Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Pottywise for Toddlers

Pottywise for Toddlers: A Developmental Readiness Approach to Potty Trainingby Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Buckham, M.D., Parent Wise Solutions, Inc., 2005, 135 pages, $9.95 US.

Brief overview of content

This book could easily have been divided into three parts. First the authors discuss what's required before you begin to potty train. Readiness involves not only the physical development and control (to some extent) of the child, but also the volitional readiness (the child wants to go potty) and the parent's (or parents') readiness (knowing what to do and being committed to following through). Also, the potty training infrastructure (e.g., potty chair/seat, training pants, rewards, sippy cup, doll, etc.) for this program is described so that the reader will be fully prepared to move to the second part.

The second part deals with the actual training. The plan focuses on an intensive training that should take only one day, though they do encourage mommy or daddy to give at least four days in case extra work is needed. On the first day, the parent has the child train a doll how to use the potty, going from drinking from a sippy cup to checking dryness to using the potty. Then the child begins the program, using rewards to reinforce success. The key concept in this training program is "dry and clean."  Using the potty is just the means to achieve this end. The child gets a reward for checking and staying dry and gets a double reward for using the potty to stay dry and clean. This process is repeated regularly throughout the day (checking dryness with reward, sitting on the potty, getting a double reward for using the potty). The authors do acknowledge that not everyone can make this time and focus commitment and give some tips on having a longer term plan (training over weeks or months).

The third part reviews common problems, setbacks and questions that come up during training and immediately thereafter. Practical advise is given on accidents, bedwetting, tapering off giving rewards, etc. Since a big part of their recommendations is to have a more or less regular schedule for the child, an appendix describes how best to structure a toddler's day and gives a chart that can be adapted by the reader. A subject index also helps the reader quickly get to relevant information.

Author overview

Blurb from the back of the book: "Gary Ezzo, M.A., serves as the executive director of Growing Families International. He and his wife Anne Marie have authored a number of parenting curriculums translated into fifteen languages and utilized by more than two and one-half million households. The Ezzo's have two daughters, six grandchildren, and reside in South Carolina. Robert Buckman, M.D., F.A.A.P. is the founder and director of Cornerstone Pediatrics in Louisville, Colorado, where he resides with his wife Gayle, and their four sons."


1. Read cover to cover vs. consult as needed.

This book is a short, quick read (one or two night's worth of reading, tops).  A subject index and a chapter with answers to specific questions or for specific scenarios (like what to do if your little boy is aiming all over the place when he pees) can be used for a quick consult. So you could read cover to cover and consult as needed!

2. Readability.

The authors do a good job of balancing between academic precision and a more personal tone. They always talk about "you" and "your child" not just "a parent" or "a child". "Your child" is almost always referred to as "she" and "her" (except when speaking of specifically male potty training issues). "You" always seems to refer to Mommy, too, so I guess I'm off the hook for potty training according to this book! My wife may disagree...

3. Helpful to a parent?

Being aware of the signs of potty training readiness is very helpful for a parent. The progressive potty training program is laid out clearly in steps and with pictures, so it is easy to follow what they recommend or adapt it to your particular circumstances.

4. Did we use it?

And here's the rub. We tried it a few months back. Angie took Jacob to the local convenience store and bought some treats. Saturday morning, Lucy's Raggedy Andy got stripped (thus solving one mystery) and put on some of Jacob's big boy underpants. Angie ran through the training with Andy, giving him a cracker for checking his "dry and clean" status and giving double rewards for using the potty (Angie masterfully made up sound effects). Jacob was very excited about all of this. Then his turn came. He was okay for a while. He checked himself a few times. Then he took a dump in his big boy underpants and all heck broke loose. The mess was more than Angie could take, so potty training ended then and there. We still get him to sit on the potty now and then. He's had individual successes, one with Mommy and one with Granny, but no consistent results. Jacob has upgraded to size five diapers. I hope he doesn't make it to size six. Check back for future reviews of other potty training books.

Sample text

On readiness for potty training:  Of the many universal laws of child development, one in particular has specific application for the sport of potty training. It's called the structure-function principle, and it states that a child cannot perform certain functions (activities), until specific developmental structures are in place and sufficiently mature. This is a fancy way of saying don't start training your child until she has both the capacity to learn and the ability to achieve. (pp. 14-15)

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