Thursday, May 5, 2011

Things Beyond My Control

If you've ever read any of Stephen Covey's books then you are probably well acquainted with what he has to say about "sphere of influence." Basically, the idea is that you can only control what you can control. Anything outside your sphere of influence is something you have no say over. You can't do anything about it. These are the things that Covey says we shouldn't stew about.  We have to let them go.  They are a waste of our time and energy.

With our children, there are a number of things that are outside our sphere of influence--things only they can control. These things, most of them, are bodily functions. We can't make our children sleep. We can set them up for success and give them a nice comfy place to lay down and a dark room, but the act of sleeping isn't something you can induce, or at least you shouldn't--sorry, no benadryl (I've heard of moms who do this). Another thing you can't control is going to the bathroom. You can teach them how; you can give them a place to do it, but you can't make them go, so put that enema away (ew!  Can you imagine?  No, I don't even want to go there). These bodily functions lie within our children's sphere of influence. They are the only ones who can control them. When we try to control them, they can lead to huge power struggles.

I am not the world's best potty trainer. Two of mine trained themselves--I waited that long, and although I started teaching from a very young age, I allowed them the freedom to choose when they wanted to go. #4, one day, got up, walked into the bathroom, did his business, and that was it. I never begged or pleaded, but I did start early teaching procedure and place; I just waited a VERY long time until he got it himself.  He probably just got tired of waiting for me. It seems that we worry about what the rest of the world thinks sometimes when it comes to this. We feel pressure from society.

With #5, he wasn't as motivated as the brother before him. I would invite him to go on a daily basis, but it didn't become a habit, but then it was time for preschool to start. The rule was that a child had to be potty trained. I, always thinking ahead, realized this the week before it started. Ugh! I put on the full court press--set the timer, etc. He was trained before he started school, but I had honestly waited until the last possible minute. I really wanted it to be his thing, not mine. He was old enough that once he got it, he got it.

The only reason I trained my later kids this way is because I totally blew it with my first experiences. I was all about control. It was terrible for both of us, and I paid the price for a long time.

The Warden was teaching 3rd and 4th grade at that point in time. He had a boy in his class that had daily accidents both 1s and 2s. EW!  My poor husband!  He would come home and tell me these stories, and I'd freak out. I had always heard that no child ever starts school not potty trained. This kid was the exception. I full court pressed my first from the age of two. I hated it, and so did she. When it was over, I promised I'd never do it that way again.

#7, for the past couple weeks, has come to me a number of times holding herself saying, "Peepee. Peepee." I'm sure she's learned this from the kids in nursery at church. I put her on the toilet and she sits there smiling at me innocently saying, "And now what?" with her eyes. Someday, I think....Someday. I don't plan on holding her back, and I definitely don't plan on pushing her. This is her baby.

Here are my feelings on the whole potty thing....They have to learn from their own experiences. If there's an accident, there's no need to get upset about it. It's natural; it happens. You simply teach him/her how to clean it up. After they've learned to your satisfaction, they are their own clean up crew. Don't freak no matter how much you might want to. No need to make it traumatic. It's not the end of the world--no matter how bad it is.

If he/she chooses to hold it until the last minute, so be it. The only way a child will learn to do the appropriate things sometimes is by us allowing him/her to mess up sometimes (pun intended). Yes, it's nasty, and yes, it stinks, but there is a sense of pride in being in control and knowing how to handle all aspects of life--even this one. Just teach the clean up procedure too even at night if they wet the bed.  Of course, you have to go with what's age and child appropriate.  There's no way #7's going to change her sheets if her diaper leaks at night, but #6 sure can at age 4.  He just can't reach the clean sheets in the linen closet, so that becomes the job of someone taller.  I still oversee him and encourage him as he does it, though.

When your child does it right, give him/her a pat on the back and a "good job" or an "I'm so proud of you." It's all part of growing up and we all makes mistakes. It's just that sometimes it seems like it will go on FOREVER. It won't. I promise.


Wonder Woman said...

Thanks so much for this post!!!! So far it's the only one of yours I've read, but you seem like a wealth of parenting knowledge. My #2 is almost five and is just barely fully potty-trained. For the last year he has had a good month, then a regression, in a pretty regular pattern. I tried not to make a big deal out of it, and it seems like it may have finally paid off.

Jen said...

I totally agree with you. My daughter was potty trained at 10 months. She wanted to do it. Then she suddenly reverted back to not doing it and was put back in pull ups. It was another 6 months before she did it for good. But it was on her terms. My sons was done by bribery, then a timer, then he just deciding he was ready. You are wise. Power and control often gets us nowhere.

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