Well, I was all set to post about what we’ve been doing for potty training and how things are going, but I’m so discouraged tonight I just about chucked it. “It” as in the whole potty training thing. For right now. I’m currently a little calmer (since Hubby came home and took over), and now I’m riding the fence. Should I give it at least a week? Or is she just not ready yet? Since I’ve never done this before, I’m not sure which way to lean (feel free to give advice in the comments – I’ll take whatever I can get). Here’s what’s been happening in potty world:
Monday: 1 pee success! 1 partial poop success (started in pants – finished in potty). 1 pee accident. She has to be on her feeding pump during nap time and overnight, so we’re not expecting continence then, and we’re putting her in a diaper (and she goes a LOT then). She REFUSED to wear training pants (the thicker, cotton underwear) because she said they felt “ouchy.” Go figure. I would think they would be WAY more comfortable than a plastic diaper. She consented to wearing Dora pull-ups, but, in hindsight, I’m afraid that was a bad move. They supposedly allow kids to feel the wetness, but I don’t think she feels it enough.
Tuesday: 1 pee success! 1 partial poop success. 1 pee accident. Hmmm…..sounds familiar.
Today: Ugh. She was playing in her crib while I took a shower with strict instructions to yell “Mommy!” if she needed to poop or pee (we have a potty chair in her room for quick access). She interrupted my shower THREE times. The first time, she had already peed by the time I got there. The next time was a false alarm. The final time, she had already pooped. Great. I’m pretty sure that she had done her business before she even yelled, because I got in there fast – no toweling, dripping wet, naked, and freezing. For the rest of the day, I decided to try regular “big girl” underwear that she had helped pick out with fun critters like frogs and puppies. The material was thinner, so my hope was that she would feel the wetness and not like it. She tolerated the new underwear and solemnly promised to not pee or poop in them because she didn’t want to get them dirty. We sat on the toilet every 10 minutes (we set a timer and she gets super-excited when it dings and RUNS for the potty), but – nothing for one hour. I figured it was about time for something to happen, so I had her sit a little longer. Finally, I relented. She was off the potty for 2 minutes, I went in to switch a load of laundry and she came running after me, trailing a stream of urine and screaming, “Mommy, I AM WET!” Sigh. We cleaned up and started the sitting schedule all over again. Some time later, again, after JUST HAVING BEEN ON THE POTTY, she shouted, “Mommy! Poops!” and I rushed to get her to the potty. I started pulling her pants down, and she began frantically kicking her feet to disentangle herself from the pants and mess (she had started pooping already). The frantic kicking sent poop flying EVERYWHERE. My cheek, my shirt, my jeans, my hands, her legs, her pants, the bathroom rug (WHY didn’t I put it away??), the bathroom vanity, the window, and the toilet. I shouted, “Stop! Stop! STOP!!” with increasing intensity since she wasn’t even remotely listening, and my shouting (which I seriously never do – I’m much more likely to get deadly quiet when I’m angry. This time I was just plain desperate) resulted in her breaking out into terrified tears. I immediately switched to a softer tone, told her it was OK and that we would get it cleaned up, but I could tell that I had at least semi-traumatized her. Great. Exactly what I DIDN’T want to do. Especially related to pooping, which is hard enough to train.
The rest of the day was no better. We had one more pee accident and absolutely no successes. She asked multiple times to wear a pull-up or a diaper. She refused to drink much, and seemed less interested in the whole process. My low back is killing me because something felt like it ripped during the poop flinging fiasco. I’m discouraged. I don’t want to give up. I want to help her be successful. But I just don’t know if this is normal, if we should just give it some more time, or give it a rest.
The most frustrating thing for me is that, in grad school, I assisted with research that was successful in training kids with autism to use the potty and we had almost full continence within a weekend (much within the first day). Granted, I’m not following the protocol with Jenna. I really didn’t think she’d need anything so structured. It demands a strict sitting schedule, fluid loading, immediate positive reinforcement for success and wearing a “urine alarm” (like what’s used for bed wetting kids) that immediately sounds an aversive buzz when they start to pee. I have no doubt that I could do this same protocol with Jenna and be successful, but the urine alarm is pricey, and the schedule is demanding. We also have some problems with getting Jenna to drink a lot, but we could fluid load her through her tube. I just didn’t think we’d have to get this involved.
What we tentatively decided to do is to finish out this week and see how it goes. If we’re not having any better success, we’re just going to go back to diapers and not make any big deal out of it. She has a friend who’s two years older than her coming to visit over Labor Day weekend, and there’s hope that her example will provide some further impetus. Jenna simply adores her and copies her behavior whenever she’s around. We might be able to use that to our advantage. Basically though, if we go back to diapers after this week, we’ll just leave the ball in Jenna’s court for a while and see what she does. Who knows? Maybe she’ll be horrified to go back to diapers and demand to go to the potty on her own. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, here’s what we ARE doing. I made a potty chart based on a chart in the back of a book we bought called, “Lift the Lid, Use the Potty.” It’s a lift-the-flap book that Jenna loves, and it includes reward stickers. Here’s what our chart looks like (you can click it to make it bigger):
For every success, she gets to put a sticker (clipped on the bottom, left corner) on the next square of her journey to the “Potty Party.” Each day, I switch out the sticker sheet to keep it interesting. The chart is decorated with stickers along the outside of the path, as well as glitter glue (tip: it takes glitter glue a LONG time to dry). We have a clear, plastic container (an old pretzel container) that we put a bunch of small “prizes” in. We decided to let her have a prize for each successful poop in the potty and there’s a star on the chart’s path for each time she can get a prize for peeing. At first, she only needs three successes, then we extend it to 5. We kept it five throughout the chart (we had enough small prizes). But you could also gradually extend this.
The chart is done on sturdy foam board, and she loves to hold it and talk about it while she’s sitting on the potty. We also keep the prize container sitting by the potty as a reminder of what she gets if she succeeds. Every morning, we pick a stack of books for “potty books” for the day, and we keep them in the bathroom for handy reading while sitting. I’m really working on fluid-loading her by constantly prompting her to drink. I also have her drink several times while she’s on the potty (we keep a sippy cup in the bathroom too). We set a timer for sitting on the potty every 10 minutes until she goes. After she goes (accident or success) we back it off to 20 and then 10 again. We have sit for 5-10 minutes, but sometimes she wants to sit longer. We sing songs, look out the window that’s right by the potty and read a lot of books. I’m thinking about bringing in the portable DVD player. The successes seem to come when she’s most distracted and not thinking about the whole process. A movie would do that.
Here’s what else I would recommend if you’re beginning to think about training:
- Good videos about potty training. Especially with favorite characters. We have Potty Time With Bear (as in the Big Blue House), and Elmo’s Potty Time. Jenna loves them both and we talk about them a lot.
- A good book about going potty. There are a lot out there. We love the one we have (above).
- A box of wet wipes in the bathroom. There are flushable wet wipes available now that are great, but regular baby wipes work to. Just don’t flush them.
- Roll up any rugs that you can and go to bare floor if possible. Not as warm and cozy, but MUCH easier to clean. If you only have carpet, maybe get a shower curtain or a tarp to lay down in a designated play area for the time that you’re intensively training.
- Let the kiddo help pick out the “big kid underwear” that they’ll start in.
- Stock up on disinfectant spray and wipes as well as laundry detergent. You’ll be dong a lot of cleaning.
- Really think about what’s most reinforcing for your child. If M&Ms do the trick, stock up! Candy and food doesn’t work for Jenna, but stickers and prizes do.
That’s all I’ve got tonight. I think my brain just hit the proverbial wall. I need to just spend some time unwinding now. Please, share any thoughts, comments or advice below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.