So I have to admit I am pretty conceited when it comes to my potty training ability. Besides my two older boys, I have potty-trained hundreds of boys and girls through out the last 10 years. I worked at children’s center for years, at first as a teacher then later as a Director. I always told eager parents at preschool, “wait until they are ready. If they are really ready it will be a cinch and will only take a couple days.”
If those parents could see me now… they would see me sticking my big fat foot right in my mouth! Have you ever had one of those toddlers… you know the ones that are so stubborn and strong willed that you are practicing your compromising and negotiating skills constantly? For a while I didn’t think they actually existed… yes I really was that
foolish overconfident in my abilities. I figured those kids were only those kids because the adult didn’t quite know what they were doing. Oh geez… so foolish. I am now repenting of my pride!
So you probably guessed it. I now have one of those toddlers. I have to tell you this third little boy of mine is no doubt the cutest most adorable little guy you will ever interact with. He is fascinated with everything and loves life so dearly that when he runs to give you a giant squeeze because he is so excited to find his lost matchbox car he lost earlier… I mean really there are no words for the joy he brings us. With that being said, he was the most challenging child to potty train I have ever come across!!!
So this is my journal in potty-training the stubborn and un-potty-trainable.
Pre Potty-Training: Making sure he was ready.I could tell my little guy was ready. In fact, he was ready before I was. He was getting jealous that his big brothers got to go potty. He would bring me a diaper and tell me he needed a diaper change. He would often wake up dry from his nap. One day he came and asked me to take him potty even. It was in the middle of Christmas craziness so I convinced him he didn’t need to use the potty and decided I would start him on the potty once the holidays were over. Boy… jokes on me now huh!
Preparation: Potty charts and stickers
So I got him a big foam poster board and some Lightning McQeen stickers (he is obsessed with cars). I divided the board up in half and put “pee” on one half and “poo” on the other. We then had a talk about how he is such a big boy and can go pee pee and poo poo on the potty now. No more diapers, just big boy undies! I explained how he would get to put a sticker on his board every time he went potty in the big boy potty. I showed his new cool undies and talked about how we didn’t want to get our new Mcqueen undies yucky. You get the point. Anyway, he was excited about the stickers and the undies and was ready to go.
So here we go! He wakes up we take off his diaper and have him sit. I am a big fan of the little potties that sit on the regular potty. I didn’t want to train him on a small potty on the floor and then have to transfer him to the big potty. Cold turkey is the way to go. They just get confused if they are sometimes allowed to pee in their diaper and other times not. It is a hard week, a bit messy, definitely frustrating, but I swear it is the best and quickest way.
So the hardest party about potty-training is getting the toddler to understand what you are expecting of him. He hasn’t seen himself ever go potty and up to this point has sort of let his body do what it wants without much thought from him. I know I needed to get him on the potty at the right time and then cheer and dance like a crazy lady to reinforce his success. So we sat… I read every book I could get him to sit through, sang songs, clipped his fingernails, whatever I could do to get him to sit and wait. Then I let him run around in just his undies for 15-20 minutes before returning to the potty. And the cycle repeats throughout the day.
The first time he peed in his undies and he ran to me saying, “oh no… I spilled.” Not sure he understood where the “spill” came from, but it was pretty cute anyway. Each time I took him to the potty and he was already wet, I say “Oh no! We pee in the potty, not in our undies!” Then we sit on the potty for as long as he can stand it… sometimes we alternate between standing and sitting.
So after a full day of this, I have to admit I was incredibly exhausted and had no stickers on his chart to show for it. I had never previously gone a full day without one potty success in my potty-training experience.
I still felt okay though. In past potty training experiences I have always felt like giving up after the 2nd day, so I promised myself to keep going with it.
Same thing as yesterday… lots of sitting, but not success! Seriously! I was vigorous too! I made sure he went in every 15 minutes and kept him occupied for at least 15 minutes at a time. I could tell that by the afternoon he was really frustrated too. He didn’t want to keep sitting on the potty for so long. I started to reward him for just sitting in order to keep it a positive thing. Lots of nice words and one M&M for his effort. This worked for a time, but my stubborn boy decided he didn’t care and told me he did not want to “spill” or “pee pee” or any sort of thing in the potty. Each time we sat on the potty and I asked him to push and try to go potty he would scream, “No! I don’t want too!”
I told myself, that I was okay and reminded myself that day 2 is always the worst and that the trick is to push through it no matter what. Tomorrow would be better. We’ll see.
So I woke up with the goal of ensuring he had some success today. We were both exhausted and I didn’t want either of our efforts the last two days to be in vain. I was desperate for success and tried getting him to sit for longer spans on the potty. At one point during this time sitting, my dogs started being obnoxious and wanted to go out, but I knew he had to go potty at some point and didn’t want to miss it. Finally, I enlisted my 4 year old. I had him come in the bathroom with Andy and told him to tell me if he saw any pee pee come out.
I ran to let the dogs out to do their business. I stood at the back door waiting for them while keeping a good listening ear toward the bathroom. The dogs ran back inside just as I heard my four year old yell, “He did it mommy! I saw pee pee!” Doh! I had missed it and only had the word of a four year old as proof that it happened. Not wanting to miss any opportunity to cheer and give some praise after two long days, I decide to celebrate completely! We picked out a sticker for our board and we did a jumping shaking high fiving potty dance!
The rest of the day was uneventful, only I noticed that he was having less and less accidents. Not that he was having success in the potty, but he was using less undies throughout the day. Finally, some sort of measurable progress! He has figured out that he is not supposed to wet his pants and has figured out how to hold it. In fact, he only had one accident before his nap and that was when I was making lunch and not paying attention to him. The little bugger… he knew just when to go and get away with it. Yes, it would be better if he had figured out how to let it loose, but still… progress is progress. We went into the next day a little more hopeful.
So today was interesting. I decided to try the naked approach to switch things up a bit. I have heard a lot of people use it and although I have never needed to use this method on the other boys I figured it was worth a shot. Backfire! He ended up peeing all over himself and the floor while running around the dining room- living room-kitchen loop. He then slipped in his own pool of pee and ended up sprawled out on the floor crying. I calmed him down and had him help me clean up his mess (this has always been a rule of mine… no better way to show him the consequences of peeing his pants than having him help clean it up). He was begging to wear his undies after this.
So strange that this isn’t taking by now! I know he is ready… right?!?!?! Now I am doubting myself even though I know he showed every sign of preparedness. So we decided to play it cool and let him relax a bit doing his favorite thing…. Taking a bath. He was really excited and ran upstairs to the tub. He took a detour to his room and grabbed a diaper first and told me he needed a diaper. What? No you don’t… you are a big boy. No more diapers. That was random. I put him in the tub. A few minutes of splashing and playing and he is calling, “eeewww! Yucky in the bath tub!” Sure enough, he has just pooped in the tub. Okay so a kid who goes to get his diaper for me just before he is about to poo…. He is so ready. He can do this! This is progress! Motivation for me to keep moving!
Later on, we finally had a successful “spill” in the potty followed by lots of cheering and another sticker on his board. I didn’t miss it this time! I had a front row seat and made sure he saw it all too.
Ugh! Could it really by day 5 without much success? My hubby and I started discussing options. Should we cut our losses and move on? It had been a very long week so far and we had all been trapped in the house during this tiring cycle. We hadn’t quite decided what to do and I just wasn’t sure it was in his best interest to give up these last few days of hard work… not just yet.
We started the day off in the bath tub. I stripped him down and stood him in there. What the heck… “make pee pee Andy” I said. He smiled up at me and said, “okay mommy. I make pee pee in the bath tub.” Then just like that he peed! What the $#%%!!!!!?!!?!?! Just like that!?!?!?! He jumped excitedly clapping and laughing and cheering for himself… this same cheer and excitement that always melts my heart. So I was mad… he has seriously been holding out on me. The stubborn kid!!!!
So what am I missing? Is it the potty itself he objects to? Is it the fact that he just wants to do it on his own terms? Should I get him a small potty for the floor, even though I have always found them unnecessary? One thing is sure… I am not giving up. Not now when it is so obvious he can do this! I decide to try the small potty. Maybe it is just small enough that he can stand over it and feel in control enough to use it, after all he has to stand on a stool in the real potty and maybe he just isn’t comfortable that way. The problem is, the hubby has left for work and I am on my own with all the kids and have to be at the bus stop at 11am for the kindergarten bus, then its lunch time and nap time, and then my first grader will be getting off the bus.
So I am ashamed to say it, but there was just no way to go get the potty today. Instead, each time he was ready to go potty I took him to the bath tub and told him to go. I know right… terrible, terrible, but ask yourself what you would do if you were me! ?!?!? At this point I am as humble as I can be with my failure right before my eyes and I am willing to do anything! Each time I put him in the tub, he smiles and goes pee pee followed by his adorable little jumping excitement and high fiving action.
So this is where we end day 5. He has stopped having accidents. He knows how to hold it. He knows when poo poo is coming, but hasn’t yet gotten it in the potty (fun right?!?!). He knows how to make the pee pee come out and is willing to do it when asked… as long as it is in the bathtub! Oh geez! The best part is how he runs (visualize his little plump legs going as fast as they can through the house) back and forth to his brothers or his daddy for the next five minutes to give high fives and tell them how he peed in the bathtub! What could tomorrow possible bring! I obviously can’t let this continue!
All right, we got the little potty and we are ready to go. Of course he hates the little potty and refuses to even stand near it! Seriously kid! So my hubby had a great idea and decided to put the little potty in the bathtub. Ha! He had no problem going on the little potty as long as it was in the tub. Ridiculous! Luckily the gimmicky star stickers that you pull out of the little potty and stick on the back won him over. By the end of the day he was peeing like a champ on that thing without having to put it int he bathtub! No more bathtub! Thankgoodness! Great day! We finally ventured out with him in his big boy undies. We went to the library and then ran a quick errand. The trip took an hour and half. He held it the entire time and was ready to go potty as soon as we got home! Real success at last!
One Month Later
Poopy training took a bit longer. We just had to be consistent and up the rewards a bit. We went and got a few matchbox cars (he is pretty obsessed with those) and hung them up on the wall near the bathroom. Every time he passed by the cars and asked for them we told him he could pick one if he made poo poo in the potty. He tried, but for a while just felt more comfortable waiting until I put on his diaper at bedtime. We tried lots of things including letting him go naked from the waist down. Honestly though, only time and patience helped. One day he just came to us and said he needed to go poop. We put him on the potty just as we always do when we think he needs to go and the crazy thing was… he just went. No problem.
It has been a long road and he has by far been the hardest child I have ever potty trained. That’s saying a lot coming from the once arrogant professional potty trainer. I will take this humble time and try to hold on to it… I have a feeling that I will be needing it for a long time while raising this little monkey.