The Dad Diary
Last week was a big week in the house. We now officially have only one child in nappies, as Frankie took a big step forward and is now toilet trained.
But it was a traumatic experience – for all of us.
Imagine it from the child’s point of view. For coming up on the first three years of your life you’ve had the ultimate in toilet convenience. You go when you want to go, no matter where you are. You don’t have to worry about cleaning up either. Your obliging parents will check you every so often and do that for you. It’s five-star service.
Then, all of a sudden, that comfort, that convenience is taken from you.
Not alone that, you had such privacy when you had your nappy. You could go whenever you wanted without anyone knowing – although the red face was sometimes a giveaway of trouble on the way.
Now it is a very public act. Every time you go you have an audience of two watching your every move. Fretting, cajoling and mop in hand, just in case.
It is a wonder a child every co-operates and leaves the nappies at all.
But here’s the rub: they do it thanks to classic, old-fashioned psychology. Mammy and Daddy use the toilet, the big kids use the toilet – and every two year old wants to imitate everyone who is older than them.
Well, there’s also treats – AKA one of the older tricks in the book, bribery.
Humans are mad keen on incentives, and the carrot-rather-than-the-stick approach. The carrots in this case were vanilla yogurt and these kids’ snake sweets (not real sweets at all, trust me, I sampled one).
The start of potty training was immediately followed by almost two full days of accidents, confusion and apprehension – and that was just myself and Aisling.
Frankie was being reactive and only going to the potty when the job was underway. We wondered whether we should pull the plug on it and wait for another time. We wondered if she was ready.
Then at the end of the second day, on a Wednesday night, just when she was being changed for bed, Frankie turned around to me and said what she was going to do in the potty and went and did exactly that.
Mayo goals in All-Ireland finals have been celebrated with less fervour. Poor Éamon got an awful shock with the commotion.
The biggest hurdle had just been cleared. Every time she went from then on, she took great joy in the huge round of applause she would receive (as well as the snakes). She had progressed to the toilet completely by the next day, and by the end of the day after that, she was not looking for any treats, satisfied with the praise alone.
And – touch wood – there have been no accidents since either. I might have a vanilla yoghurt to celebrate.
In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.