Insights from Potty Training

by Ray Reuter on April 23, 2015

ToiletOne of the earliest behaviors that I see my precious grandchildren struggle to master is “potty training.” It is one of the most significant behavior modifications that they have complete control over in their young lives. As I observe them during this phase, it has been instructional to my own attempts to change my habits, and what I see in others who want to change.

First it begins with awareness. Before I can change, I must be aware. I must notice. The grandkids become aware of their bodily functions.

Second, I must want to change. There is a period where the grandkids have awareness yet go stand in a corner or hide to do their thing. The kids are aware and the diaper works just fine for now! I am comfortable with that; I am used to that.

Then, the discomfort increases to the point where a change is considered. I am willing to try, to test something new, to face the intimidation of the toilet. This is where outside influences start to kick into high gear such as …

  • Attraction. Here is fun, colorful, attractive potty chair. This is for you!
  • Affirmation. You are “big boy / big girl.” You are special!
  • Reward. There is a treat that awaits success! You earned it!

This stage has various degrees of success and duration, and often “accidents” happen. There is regression, occasional back-sliding. I notice this happens most often when distractions are high and / or there is a loss of focus such as playing outside, intense play with cousins, watching a movie. So the loving parents and grandparents remind remind remind the kids … “Do you need to go potty?” I liken this to accountability … facilitating the desired change through reminders and follow-up.

And ideally, at some point, it magically comes together. The awareness, the desire, the incentive, the accountability ultimately transform into a new, consistent behavior. Yeah!

Now take a look at yourself. What behavior are you aware of? Are you motivated and willing to change? Have you created attraction, affirmation, reward? Do you have someone supporting you and holding you accountable? Put all this together and you can flush your old behavior away!

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