Potty training brings out the best and worst in us parents. From clapping and celebrating the first time your toddler does their business in their portable potty, to doing a face palm when they decide it’s just not working for them anymore. What? Not enough reading options? More often than not, you feel like you take one step forward and three steps back.
The good news - you’re not alone. There are dozens of books, video series, and “bootcamps” out there to help. We haven’t seen them all but we do know you can’t get much better than Jamie Glowacki. Known as the “poop lady,” she’s trained and coached parents and kids for years with incredible results. Someone who’s willing to be known as the “poop lady” has to have some success, right? Read our interview with Jamie below for some great tips you can try at home. She’s also our guest on this week’s podcast. Make sure you listen to the October 15th podcast for more insight and tips from her on making it through this crappy situation.
What led you to write a book about potty training?
Well, years ago, I was social worker in San Francisco and I worked with dual-diagnosis moms and kids. I learned how to potty train kids as part of my job. I wasn’t a mom myself yet and I had no idea it was a hot button in parenting. Fast forward to having my son. When he was 22 months, I let all my mom friends know we would be out of the loop for a week while I potty trained him. Everyone freaked out. “He’s too young! He’s a boy!” I thought they were crazy. I knew this was the time to potty train. Well, we did and everyone was clamoring for HOW. I literally started teaching classes in my living room to a few people at a time. It grew from there. Finally, so many people wanted the info that I had to write it down. And years later, I’m the Poop Lady.
How do parents know when it’s time to start potty training their child?
Most parents “wait till they’re ready.” Most kids start showing interest in all things potty around 18-24 months. Parents generally think that interest is going to build but it doesn’t. If you don’t capitalize on it, the child moves on and potty training gets more and more difficult as time goes on. There’s always a sweet spot, usually around 24 months, when potty training is effortless. But because kids don’t come with a manual, we have no idea when that is. MY optimum time frame is 20-30 months. I suggest parents start on the younger end of that spectrum; that way there is more wiggle room for the learning curve of the individual child.
Should a parent switch their kid to underwear right away or only after they’ve mastered potty training?
Actually neither. One of the biggest mistakes parents make when potty training is using undies too soon. There is a muscle memory in the child’s body. Undies are snug in all the same places as a diaper and the child’s muscles will be cued to just let it all go. My book is separated into blocks of learning to help make the process more trackable and quantifiable. Undies are block 4. So…you don’t have to wait until the child has fully mastered potty training. It’s definitely a step in the process.
How long should potty training take?
This is hotly contested and one of the things that irks me the most about the media surrounding potty training. There’s a lot of “3 day” craziness that is put out to parents. Bootcamps, 3 day “methods.” Generally speaking, 3 days MAY get MOST kids over the major hump of potty training. BUT EACH CHILD IS AN INDIVIDUAL. What other major milestone would you ask this question? How long should it take your child to learn to walk? How long should it take your child to learn to ride a bike? Parents go into thinking it should look just like their neighbor or their friend. But we don’t have that expectation in any other milestone. It’s funny when you think about it like that, right? I will say that the first few days are the hardest. Most kids are in the clear within a week - of course depending on the child - they may need more or less time to have get it down pat. Potty training should take however long it takes your child to learn. One of things I love about potty training is that it gives you, the parent, huge insight into how your child learns. It’s a beautiful part of the process.
What is the number one mistake parents make when it comes to potty training their child?
There’s a few common mistakes that will impede the process. As I already mentioned, “waiting till they’re ready” is a big one. I like to say, wait until your child is CAPABLE. Putting undies on too soon is big one. Putting the potty chair out “so they can get used to it” makes the list. Using a reward system is also a pretty huge mistake. I bust these common myths up more extensively in the book. Most every mistake is fixable. I will say the WORST mistake a parent can make is this: once in the potty training process, giving a child a diaper upon request of the child, especially for poop creates a special kind of hell and monster that is REALLY hard to fix. It’s about the only thing I scream at the top of my internet lungs about potty training. DO NOT DO THIS!
As an author of a book on potty training was is the most common question you get?
I’d say, when do you start? And how to deal with a reluctant pooper. Poop is by far, the longest chapter in the book.
How is attempting to potty train a boy different from a girl?
There is no difference, contrary to popular myth. However, over the years I’ve noticed that boys tend to be more linear thinkers and girls have more social cues. Girls responded to facial expressions and more talk/vocal cues. Boys tend to be more task-at-hand. Direct commands generally work better with boys. “Go, pants, sit, pee…” Although this is rapidly changing, typically it’s the mom who is doing the potty training. I think the myth of “boys are harder to train than girls” came out of this fact. A female mind trying to teach the male mind. Of course, I’m speaking in HUGE generalizations. In the thousands of kids I’ve worked with, I’ve found boys to be easier. Certainly, the ability to be able to pee anywhere is helpful.
Do you recommond parents use a reward to encourage their child to use the potty?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. No way. It’s another big mistake. I write extensively about this in my book and blog. There’s so many things wrong with using a reward system. I get clients with full blown disasters because of rewarding. Yes, when it works, it works. But when it doesn’t, it’s an utter nightmare. It’s not the worth the risk, in my opinion.
What do you think about the growing trend of elimination communication (child goes diaperless from birth and parents sense when they should hold them over the toliet)?
I love it! I think it’s fabulous. I have an entire chapter devoted to EC’ing and how to bridge over to potty training. One thing that needs to be recognized, however, is that most EC’ed kids do need a shift in the process to full move onto potty training.
Does it matter what kind of potty a parent buys for their child?
Absolutely not. I suggest the Baby Bjorn because it’s simple and functional. I do NOT suggest anything that sings, lights up, or has any other silly bells and whistles. It’s unnecessary and distracting. And when the novelty of the toy aspect wears off, so will the interest in potty training.
You can hear more from Jamie on the Dads Who Diaper podcast from Oct. 15th. Also don’t forget to check out her book, “oh crap. potty training.“