Our toddler is almost three now. We’d been discussing potty training for a while. So finally we settled on a week where we had four consecutive days that could be devoted to the endeavor – my wife would be home for the first two days (clearly she drew the short straw), and I would manage the second two days. My wife and I both read a really helpful (relatively short and cheap) book called Potty Training in 3 Days by Brandi Brucks. And we were ready-ish. I certainly learned some lessons along the way. And since I’m incapable of turning off certain portions of my brain, I couldn’t help but make correlations between potty training the toddler and client management.
1. Establish Who Is in Charge
He knows what he wants. He doesn’t like not getting what wants. But what he wants is not always what is in his best interest. In fact, what he wants in this particular instance is to continue pooping and peeing all over himself. But you happen to be an expert in this area. You’ve been handling these kinds of situations for years. You know something he doesn’t – you know what’s in his best interest. There’s going to be a fight to get him to see your point of view, but you know that once he becomes receptive to the idea, he will immediately and irreversibly understand why you’re solution is better than the position in which he has entrenched himself.
But the only way to get your audience to be interested in understanding that not only do you know what you’re talking about, but also that he needs to follow your instructions is to establish yourself as the authority figure in the situation. There can be no wavering. There can be no concessions. There can be no alternatives.
2. Set Expectations
One of the best ways to establish yourself as the person in charge of a situation is to set expectations early on. With potty-training a toddler, we began talking about the changes we were going to implement days in advance. We let him pick out his “big boy underwear.” Once we had established what changes were going to occur, we empowered him by allowing him to make choices within set parameters – he didn’t get to choose whether he was going to wear big boy underwear; instead, he got to choose what kind he wanted. We wanted him to understand that he and his decisions were an intrinsic part of the process so that he would be invested in the outcome. But it was also necessary to bracket his power. In order for that to be effective, we had to educate him on the process.
Our toddler is inquisitive. He is directly affected by the outcome of the changes we are implementing. So it is in our best interest (and his) to educate him on the process and set his expectations. He is going to be far more compliant and trusting if he understands not only the process but also the ultimate goal.
3. Be Consistent
There is no better way to affirm the expectations you have set than by being consistent after implementing changes. If you start and stop the process at every hiccup, your audience is going to be confused. You will undo all that work you have put into establishing yourself as the authority figure.
There are going to crossroads, moments where you find your face firmly resting in the palms of your hands, and to be frank, there are going to be time when things are really crappy. BUT you must be consistent. You have a plan. You know the end goal. Detours may become unavoidable, but not wholesale deviations from the plan. You’re in charge. You know what’s best because you do these things all the time. You know how to get yourself and your client/toddler from the situation in which she currently finds herself to the destination.
You’ve established yourself as the authority figure. You’ve set her expectations. Now take the necessary measures to consistently implement your plan so that you can each celebrate both the small wins along the way and the ultimate victory of achieving your goal.
Photo by Shana.