Potty Training in Less Than a Day Interview with Metroparent

One local mom gives metroparent the scoop on how her kids did it - and how yours can too!

By EDIE BOATMAN
metroparent
January 09, 2003

You may have heard it talked about in hushed, awed tones at play group, or caught wind of it by the water cooler at work. But you weren't sure you heard correctly.

Potty training a child in a few hours? Is such a thing really possible? When you hear mom after mom relay the details of her several week or month experience with Pull-Ups, training pants and potty chairs, it seems like toilet training in a day must be something out of Ripley's Believe It or Not.

But metroparent found a mom who did just that - and not just with one child. She's trained each of her four kids in less than a day. Far from being something out of the pages of Ripley's, Beth Strommen of Greendale is a down-to-earth person with a sweet demeanor and a warm laugh at the ready. A nurse who works in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatrics at St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee, Beth says the method she used for toilet training her kids can work for almost any child who is developmentally ready.

metroparent sat down with her one morning recently for a little chat about the why and, more important, the how of potty training in less than a day.

metroparent: How in the world did you decide to try potty training in a day?

Beth Strommen: My oldest, Katie, was about 2 1/2 years old, and I had been listening to people talk about what worked and what didn't work for them in regard to potty training. I heard a lot of horror stories, but somewhere along the way someone mentioned the book about potty training in a day [Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin and Richard M. Foxx]. Since I didn't know how I was going to do it, I thought why not get the book and see what it involves. I read it and it made a lot of sense to me.

mp: What sold you on the method?

Beth: Several things. Most important, it's developmentally based. It hinges on a child's readiness and your ability to recognize the signs of readiness.
That's the strength of this program. There are three indicators of that readiness: Your child has to be able to follow several directions that you give her, she has to be able to manage and manipulate her clothes, and she has to have periods of dryness, meaning her bladder is maturing.
But the developmental guidelines are just that - guidelines - not something set in stone. Your child might not be ready at a certain age but, as the parent, you should be in tune with her development so that you know when she is ready. I think a lot of people who start training their children at 18 months get really frustrated because it takes a year, but that's because the child wasn't ready. Just because a child can sit on the potty chair, it doesn't mean she's ready. Your child's not going to potty train until she's physically ready, and that's going to vary by child. I think a lot of people get influenced by their relatives and friends about when the right time is, but it depends on your child.

mp: Was age a factor at all in determining readiness?

Beth: I listened to my pediatrician about that. She recommended that I not even start until my girls were 2 1/2, and not until my boys were 3. So that's what I did. Once they hit that age and exhibited all the signs of readiness, then I trained them.
When my girls turned 2 1/2, I started paying more attention to see if they were ready. If I didn't think so, I'd wait. I think it's important that parents don't push kids on this. We live in a busy, hurry-up society and everyone's rush, rush, rush. When your child is ready he'll train. Otherwise it becomes a negative thing and a power struggle.

mp: What are the basic steps?

Beth: First, you need to remove all distractions. I sent Lauren, my 1-year-old, to Grandma's, and my husband to work. You don't take phone calls, so there are no interuptions. At first, people think that this is strange, that you're forcing your child into it, but really what you're doing is focusing on learning a specific skill. With other methods, it's kind of hit and miss. There are interruptions, you're coming home from work or cooking and youre not focusing all your attention on learning this skill. With this method, you focus on your child and on the task of potty training.

Next, you get a doll - a Betsy Wetsy, or something similar. You actually don't teach your child to go potty, you teach the doll. And then you have your child teach the doll to go potty. After that, your child has learned - if she can teach it to someone else, then all she needs to do is apply it. It's a very developmentally appropriate way for kids at that age to learn.

The whole time, you talk only about going potty. They get to eat all the treats they want and drink lots and lots of juice - which makes it a very positive experience.

mp: What about accidents?

Beth: If they have an accident, during training or after, you reinforce how to correct it. First they have to clean up their mess - which my kids did not like, but it gets them to take responsibility for their behavior. Then they have to practice running from the accident spot to the potty, pull down their pants and underwear, sit on the pot, stand up and pull their pants up and go back to the accident spot and start again.

After they were trained, three of my kids had one accident each, but that was it. My second, Lauren, never had an accident.
But accidents aren't a punitive thing. You just have to go back and reinforce the principles. Most kids are going to have accidents. Potty training is a very complex skill for a child that age.

mp: Tell the truth: How long did it really take?

Beth: Well, we would start at around 8:30 a.m. and by 10:30 they had peed in the potty. They were trained by noon so they could have lunch and take their nap.
It really was simple with all my kids. My youngest was a little more headstrong - he got a little bored with it and asked "Can I be done now?" I told him that first he needed to go on the potty, and then he got it. Of all my kids, he was the only one who went from diapers straight to underwear - no training pants.
With the girls I was a chicken, so I put Pull-Ups on them that first night, but they stayed dry all night.

mp: Do you have to change your schedule?

Beth: The book recommends not training three months before or after a significant change. So if there's a birth of a child, be sure to do it three months before or after. Even switching bedrooms or to a big bed could be seen as a major change.
One mistake I made was planning a camping trip three days after Greg, my third, was trained.
He was fine at home, but throwing him into a new situation so soon after wasn't smart. He had an accident in my brother's brand-new tent because he didn't know where the potty was.
If a child relapses or regresses, you just do it again. Especially if there's a big event in their life, give them a break, a couple of months to adjust to it, and then train them again.

mp: Do you have to make any special considerations if your kids go to daycare?

Beth: If you work outside the home, try to take off on a Friday, or do it on a Saturday morning so you have a couple of days in a row to reinforce it. You have to clue in your daycare provider. Explain what you did and the actions your provider will have to take if your child has an accident. They'll have to reinforce it - having the child clean it up, practicing, the whole bit.

mp: Did you prepare your kids in any way for the training?

Beth: Only the night before. I said "Tomorrow we're going to do potty training, and that means no more diapers," and I said it would be a lot of fun. Then in the morning I would have them throw away their last diaper. I think we also read some books about it beforehand.

mp: Does Mom have to be prepared?

Beth: You do have to be mentally psyched up for it. You think, "It's only a couple of hours," but you are in that little bathroom a long time. You just have to remember that this is the day you're doing it and you've cleared your schedule, and it will be worth it.
Some people I know just got so completely bored with it they gave up. That first hour is so long. But when they first pee in the potty chair, then you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. From there on, it was good. You just have to hang in there and be calm about it. And make it fun.

mp: Overall, would you say it was a positive experience for your kids?

Beth: My kids remember potty training, and that's a pretty early memory. They remember that they got all the snacks and juice boxes they wanted. They remember the doll. They all have positive memories of it.
In the end, you teach them a skill, you give them your undivided attention, you heap on the praise and practice to reinforce the behavior. All my kids felt a very high degree of success. They were all very proud of themselves.

Send your comments to: metroparent talkback, P.O. Box 13491 Wauwatosa, WI 53213 or metrocurio@aol.com

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