The "Potty Whisperer" Gives Parents Some Practical Advice
When I was potty training my first child, a good friend (herself in the middle of potty training her child) called me, at the end of her rope.
"You know," she sighed, "there should really be a camp for this. Some place we could send our toddlers, and they could just come home trained. At this point, I'd pay big bucks for that."
It turns out my frustrated friend was ahead of her time, because now such a thing exists. Meet the Potty Whisperer, as interviewed on the Today Show.
Wendy Sweeney is a Chicago mom of six (and a registered nurse) who holds "a one-day potty training boot camp that guarantees to convert even the toughest toddlers," according to NBC.
She calls it, appropriately, "Booty Camp". She does not actually call herself the "Potty Whisperer" (that name appears to be coined by the Today Show).
The interview shows Sweeney with her little customers in her (tiled, of course) kitchen, potty chairs lined up against the wall. In an intensive, five-hour course, with parents watching, Sweeney coaches the children through the pottying process. There is much of affirmation and high-fiving. Sweeney loads them up on salty snacks (which makes them thirstier) and sugary drinks (which don't quench that thirst). (To any nutritional nay-sayers, I say that her approach makes sense. It's a very short-lived system that gets the fluids flowing, and sets the kids up for quicker success.)
I couldn't help but think that Sweeney's camp was probably coaching the parents more than it was even coaching the kids. That's a not a bad thing. Especially when it comes to potty training (which can crush the parenting confidence of really good parents, especially first-timers), some advice from a seasoned outsider makes sense. Sweeney gave some excellent, tough-love advice that certainly rang true to me, having potty trained four little people of my own:
--Never ask your child if you have to go (transfer the responsibility to them). They should learn to listen to their own bodies.
--Set an expectation. Let them rise to it. "I don't expect them to do anything that I don't teach them how to do," says Sweeney.
--It's the child's responsibility to clean up any resulting messes. It's not cruel, it's common sense, and it can be done in a way that is affirming and confidence-building.
--Don't insult their intelligence. Tell them exactly what they need to know.
Sweeney admits that potty training in a day isn't always realistic; it can take up to two weeks. As an experienced potty-trainer myself, I'd add that a child who is taking ages to train probably just isn't ready yet. If you're the mom of such a child, chill out, take a deep breath, and give yourself permission to start over in a few weeks or months.
Not surprisingly, the mommy-blogosphere is full of posts on the subject, from horror stories to encouragement:
Peapod Pink writes about cloth training pants vs. disposable ones.
Nicole of A Journey Called Hope provides a photo essay of the tools she's using in the process.
Alisha Wilkins writes about her family's experience with the "cold turkey" method.
Deny Dyer writes for FaithLifts about keeping your perspective while training a strong-willed child.
Shannon Lowe is a Contributing Editor for BlogHer (Mommy/Family), and she also writes at Rocks In My Dryer.