The Potty Training Saga

21 Aug

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.

P.S. Ironically, today I read this post from Rainy at Perfectly Normal... on her views on potty training.


Posted by on August 21, 2008 in Jenna, Parenting tips


15 responses to “The Potty Training Saga

  1. tlk

    August 21, 2008 at 1:22 am

    I suggest keeping her in dresses (maybe even no underwear) while you’re training. MUCH easier to get down one pair of pants than two, for kid or Mommy. I’ve also heard of people who had success with just letting the kid run around naked. And it’s the right time of year for it.

    And DON’T get discouraged. We did the potty chart for literally weeks or months until Bean just got it.

  2. Christina @ Northern Cheapskate

    August 21, 2008 at 1:42 am

    I FEEL YOUR PAIN! We started trying to potty train our 3yr old son about 2 months ago. He would scream and yell and throw a fit if you even tried to get him to sit on the potty. We tried the chart, stickers, candy… same problem. For a brief period of time, he would sit on the potty if you gave him coins for his piggy bank (guess he’s my kid!), but then he started the fits again. We backed off a little bit, and now we can get him to pee on the potty IF and only IF we give him a “potty present” afterwards (usually a matchbox car or some similar thing).

    He seems to be getting the idea… still no pooping on the potty at all…. but not showing much independence about pulling down his own pants, etc. Our reward system, while it works, is getting freakishly expensive.

    I’m getting very frustrated with the sloooow progress, but I just keep reminding myself of a couple of key things:

    1) We’re a heck of a lot further than we were one month ago.

    2) There are very few 5-year olds in diapers.

    My son has always been a kid that needs to do things his own way in his own time… he does not adapt to change very well. So we’ll keep plodding along.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say, you’re not alone. I definitely feel your pain! We have one-year old twin boys, so I’m so anxious to get at least one kid out of diapers/pull-ups!

  3. Monica

    August 21, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Thanks for the detailed post. We are just starting to think about potty training. We bought a little chair for her, but at 16 months I’m thinking it’s a tad too soon?
    The toilets are upstairs so I am anticipating a LOT of exercise.

  4. Emily

    August 21, 2008 at 3:36 am

    I haven’t gone through this yet, but I have seen so many friends experience similar frustrations! I don’t have advice, but I definitely know that this post will help me when I am in the depths of potty training too. So, thank you.

  5. Laura

    August 21, 2008 at 4:50 am

    I did a whole string of posts about potty training…here’s the link to the last installment where I give all my good tips on training.

    But for right now, I just want to say, oh, yes it all sounds normal. It’s the whole two steps forward one step back thing. There ARE going to be days where they don’t get a single one in the toilet, where you slide way back. But keep keeping track of successes and over a few weeks you will probably notice things going in the right direction. Hang in there, don’t give up unless she’s showing large amounts of trauma about it. Not knowing when you need to go and multiple, MANY false alarms is NORMAL! Hope the thread on my blog helps too, it’s got a lot of tips!

  6. denise @ EatPlayLove

    August 21, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Potty training my oldest daughter was easy, it all came down to when she was ready really. I started at 2, but by around 2 and 4 months, she was solid. I even let go a bit in those in between months and didn’t push it.

  7. Heather

    August 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    All I can say right now is
    I hate potty training. So negative I know, but at least maybe it makes you feel a bit normal! It’s HARD–such a tricky thing, trying to be positive and not let it become a hateful power struggle. It sounds to me like you’re doing great. You have more stamina than I! 🙂

  8. iMommy

    August 21, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Awesome tips! Thanks for sharing, we’re starting potty training soon. And I’m sorry, but the poop flinging did make me laugh…. I hope that you can look back on it once she’s trained and laugh, too!

    Worst case scenario, it’s a GREAT story to tell future potential boyfriends.

  9. tags-n-stones

    August 21, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Wow, it’s been six months since my now 4 year old has been completely potty trained and it feels like YEARS- I just want to say, don’t worry, it will happen, and then you’ll be off to the next phase 🙂

  10. psychmamma

    August 21, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Wow! Thanks for all the great advice and sympathy!

    TLK – She INSISTED (in typical toddler fashion) on wearing pants the day of the poop flinging fiasco. We’re trying to suggest dresses or nothing as much as possible. I might try naked tomorrow, if she’ll go for it.

    Northern Cheapskate – Glad your reward system is working, but, WOW, it does sound like it could add up fast. We’re willing to do whatever it takes though. And you’re absolutely right – I need to remember that all kids just need to do it in their own time.

    Monica – I’d say 16 months is WAY to soon, but we had Jenna’s little potty seat out then too, just for her to get used to sitting on it and sitting her babies on it. She loved it. Sounds like you’re in for some serious exercise when the major event begins.

    Emily – Hopefully you avoid poop-flinging fiascos 🙂

    Laura – Thanks so much for your encouragement and the link for tips! Headed over to check them out after bedtime tonight

    Denise – Wow. I am in awe of you. I can’t imagine having started at 2! She is a potty genius!

    Heather – Thanks for the sympathy and encouragement. I don’t feel like I have much stamina. I feel like I need a tropical vacation.

    iMommy – I guess we’re even since your Brazilian experience made me laugh. 😉 Hope that your experience goes much more smoothly.

    tags-n-stones – Thanks so much for the encouragement and small glimmer of hope. I’m sure that it’s a relief to have all that behind you 🙂

  11. Rainy @ Perfectly Normal

    August 22, 2008 at 5:48 am

    Hi there! Just thought I’d check in and see how it’s going. Don’t feel bad if you give up for a little while. That can actually be a good thing. I just wrote another post with the tips that did finally work for me when I potty-trained my daughter. I tried the charts and the no-pants and the extra fluid and everything, but nothing really worked until I backed off and let her do it on her own.

    Best of luck to you and I hope there is no more poop flinging in your future!

  12. psychmamma

    August 22, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Rainy –

    Two days of zero success now. 😦 Boo. We (hubby and I) decided to stick it out this week, see how it goes, and back off if it’s still not going well. Today we’re trying the naked bottom half method (her – not me). She hates the feel of yucky stuff on her legs, and pull-ups, training pants, and even underwear are absorbing a lot of it. We’ll see what happens. Headed over to check out your latest post. Thanks for sharing!

  13. anymommy

    August 22, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    You know I struggled. My quick advice is to give it a week going all out and see what happens. If at the end of the week you are still going crazy, wait a few months! Great post, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done yet as a parent.

  14. Jennifer, Playgroups are no place for children

    January 7, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    This is really helpful, thank you so much! I really appreciated your comment about not hurrying simply based on age.

    Carson’s potty experiences sound similar to Jenna’s early experiences. I love the idea of a chart, especially a really big and sturdy chart…I think I need a Wal-m@rt run to get supplies.

  15. دليل المواقع

    September 19, 2012 at 12:44 am

    I appreciate, result in I found just what I used to be looking for. You’ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye


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