Potty training is one of the main reasons I was dreading living out of a car on deputation. However, the Lord really blessed and made the potty-training process stress-free. I hope this is helpful to someone else who may be faced with the same situation.
When to potty train –
Avoiding pressure from others: Disclaimer: I don’t want these articles to turn into an advice column on self-help and feeling good about yourself. However, I do want them to be helpful in general and encourage those who may find situations on deputation, like potty training, to be daunting.
I believe there is a natural instinct the Lord gives to mothers about their children. Whether it’s a stranger staring at your kid that gives you a bad feeling or a health problem your child has, I believe God gave us the instincts to know how to take care in certain situations. I don’t think potty training is any different. If you choose to potty train at 1 ½ or 3 ½, that’s your decision, and in this case, you know best. The longer you wait, the more “advice” you’ll receive. Just remember, you’re accountable for raising your child, not any stranger, church member, or family member.
I would also like to clarify, I have great family members, for which I am extremely thankful, and I can’t remember any of them pressuring me on the subject.
In reference to age: Another missionary’s wife advised me to wait until Catalina was around 3 yrs. old before I started potty training. Her reasons were that diapers are more convenient and there’s no need to burden yourself unnecessarily. For me, this was great advice. I was disappointed that Catalina was almost 2 yrs. old and still wasn’t potty trained. Her advice helped set my mind at ease. To successfully potty train, not only does your child have to be mentally prepared but so do you. With all this said, I believe that you, as the parent, will know when it’s time.
In reference to timing: I didn’t want Catalina to regress, which seems to be a common problem with potty training. I’ve heard so many mothers say that moving into a new home, having a baby, etc. causes children to stop using the potty and start having accidents again. With that in mind, I waited until she was familiar with deputation before I began.
Potty Training Round 1-
The first time we tried, I waited until I knew we’d be at a prophet’s chamber for about three weeks. Catalina was exactly 2 ½, so I thought it would go quickly. I set up her little potty on a towel in our room and I had her sit for 10 minutes with a 15-minute break in between. I also had her in underwear during the day, so she could feel if she made a mess, and I had her in a pullup while she slept. This didn’t work. She would hold it and be dry all day and then tinkle in her diaper at naptime.
I tried showing her videos and having her sit on the potty while she watched, I bribed her with snacks, candy, and toys. Nothing seemed to work. I soon realized that she didn’t know what I was asking her to do. Whenever she had a wet diaper, she would tell me that she went number two. She didn’t know what tinkling was or how to do it. As a result, I postponed potty training for a few more months.
Potty Training Round 2 –
Four months later, we tried again. I knew we would have two full weeks at the prophet’s chamber where we were staying. On the first night there, I set up the little potty in her room and I explained that when she woke up, first thing, she would sit on the potty and tinkle. The next morning, we did just that, and nothing happened. She still didn’t get the concept of what I was telling her to do.
Resolved to get her to go tinkle I brought out the big guns… I prayed with Catalina that Jesus would help her go potty. In all honesty, I should have prayed with her from the beginning and I’m ashamed to say I just didn’t think of it at the first. So after we prayed I had her sit on the potty with a cup of juice and a cup of water and I let her watch tv. I told her she couldn’t get up until she went. About 45 minutes later, she finally went! That’s when it clicked. She finally started going potty consistently.
Potty Training Round 3-
How does that saying go, “Third times a charm”? Shortly after we successfully potty trained Catalina, she decided to eat a nickel. I can’t help but feel responsible considering the potty training reward system we used (we gave her money… I’ll explain it below). The whole ordeal was scary because the nickel became lodged in her colon. After an urgent care visit, an ER visit and two full weeks later, she finally passed it. However, this did cause her to regress. Considering the pain she was in for those two weeks I don’t blame her. We waited another six months before potty training again. Those six months of postponing was partly due to our schedule and partly due to me having morning sickness.
By this point she was 31/2 yrs old. She already had the concept down. I told her the week before that she was too big to wear diapers and that when we got back to Pensacola, the place where we based out of, that she would have to wear underwear and start using the potty. I’m glad I gave her this week notice because at first she argued and said she didn’t want to be a big girl. However, as soon as we arrived in Pensacola she asked for underwear and started going potty on her own. This was the least stressful time. Maybe, having “potty trained” with her twice before helped it come instantly but I honestly feel that she wasn’t ready at 21/2 and needed that extra time to fully understand everything.
Potty Training Rewards –
In the first and second round of potty training we used a reward system as incentive to keep her going. We started out with fruit snacks and candy on round 1 but realized she did better with something lasting. In round 2, we found a system that both Justin and I liked.
On the first day, every time she tinkled, she would get a small toy (i.e. pony, stamp, colorful pen, etc.). When she went number two for the first time we took her to the store and bought her one “big toy”. After that, every time she went tinkle, we gave her one quarter and if she went number two we gave her a dollar. She really wanted a baby stroller, so we explained that if she wanted a stroller, she had to save up $10 and buy it herself. After about a week or so, she had potty training down and the incentives for tinkling weren’t necessary, though we kept the incentives for the other part.
You may not feel comfortable using this as incentive for your child, or your child may be too young to grasp the concept of earning money. Either way, this is what worked for us. We found it helped her to understand the value of money and toys, while also helping her to learn to use the potty. That is, until she decided to eat a nickel… It was one of those moments when you realize your kid isn’t as smart as you thought they were and as that realization dawns on you it makes you feel like a real winner of a parent… It was the most expensive nickel I’ve ever seen, or not seen… She passed it without us knowing…
What we used to potty train –
· OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty for Travel
We purchased this potty from Amazon. It’s perfect because it’s compact, can stand alone, or can sit on a regular toilet.
· Training Underwear or pullups
· Towel (for under the potty)
· Flushable Wipes
· Trash Bags (We got a roll of bags for small trash cans, infused with lavender to help with smell)
· Paper towel (to help absorb urine)
What’s in our Potty-Training bag –
· OXO potty
· Change of clothes (1 pants, 1 skirt, 1 shirt)
· 2 Pull-ups
· Flushable Wipes
· Lysol Wipes (sanitize public restrooms)
· 4 Trash bags (double bag and place on potty when using as stand alone. Also, for soiled clothes)
· Hand sanitizer
How to handle soiled garments on Deputation:
On average, we are able to wash laundry once a week, in a rare situation do we have to wait as long as two weeks. However-long the wait, we don’t want soiled garments sitting. On the rare occasion that we’re at a prophet’s chamber all day, I keep Catalina in training underwear. Otherwise, she stays in a pullup so that there are no soiled garments. When she does have an accident, if it consists of #2, I throw out the underwear and wash the clothes. If its #1 and I don’t have access to a washer, then I rinse it in the sink with vinegar and let it air dry. Once its dry I throw it in the pile of laundry.
All-in-all, my biggest advice: Don’t stress. If your child isn’t getting it, wait a bit longer. If the accidents are excessive, put them in a pull-up and take them more often. Kids get distracted with playing and don’t want to go potty. A good bit of the time, you need to direct them on when it’s time to go.
Potty training is already stressful, compound it with living out of a vehicle full-time and I know it’s enough to make you cry. However, it is possible to have an easy time potty training, regardless of where the Lord has you. Don’t overburden yourself and wait until both you and your child are ready. As always, I hope our experience is helpful to someone else.