From the Diary of Potty Training Nightmares – Part Three

After one and a half months potty training was a bust for me. Everything I was doing was yielding little results. I would have one success only to be followed by more and more failures. All parties involved where frustrated. It was time to research again. I needed more graphs. I needed more data. I needed more ideas. I needed Google.

Google and I are great friends. I knew her when she was a newborn. Tyler introduced me to her fancy search engine and although he referred to her as a “thing” I knew immediately she was a female, because who else can keep all that information straight and organized?

Google provided me with the fresh restart I needed. If anything it was nice to see what other parents were doing and that I was not the only one. I did get a bit angry at some naive parents’ suggestions. It seems when some people have an easy time with it they feel that everyone else with problems must be doing it wrong. They also have a tendency to rub in their accomplishments. One parent insisted that all she did was tell her daughter to “now pee on the potty” and the next day she was out of diapers. She was chastising another parent that was having trouble telling her, “You’re making this all too complicated. Potty training is so easy!” I wanted to invite her to my home and prove it to me. I also wanted to crush her spirit.

I have never wished harm on another human, so I knew I was stressed on the subject when I had these thoughts. I also knew I was getting delirious when I was willing to spend unimaginable amounts of money to help me get the potty job done. I am extremely frugal and when I was looking up flights to the other side of the United States for a potty training boot camp I knew I was hitting my breaking point.

I did stumble on some interesting information during all my research and decided to completely change my attitude about the whole thing. I decided to make the process more fun and inviting. It needed to fit both my personality and Isaac’s.

First of all I needed to teach Isaac a few skills to help him feel successful. He needed to know what wet and dry meant. He needed to be more of a pro at pulling his own pants down. He also needed to be clearer on what was expected of him. He also needed more motivation than just pleasing his parents.

For the next few weeks I worked on these skills with him. I would point out wet items and dry items in the house. He wore mostly cotton underwear at home so I could continue to show him wet and dry and say, “hey you are going pee pee.” When I would notice he was going, I would say “now you are wet. We like to stay dry.” I would try to make this as non-threatening and casual as possible. I then would comment, “someday you will put your pee in the potty. That will be awesome!”

I had him watching every potty video I could find that I felt was of high quality. The fact that Elmo used the potty too was a huge eye opener for him. We talked a lot about the potty and how we all use the potty. I got a ton of children’s potty books and read them to him often. We would talk about the characters and point to the pictures. We would take field trips to our own potty and talk about the things we read about. Our toys used the potty often and we would wipe their bottoms. He had a set of bath cars that would fill with water in a small hole out the bottom and we would hold them over the toilet and they would “pee” into the toilet. Isaac would dutifully wipe them clean and flush. He was very encouraging to them and would exclaim “Good job, red car! Good job Lighting McQueen!”

I also tried using this same technique for poop. When he would poop in a diaper we would hold the diaper over the toilet and let it fall in and then explain, “Poop’s home is in the potty. Poop belongs in the potty. When we poop we will try to poop into the potty like mommy and daddy.” For a teaching session I got one of his toys and it would grunt and strain over his potty chair and poop out a Hersey’s chocolate square. It was all I had in my cupboard. The first time I tried this Isaac’s eyes were huge and he squealed in delight. He then dove straight in after the candy and quickly plunked it in his mouth. Thankfully the potty hadn’t been used yet. He then yanked the toy from my hand and shook and squeezed the thing all the while excitedly questioning, “Where is the chocolate? Where did it go? More poo poo chocolate, please!” I learned my lesson not to use anything as easily recognizable as Hersey’s chocolate again.

Isaac was also still weary to sit on the potty. So I had to make that more inviting. I ditched the potty chair for a while, since I felt too many negative feelings were attached to its use. I went and got a potty chair that fit over our toilet seat and a stool. I then decorated up the toilet with paper and put waxed paper over the tank area. I put play dough and some toy cars up there as well. I faced him backwards on the toilet and let him color pages I ripped out of a coloring book and taped to the back of the seat. I chose car characters since he was really into that at the time. I would give him water and after an hour I would take him in there to play.

I did all this for about a month and really only got him to pee on the potty a few times. I was happy with the results, because at this point I was just happy he was sitting there without fuss or major melt down. The real miracle came on a day when I least expected it. He had been sitting on the potty coloring and decided he was done after twenty minutes. He climbed off and we both went into the living room. I noticed I had an email, so I started to reply as he was playing with some toys. We hadn’t gotten around to putting his pants back on.

After a few moments he wandered back into the bathroom and I quickly tried to finish up my email in case he tried to get into some trouble in there. Quiet is never good when it comes from a two-year-old boy.

Suddenly he came running back into the living room exclaiming a bunch of incoherent toddler speak of which I could only understand the words “potty” and “fell in.” He also looked extremely worried. I immediately begin to panic over the number of Tyler’s fancy techno gadgetry that could have been dropped in the toilet. I rushed into the room as if I could save the doomed device or catch it lest it be hanging on a precipice. Upon my arrival I peered into the toilet hesitantly expecting to find an iPod only to discover a child-sized turd. I had never been so happy to find a floater in my life. I knew that it was not in there before and only Isaac and I were in the house. I really hoped I didn’t have a toddler-sized intruder using our toilet that was going to spoil my fun. I jumped up and down and screamed happily and Isaac’s expression changed from worry to glee as he realized what was happening. I immediately took a picture with my phone and sent a picture and text to my husband. I then called him to relay the newest achievement. Tyler awkwardly spoke with Isaac and I while trying to avoid using the words ‘pee’ ‘poop’ and ‘potty’ and not alarm his co-workers to the strange client he might be working with that would require him to use such vocabulary.

My pessimistic side was trying to convince me that this was a freak accident and he probably pooped on the floor and shoveled it into the potty. But my optimistic side was winning out and I was assured that all of our hard work for the last two months was finally paying off. After this point I knew it was all a matter of practice and continue doing what I was doing, since it was finally working.

Isaac randomly used the potty for the next few weeks and I was comfortable with the way things were going. He was not a master of the potty domain yet, but I felt he was getting there.

Just before the beginning of the spring season my brother came to live with us until the baby was due. It was a nice arrangement: he did lots of chores around our house and yard and got free rent until school was out. I slightly fretted over this big change in our household and how it would affect our potty training progress. My brother provided little intrusion in the matter as it turned out and Isaac continued to do well with expected set backs here and there. My brother also provided another cheerleader for Isaac and Isaac didn’t seem to notice that my brother was horrified and grossed out by the situation.

Only after a week of living with us and watching Isaac learn to go on the potty my brother summed up everything about potty training it took me months to learn. He said when talking with a toddler about going to the potty it is best not to ask “do you have to use the potty?” because he will tell you “no.” It is better to tell him “it is time to use the potty.” And then trick him into it and wear him down when he says “no.”

Most importantly, he confided to me “no means yes and yes means it’s too late.”

One thought on “From the Diary of Potty Training Nightmares – Part Three

  1. Holli

    Wonderful story, great insights!

    We had a little Mr. Stubborn with Kid#1, and I had to try everything! We found our success by simply not letting him wear a diaper for 2 days except at bedtime. He was almost 4. He knew, but wanted to just go anywhere and not take a break to use the toilet. After 2 “accident” filled days, he got it. Like magic after months of systems, charts, etc.

    Kid #2 is warming up to the idea, and I feel much more relaxed about it now. I think the key this time around is the reminder every kid is different. And, I really like what your brother pointed out so simply.

    Good job! I don’t think people realize what a victory and success it is to teach your child this basic life skill.


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