I expected that most of the students that came into my classroom would be potty-trained. If not, the children would need a little guidance and be where they needed to be. I was a teacher, not a parent. I did not appreciate how hard and stressful potty-training can be.
Now, as a father, there are some experiences I have now that I wish I had while I was a teacher. Potty-training is more than just reminding children to sit on the potty and go to the bathroom. I believed a parent would simply need to wait until the child went. Then, repeat the process until the practice became habit.
But, as a parent, my goodness. Potty training takes consistency, patience, and a lot of laundry detergent, carpet cleaners, and deodorizers. It can be stressful and, at times, defeating. Like, “When is this potty training thing simply going to ‘click’ for the child?” “How much more cleaning?” “How much more laundry” “Am I doing something wrong?” “Why are other kids getting this thing down and not my own child?”
There needs to be reminders, positive praise, and incentives throughout the learning. Reinforcement to wear that weird, uncomfortable under wear. Having a timer to remind the child when to go and, at the very least, try to go. Encouragement to try and use the potty (and discouragement to regress back to the diaper). Then, a celebration for success, topped off with a little reward – toy, candy, or otherwise.
At times, potty training can be stressful. You’ll try anything to make it work. My wife and I didn’t go into potty training with the idea of giving candy. But, at some point, we would try anything to make it work. Our expectations of what we would do to make it work dissolved into doing whatever it took to get it to work.
Then there were all of the tools and talks between potty times. Reading books about using the toilet. Discussing how to use toilet paper. Calling upon the services of Daniel Tiger to sing a catchy tune to mentally reinforce the potty training message. Cartoons, activities, and games were all utilized to convey – in a fun, stress less way – to please, please, please use the toilet.
Luckily, there was a day where it did simply “click'” with my son. He took responsibility to notice what his body was saying, then start a short sprint to the toilet – with a parent dropping whatever they were doing and sprinting in pursuit. Success after success, day after day, my wife and I could see the message had been received. The work and patience was paying off.
If your a preschool teacher who has never potty-trained a child, take my story to heart. Give the parents a break. They’re trying.