You mean I can wait for over two months to have my child successfully pee on the potty!?
Said no parent EVER.
We don’t want to wait 66 days to train our children to use the toilet effectively…or sleep through the night…or stop hitting a brother. We want immediate results! We live in the United States of America for pete’s sake! Home of McDonald’s and fat free cheese and one-week weight loss plans! (The irony of this is not lost on me.)
But anyone who’s anyone knows that there’s NO quick-fix for altering our habits. Rather, “the secret’s in the sauce.” Meaning, the secret to healthy habit-formation is patience, diligence, and grace. Not, speed, fury, and frustration.
A 2009 study published in London discovered that it takes about 66 days for a new habit to stick. (I first heard about this from my pastor at church and it revolutionized my thoughts!). The researchers of this study found that the ability to form a NEW habit ranges from person to person (varying between 18 and 254 days), which means, even the stealthiest of change-makers STILL wouldn’t pee in the potty after just three days.
So what do we do as parents? especially if we struggle with patience in ALL areas of life (like I do), and especially if we find ourselves ready but our children are not?
First and foremost, pray.
For real. We should never start ANY new habit-formation without the force of God on our side.
Next, develop a sense of humor.
I started toilet education with my almost two year old recently and somewhere between all of the pee on the floor and the poop she pushed out on EVERY SINGLE STEP IN OUR HOUSE, I stopped laughing. I had forgotten my own advice and started wallowing in my own frustration and defeat instead! You know why? PARENTING IS HARD! Just when you feel like you’ve successfully moved “beyond” with one child, there sits another, just waiting to poop on your stairs. And each child is so different too! What worked with my other girls isn’t working with my third, so that’s why you move to step 3.
The Back-up Plans.
Write out your best plan for what you HOPE your child will do, and then consider ALL possible variables and write out Plans B and C. For me this meant giving myself two weeks with Plan A before moving on to Plan B, which happens to be keeping her in diapers until college.
Four, get support.
Do NOT train your child alone. Seriously. Corral your people and get everyone on board. Tell your parents, aunts, uncles, postman … ANYONE who will empathize with you in your moment of crazy. My greatest support happens to be my amazingly patient and HILARIOUS (!!!!) husband. He’s the anchor to this here cruise ship I’m sailing (bless him), and he deserves a medal. Also, read some books or blogs. The good ones though; not the ones that make you feel like a failure. I like the Oh Crap! Potty Training book and the tips in this blog.
Five, do it when YOU’RE ready.
This is probably the most important step; because if you’re not ready to stand beside your child through anything — through POOP on the STAIRS! — then it will be a lot harder for your child to acquire his new skill successfully. You are your child’s “sponsor”. You wouldn’t support someone in AA by saying, “Don’t worry about step 6. We can skip that one,” right? No one wants their child to fall off the wagon, so make sure you’re ready to support him and provide him with the guidance and structure he needs so he can master his new skill gracefully.
Finally, give yourself and your child GRACE.
If it would take an adult 66 days to stop smoking, then it most certainly could take your child longer than a weekend to stop wetting his bed. The best way to give your child grace is to eliminate the pressure from the get-go by talking early and talking often. Therefore, even if you’re not ready to start potty training (or even if your child isn’t), you can still provide him with the language he needs to understand what is happening to his body. You are your child’s most important educator. Their imminent success really does depend on you. And if that’s too much pressure, do what I do. Eat a bowl of popcorn and call it a day.
So with all that said, remember that changes can be scary, frustrating, and sad. Even when a change is positive and moves your child into more independence, he is still giving something up in order to GROW up. It therefore behooves us all to tread lightly, no matter our kids’ ages. Because whether it be toilet education, driver’s education, or dating education, our children are being stretched and formed in often uncomfortable ways. Sometimes they surprise us and do exactly what we want, but often they don’t. They just poop on the floor.