I honestly don’t think potty training would be such a big deal if everyone didn’t treat it like some kind of Olympic event. “Carolyn was out of diapers by 18 months,” bragged one fellow mom with her sights set on a podium finish in our play group. “Have your tried using a reward chart next to the potty?” offered a well-meaning friend as she cast a definite look of pity at me and my still-in- diapers, almost three-year-old daughter.
The truth is that I tried it all: gold stars, stickers, even tasty treats. I tried everything, when I realized I was taking the wrong approach. It wasn’t lack of ability that kept my daughter, Shaina, from bonding with the potty; it was lack of interest.
Shaina was talking in complete sentences, while her underwear-clad friend struggled to string three words together. “Forget the reward system and appeal to her intellect,” I told myself, as I headed for a local store to purchase several pairs of “grown-up” undies covered with images of my daughter’s favorite cartoon characters. After washing them and carefully arranging them in her dresser drawer, I invited her in for a peek and my well-reasoned pitch.
“So,” I said, “your birthday is just two weeks away, and there’s something very special that happens when children turn three. Do you know what that is?” As she nodded her head from side to side, I continued. “When children turn three, they give up wearing baby diapers forever. To celebrate that, when you wake up on your birthday, you get to wear this beautiful underwear from now on, and the baby diapers will be gone.” All this was said with incredible enthusiasm and a big grin on my face.
On the days leading up to her birthday, I repeated the story with continued zeal with one last reminder the night before. The next morning, Shaina called me to meet her in the bathroom. “Look,” she said with obvious pride pointing to the contents of the potty. With high fives all around and ohs and ahs over her choice of undies, I was delighted to have this baby milestone behind us, even if she didn’t win a gold medal.