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Co-Potty Training Your Child (Guest Post by Suzanne)

It’s been a long running joke among my working mom pals that you finally see a return on your investment at day care when they help potty train your child. I think more parents might start paying a few hundred dollars a month if they only knew that someone else would readily take care of that dirty work!

But all joking aside, potty training your child while he or she is attending day care can be a very positive experience — for you both.

When it was time for my oldest to train, he was going to day care five days a week. And even though I had started to familiarize him with the potty at home, it wasn’t until his teacher joined in the effort that it really started to click for him.

And since I’m not the type of parent who thinks that everything has to be done my way, I was OK with relinquishing control and taking the day care teacher’s lead on potty training.

As it turns out, that was a good thing. Because I didn’t have the magic formula that she did:

(positive peer pressure + potty just steps away) * nowhere else to go + floors that were professionally cleaned every night

The result? Almost instant success.

For my two-year old, being around seven other children his age who were also potty training was the game-changer. I had been talking about using “big boy underwear” and telling mommy when it was “time to go” for a few months with no progress before the classroom lessons began. We had even set up a sticker chart at my friend Amanda’s suggestion, with the promise of a new Hot Wheels car for every ten stickers earned.

And then out of the blue, he started having back-to-back successes in the classroom. The sticker chart at school was filling up. Meanwhile, I was still trying to get into the groove of remembering to take him every thirty minutes. And as much as he would talk about how he went to the potty like a big boy at school, he had little interest in stopping what he was doing at home to keep up the routine.

For about half a second, I questioned my abilities as a mother. What were they doing that I wasn’t? And then I realized it.

Every time he saw one of his friends make a trip to the bathroom adjoining their classroom, instead of being lifted up onto the changing table, he was learning by example. In his two-year-old mind, it might have been as simple as competing for the most stickers and praise from the teacher. But it occurred to me that the same way moms commit to losing weight by exercising and dieting with a group of friends, there was something to be said for power in numbers.

I could have felt inferior. I could have taken back control and done it on my own terms.

But who can argue with success — and who would want to in this case? (Besides, it would have been hard to pull this off at home unless I had three children under age 2 and then rounded up all the neighborhood toddlers for group potty training. Their moms might have loved me for it, but I would have lost my mind.)

So when my son’s teacher greeted me a few days later at pick-up with the suggestion that I send him in wearing underwear the next day, I all but gasped.

He was potty trained already? Really? By my account, we had barely even started. But OK, if you think so (and if you’re taking full responsibility for cleaning the floors).

I was so caught off guard I didn’t even have underwear for him in the house yet. But the next day, he went in wearing his first pair of briefs that I had bought and washed just in time for him to get dressed for school.

Not completely convinced of this overnight success, I was nervous driving him to day care without a diaper — even though I had lined his car seat with a waterproof pad. But once he arrived, there was no looking back.

The second time around, when it was time for my daughter to train, I was a believer. I was actually counting on positive peer pressure to help accelerate her progress. And wouldn’t you know, it worked again!

All I had to do a few days into the process was keep up the schedule set by day care, with regularly timed trips to the bathroom. She kept a sticker chart in school and at home, and earned a new package of character underwear every time another row filled up with stickers. Less than a month later, our little one was in underwear and staying dry at night (double bonus!).

Again, I had to pinch myself. No more diapers to buy. Ever again.

What would I do with my newfound fortune? Maybe buy the teacher a gift.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we’re sitting on the floor of my son’s room, sifting through a box of Power Rangers he hasn’t played with in a while. His sister has not had a single slip-up and the routine of potty training has almost faded into the background.

Then he holds up a set of four figures — red, yellow, blue and green — and excitedly announces: “Remember Miss Nicole gave these to me when I learned to use the potty?”

Of course I remember. She’s my hero.

Because for me, being a working parent and sharing the responsibility of potty training with day care as my partner was as good as it gets.

Suzanne is eight years into her job as a working mom and is still trying to find a cure for the 24-hour day. She’s on-call around the clock to a son (age 8), daughter (age 3) and beagle (age 9 and still a puppy), and is lucky to “job-share” with a full-time working husband who is also a pro at smoke and mirrors. Her side jobs include logging a 40-hour week as a hospital administrator and moonlighting at We Are Both Right, a new destination in the parenting blogosphere that she founded with a college friend. Proving that they can still be friends despite their different parenting styles, it’s the perfect place to recover if you’ve survived the Mommy Wars.

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  1. Loved this! This helps me immensely as a working mom! Our in home provider is great too! I also think it’s a great idea to make a big event out of the first pair of “big boy” underwear. Like, let him pick them out, set up his sticker chart, etc.

  2. I think it’s also important to remember that parents MUST be on board. Daycares/sitters/nannies can only do so much. I have worked in a daycare and have potty-trained at least 30 kids. It only worked when the parents were on board. I am currently a private nanny. The last family I nannied for was ready to potty train their then 20 month old. I had her pottying every day for me during the day. However, her parents did NOT potty her in the evenings or on the weekends, so she never fully got it. She is almost 3 and a half and isn’t potty trained yet. Her mom just went back to work after taking a year off. She had a whole year of being her child’s sole caregiver (well, she and her husband). Yet, she didn’t take the week or so it takes to potty train her child. It just goes to show you that a daycare/sitter/nanny cannot potty train your child without your dedication!

  3. I totally agree with Angela. After working in a daycare with the potty-training aged kids, I’ve seen this with my own eyes. There’s definitely an incentive when they see other kids doing it and there’s somewhat of an embarrassment factor when they have accidents. But the parents definitely have to continue the training methods at home, or it never works! I have days where I kind of wish my daughter was in daycare and had the peer pressure factor.

  4. I think it has a lot to do with pottying in that setting being just “the thing” we’re doing. It doesn’t have to be about peer pressure or embarrasment – it’s just normal. All the 2/3 year olds are doing it! 🙂 It’s fun and normal and natural. At home we have kept an open-bathroom-door policy and I think it really helped. It makes it all just normal – it’s not some weird mystic thing that happens behind closed doors that the kids don’t even know is happening for their first few years of life! 😀 It’s just normal, and when they want to join in on the “fun” they can. 🙂

  5. I agree with Karli, too! Most mothers naturally take their children potty with them because if they don’t the kid could destroy the house in the 2 minutes she is gone! Learning by example is always good!


  6. LOL! How true!!! and then there’s the babies who just want to be with Mommy every.single.waking.moment. lol! Yeah, there’s lots of reasons to bring them along, I guess. 🙂

  7. Really great points here. And it’s absolutely true that parents have to be fully committed to potty training for it to work. So whether you set the schedule or follow someone else’s lead, it is important to provide that consistency for your child. Thanks everyone for adding such great perspectives to this conversation!


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