“That’s three accidents so far,” I texted my husband at 9:15 a.m.
“Make that four.”
It was the first day of potty training my twins, and it wasn’t going well. Now, I had figured there would be an accident or two, but I never once envisioned spending half the day cleaning.
I was at my wit’s end — and we were just getting started. Was this a huge mistake? I thought. Had I committed a cardinal sin of change management by trying to force a new system on people who weren’t ready? Or was I simply overreacting to the initial pushback?
I had no idea what to do. It reminded me of when the babies first came home from the hospital and I no longer had the NICU nurses to help me. All of a sudden, I had to be the one to judge whether they were hungry or just fussy; whether they needed a break during a feeding or were full. It was terrifying.
This, on the other hand, was just plain frustrating. I wanted someone to tell me whether I should throw in the towel or keep at it. But there was no hovering nurse; just me. I was the decision-maker.
And so I decided to embrace my methodical side and run through a checklist, drawing from everything I’d ever read — and heard from CIOs — about successful change management, and ask the following questions:
- Are my kids really ready for this change, or am I forcing it on them?
I gave this some serious thought, and based on the fact that they had both been trying at least a few times a day to use the potty, I decided they were at least somewhat ready.
- Am I providing the right support?
This was a tough one, because I realized right away that I was probably overreacting to the accidents. And so I knew I had to resist the urge to have a normal reaction to an accident, and instead, take a deep breath and say, “It’s okay. That happens sometimes. Now let’s go sit on the potty.”
- Am I providing the right incentives?
For this one, I asked my friend Courtney for advice. Her strategy was to have a basket of toys or books that stayed by the potty, and could be played with/read only during those times. I decided to do that, while also using stickers as rewards. (One mom told me she used M&M’s, but with all the struggles I’ve had to get my kids to eat healthy foods, there’s no way I’m resorting to that… unless things get really desperate.)
- Is the project failing, or are these just setbacks?
Ah, yes. This question. When I asked myself this, I was forced to acknowledge perhaps my biggest flaw: impatience. If I don’t get something right the first time, I get frustrated — really frustrated. It’s something I’m trying to change; in fact, it’s precisely why I first decided to try vinyasa yoga, and why I stuck with it even thought I didn’t see immediate results.
These accidents, I decided, are normal. It would be one thing if they weren’t using the potty at all, but they are. And so maybe it was worth sticking with it.
- Are my expectations too high?
Here’s another tough one. I had planned to start this process on a Friday, and send my kids to daycare on Monday, 100 percent training. I now realize how ridiculous that was. Instead of thinking about Monday — or even Sunday, I decided to break it down into chunks and say to myself, “Let’s see where we are by noon.” And then, “let’s give it until the end of the day.”
It was the same tactic that helped me through the newborn days, when I’d look at the clock and realize it was 9:30 a.m., and I had eight hours until reinforcements were on the way. I learned from a good friend to break it up and say, “Okay, let’s get to 11 a.m.” Then, “let’s get to 1 p.m.,” and so on.
- Am I receiving the right support?
I can’t stress how critical this is. Part of what drove my expectations so high was hearing from two different moms whose kids took very easily to potty training. Big mistake. My kids are not, in fact, potty training savants, and so I sought out people who I knew ran into hurdles — not just for advice, but also so I could vent.
Now, I wish I could say we’re home-free. We’re not, but we’re making progress. And through this experience, I learned, once again, that you can’t always change a situation, but you can change your reaction to it (credit to Chris Walden).
Guess I needed some training too.