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Cause and effect

August 4, 2011

I’ll never forget toilet training the first Sparkette.  The Jr. Spark had been a challenge and so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but there was no denying that they were very different little people and probably wouldn’t train the same way.  Boy, was I ever right about that.

Pull Ups were fairly new on the market.  They were a great idea in theory, but I found that they worked just like diapers: pee in them, and it’s pulled straight away from the body and the offending little bottom stays dry.  This is a good thing when a baby or toddler isn’t trained and wears a diaper all the time.  But training a child to do her biz in the toilet is a challenge when there really aren’t any consequences for not doing one’s biz in the toilet.  And Sparkette wasn’t experiencing consequences.  So I got an idea.

Pretty panties.  Big Girl panties.  Not Pull Ups.

It went something like this:

“Look, Sparkette…aren’t these pretty?”

Big awestruck eyes, nod.  “Are those for me?”

“Well, yes.  But not until you’re ready to stop wearing diapers and do all your pees and poops in the big toilet.  When you’re ready to try that, you can let me know.”

“I want to wear them now!”

“Are you sure?  Because it means you’ll sometimes have to stop playing and go to the toilet instead of just going in your diaper. Do you think you’re big enough to do that?”

Nods. “I can do that!”

And so we put a play dress on her (easier for pulling little panties up and down) and she donned a pair of pretty Big Girl panties.

Every so often I’d ask her if she needed to go.  She’d say no, and so I’d ask her if she wanted to try.  Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn’t.  But nothing happened. Until…

I was working at the table and she came up and began to chatter to me.  Suddenly she stopped in mid-sentence, an astonished and horrified expression frozen onto her face.  And down her little legs ran a stream of warm, wet pee.

For the first time ever, Sparkette felt the consequences of peeing somewhere other than the toilet.  It was messy.  It was uncomfortable.  It smelled weird.  And believe you me, she got the idea immediately.  Her training was complete that day because she really was motivated by the responsibility of wearing panties.

Not all of the Little Sparks trained so quickly or easily.  But I do not doubt for a minute that this Sparkette’s training would have gone on for weeks or months if I had not let her actually feel the consequences of her behavior.

Now, why am I telling you this?  Because it’s a long set-up for a mini-rant over this:

Handy?  Yes.  Convenient?  Yes.  Have the potential to make parents’ and caregivers’ lives easier?  Yes.  Handicap a child in developing the coordination to handle snacks and messy items with care?  Yes.  Handicap a child from learning that careless behavior might result in the consequences of losing one’s treats or having to clean up a mess?  Definitely.

There are times this product would be very handy.  Whoever came up with the idea is a genius, for sure.  But I question the wisdom of using any product that completely removes the reality of reasonable consequences from a child.  And by reasonable consequences I mean things that don’t endanger the child or cause miserably expensive damage.  Cheerios on the floor are a reasonable consequence.

Sometimes people forget that little children are adults in training.

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