the one where I ask for advice: potty training

Apologies to my dear readers (assuming I still have any) whose eyes will roll at the title of this one. But I am nearing desperation. Please, just click away. Anyone else who has any assvice to share, please do.

There are a TON of books out there, I know. I’ve read a few. I’ve talked to other parents. I’ve tried several different approaches.

We made progress, then regressed, which I realize is completely natural with the addition of a new baby to our home.

I know every kid has their own way, learns on their own time. I know I don’t have to worry about it, really, that she won’t be in diapers by the time she gets to elementary school. Yet all along she’s been told that kids don’t wear diapers to school. She is starting school in just a few weeks, when she turns three years old. She was doing great, trying. Now, not so much.

Ok, this is where we’re at. Last chance to click away.

Jaye has shown interest in the potty since she was about 18-20 months, and started trying to go before she was even two years old. But it was not with any regularity and we never pushed it. We wanted to go at her pace. She’d try every once in a while, and sometimes even pee and we’d all get excited.

Last summer, before the baby came, we started encouraging her to try a little more. It was easy to be naked or just in a diaper. We even took the potty outside when we played. She did pretty well. It was new and exciting. We bought her some cute “little girl” undies, which she loved. But we didn’t bother pushing her to try when Baby Z came home. It would have been too much. It was enough just to get her a nap every day. Eventually though, it was time again. She’s actually outgrowing the largest size diapers that exist. She gets rashes. So we started encouraging her again. And she did well.

Now she can pee regularly on the potty, if and when she wants to (big if). Much more difficult to poo, and most times she won’t even try. Instead she’d prefer to go off on her own and poo in a diaper while playing solo. She’ll even beg for a diaper if she’s wearing underwear.

We’ve tried the sticker chart. This girl loves her stickers (she actually does a beautiful form of mixed media art with stickers and drawing). And though I said I’d never do it, we even resorted to bribery. Every 5 pees/poos she gets a small treat. Not candy, but a choice of three healthy bite-sized snacks which she loves. (As an aside, I never wanted to use food as a reward, but she didn’t need any more toys, and we would have bought her books anyway, plus she begs for these things.) It was working. She was really into it. We told her eventually she would just do it without the stickers and snacks.

Then one day it just stopped working. She has gone a week at a time without using the potty at all. We encouraged but never pushed. We tried the “ok, it’s time to sit on the potty” routine, but she knows when she has to go, and she’d refuse. We tried hands on and hands off, encouraging and ignoring, we’ve tried it all.

I know why she has regressed. At first it was the baby, understandably. Now she is protesting growing up. Some days she just doesn’t want to be a “big girl” anymore (even when I tell her she’ll be a “little girl” for a long time, and she’ll always be our baby). She associates certain things with being a “big girl” — e.g., using the potty, going to school, losing teeth, etc. Some days she just wants to be a baby like Z, so she cries and boycotts the potty and her undies.

I know it’s a control thing. What comes in and what goes out are the few small things in her life she can control. We give her so many choices so she may feel empowered. But this is hard. I don’t want to push too hard, I want to go at her pace. But we are running out of options. She needs more than encouragement at this point.

Perhaps a better reward might have been more stickers, or something exciting that she wants to do. But once she gets those things, she may lose interest again, I think. Plus I don’t really want to keep negotiating about this.

I’ve heard mixed things about pull-ups. Many people say to avoid them and go straight to underwear (or naked in summer). Some people say use them as a transition. We just started using them at night, since she comes out several times to pee before falling asleep. But the real issue now is during the day. We’re out of her diapers and I don’t want to buy another case since they barely even fit. And school starts in just two weeks.

SO, please share your best potty training tips here. Or commiserate with me and share your best story or tell me this will end soon. Because some days we can barely leave the house and I think this is going to drive me batty.


~ by luna on May 17, 2012.

24 Responses to “the one where I ask for advice: potty training”

  1. Long time reader, first time to comment….

    Neither one of my kids (twins – boy/girl) were out of diapers before 3 years old. I went at their pace, didn’t use potty chairs, bought them underwear. The boy got it down right around age 3 and she followed a couple of months later. He never wore a pull up at home (long trips we did but he stayed dry). She wore a pull up every single night (and 9/10 woke up dry so it was clearly for her reassurance). Offer high fiber foods and lots of applejuice temporarily so that the poops will be soft and it will be an easy training to have lots of poops in the same day instead of just one every day or every other day. Takes a bit of the control away which in turn gives them control of their bodies. Good luck!!! 🙂

  2. My little girl went backwards when ur brother was born and started wetting and telling us she wanted to be a baby so eventually we said ok if she could wear a nappy and be a baby …..and packed up all ‘big’ girl toys,stickers,books etc explained how baby’s can’t have treats or play outside etc… She realised this wasn’t quite what she hoped for!!! We also don’t give treats for ‘good’ behaviour we remove things for bad behaviour, ie wet pants means no stickers/ sticker books!!! It’s so tough all there all so different!! My wee boy refused to wear a nappy from 19mths and only very seldom has an accident if he gets over tired!!! I did keep using pull ups at night tho boy is still in them ( he was 2 last week) and girl stopped using them at 3 1/2!

  3. This may sound harsh…but I was tired of buying diapers. DH and lost his job in December and in February, when the diapers ran out, I said “That’s it, no more”. We started on a Friday evening, we showed her that it was the last diaper and that in the morning she’d have to start using the potty. We had 3 accidents that weekend…and nothing since. She turned 3 in April. I know I had it easy, and that the “no diapers left” approach won’t work for you with Z still being in diapers…but that was my experience. And I know it’s not the norm.

  4. My son has been a crap sleeper and a crap eatter, but he did well potty training… at first. He will be 3 in August. Similar to you, we offered the potty chair, but didn’t push it until he was 2.5. Every 30 minutes he had to sit on the potty, then 1 hour, then 1.5 hours and then only when he said he had to go. After about a month, we thought we had done it! Still pull-ups at night but most mornings he was dry. Still, I wasn’t worried. BUT… he poops on the potty no problem, he just can’t stop peeing himself! I know he KNOWS, but he really doesn’t care. He will start to pee, stop himself and come to tell us he wet his big boy pants, and will then finish on the potty. We limit him to only so many pants per day, and once he reaches his limit he can’t go outside until they are clean and dry again. He hates this since he loves to be outside, but hopefully he will make the connection. He just doesn’t want to stop playing to pee. Baby #2 is due in July, so we will see how this goes. I love the comment about taking away the big kid stuff if they want to be a baby! As far as not pooping assvice, have you tried “the magic diaper?” They can poop in a diaper as long as they are sitting on the potty. Then they wear a diaper with a hole in it, so the poop falls out BUT they still have the comfort of wearing a diaper. Then the diaper in the (dry) potty, but not on the kid, then no diaper. That was what I was going to use if my son gave me problems. Good luck!!!

  5. Ah, no advice here yet, sorry… we’re almost in the same situation, but a few months behind you – our baby is now almost 4 months old, toddler 1.5 months shy of his third birthday, preschool starts in September… He’s been showing interest in the potty since last summer, got better, then worse when the baby was born (and I didn’t start any real potty training because of the new baby). I hope he won’t follow Jaye (like he did with the not wanting to sleep thing, luckily that was over after two months), but I will get back to this thread often to pick up some tricks. Good luck!

  6. I recommend pulls ups for when you’re out and about, but undies when you’re home, she’ll notice as it runs down her leg, sorry but it’s the truth. I JUST wrote about our very long fought for success story at potty training our 2.5 year old. So here’s the link, and as a warning I swear. Alot.

  7. It’s not easy potty training. We too have been on and off the wagon over the last 6 months with our 3-1/2 year old. For her too it became about what she could control not what we asked of her.

    We took a big break from asking and telling. Just put her into pullups and didnt say a word. We waited for her to tell us she was ready. I have to say I finally lost it when cleaning poo up from her pullups one afternoon! I told her she knows how to go on the potty and she know when she needs to go so starting NOW she will go potty and will stop playing and go potty when she needs to and I put on her big girl pants.

    With the line drawn in the sand by me, we changed our incentive from one grand prize to weekly prizes (she picked up little mini lalaloopsy dolls) plus the M&M at each potty …. it seems to have worked … we haven’t had an accident in almost a month and she seems to be the one in control now as it is up to her to make sure she gets to the potty or else she knows she’s cleaning up her mess.

    It’s a trying time, having a specific school deadline doesn’t help. We’re three months from her 4th birthday and I think after a year of first being trained at 3 and then regressing a few times she’s finally got it!

    How long is your school day? Ours is 3 hours and during the regression time she wore her pullups but never wet them or pooed so no one knew … might be worth starting that way and see what happens.

    Good Luck and BReATHE!

  8. Here’s a link to another blog that recently potty trained her twins, I liked what she had to say.

  9. I’m not above bribes, even those with food. Our oldest was pretty good with potty, but poop training was a nightmare. Eventually, about a month before she turned three, we told her she would get a big Drumstick ice cream cone for each poop in the toilet. She was trained by the time she got through the box. (and we are all thin, active and healthy in this house, but sometimes you gotta bring out the big guns 🙂 )

    Kid #2 is almost 2 1/2 and shows no interest in using the toilet. I’m going with her lead and not pushing it.

  10. I would suggest seeing if your library has Toilet Training: The Brazelton Way for a compassionate perspective on how to approach this issue. – Rachael

  11. With my oldest, I had a horrible time. She was very excited to be going on the potty when she was about 2 1/2, she had spent several weeks home with me, and we were all good, peeing pooping, the whole bit. She went back to daycare, and although I don’t really know what happened, everything that we had done was lost. It took us until she was almost 4 to be completely out of pull-ups. She was also that kid who would play and play and play, ignore that she had to go, and then pee her pants. Mack is almost 20, and she still remembers this.

    Mea, almost 6, was so easy. She was the youngest at daycare, she wanted to be like the big kids. At twenty-six months she was in panties all day long every day. I kept her in pull-ups at night for about six months, but it was really just me being paranoid.

    You just really can’t push them. They all go at their own pace. I found with Mea that putting her in dresses worked well because she didn’t have to worry about pulling down jeans, or shorts, just her panties.

    Good luck!

  12. To increase motivation, don’t use pullups (too comfortable to sit around in pee), and make her clean it up when there’s an accident.

    I have one twin who can poop but not pee on the toilet, and another who can pee but not poop. I have realized that I have very little control over the training process, and it’s up to them.

    Sitting on the toilet is insanely fun in our house — books that they can only read in the bathroom, we sing songs, they get to wear special jewelry while sitting, and excited cheering when they succeed. Actually it’s so fun that Tamale just hangs out there for long periods of time, so maybe I’m not a good source of advice. 🙂

  13. I’m a big fan of incentives (by which I mean bribes) but it’s got to be tailored to Jaye. What does she want more than anything else? What is she willing to work for? I think it’s got to be every single time at the beginning at this age. It’s too overwhelming for them to work for some big reward or something once or twice a week.

    Our story is somewhat similar (as usual) in that my girl started showing interest around 18 months but we didn’t want to push (especially when there was a new baby at our house at 24 months). We dialed it back a bit but didn’t want to miss the “window” so we started trying again a couple of months ago. We tried stickers (which she likes) and a sticker chart but that was not as enticing as I’d hoped.

    Turns out that my girl loves her some Pez dispensers (and candy) and was willing to do almost anything for Pez. I figured it wouldn’t be much candy in the grand scheme of things and she willingly went along with the somewhat complicated reward system we devised on the fly (a small Pez candy roll for peeing, new dispenser or regular size Pez roll for pooping, then same for waking up dry from nap). It helped that we went to intermittent reward somewhat quickly (I know…I know…you can take the girl out of her grad psych program but …) And she was fine with not really getting rewards once she’d been going in her potty for a few weeks.

    So what might be Jaye’s Pez?

    Friends from our preschool program also reported success with the whole “naked for a weekend” type scenario where mama and kidlet spend lots of time together in a “boot camp” situation. The kids love all the time spent with mama and tend to do well and quickly. The moms I know who’ve done this haven’t had younger babies to worry about, though.

    I’m not a big fan of pullups but we use them at night (and did for naps for a few weeks). My girl is still in her crib and I don’t think it’s fair to keep her in her crib but expect her to be dry overnight.

    BTW I knew my kid was more than ready when she peed 3 times at school in a little over 90 minutes so she could wear the “school diapers”. She liked that they had animals on them. She also really liked when her diapers changed the tape color and wanted to only wear “green tape” diapers. She likes her pullups because they are Dora and some even have Boots on them and will ask to wear them other times but knows the rules now. We bought lots of new underwear (the thin kind) with characters that I don’t normally allow in my house but SHE loves. We also have a Baby Bjorn potty seat that fits over the big potty (she likes this MUCH more than the little potty you dump out).

    It was also much more motivating for my girl to know that her younger friends were using the potty and wearing underwear. She didn’t seem to care that older kids were doing it but she has a couple of friends a month or so younger and that encouraged her to try more. Especially when they got to go to the bathroom at school or somewhere in public. Now she likes checking out bathrooms wherever we go (I’m the same way).

    Good luck.

  14. This sounds really hard, especially with a deadline looming. What happens if she’s not fully potty trained when school starts? For us, my son’s preschool teachers were really helpful in getting him through potty training. And it may be that the peer pressure there could help.
    It sounds like Jaye is capable of doing this, which makes me think that the “potty training boot camp” idea mentioned by millie could be a good idea. I’ve heard good things about that method, especially when it’s used for kids who can go on the potty but are choosing not to.

  15. I think Bella’s problem was that she thought she was missing something by taking a few minutes to go to the toilet. She just couldn’t be bothered, and would run around with a poo in her underwear and not tell me because PARTY! (Not really, but you know what I mean.) So it was a matter of making the potty “fun” so I began either reading a favorite book that could only be read there, and painting her toenails while we waited for other stuff to occur. I found out from my neighbors that they also painted their kids nails, even boys, to get them to sit for a bit and try things.

    Sandro has been using the potty since 18m which floors my friends but I’m fairly un-optimistic that this simply means I need another strategy. Although he’s very intrigued by painted toe nails, too.

    Good luck Luna, this is a tough one only because it’s messy and inconvenient. Believe me you’ll laugh about it someday and chime in to posts just like this! xo

  16. I definitely agree with the suggestion to skip the pull-ups and wear underwear. It’s messy and a total pain, but it definitely helps them feel it. We did LOTS of baths at our house after these “accidents” – anytime during they day. Our son was not impressed that it interrupted his play time. We were also sure to be very “flat” when responding to these accidents. It was no big deal and dealt with in a very matter-of-fact manner – in an effort to provide no attention. Throughout the day when he was dry, we did lots of, “Oh, you are still dry! Let’s sit down and play….” We gave lots of positive reinforcement and attention for all of the positives. Starting to poop on the potty was tough too. We went to the store and let him pick out a few cars (like Hot Wheels) and when we got home, they were put up on a shelf in the bathroom. For each poop on the potty, he got a car. We did this with about 5-6 cars ($.99 each – cheap!) and he would sit on the potty and stare longingly at those cars. It worked for us!

  17. I thought potty training was going to be the death of me. Progression/Regression drove me nuts. I was working so hard at this potty training mess. Everyone kept making me feel like there was a time frame. My doctor and my mom kept telling me to relax and let it happen more than forcing it to happen. Then my twin boys came a long and blew me out of the water. They practically potty trained themselves. I barely had to do anything. It was amazing. I wish you the very best of luck! Take time to relax!

  18. I didn’t read through all of the comments but for us, we took a no negotiating approach. I hate pull-up’s because they are a lot like diapers so I put him directly in underwear. Then I took him into the potty several times every hour. (My sister stripped her son naked and pumped him full of fluid on the weekend and made him stay on tile or outside) Either way, if he had an accident, I didn’t scold but he was wet and uncomfortable and didn’t like it so he preferred to go in the potty.

    I know you don’t like food as rewards but our daycare did M&M’s & Skittles (one for peeing, two for pooping) and a LOT of the kids really loved that part too.

  19. Well I won’t be any help, I worked at a peds office and you would tell people if you wait until they are older they use it as their control then its a real battle. Maya was potty trained before 2 and over night before 2 1/2. I did have her outside with nothing on so that she could make it tot he little potty I would take out with use. I absolutely used bribery, kids are like dogs you train them the same way. I had this clear glass jar and I filled it with mini m&m’s, she never was allowed junk so this was a treat, plus they were mini so I could give her a couple of them every time she went.
    Now that Jaye has the contol thing down you might have to say go like a big girl every day for a week and you will get “==” whatever a big prize might be, a bike or something, but if you decide to go in a diaper again then it will be taken away because its only something that big girls have.
    since she has baby behavior you can start taking away all the things that she likes doing as a big girl.
    I had to use this, well not actually use it but talk to Maya about it when she felt like Benjamin was getting more attention then her, we talked about all the things she gets to do and things she had, but if she wanted to be a baby then we would take things away and she would no longer be allowed to do and have these neat things.
    YOu could try cloth diapers to see if they would be more uncomfortable for her to wear wet.

    good luck!

  20. In a similar situation with our 3yo daughter. She was working towards potty training then lost all interest. Nothing can get her to sit on the toilet. But she does wear undies, has accidents that we clean up together, asks for a diaper…we’ve given up on it and are allowing her to decide. She starts preschool in the Fall. And to think we thought critically of a family member who didn’t train their kids what we thought was early enough! Now we are the ones with the late bloomer in this category! Try not to get too worried, Luna. She’ll catch on very soon.

  21. worked great for us!

  22. Thank you for this post — I need this advice myself. My son will be 3 next month and we, honestly, are only just getting (sort of) serious about potty training. Have spent much of this past year trying to “play it cool” and see if he takes an interest without forcing it, etc — but, um, I’m not sure if I even want to find out if they make diapers bigger than size 6. 🙂

  23. thank you all so much for your comments! I wrote this exasperated, frustrated by the regression and backsliding but mostly at Jaye’s resistance and tears. I’m hoping we have turned a corner here and we’re back on track (her track anyway).

    I forgot to include how integral books have been. for the longest time, Jaye loved sitting on the potty to read books. she must have thought it was a special reading chair or something. but the novelty wore off and while she still likes to read there, it’s not enough of an incentive to sit.

    I/we backed way off of even encouraging her. instead I told her not to worry, that one day she’d be big enough for those cute undies we bought for her, but maybe not just yet. her response? “but I AM big enough for undies!” and she started trying again. she still will not poo on the potty, or even try, but she’s been pretty good about peeing again, which is a step forward. based on all the good feedback I got here and elsewhere, I know the rest will come. some day.

    of course people can continue to leave some tips here, as they’ve been helpful to me and other readers too.

    thanks again!

  24. After reading all the comments I jumped into the deep end and went with the 3 Day Potty Training program as Kate suggested. Got off to a false start on Saturday when the toddler woke up with a fever. Lasted for only 24hrs so I started again on Sunday (hubs had left early morning Saturday for a week-long business trip). Still had diapers left, so it wasn’t exactly as Amy described and I didn’t throw the rest away as the 3 Day program says you should (with baby #2 still being able to use them I thought it would be a waste of money + environmentally unfriendly), but just put them away and haven’t used one since. 2 accidents on day one. Dry nap. Dry night. Next day again two accidents, but he was testing me more and screaming from belly aches (no BM although he obviously had to go). Finally BM in his pants just before bedtime (while screaming and crying, it was soooo sad). One accident that night too (again totally upset, so sad – he slept the rest of the night in the big bed of course…). Third day no accidents. But… he still doesn’t ask to go to the potty/toilet himself, can retain very well though, hence no accidents, but sometimes he refuses to go when I tell him to – I guess that’s his last try at having some control over this. Oh, and BM this afternoon in the toilet, again lots of sobbing and screaming (almost felt like I was helping a woman in labor!)…
    So I think that method really works but it was quite a challenge staying at home for three days straight, especially with the weather being very nice and friends asking us to come to the park and/or eat ice cream with them. We did however go to toddler gym class on Tuesday morning and it went great. But oh my, the boy was depressed! I cried twice because he was so down. The fact that his daddy was gone didn’t help either and he probably didn’t feel all that great after the 24hrs with a fever (I had a fever myself the night of day 2>3 and felt crap the next day). I did use sticker charts, but he never really warmed up to them. He thought I should put a sticker on it too when I went to the toilet, ha!

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