Thursday, January 19, 2012

Potty Potholes and Pitfalls

Fail-proof potty motivation
I am burning with frustration. Burning. Hot and deep in my core. For weeks now we have been in the trenches of potty training, with great effort and great success. Sure, it has been time-intensive, energy-intensive, and demanding of more patience on my part than almost anything I can remember. Sure, there have been setbacks; plenty of steps forward and plenty of steps back. But until today, both Bode and I have always been able to make some sort of progress, no matter how small. Until today, I have been able to keep my cool and my patience, regardless of what happened. Today however, the whole process got the better of me. Today, I broke.

The potty training approach we have embraced to date has been a “softy, softly” one where we have gently encouraged the use of the potty, but never demanded it. We have been led by Bode and his needs and have rewarded him accordingly when he made an effort or successfully used the potty. For the past week, Bode’s nappy has come off in the morning and has stayed off all morning until his naptime. Some mornings he has told us he needed to pee and has successfully done so, and some mornings he has held it in all morning until it was time to go to bed, when he would then choose to use the potty right before we put on his nappy. Some days he seemed very comfortable using the potty and some days he seemed to avoid it at all costs.

Today was Bode’s first morning at “school” without his nappy and I was nervous about it, but figured I would just see how things went. We talked about using the potty at school, I informed his teachers that he might need some encouragement before he would go, and I left, hoping for the best. Not surprisingly, when I picked him up four hours later he still hadn’t gone to the potty, making it over 5 hours since his morning nappy had come off. We drove home and he still wouldn’t go. He drank milk, we read books and we talked about having his nap, and he still wouldn’t go.

After over an hour of gentle encouragement, Bode sitting on the potty to eat blueberries but not pee, and him refusing to go to bed, my patience was wearing thin. I used a last ditch technique which had always worked in the past: the countdown. I was counting to five and if he hadn’t gone to the potty by then, I was putting him in a nappy and he was going to bed. In the past, this has always resulted in him sitting on the potty to have a pee before then letting me put his nappy on and tuck him into bed. But today, Bode chose war. He screamed, he refused, he ran from room to room and then finally stood and emptied his bladder on the floor of the living room. And then I burst into tears.

I have just had enough. I have put more energy into this effort than anything since breastfeeding. Bode is a smart little guy and he knows exactly what is right and what is wrong. We have never scolded or embarrassed him for little mistakes or for choosing not to use the potty. He knows exactly what to do and how to do it. So today when he simply refused to go on the potty, then peed on the floor (almost defiantly) and seemed utterly unfazed by it, it was more than I could handle and I gave up. I feel completely alone in the middle of an epic battle of wills; one I’m obviously losing. And I know, I know, I can hear the chants already; it’s a process not a battle, be patient, keep encouraging him, don’t let the setback get you down, la-de-da-de-da. But I’m bloody burning with frustration.


  1. Oh Vic, I feel your pain.

    Elliot has been happily using the toilet for several months now & on Boxing Day we finally took the plunge, after much discussion with a very obliging Elliot, & lost the day time nappies. We were going really well with only the odd accident & nappies for sleep time or poos only, the later of which Elliot would ask for when needed.

    On Elliot’s first day back at day care I informed them of his progress & that he would need lots of reminders but not to worry about poos as he would ask for a nappy if he needed one & that he had never pooed in his pants. When we picked him up that afternoon, there were several outfits for me to wash, although thankfully Kim had already taken care of the one Elliot had pooed in. We love Kim!! & as if proving a liar of me was not enough, he decided to repeat the experience on the 2 minute ride home.

    Since then progress has been very up & down, although right now I am feeling it is more down than up & I get the distinct impression it is purely a matter of choice on Elliot’s part.

    So do we persevere or do we hang up the jocks & try the whole process again further down the track?? Aaaaah!!! It’s not even the extra washing that bothers me, more the knowing that this is all in Elliot’s control & completely out of mine. I think you & I need to get together for a good stiff drink. Mocktails anyone!!

  2. Ah Poly, you have hit the nail on the head! It's all well and good for me to pick myself up by the bootstraps, clean up the mess and keep calm and carry on. But would someone please tell me what the hell to DO NOW?

    Like this afternoon, when he got up from his nap. We usually take the nappy off again, which I was hesitant to do because I figured he's had enough today. But when I asked him he was more than happy to take it off. But hours later he still wouldn't go on the potty even though he was dancing around clutching himself, so I asked him if he wanted the nappy back on which he said he did. Step backwards #10 for the day.

    And what about tomorrow? And what about the next day? I feel we have reached a crossroads of power which he controls completely. And little power plays and tantrums and boundary pushing is par for the course with everything these days, and there are certain battles we will let him win and others that we won't. But I've never let potty training become a battle because I wanted him to see it only as a positive. But now he knows he controls it and I feel it is almost pointless to try and wrestle any element of control or even influence back. What's the bloody point?

    I'm just tapped out and being emotional and pregnant doesn't help either!

    Although your experience with "school" confirms my suspicions that Bode's particular issues today were related to the stresses that he obviously felt there. He seemed OK on the outside, but perhaps they wrestle with it more than we realise and lash out in the only way they know they can. Sigh. I'm looking forward to that drink!

    1. Hi Vic, I hear your pain, although it is a very distant memory now with Alison. The story that finally worked (after almost a year of ups and downs) was that they don't make nappies big enough for 3 year olds (she was about to turn 3). So we counted down the last few nappies and that was enough for her. She kind of understood that it was out of my control, I simply couldn't buy nappies big enough for her.....

      I know another mum set her watch alarm to go off every 2 hours and when it went it was time to go to the toilet, again it wasn't mum saying you have to go, rather the alarm ringing and that's the rule, so out of mum's hands.

      Good luck - you know they all get there eventually.

  3. Remember that picture of a naked Vanessa in the toilette. She was about Bode's age and fully clothed, wearing panties not a nappy, when we turned to say goodbye to some visitng friends. When we turned back the clothing was scattered about and she was in the toilette...the joys of potty training!

  4. Oh Vic - I felt compelled to stop work to try and help you by relaying my Max experience! Firstly - pregnant, hormones, wig-outs expeceted, give yourself permission! Enough said.
    Second, I am all for the "forget about being a good/PC parent and do what it takes to get the job done" approach - maybe it will work for you? I had the same performance with Max and discovered the worst thing you can do after taking the nappy off is put it back on. Ever. Tell him its coming off, and then put him on the potty evey 45 mins or so for the next 3-5 days. Its a total grind, but he'll get really sick of it and realise that he needs to go to the potty when he feels he has to, and then the 45 min visits get further and further apart. He feels like he wins and you get what you want. It worked for us, just expect you'll get some clean ups to do and make sure his bed has a matress protector. I never used rewards, only verbally as that can lead to expectation, making a rod for your own back later :-) I let Max know that I was disappointed if he pee-ed his pants but never made it a bad experience or punishment, just asked him to try harder next time and let me know when he needed to go. I had to ask him a lot because they get so involved in what they are doing/playing, they do just forget. Its not uncommon for little kids to go 4-5 hours without peeing, but make sure he has regular water drinks. Also you may wanna keep him out of school until you have had enough time to train him. Think of the 3-5 days as a potty training emergency and allow the time. He will feel more confident at school and you'll feel better about it too. I hope this helps, I know every Mum and kid is different, but try a few different approaches and see if one pays off? I hope sanity returns soon my good buddy!

  5. Vic, an idea that came to me that helped me once upon a time: have some warm water and swish his hand in it, or even pour it gently over the you-know-what while he is on the potty. Its hard to hold back urinating if he really has to go with that.

  6. You ladies are awesome, thanks so much for all of your input. We have and will continue to try all approaches to this challenge, and for the most part our original efforts are still working. It's amazing what the little people will do to resist going though, we still take his nappy off in the morning and keep it off until his nap but yesterday he held it the entire morning literally until his nap-time nappy went on! There were no dramas, he was insistent that he didn't need to go potty (it was obvious that he did), he ate his lunch happily, and when it came time for his nap we read quietly as we always do, then we casually put his nappy on and he went to sleep. So no harm done I guess because we haven't given in and put it on any earlier, he just chose to wait it out. Sigh. Anyway, we appreciate all of your suggestions and look forward to reporting back our complete success by the time his 21st birthday rolls around :)