Q&A: recommendations for potty training books

Gretchen writes:

"Okay, I've read through the potty training posts I found on your site, and they seem to echo a lot of what I've picked up from reading the potty training chapters in the toddler care books I have.  But since Her Royal Highness doesn't seem to care that she's wet or dirty, and refuses to give me any warning that she needs to go, things are getting a bit messy over here, and we're on hiatus until after we get back from vacation.

I'm going to the beach with my parents and my husband to help watch the kid, so it's the perfect time to catch up on some reading. There are approximately 400,000 "how to potty train your child" books out there, and I have no idea which ones are sane and which ones are full of, well, you know what.

We've already missed the boat on elimination communication as an infant, since HRH is going on 29 months old.  We've taken the low-key approach, the "look here's a potty, here's how mommy goes to the potty, wouldn't you like to try, here's some lovely underwear, let's try to keep Dora dry, oh you've had an accident, that's okay let's just clean it up and try again."  Interest in the potty ebbs and flows, and the usual M&Ms or stickers or temporary tattoos don't seem to provide the necessary motivation.  Now we're to the point where she pees on the floor, comes and gets me and says brightly and with perfect elocution, "That's okay, everybody has accidents sometimes!"  Grrr...

I'm not sure if I'm looking for commiseration - there are 10,000 other potty-training moms on CafeMom, and 9,993 of them have it worse than I do.  I guess what I'd like is a list that says do this, this, this, and this, and here's what you do when the kid does this.  I don't care if it's the "right" way to do it, the "old" way to do it, or what, but I'd like some instructions.

So can we open it up to the readers to give reviews of whichever potty-training guides they've used?  That way I can pick one or two to request from the library before I go on vacation, and I don't have to pack a separate trailer just for the potty books :)"

And, yes, we do have to throw this one open to commenters, because I've never read a single potty training book. Of all the random parenting things to have no issues whatsoever with, I got potty training as my free pass. My older one got seriously interested in potty training (toilet training, toilet/learning/whatever you want to call it) at around 16 months and we kind of just did it gradually and I never felt "stuck" in the process long enough to need more than my grandmother's advice.

She raised 5 kids, and said that kids can't really potty train until they can see what's happening and connect it*. So the summer after they turn 2, you should let them run around outside in the grass with pants off as much as you can, and once they can see themselves pee and poop they'll figure out what's going on more easily. So we did that (the summer before he turned 2, actually, because he was so fascinated by it), and soon he was going in the potty whenever he was home and pantsless. My problem was figuring out how to get him to stay dry while we were out and about with him in training pants. I was about three days into the problem when we left to visit that same grandmother, and I'd decided just to ask her to train him while we were there. But then he got stubborn and trained himself on the plane rides.

So you can see that I had extraordinary good fortune in potty training, and am therefore not one to be giving advice to anyone about it. (Tip #1: Have a kid who will potty-train himself.) I think if I were home all day with #2 we'd be making way more progress, but he also seems to be on his way. I just lucked out.

But I know that all of you out there have read the books and have tried all the methods. So please help Gretchen out by giving her some ideas of what you think works and what doesn't. When you're writing your recs, try also to add details of why you think one particular method did or didn't work for your kid (age and sex of kid, temperament of kid, comfort level with change, etc. etc.). That way she'll be able to see which descriptions seem to go along with what her daughter is like, and use those recommendations specifically.

Also, anyone who wants to commiserate about the fact that Gretchen's going to be reading potty training books instead of novels (trashy or otherwise) while on vacation, please do so. Yeesh. Remember before you had kids? If only we'd known back then to enjoy being able to actually choose what we wanted to do with our time...


* I guess this is the same concept behind those pull-ups that change color when the kid pees in them. Only my grandma's method is free. And am I the only one who thinks the apocalypse is truly at hand now that they're making disposable diapers that intentionally feel wet when they're peed into? It's like making glue that pulls things apart instead of sticking them together. However, if you'd like to buy Pull-Ups, please click through and buy them here so I make some money off the apocalypse.