Confessions of a Reformed Potty Trainer

When I decided to offer up some leftover cloth training pants and toilet targets for Bloggy Giveaways, I thought I might get 30 responses. Those are not at all glamorous like the gift cards, jewelery and cell phones on other people’s blogs.

But I do believe if all of you 160 plus commenters were at the same yard sale and found these items, there would be a knock down drag out fight over who gets to take them home.

It seems many of you are caught in or our about to enter, as one commenter put it, “potty training H – E – Double Hockey Sticks.”

Many of you referred to your feelings of frustration and dread.

Me too sisters.

Oh, me too!

Let me share with you the complete chronicles of my first foray into potty training. Not because I now consider myself to be an expert, but because I think it might bring some comfort to hear how this mom fumbled her way through.

I first decided to start potty training when David turned two. We went out and bought him the snazziest potty chair we could find. It sings and  talks and looks like a real toilet. I also ditched the diapers, and started putting him in Pull-Ups.

David was resistant from the start. He didn’t want to sit on that potty chair. I would set a timer for every two hours, then put him on the chair when it went off. He quickly grew tried of that game, and started throwing fits if I even mentioned the potty. Frustrated I gave up after a couple days. I figured he wasn’t learning anything if he was screaming the whole time. And I was just a trained monkey reacting to a dinging bell.

At a check-up David’s pediatrician told me to throw out the Pull-Ups, and put him in underwear. “A few times of feeling wet and yucky and he’ll get it,” she said. All I could see was stained carpet. I left her advice on the exam room floor.

I tried the timer and potty chair thing a few more times, to no avail.

One day David told me he didn’t like the potty chair. He wanted to use the big potty. So I bought him a potty seat. He sat on it a few times. Then it got old. He started throwing fits again.

People kept telling me, “He’s just not ready yet. When he’s ready he’ll do it. Back off for a while and try again.” So for almost a year I’d push the potty for a few days, we’d both get frustrated and I’d back off for another month.

In the meantime, David was getting bigger and bigger. He’s in the 95 percentile for height and weight. Even though he’s only 3 1/2, he’s bigger than a lot of 4 year olds. I started getting dirty looks from other moms in the bathroom at the mall when they saw me hoist this huge kid up on the changing table. I also noticed many of his other peers were long out of diapers.

The pressure was on, and I began to wonder about my own ability as a mom. Why couldn’t I get this kid to use the potty? I thought I was a good parent. He eats well, sleeps well, has good co-ordination, speaks very well.

They say babies don’t come with instructions, but that’s not entirely true. Until the age of two answers to most dilemmas can be found in books, or the advice of friends, family and doctors. When they hit two, suddenly the instructions are written in Chinese and you have to interpret them.

I got books from the library about potty training and looked it up on line. Some approaches were just plain weird. Some sounded promising, but didn’t work. Almost everyone said the underwear method worked.

Around David’s third birthday I gave in and tried the underwear. I took him to the store and let him pick out his own. He chose Spongebob of course, and I made a little sticker chart.

As predicted, I ended up cleaning up a lot of pee. Thank God for carpet steamers. And he didn’t care about stickers. He also didn’t care about being wet and dirty. This is a boy we’re talking about here. It didn’t matter if pee was streaming down his legs in rivers, he just kept right on playing. The fits over sitting on the potty continued too.

Tired of cleaning up the mess, I went back to Pull-Ups.

He did know how to use the potty. He would use the toilet right before bedtime. I think he saw it as a way to delay going to bed. But during the day, forget it. He just did not want to. It had nothing to do with ability. He could go hours between wet Pull-Ups, which meant he could hold it.

At three and a half I decided enough was enough. David and I were going to conquer this thing. I tried the underwear one last time. This time he picked out plain white briefs, “like daddy.”

By nap time that day we were several accidents in when he told me, “I’m wet. Change my pants.”

Ah-ha! He was starting to not like that feeling.

The next day he actually told me he had to pee, and he went on the toilet. I didn’t want to keep cleaning up accidents. I thought, “He’s got it,” and went back to the Pull-Ups.

But then he started going in his pants again.

I found the cloth training pants on-line. There was nothing like them in department stores. Once he started wearing those, he began using the potty again, all the time. No more mess. There seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel, at last.

He still didn’t want to poop on the potty. For some reason it scared him. After a lot of coaxing, I got him to try, and then he said, “That wasn’t so bad.”

David still wears Pull-Ups at night, but during the day he’s always in underwear. He’s doing very well.

I think the success was a combination of him finally being ready, and of finding a method that worked for both of us.

A lot of it was him gaining confidence in himself. Forcing him to sit on the potty, getting upset with him when he didn’t, made him feel like a failure. Having all those accidents in his underwear just re-enforced what he was doing wrong.

After all that, I hate to tell you that what worked for David may not work for your children. Every kid is different. I hear girls are easier to train than boys, but you can be the judge of that.

There will always be some Wunderkind who was potty trained at 19 months, and there will always be some 4 year old who still has accidents.

People will always give you unsolicited advice, and make you feel like a total failure.

The best advice I got was to back off and wait until he was ready.

Relax. It will happen.

That’s in the fine print on the last page of the manual in plain English.

Good luck and happy potty training.


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3 Responses to “Confessions of a Reformed Potty Trainer”

  1. bikiniyogini Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m currently in the “waiting until she’s ready” mode and definitely feeling the pressure from others. The way I see it, I’ve never met a teenager that wasn’t potty trained. I can wait as long as she can. 🙂

  2. Debbie Says:

    My now 9yo was 6 and still having night time accidents. The pediatrician said that was common, that she was a hard/deep sleeper, and that she would grow out of it, but he recommended a sensor if we were worried. We bought the one from Star Labs and followed the directions. The first week was tough, but by week 3 or 4 she was waking in the night to use the toilet and no longer having night accidents.

    My now 7yo was 18 months when she potty trained for the first time. The doctor predicted that it was a novelty and she would go back to being UNpotty trained, which she did after a few weeks. She was fine by the age of 3? 4? I don’t even remember when it happened now!

    So, as a “seasoned” mom of post-diaper-aged kids, I must concur that it’s best to wait until they’re interested and find the method that works for you. After all, I’ve never heard of a non-potty-trained teenager, so eventually, everyone gets it!

  3. Meredith from Merchant Ships Says:

    Oooh, it’s frustrating, isn’t it?

    My biggest obstacle is lack of consistency–on my part. When I stay home and keep on schedule, we both do better, potty-wise.

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