Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Potty Training: The Bennington Method

Just recently I had two separate people comment on how easily our kids took to potty training. That made me laugh a little because I don't think potty training and 'easy' belong in the same sentence. In fact very few things involving a toddler include the word 'easy' unless it's something like picking boogers or eating chicken nuggets.

But both kids were fully day trained before the age of 2.5 and we haven't looked back. I used the same technique with both so maybe I am onto something. So I thought I'd publish my thoughts here.

Disclaimer 1- There is no one right way to potty train any kid and no kid is the same. 

Disclaimer 2- If you are against your 2 year old watching tons of tv and eating candy then you won't like my methodology. 

Disclaimer 3- I stay home with my kids. If your kids are potty training and also going to daycare I have no idea how that works. Sorry. 

1) The Younger the Better- I know that two's get a terrible reputation but the fact of the matter is that three's are far more independent and willful. My goal was always to start shortly after the age of two so it becomes part of their routine before they're old enough to say 'no way, I'm not going to do it'. By the time my kids were three, pottying was just something they did every day. In my opinion if they're old enough to respond to rewards, then do it.

2) Set Aside a Boot Camp Week- Make sure that there is no preschool or dance class or playdates. Stay home and get nekked. Well....the kids can get nekked, adults are optional.  No diapers during the day. Make the goal of the week to be pottying pottying pottying. Have carpet cleaning tools on hand.

 Charley during his boot camp week at age 2 years, 2 months.

3) Put Your Potty in the Living Room (and get over it)- Put a towel under it. Right in the middle of the household actions, right close to their favorite pile of toys, in view of the TV.

4) Set Up Your DVR- Both of our kids had a special TV show that could ONLY be watched while they were sitting on the potty. For Tessa it was Angelina Ballerina. For Charley it was Dora. They get up, the Mommy (who's nearby watching like a hawk) turns it off immediately. They want to watch it, they sit. Yes for the whole episode. Yes they will get a red ring around their toosh.

5) Dance and Feed- When the deed happens (which may be on accident at first) act like a crazy fool. Like someone who won the lottery. Like the wine store is having a blowout sale. Like the Dixie Chicks finally released a new album. Excited! Then give them an EDIBLE M&M, choco covered raisin, skittle, mini muffin. Whatever you got that they don't NORMALLY get to eat.

 Disclaimer 4- I once got read the riot act by a friend who clearly had never had kids and was grumpy enough to read the riot act to someone with a two year old and an infant. Her problem was me giving Tessa an M&M and promoting obesity. I'm telling you right now, 2 year olds are like animals. They respond to things very instinctively. Give them a sticker and they may care and they may not. Give them an M&M and they will always care. Promise to reward them with a new toy and they will forget what you said and go pee their pants. Reward Immediately. Edible. 

6) Rinse and Repeat- Have the kid come with you and the potty seat to dump it in the REAL potty and have them flush and wash hands. This will prepare them for what happens in the future. They can go back to playing and when maybe an hour or more has passed, put on the show again. Yes there will be A LOT of TV but only for a short time.

7) Do NOT Look Back- When the bootcamp week is over, go out on the town and DON'T use pullups. I think pullups have a place and time, but shouldn't be used for everyday wear, especially not once they've done the bootcamp week. Yes there will be accidents, but at least they are aware that they are wet. Our carseat had a protective pad thing on it for the longest time in case anyway wet in the car. Very handy. And bring extra outfits. Expect it. But expect pottying too- and make sure you have a portable treat ready! (a box of tic tacs is perfect for the pocket)

8) Take Your Potty To-Go- I bought a Pottete Plus travel potty when Tessa was two and that thing has gotten SO MUCH use. It's still in the back of our car for emergencies. But for a while we took it everywhere. Every time we went to a store, they would potty in the back of the car on the potette. I clearly remember Tessa using it in the middle of Craig Park during stroller aerobics, and at the State Fair behind a tree with her friend Mattie. If we went to the farm, we took the potty. If we went to the lake, we took the potty.

9) Eventually the Rewards Wear Off- And there was less TV involved. Less and less M&Ms until eventually none. They moved into the bathroom instead of the living room. But the point is that they KNEW it was something they had to do all the time, every day. Regardless of M&Ms, it had become party of daily life and they could do it.

10) Worry About Night Time Later- Both kids got to a point where they didn't want to wear diapers at night and asked to wear underpants. Tessa has been a little harder to night train as she's more prone to accidents, but still  not bad. About two months ago Charley started outright refusing them at night and he's been dry as a bone ever since.


Michele Matherly said...

Love this. Good job momma!

phasejumper said...

Perfect timing! I'm working on potty training Ben this summer (turns 3 next month). I've done some of this, but need to go without pullups when we go out (yuck...this too shall pass, right?)

Stephany said...

you laugh, but back in the 70s and 80s, this is the exact same method my mom used... except she put us in the kitchen gated with toys and nakey and if we felt it trickle down your leg once, you never wanted that again! Totally works - I mean, I'm 32 it obviously worked - i don't wear diapers to work each day!