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[BOOK REVIEW] Oh Crap Potty Training

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Full Title: Oh Crap Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right

Book Author: Jamie Glowacki, The Pied Piper of Poop
Page Count: 288

Does it stand to reason that the Oh Crap approach is worth a try if it’s worked for so many families? Yes. Was I inspired to use it personally? Not so far.

I would recommend the Oh Crap approach to households that are motivated to get potty training done quickly and have some time to dedicate to a sort of boot camp. Whether the motivation is the cost of diapers, the labor of cleaning up diapers, wanting to simplify errands, outings, and travel, or wanting to help your child graduate with this life skill promptly. Those are all legitimate reasons to try this, but you didn’t need me to start that list, because really, the benefits of a potty-friendly child are obvious. Later in this review, I’m going to talk about why I didn’t choose to integrate Glowacki’s method into my childcare practice. However, I can imagine many scenarios in which the pros outweigh the cons, so I support you if you want to give it a try.

Content warning for the book: There is overt sexism in the way she addresses fathers that could be harmful to readers of any gender identity.

Her Method:

It happens in “blocks,” so you can focus on one set of skills before moving on to the next block. For example, in the first block you encourage the child to be naked, give them plenty to drink, and offer verbal prompts for when it’s time to go sit on the potty. Once they master naked toileting, you know they understand their body’s cues and the general idea enough to move on to the next phase of potty training with loose clothes and no undies. It builds in that way, with night training in the final blocks. There is a summary page in the back of the book that lists all the steps in one place.

What I appreciate about the book:

I would like the blocks reframed as “competencies” to reference as a casual gauge for a child’s progress. The author’s expertise on the practical skills needed for toileting is undeniable and a list of competencies would be a great resource.

The thing I took away from this book and use all the time is her firm language about going to the potty. I used to throw around a lot of, “Do you need to go potty?” (And still do sometimes.) But with a toddler who doesn’t know what that feels like yet, it’s not a very helpful question. It could be a nice prompt to get them to think about what “needing to go potty” means. It’s not wrong to ask. It’s just not super effective if the idea is to get pee to go into a toilet instead of on the rug in that exact moment. I like her script to say, “It’s time to go to the potty now.” It’s nice to have a script to communicate to the child what’s the next thing we’re going to do.

I like that Glowacki normalizes poop and pee. It’s something that’s okay to talk to toddlers about and give them words for. I also like that she leaves it open to families to choose what words work for their household. I’m all for celebrating a diversity of family cultures. I like to teach anatomical language, imagining the child as a future adult that needs to do productive google searches and communicate with doctors when their bodies do weird things, but then I also use pee and poop, because urine and bowel movement can cross the line into too clinical. There’s a balance.

Probably not the last thing, but the last thing I wrote down as an appreciation, is Glowacki’s empathy for the child being potty trained. I had not thought about that fact having poop smooshed in a container attached to their butt could be a pleasant sensation to someone who’s never known otherwise. There’s a security that is lost with any change, and if the goal is to connect with the child and help them with that change, having compassion for their loss is essential.

Questions I asked as I read this, AKA what I’d like to see more of:

  • Does this approach integrate into our routine? I’m skeptical of any practice for educating toddlers that asks me to deviate from our daily routine. To me, that feels dismissive of a really great toddler care tool. Routine has so many benefits for child-parent and child-caregiver relationships. It helps build security and trust within the relationship, but also in the child’s world broadly. They know that needs will be met. They know the who, what, where, when, how, and sometimes why of those needs being met. The world feels like a manageable size instead of the massive ball of chaos it actually is. When appropriate, I construct routines with the children’s input to support social skills and respect their individuality. Our routines are co-created and each moment is co-created. That’s not to say that breaks from routine are harmful, or anyone should be expected to stick to a set schedule strictly, every day, no matter what. Of course, I shuffle care tasks and events around as needed, am generally human, and apologize for none of that. However, I wouldn’t want to throw out the whole for one part. The Oh Crap method invites you to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. To be fair, that’s going to happen no matter what method you use, but with this it happens in a concentrated chunk of time. I have worked with a potty training child that was in danger of not being totally out of diapers in time for preschool, so I can empathize with the pressure that adds and why parents would want to offer more learning opportunities to the child to speed things up. Like many things, though, parents and caregivers make their jobs harder than they need to be. Little trips to the bathroom over time will accomplish the same thing this boot camp approach accomplishes in most cases.

  • Is it child led? It could be...maybe? If a child really wanted to be done with diapers they might opt in. You could explain to them how it works and what you’re excited about and they might be excited too. I could see it working well in the summer, maybe, when little kids want to be naked in the backyard (if you have one) anyway, and you’re bringing out lots of drinks for them. “Summer” is kind of my potty training strategy anyway. [Insert chortle.] I appreciate the desire for an action plan and that there are a lot of challenges that come up around toileting. It might not sound very actionable, but my recommendation is to remember the powers of modeling, opportunities, and choices. If the parents are cool with it, the child can hang out with me when I go to the bathroom and ask questions. Eventually their interest lines up with their biology and they try the potty with increasing frequency. They get excited about undies. We have a conversation about when the diapers will be all done so that the child can see the event for the milestone that it is, maybe a birthday. Remember, also, that children learn in so many ways. You can bring in books, songs, videos (if the household is screens-friendly), puppets, and play. My approach is to let it start out “that simple” (as if modeling, consent conversations, play, and patience are simple) and most of the time, that’s enough, though the unpredictable timeline can be unsettling, and certainly, if you’re concerned your child may be experiencing developmental delays, please talk to a doctor or advocate.

  • Is it respectful? Oh Crap Potty Training could do more to emphasize body autonomy or consent. I want lots of that, for everyone. I wouldn’t want someone to make me hang out naked, push me to drink more than normal, and make me focus on toileting when I’d rather be doing other things. I recognize that the author has children’s and families’ best interests at heart and has helped so many people overcome challenges. I’m not trying to take down some big evil (or take anyone down, at all here, I promise). If practiced in an overall respectful environment, I don’t think a child’s going to be scarred by these practices. As caregivers, we take some of the responsibility for another person’s person away from them sometimes to otherwise support them with boundaries, naps when needed, not letting them run into a busy street, blocking their hand from hitting a sibling, etc. This book considers the child’s perspective. I want a version of this book that focuses on that more.

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