is a bit of a terror. She’s generally a good girl – polite, fun-loving, friendly, funny. But she still has the occasional tantrum, and tends to be very illogically frantic when things don’t go exactly her way. This ranges from freaking out and throwing something when she can’t make it work (hmm…where else do I see this happen frequently…oh yeah, her father!) to having a complete meltdown when we really want, nay need her to do something she’s not interested in, like taking a bath or getting dressed or eating her dinner.

I’m still early in the parenting research and I have a lot more to read and absorb and watch (believe it or not, one of the best resources out there is that Nanny 911 show!). But I am making a few promises to myself (and the Bean) even now:

1. I won’t hit her, even when I really, really, really want to. Hitting doesn’t accomplish anything; it only shows a child that violence is acceptable, which it is not. Even spanking, which I will admit is mostly harmless physically when only done with one’s hand, really doesn’t do much to help a three-year-old understand what’s expected of her.

2. I will take a deep breath and try to control my temper when she’s being really frustrating, and try my best not to raise my voice. Yelling and screaming doesn’t accomplish much either, for most of the same reasons that spanking doesn’t.

3. I will try to be unambiguous when expressing my expectations. This is a really big one. You can’t really accomplish much with a pre-schooler by telling them to “be good,” you have to be specific, instead: “sit up, use your inside voice, eat your dinner.” Don’t say, “Stop being bad!” Instead, say “Please don’t throw your food or else we are going home right now.”

You see, I was the recipient of some rather ambiguous parenting myself, and I still remember the frustration that made me feel. From the time I was around six to the point where I moved out for college at 18, it seemed like my Mom was always mad at me and I didn’t know why. I remember when I was 12 or 13 and really coming into my own personality, and developing the cynicism and sarcasm that would later form the basis for most of my sense of humor, my mother frequently accused me of “smart-assing her,” which I did not understand. Unfortunately, I guess she didn’t appreciate sarcasm, and her response to it was usually to slap me in the face, hard. Yeah…I got slapped a lot. Pretty much until I was so much taller and larger than my mother that it was just too intimidating for her to slap me anymore (and around the time I decided I had enough and started putting my hand up to block her blows – man did THAT piss her off).

I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t love my mother; I did. For the most part, she did a great job raising my sister and me and she was a very selfless, caring person. But if she just could have made her expectations more clear to me, I could have met them. Instead she said a lot of vague things about my “attitude” and did a lot of slapping. I wasn’t a bad kid – straight A’s for the most part, involved in lots of school activities, musically talented, with a group of other nice kids for friends. I just don’t believe that my personality at home was so different, so much more offensive, than my personality at school and elsewhere. I think I just didn’t know how to relate to Mom because she wouldn’t tell me. She would only yell and slap me.

So obviously, yeah, I want to avoid those mistakes with my own daughter. And I think it’s pretty clear, thanks to many years of therapy (my slap-UNhappy childhood resulted in more than enough issues to bog me down in my 20s!), that I understand what those mistakes were and how to avoid them. It will be work though – it’s so easy to fall into old behavior patterns that have been modeled for you consistently in your formative years. But that’s where the books and blogs and TV shows will help: little reminders of how not to become my mother.

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