Tag Archives: children

An (updated) amateur guide to potty-training in 5 (mostly) stress-free steps

Just shy of two years ago, I published a post offering my tips for toilet training a child. Since then, I have toilet trained my second child, and have learned a few new things in the process. This post is a modified version of my original guide.

The title of this post should be clear enough, but just in case, let me begin by stating that I am in no way, shape or form an expert on child elimination strategy . I am just a mom sharing her experiences with potty training her own kid, in the hopes that it may help other parents. If you need a professional opinion, please consult a pediatrician, therapist or other appropriate person.

pottytraining

If you read enough of my posts, you know I have a difficult time getting my oldest son to do most things. Sleep in particular remains a challenge, he is still as picky as ever and we are still working on our listening skills. Given all of these challenges, you may be surprised to learn potty-training was surprisingly easy. Though there were many accidents, and a lot of patience on my part, I can look back and feel good about the whole experience.

My other child, who is a bit easier in the sleep department and eats like champ, proved harder to toilet train. His different personality meant adjusting some of my original techniques, and respecting he might not be as easy as his brother.

When I potty trained my oldest at two years old, I knew this went against conventional wisdom. However, he showed signs of readiness early on, so I followed his lead. My youngest, on the other hand, just turned three and is still working on using the toilet. Different personalities and temperaments meant adjusting my strategy for each child. In general, I believe there are some tips which can work for most kids.

1. Give lots of diaper-free time

When I became pregnant for the first time, I immersed myself in research on the latest parenting trends, and one of those was “elimination communication.” For the unfamiliar, elimination communication is a method of potty training, which essentially calls for the removal of all diapers, pretty much from day one, and is based on the premise that caregivers can become in tune with their child’s elimination cues and respond accordingly. No diapers? Sign me up! Of course, practice proved otherwise, and my carpet suffered the brunt of my experimentation. I waited until my son was around six months, and for every successful trip to the toilet, there was a fresh puddle by the coffee table. By the time my son was one, and had no interest in being held over the toilet, I knew I had to abandon this method.

Though I am not an E.C. success story, the experience did allow my son to get familiar with the idea of going to the bathroom without a diaper. He slowly began to associate the toilet with pooping and peeing, and while it took some time for it to all click, the knowledge was there.

I realize letting a baby roam bare-ass in your home may be your idea of hell. Perhaps just give him or her 15 minutes of supervised diaper-free time first thing in the morning or right after bath time? Maybe you just have time for a few minutes a week. I believe those moments will pay off once your child is ready.

When my child turned two, I mostly saved the diapers for trips out of the house. We still had a few accidents, but eventually he became aware of his body and was able to make it to the toilet in time.

Update: I wasn’t as diligent with elimination communication when it came to my youngest, mostly because I didn’t have the patience as a mother of two. As he approached the toddler years, I started leaving the diaper off, as much as I could. When we started toilet training in earnest, I skipped diapers at home. Unlike my oldest, the transition to no diapers out of the house did take a bit longer, and is still a work in progress, but he is getting there.

2. Skip the “potty” stage

The thought of cleaning out a dirty potty appeals to me as much as sitting through a lecture on the creation of wall paper paste. I didn’t want any part of it. I also didn’t want to have to retrain my son to use the toilet. So, with the occasional help of a special seat to ensure he didn’t fall in the bowl, my son learned to use the bathroom on an actual toilet.

The skipping of the potty stage applied to outside bathroom use as well. Once I felt confident enough to skip the diapers when we ventured outside, I didn’t want to bother with another thing to schlep in my diaper bag. I also wanted to get myself and my son accustomed to the idea of using a public restroom. I made sure to plan our outings accordingly. I had an expert knowledge of toilet locations within a 20-block radius of our apartment. I knew the cleanest one was at our local supermarket, and that playground bathrooms aren’t always as gross as you might expect.

Update: While, I skipped the potty with my youngest, and still believe it is easier just to train them on an actual toilet, I acknowledge that park bathrooms aren’t always open, and sometimes other options are necessary.

3. Ditch the bribes

If you read enough about potty-training, you would be hard pressed to find any advice that doesn’t involve some sort of reward system. They can range from stickers to candy to toys. There’s no denying the success of these systems, as they have worked for so many parents. I decided I would rather not engage that method. Instead, I made using the toilet successfully its own reward. I cheered enthusiastically every time my son managed to get to the bathroom in time.

I think the reason this worked was because my son was truly ready to be potty-trained. He didn’t need any extra incentive. Again, I realize this may be unique to my child. He was an eager participant because he hated being in a dirty diaper (he hates being messy, in general). However, I do believe that most young kids are excited by the littlest things, and that can include using the toilet.

Update: I skipped the standard bribes with my youngest, but I was not afraid to go to the well of YouTube for some motivation in the form of Moana, Trolls and more. Hey, if a little “You’re Welcome” will get my guy to sit for a minute, I’ll take it.

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4. Be consistent

Once you have your kid out of diapers, keep them off. I made the mistake of using diapers again (worry about accidents on long trips), and I was back to square one. I had to get accept the fact that accidents are inevitable. So, before I went anywhere, I had my son use the bathroom and made sure to pack extra clothes. Eventually, the mishaps became less frequent, and I could confidently say my son was potty trained by two-and-a-half.

Update: I was much worse about consistency with my youngest. Every supermarket trip, I would buy a package of diapers and tell myself, that would be the last time. Yet, I kept buying more, losing confidence in myself and my child. Finally, when my son was really making progress, I stopped.

5. Don’t rush it

I know people swear by those programs that claim to have your kid potty-trained in just three days. I am sure they are at least somewhat effective, otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular. Personally, I think every milestone with a child is a journey that begins the moment he or she is born. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I am going to start toilet training my son.” Instead, I followed his cues and gradually worked with him to achieve our goal.

Potty training is one of the many things everyone seems to have an opinion on. I know my methods were suited for my children, but they might be wrong for your child. The important thing to note is most kids will get there, we just need to be patient.

Update: Daytime training has proven harder for my youngest. His interest in using the toilet took a while to nurture. However, he is doing great a staying dry at night, so it is one less thing to worry about.

Happy Birthday, Dear Miracle

To My Youngest,

Three years ago, you wasted no time vacating my womb. You had a world to explore and life to get living, and you weren’t letting a little thing like birth stand in your way. Nope, you cannonball-blasted your way out of my body and straight on to your next adventure.

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Things weren’t so smooth, at first. In your eagerness to baby born, you were met with some adversity. Your body fought hard to keep up with your tenacious spirit. Your strength, gifted doctors and the faith of loved ones, pulled you through. You were here to stay. Continue reading

Towing the privacy line as parent blogger

I started my blog in 2013 out of a need to keep writing (my lifelong creative outlet) and to vent about my struggles as a new mother. While, I understood anything I put online wasn’t technically private, I did little to promote my work and gain an audience beyond my family and a few random followers. My writing was raw and more like what I would journal in a private notebook than something worthy of a larger audience. However, even from the beginning, I hesitated to reveal every personal detail.

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While, I want my blog to be a place where I can be candid about my experiences as a mother, I also need to be mindful of my family and how my writing impacts their lives. I am sure, I have already written plenty which could embarrass my children, which is why, I will never write anything which mentions their real names, or share photos of them with clear shots of their faces. I do understand that because I myself am not anonymous, there are ways for people to find out who they are, but I at least can make it more challenging. Continue reading

Come for the fun, stay for the traditions

“My favorite part of Passover is the presents and the matzo treasure hunt,”  said my five-year-old, the other day.

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For the unfamiliar, during the seder, or ritual Passover meal, a piece of matzo (unleavened bread), is broken off and hidden. Traditionally, the younger family members are tasked with finding the piece of matzo (known as the afikomen), and may be rewarded with a gift. The size and amount of prizes given are at the discretion of the host family. Growing up, I remember getting a lot of books. I am pretty sure my kids are getting better stuff, but hey, that’s grandparents for you!

No matter our individual religions, most of us parents can lament the overblown nature of the holidays. I imagine many of my Christian friends are wondering how Easter got so consumerized, and how much money they will drop on baskets, eggs and other trinkets. I agree, it can all seem a bit much. Continue reading

I see myself (and my kids) in pop culture

Staring up at the young performers in “Dear Evan Hansen,” watching in awe as they masterfully captured the angst, confusion, boredom and small joys of being teenagers, two thoughts popped in my head:

  1. Wow, this reminds me so much of high school. 
  2. Is this what my kids will be like?

I am privileged to say I have attended a number of Broadway shows, several with strong, emotional stories and engaging characters. When I watched these shows in my teens and my 20s, I felt their struggles and connected with their emotions. It didn’t matter that I had no idea what it was like to be a 20-something in the late 80s living in the East Village (RENT), or a sexually-confused teen in 19th-century Germany or green witch struggling to find acceptance in Oz (Wicked); I saw myself in those characters.

I See Myself (And My Kids) In Pop Culture

We all see ourselves in fictional characters, whether on the stage, screen or the page. It is what drives us to experience these stories. That deep connection. That sense of knowing exactly how a character feels. We are moved by them, because we are them. Continue reading

Thank you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for my children

I have this weird habit — well, maybe you do too — of imagining what my life would have been like if I had gone to a different college, or visited a different country or taken a different job. I am a believer in “the butterfly effect,” despite the awfulness of the movie by the same name. I feel even the seemingly insignificant moments in our lives can set us on a course we might have missed, if things had happened another way.

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I am a mother of two boys, who are with me because the exact right pattern of circumstances unfolded them into existence. If I did one thing differently, chances are they wouldn’t be here. Now, I won’t lie, on those really hard days, I wonder about how things might have been. But, more often, on the good days, I am grateful for following a path, however bumpy at times, which lead me to them. Continue reading

Kisses not KKK

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m catching up on Facebook after spending a lovely morning disconnected from technology and reconnecting with my body and soul.

I was blissfully unaware of the ugliness happening around me. With a quick scroll through Facebook, that ignorance quickly faded away.

I read post after post about Virginia. I see pictures of young men who would rather I not be in this country, let alone exist. It doesn’t matter that I’m a third generation American — more than many of them, I’m sure. It doesn’t matter that both of my grandfathers fought for the United States during World War II. I’m Jewish, so that’s just not good enough. My family isn’t good enough.

Kisses

The fear, worry and anger of my friends is reflected online. As I scroll through my feed, my heart sinks. This is not the world I want for my kids.

Continue reading

Stop bitching about how much better being a kid used to be

Being a kid in the 1970s, 80s or 90s was so much better than today, or so says countless essays, listicles and Facebook rants. We played in the street, stayed put until dark and used our imagination instead of iPads. Our parents were stern, but still gave us freedom to explore. We tell our own children of the good old days and wax poetic about how wonderful their lives would have been back then.

Raising children today can never be like it was. Society changes, values evolve, technology grows, new challenges emerge, etc., etc. Our grandparents grew up very differently from our parents, as did our parents from us. Our great grandparents may not have had much of a childhood because, back then, kids were expected to work at a young age.

Our ancestors are looking down on us and wondering what is wrong with us. Our kids are fortunate in so many ways. They are not suffering the burden of a Great Depression or the terror of a World War. And while, as a New Yorker, I do not discount the real fear of terrorism, the truth is, kids in the United States are safer than ever. Instead of bemoaning the fate of our children, let’s give them the childhood they deserve. Continue reading

The meanies lost, or how I taught my four-year-old about the Holocaust 

I watched my son gaze curiously at the wall of the synagogue; his eyes falling on a worn and tattered scroll behind a glass display.

We were visiting my parents’ synagogue during the first two two days of Passover, and my son wanted to learn more about the Torah, the hand-scribed scroll of the Old Testament, which hung on the wall. This particular Torah was desecrated by the Nazis during World War Two and was recovered by the Jewish people. This sacred object was very much a symbol of the resilience of my community and a source of pride for the synagogue.

My inquisitive four-year-old examined the tears and burnt markings and wanted to know what happened. He understood the Torah was usually kept in the Aron Kodesh, or holy cabinet, and is used during Jewish prayer service. He wanted to know why this particular Torah was behind glass.

Continue reading

The conditions of our children’s love

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I love my children unconditionally. I imagine most parents and other caregivers would agree our children could do very little to lose our affection. They will test us, absolutely, but, we will remain steadfast in our devotion.

Our children earned our love the moment they entered our lives. They owe us nothing. They need not prove a single thing. We chose them. Whether by birth, adoption, or act of faith or circumstance. We asked for them, and they answered. We owe them our love.

And in return?

Nothing.

They owe us nothing. Continue reading