Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Best Potty Training Advice You Never Heard

We potty trained Smartypants right when he turned 2 out of desperation -- the kid had been putting his hands down his pants since forever and this germophobic mama was losing it each and every time she left him for like 3 freaking seconds and returned to find poop smeared on everything within a 3 foot radius of the pooper. He wasn't intentionally painting with poo -- more like he just happened to pull his hand out of his diaper, his hand just happened to have poop on it, and he just happened to be leafing through my favorite copy of "Alice in Wonderland."

We (read: I; my husband had about 0 to do with the 8 month long fiasco for which I am still suffering intermittent PTSD fallout) also succumbed to very stupid advice from friends and family I trust were well meaning (but secretly fear were playing an evil prank on an ill-informed new mother) to make sure Smartypants was potty trained before the new baby came because God forbid you have two in diapers.

Two in diapers would have been awesome. So long as Smartypants' diapers were covered by zippered, footed pjs donned backward and safety pinned at the top.

Fast forward nearly 3 years: Sweetiepants has been allowed to do her own thing in her own good time as regards potty training. Because this is the potty training advice I read everywhere: she'll do it when she's ready.

Well, Sweetiepants has been waking up with a dry diaper going on 6 months. She tells me 2 minutes before she's going to pee or poop that she's going to pee or poop. Yeah, and she's almost 3 years old.
High time.
But I wait...because I wouldn't want to force her into anything now would I?
And I wait.


Sweetiepants rips off her diaper -- what turns out to be her last diaper -- unbeknownst to the rest of the family. Well I guess it was beknownst, since she was jumping around naked singing, "I have to poop!" What we did not realize was that right before she took her diaper off she had pooped big time. Dozens of jawbreaker size nuggets I like to call "reindeer poop." Half a dozen of which were rolling around between the living room and the kitchen where Sweetiepants had thoughtfully deposited her diaper in the trashcan. The remaining 18 or so poop balls were hanging out on the living room rug. Make that 17 poop balls -- the last one was still firmly lodged between her tiny bottom cheeks.
"I can't do this again." This meaning deal with poop that is not in a diaper or a toilet -- not that I'm thrilled with those options either, but them's the breaks when you choose to have kids. Again meaning evereverever.

And with that, Sweetiepants is wiped, bathed, and fitted with a pair of Tinkerbell panties, then Mommy says at least one bad word for every poop ball she finds while she cleans up the house. In my defense, I also maintained a 1:1 ratio of swears to prayers (please God don't let me find petrified poop next time I move the couch to vacuum.) I'm also pretty proud of the fact that I cleaned the kid before I cleaned the carpet.

Over the next 3 days I set a timer every 15 minutes, grabbed Sweetiepants, and plopped her down on her potty seat. And waited. And waited. And held her there while she screamed her bloody head off. She'd refuse to try to pee before bed -- having stayed dry since about 6pm -- and she'd wake up dry but still refuse to pee. We were almost late taking Smartypants to school twice while she sat down on the potty and we said mean things to one another and still she would not pee. Sweetiepants and I would return home for round...6? 7? I'd lost count, but after another 90 minutes or so she'd finally pee and we'd both feel much better.

The rest of the day went along in much the same vein: "Let's go try to pee!" "No!" "Come on--your tummy won't hurt anymore!" "No!" "Sweetiepants-Middle Name-Last Name: Get over here and sit on the potty now!" "No!"

Convinced Sweetiepants was well on her way to a urinary tract infection I Googled "potty training holding pee" and now we arrive at the promised best potty training advice you never heard -- potty training advice that was not for typical "pleasers" but for kids like mine -- "strong willed" kids. I wouldn't have them any other way (God it must be so boring to have a good kid) but it's not easy parenting brilliant children with minds of their own -- and most parenting advice I read is irritatingly child-led (e.g., the "whenever you're ready" potty training method).

Here's the link: Toilet Training Problems: Underachievers, refusers, and stool holders

Here's the bottom line:
Make it the child's responsibility to initiate a potty visit. The choice to start potty training is the parent's, based on pretty universal signs of readiness. But the choice to actually walk to the bathroom, climb up, and go is the child's.

Here's the method:
I stopped asking (cajoling/demanding/reminding/begging) Sweetiepants to use the potty.

Here's the result:
Within 30 minutes of me shutting up already Sweetiepants yelled from the bathroom: "Mommy I did it by myself! I peed!"

6 days later...
Sweetiepants has woken up dry every morning. She pees when she needs to; poops when she needs to. She had one poop accident at CVS the first panty day, but since she didn't pee as well I finished my shopping, lined her car seat with a plastic bag, and took her home to change her.

And tossed the panties.

We took the kids camping -- Sweetiepants stayed dry during the 2 1/2 hour trip. Later that day she pulled her swimsuit down to pee on the lake shore, then pulled her swimsuit down to poop on the lake shore a few minutes later. Neither occurrence bothered me as I didn't have to figure out a way to sit her on the campground toilets without covering both of us in someone else's fecal matter.
Home now for 3 days, she's been 100% dry.

Counterintuitive potty training advice works for me. Loads more advice at We Are THAT Family. Just realized there's a theme this week, so...organizing...can't go wrong with "a place for everything and everything in its place." Works for poop too.


  1. LMAO! So this is what I have to look forward to, huh?

  2. Haha! That's hilarious! Although...I feel your pain......

  3. We are still potty training. I had no idea it would be so gross. =) I also had no idea that B would want to touch everything in a public restrooms. Ugh..so gross!

  4. Sherean -- Perhaps we should replace "look forward to" with "dread." :)
    Shannon -- You have to laugh or you'll cry.
    The Activity Mom -- I feel you! I usually yell, "Grab me not the potty!" over and over til we're through. And isn't it fun trying to get them to sit sideways to avoid the gaping hole in front of the public restroom seats? You can't push them back far enough to avoid being peed on because if you put them too far back they poop on the other side! This is why I wear rubber flipflops to Target.

  5. Your post made me laugh today as I also remembered the time when I have to potty train my kids.:-) Potty training your kids is I think one of the hardest part of parenting.:-) Just thinking what I had endured during that time gives me goosebumps up to now. Goodluck and wishing you all the best in potty training.:-)


Have at it.