Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Pits of the Potty

Also titled: The Diaper Diaries: Epilogue

Way back at the end of May, we decided to jump into potty training. We were getting ready to move Bert into his big boy room, and after much back and forth, decided it would be logical to leave the diapers and the crib behind at the same time. Logical, maybe. Easy, no.

Memorial Day was the official start. I had read through John Rosemond's book Toilet Training Without Tantrums and felt like I was ready to start. The basic premise of his method is go directly to underwear, and don't look back. So with two potties (one for upstairs, one for down), a couple of packs of 2T underwear, and a few pairs of training pants, we jumped in. Although the book recommends staying away from training pants, we decided it might be best to have a few pairs around for times we didn't want to risk puddles in public.

The thing about starting potty training is you have to commit to staying around the house for awhile. At least I felt we did. There were a lot of accidents and a lot of resistance to sitting on the potty. I tried to relax and let Bert self-direct as recommended, but it was really hard for me to not trail him around the house, watching for signs that he needed to pee.

After only one or two successes a day (if any) in the first week, I was beginning to wonder if we really had started too early. Maybe he really doesn't know when he has to go? I thought. Then, one night at supper he started throwing his food on the floor. When we took him out of his seat and made him pick it up, he threw a fit. Then he gave up his trump card: he sat on the floor, staring Keith down, and peed. That kid knew when he needed to go and how to hold it. So we took it up a notch, closing him in the bathroom with his potty and not letting him out until he went. We checked on him every ten minutes or so, and after about an hour, he peed and pooped in his potty.

You would think that would be a turning point, but it wasn't really. He'd go occasionally, but usually only if I shut him in the bathroom or the laundry room with his potty. A lot of times even then he would pee in a corner instead of sitting on the potty. Let's not forget the time I was getting clean underwear for him, only to return and find him squatting and pooping in the kitchen, and then on my foot as I scooped him up and rushed him to the potty. Or when he ran to the couch after I took his swim trunks off, kneeled on it and peed across the living room.

We started using the "potty bell," a timer I set at intervals of when I thought he might need to go. It took the resistance factor away, because within a day or two, when Bert heard the bell he would run back to the potty and take his underwear off. But it was still really hit or miss.

About two and half weeks in, he was running through the kitchen, slipped, and started bawling. The culprit? A puddle of pee I hadn't even discovered yet. As I was down on my hands and knees, tears of frustration rolling down my cheeks, I decided it was time to up the ante. (Also, the thought ran through my mind that maybe potty training during the roller coaster of pregnancy hormones was not such a brilliant plan.) It was time for rewards. Or as I recently heard it called, "extrinsic motivation."

I really didn't want to give rewards. I had it in my head that this was something that was expected of him, and Bert should learn that there are things you just have to do. But I caved and bought a bag of M&Ms. On some advice from my mom about kids and rewards, I decided that every time he peed or pooped in the potty, he would get two M&Ms. If it happened anywhere else, I got two. And I would eat them. In front of him.

It took less than three days.

He bawled, he screamed, he pulled on my leg when I ate his chocolates. But if I had to wipe pee and poop off the floor, two tiny chocolates was the least he owed me. And then it all started to click. I still used the potty bell to help remind him, but in no time he was going by himself. He was even able to pull his underwear down and use the potty with no help from me. Two M&Ms in hand, and he was a different kid.

Roughly two months later, Bert is doing really well. He still wears a diaper or pull-up at night, but occasionally wakes up dry. Most days he is dry when he gets up from a nap as well. I place the potty in his room with him during nap time and he will sometimes go and put himself back to bed or go first thing when he wakes up.

These days, we take the potty everywhere and he will use it in the back of the car when he needs. He will tell us when he needs to go if he can't get to the potty himself (like if we are outside or once, yelling from the backseat, "Need the white potty!" which prompted a quick roadside pitstop). Even during our week in Maine, he only had one accident, which really surprised us because we were prepared for a tough week.

The other thing that gives us peace of mind when we are out and about are wee-wee pads. You know, the ones they make for dogs. We had some leftover from when our dog was getting old and use them in the stroller and car seat to protect against accidents in places that would be tough to clean up. We have also used them in restaurant high chairs and once in an upholstered chair at the doctor's office. There were several times we were very glad we had them.

Now that Bert has the hang of things for the most part, he doesn't even always come looking for his chocolates. And since we know he can go unassisted, he only gets them if all the pee is in the potty (pointing himself down is still a challenge).

Just so you don't think I'm gloating that Bert was potty trained by the time he turned two, you should know that the day I wrote this, he had two all-over-the place accidents. He's been eating cantaloupe and watermelon all day, so I blame it on that. He was still upset when I ate his chocolate.

So, now that you've read my all that, maybe you are wondering what was the point of sharing (possibly over sharing?) all that? Well, if you are family and friends, you might have already heard bits and pieces and it's good for a laugh. But my real point is for any other moms who may stumble across this as they are on the verge, or in the middle of, potty training, and feeling it is a bit hopeless. My best advice is stick with it. Give your kid some credit, he or she can probably handle it. I mean, puppies figure it out. It is a pretty safe bet that the difficult beautiful little person you created can master it too. So stock up on the paper towels, and possibly the carpet cleaner, and go with the flow.


  1. Oh my goodness, thank you for sharing this! "But if I had to wipe pee and poop off the floor, two tiny chocolates was the least he owed me" made me laugh out loud. It's so funny the expectations that we have for ourselves and our little ones, and how we cave for a bag of M&M's when we realize that life is more complex than any book can suggest. Good for you! (And what a yummy way to 'win'.) Hilarious (and helpful) post!

    1. So glad it was helpful! And to have a break from diapers between #1 and #2 is nice.


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