4 Moms Q&A: pottytraining, bedtime, and how to get a private moment in the bathroom

4moms35kids 4 Moms on bossy big sisters (and brothers)

Today is my favorite Thursday of the month: Q&A day.  I love it because it’s the easiest post to write at the last minute, which means I can usually fail to plan ahead without everyone knowing.  Is it working?

Kimberly did plan ahead by asking for questions on the 4 Moms facebook page, so if we choose the same questions you just might get 4 perspectives.  If we more or less agree with each other, there’s a good chance we’re offering good advice.  If not, well, maybe one or more of us should have had another cup of coffee or more chocolate before tackling that particular question.  Chocolate can do wonders for your attitude and outlook.

1. How do you train a child (4.5yo girl) to stay dry at night?

I’m so glad another mom suggested the WetStop alarm, not because I’ve used it but because otherwise I would just have to say something like, “Umm…do you have any other questions?”  If you decide not to try out the technology route, just take comfort that you are in good company.  Our current 4yog is almost never dry at night, and our current solution is to put a disposable diaper on her every night.  She also still has a lot of accidents during the day unless we remind her constantly or visit a place with really cool bathrooms.  I chalk it up to immaturity and console myself that she’s only the 2nd to give us this much opportunity at personal sanctification during the potty training years.  If she were my first, I would be having some serious self-doubts, especially since I also find it so challenging to housebreak pets.  Since she is our 9th to reach this age and the others eventually achieved full toilet usage, I’m reasonably sure she will eventually stay dry.

2. How do you get your young children to stay in bed at night, to not bother each other or keep each other awake and what is the consequence if they do?

I’m going to assume you are talking about getting them to stay in bed at bedtime, not about preventing 2 AM surprise visitors.  We enforce bedtime obedience much like we enforce any other boundary.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, read the book of Proverbs.  🙂

We do allow whispering, a little quiet play and even the occasional book after bedtime if they are staying in bed and not being disruptive to those who really want or need to fall asleep.  I know many parents see it differently, but here is my reasoning: I want my children to be friends and enjoy each other’s company, and we just don’t see why that has to end at bedtime.  I don’t tell them to go to sleep; I just tell them to go to bed.  If they’re obeying, we’re all happy.

3. Do you have potty training tips? I have a 22 month old girl and boy and my daughter appears to be ready. My son…nowhere close.

Funny you should ask after my confession that our 4yo daughter is still not convinced that potty training is completely necessary.  Our 25 month old son, however, is very excited about the possibility of receiving a jellybean every time he pees.  My biggest tip is to gently encourage the process and casually offer rewards without placing undue pressure.  Let peer pressure play its part, but don’t be cruel or encourage hard feelings between your children.  Think of it not just in terms of ability, but maturity: a 5yo may be able to wash and rinse a few dishes, but would you expect her to do dinner dishes for 12?  Probably not.  Some kids just aren’t ready to commit to the toilet even though they seem perfectly able to use it when they focus.  It may seem ridiculous, and there are certainly other ways to address it, but this has worked for us relatively painlessly.  Some will shock you at how easily they transition, and others will shock you because little things are so hard.  When it comes to potty training, life will probably be happier for everyone if you can wait a bit and make sure you are all on the same team rather than making a battle of it and working against each other.

4. How do I wean a baby? This is number three, but he is VERY attached and it doesn’t matter how much solids he gets; he still nurses as much. Also, at what age do you wean?
I posted about weaning my babies here and in this breastfeeding FAQ.
5. How do you deal with picky eaters?
I posted about picky eaters here.
6. At what age do you think children ought to segregate to change/dress etc or do you do that from day one. Is within family different to with friends?
What an interesting question!  We haven’t had to lay down boundaries here because they seem to arise on their own.  After the naked stage, in which children strip off their clothes at any and every opportunity, ours have all naturally expressed a desire for privacy when dressing.  The age has varied for each one, but none have gotten so old that we thought we really needed to tell them – it just happened.  They segregate by gender much sooner, but even those of the same sex dress alone as they get older.  Outside family it definitely happens sooner, because we discourage even the very little ones from stripping in front of company.  🙂  For example, a potty training toddler who might run around in nothing but a t-shirt knows to run for cover when company arrives. However, that same toddler is perfectly happy to be changed or dressed by an older sibling of either gender.
7. With so many people in the house how do you regroup when you feel yourself starting to unravel? I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and have a hard time taking a step away to catch my breath and refocus my attitude.
I know how you feel.  Sometimes it’s asking too much just to have the bathroom stay closed while you sit on the pot, right?
I don’t believe in “me time,” but I do believe that it’s too easy to become stressed and overburdened by the constant demands of everyday life, and sometimes we ourselves are to blame.  In an instant gratification society, it’s easy to feel like a bad mom if you don’t fill all of your children’s needs immediately.  After all, they are needs.  Nobody should have to wait for those, right?
But it’s good practice for children to begin to learn patience even when they are little, and it’s also good for Mommy’s sanity if the 2yo doesn’t crumple into a wailing heap when he has to wait a few minutes for his cup of milk or water.
I’ve heard it said that Susannah Wesley threw her apron over her head to pray whenever and wherever she felt the need, and her children learned not to disturb her at those moments.  Our children can learn to respect our need for a moment of privacy now and then, too.
Teach your children to sit quietly with a book or toy for a few minutes.  Teach them to wait “just a minute” for their request with a good attitude.  Teach them that “Mommy needs a few minutes of quiet to help her have a good attitude, so please don’t talk right now.”  Set a timer if it helps.
When they get just a little older, a favorite trick of mine is to be off-limits during certain periods of time – when I’m in the bathroom, on the phone or reading my Bible, for example.  If they ask a question at those times, the automatic answer is no.  I can be very sympathetic or apologetic about this if I want, because it wasn’t my decision at all.  Don’t you see?  The poor little dear just ruined it for herself.
“Oh, no,” shaking my head sadly. “You asked if you could have a cookie while I was in the bathroom.  That sounds delicious, but now I have to say no.”
“Finger paint?  That would have been fun, but you asked while I was on the phone.  I guess we can’t now.”  Can you hear the heartbreak and disappointment in my voice?
Most people think it’s simultaneously cruel and hilarious, but it’s amazing how quickly children can learn to respect certain boundaries.  🙂

Q&A from the other Moms:

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  • August 16 – A surprise.  For you and me, because I’m too lazy to look up the list of upcoming topics.

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  1. I’m expecting my fifth, and I can’t think of any of my children who stayed dry at night until they were well past their fifth birthday. To me, it is sooooo not a big deal. My 4yo knows to take off her diaper in the morning and put it in the trash, so my only involvement is to put it on her at bedtime. Definitely much easier than changing sheets!

    • Also, I never potty train mine until they are old enough to climb up on the toilet themselves, wipe themselves, and wash their own hands. Some supervision/help with practicing at first, of course, but old enough to do it without my help very quickly. I’ve always felt that “potty trained” toddlers usually have very well-trained parents. Or maybe other peoples’ toddlers are just more capable than mine (definitely possible). Personally, the horror of taking a child to the [shudder] bathroom at the grocery store is far worse than diapering! So mine never potty train until they are 3…sometimes 4-ish.

  2. Having my question answered was like a nice internet hug – made my morning 🙂

  3. I love love love your discipline for helping older children understand boundaries!! Thanks for that tip!

  4. Just a word about night-time training… my first wasn’t dry at night until well into his seventh year. Long before that I’d been asking our doctor what was going on! We both agreed that there wasn’t a behavior issue involved , and really staying dry at night is just not something a child can “learn”, like they can learn to use the toilet in the day. Some kids are very deep sleepers and just don’t wake up.

    The best thing to do was… nothing. We put him in pull-ups and cheered for him every morning they were dry, and made zero fuss about the mornings they weren’t. And he eventually grew out of it. But making a big fuss over something he truly couldn’t control would only have caused everyone stress.

    Meanwhile his two-years-younger brother day and night-trained simultaneously. Go figure.

    Julie G

  5. I love #1. I’m so there! I have six children and have much to learn. I’m so glad to hear you have different expectations for them staying dry at night. With an almost four year old wearing diapers to bed and a 22 month old wearing panties to bed… I was starting to wonder if I should do something. “Wait” sounds like a great answer!

    Thanks for taking your time to post. It’s so good to “sit at your feet”.

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