Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Art Of Potty Training

No, there are no "Potty Training in One Day" secrets here. I'm fresh out of ideas.  An open invite for all of you who have have claimed to "Potty Train in Three Days," I will pay top dollar for you to come to my house and teach my boys in three days time. Any takers?

We've been introducing the potty and have had potty training time for a year. When our oldest turned two we cracked down and got him "trained", as in he'd pee when we told him to, and he could mostly keep his underwear dry throughout the day and even at night. He never once offered to go on his own though.

Now, a year later, I've been battling a three year old who is absolutely capable of peeing on the potty, but insists to the point of a tantrum and tears that he can't do it because it would, heaven forbid, interrupt play time. He has accidents because he has to take every Hotwheels car in his collection with him and, as he juggles the cars while walking with his legs crossed he inevitably has an accident. He also refuses to poop on the potty. He's enamored with it. He wants to talk about it, look at it and read about it, but alas, he will not do it. Instead, he'd rather sneak into a quiet, dark room and crouch under a table or chair for a few minutes to take a poop. It doesn't matter if he's in underwear or a Pull-Up he still goes. It doesn't matter if I reward him, take away things or, (I hate to say it) embarrass him by having HIM tell whatever friends are over that he has to come inside and take a nap because he pooped in his underwear like a baby. He has no shame. He's in complete control over the "not pooping" phase and he's stubborn enough to make it last. Yeah, I hear you, it won't last forever, but it's lasting a while and this momma is pretty worn out.

Our younger son just turned 17 months. He's never wanted to be a baby and this whole "big brother going potty" thing is pretty exciting. He stumbles through the halls to see what Hank is doing in the bathroom and will even announce (or take off his pants and diaper completely) if he has to go pee. Because I was getting the signs from Theo, and my cousin's son was coming to stay with us for three days, I figured I'd take advantage of the opportunity to have a big kid around.

Here's what I've done:

I set up two potty timers, one for each boy. Theo's started at 20 minutes and has increased to every 25 minutes on day three. Hank stays dry over night so I have been starting him out at 30 minutes for the first three bathroom breaks and move him up to 45 minutes after that. As the day goes on I've been able to stretch him to every 49 minutes but we've done 60. I don't always make them go. I ask if they have to and a lot of the time they do. If they say no, I let them play a bit longer and then insist they go a few minutes later.

There is a little bit of arguing on the way to the bathroom, but for the most part, the timer going off is enough and they hear it and run to the bathroom. Yeah, I know, thanks to Pavlov I could have a problem later on when they hear the "Charge" song at a baseball game or the "Blues" tune from an iPhone, but for now, it works and I'm not always the bad guy.

They've been able to pee on trees or rocks when we are outside, though they really like to pee on ants. They have been aiming at cereal in the potty and peeing off the deck is a really fun treat. Yes, we are using conventional toilet training too, but when they start to get fussy about going, I just change it up. Plus, I cannot keep them indoors all day long.

Hank has been wearing undies and Theo is in a Pull-Up and we're actually having a lot of success. Except for pooping. Maybe in three or 365 more days we'll get that down. I'm pretty pleased, except for the fact that potty training is 24/7. Yeah, I guess I knew that, but BOTH boys have been waking up in the middle of the night or early from their nap to tell me that they have to go potty. OHMYGOD, really? Now we're not sleeping through the night any more? AHHHH, and I actually have to get up at 3 AM because Theo is on the monitor saying, "Mommy? I go potty". Sighhhh. Whoever said that having kids in underwear was easy, is WRONG.

Now I have to get up and assist, pull up pants, see penises poke through underwear holes (why are those even there for little kids?), talk about pee, poop and carefully and excitedly examine each one. I have to find a bathroom in the middle of a store, and stop grocery shopping to walk to the other side so they can pee. I've even had my sons drop their drawers in a parking lot because they've had to go. I've  had to give the stink eye to a shop that wouldn't allow my son to pee at their store. ARE YOU SERIOUS?! He's THREE! Would you rather A. He pees on your floor and has an accident Or B. We pee on the tree to the side of your store? Shoot, I'll buy a drink or whatever crappy thing your selling so my kid can pee, can we please use it? No? It's REALLY just for employees, fine. I'm pretty sure I'll be arrested someday for letting my boys pee in public, but if I'm supposed to have my boys be independent potty users, why is life making it so hard on me?

The other thing about being potty "trained" is that I'm noticing that it does last a long time. Training is teaching about knowing when your body has to go, how to stop what you're doing so you can listen to your body, how to sit or stand based on what you need to do, how to flush, wipe, use reasonable amounts of toilet paper, how to put on underwear, how to pull up and down pants, how to button and zip,  and how to make sure that your penis doesn't stick out of the top of your undies while your elastic is barely covering your body. It's knowing that you don't need to completely undress to use the toilet, that it's not polite (or clean) to crawl on the floor of a public bathroom while poking your head under a stall. It's teaching that it's not OK to show other people your private parts, it's teaching that most people like privacy,  it's teaching how to wash your hands, how to use soap and a towel, and how to "hold it" when we're in a car. It's teaching how to aim, how to make sure your penis isn't sticking to your testicles so that you can pee in the toilet instead of on your leg. We have to learn why there are Men's Rooms and Women's Rooms and why we use the Women's when we are with Mom even though you are a boy. It's a whole new world that honestly, is not easier than changing a diaper.

Teaching independence and confidence is a hard thing. Teaching kids that they can do something when they don't want to or don't believe they can is a whole different challenge. It requires a lot of patience, and understanding. It also requires persistence and faith that it will get better. I've read a lot of books, blogs and articles about potty training and there are a lot of methods out there. I haven't found the ONE that has made my kids completely cooperative in the potty training department, but at least we're doing it. We're starting to teach something that comes naturally to comply with sanitary and social standards. It's hard. And it's overwhelming. I may not be doing it "right" but I'm doing my best, and right now this is what I've got.

I'm sure they won't go to Kindergarten in Pull-Ups, actually, I'm not sure of that yet, but I'm sure they will gradually over the next few years figure out this whole bathroom thing and one day, I'll wake up and my boys will have already done their business and are quietly playing in the living room. But for now, I'll take a deep breath and search for more helpful tips for all of us to read about the potty, set the timer again and dish out stickers and Skittles for jobs well done.

And, yes, I'm still looking for takers on my earlier offer.


  1. I'm sorry to tell you this, and you may have noticed, but I STILL have to force Grant to take a break to go pee. He's eight and he STILL doesn't always make it! Grrr....

  2. Try the towel potty training method.

  3. Potty training a child takes a lot of patience. Thanks for sharing your experience with potty training.

    Kelly Brown