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Potty Training: Not for Wussies-repost

Your life sucks?

I'm in potty training hell.

You don't know 
how easy you have it.

So shut up, 
you got nothing on me.When any parent announces that their kid will begin potty training, what they are really saying is,"my life is going to be hell. I just signed up for boot camp and until this kid has success, my life is going to suck. It is going to challenge me in ways I never knew and I cannot fail. It is my parental obligation to get this kid to use the potty. I will not fail. I will be a winner and be among the millions, billions, who have crossed that bridge before me. If they can do it, so can I. God help me".

And with "We Are The Champions" playing in your head, you walk up to your 2/3 year old and say, "hey, I want you to meet my friend the potty." Child looks up at you and then runs away faster than Flash could even dream of, then disappears under a piece of furniture you had no idea they could fit under. And that, my friend, is the first time your child said "HELLLLLLL NO" to you.

So you go online, read blogs, take DVD's out of the library and realize that none of it works for your situation. You begin to wonder if your child was Houdini in a past life the way they can disappear when you just mention the word "potty". You beat yourself up and start to lose your mind and then the one thing the kid was trying to tell you all along becomes clear: They are not ready yet.

You put the project on hold and refrain from punching anyone in the face who is bragging about "how easy" it is to potty train their kid and anyone who asks you how boot camp is going. "F-U people, boot camp sucks. Your child is just a product of your OCD ways. I know you duct-taped that kid to the potty." You let yourself go online to research adult diapers and buy a few rolls of duct tape, just in case, of course.

Over the next few months, you approach, re-approach and dangle fancy rewards in front of them, just hoping that something, (please god, anything) works. And then, one day, they comply. They agree to sit on the potty for whatever it is you offered them, (hoping you didn't promise them a small island somewhere) and you have to shake your head because you are in shock. "Did I hear that right? kid is not under the sofa. Oh my, they are PULLING THEIR PANTS DOWN". (cue Queen). Ok, 1/2 second on the potty counts. You can have that Island off the coast of Africa, Madagascar?, sure. 

You start the child on a schedule, you set the timer for every half hour and take off their diapers hoping, just hoping, they don't challenge the stain guard on the new carpet.  You load up on teddy grahams and every time that timer goes off, after thinking "already?", you put that kid on the potty. After two days, you want to get a baseball bat and smash that timer in a million pieces. You are feeling erratic with this new schedule, but the kid is just sitting on the potty for cookies. THERE IS NO OUTPUT. ANYWHERE.  News flash: the kid is working you. They have figured out that to get the reward, all they have to do is sit on the potty. No output required. That is when you have to up the ante and require output for reward. Be it cookies, M&M's, crack, whatever.

The kid responds one of two ways, they agree or tell you "hell no". What you realize after you've upped the ante, is that now you have to do more too. To get the kid to sit there and produce output, you have to sit there and encourage output. So, you get some books, toys and electronics and sit with them. (But be careful with electronics on the potty. My #1 murdered an ipod that way and I learned from the Apple store that more electronics are dropped in the potty each year than you would think, but I digress.)

Days, weeks to follow, you watch your kid like a hawk, (if you have multiple children, a distracted hawk) hoping you can identify the "pre-I-have-to -go-potty-dance", before it turns into, "I-got-to-go-potty-dance", to "I-am-peeing-myself-dance". You clean up accidents, encourage and celebrate successes. 

With all five kids, they were remarkably different. Kids with Autism have a much more difficult time than their typical peers just because many have transition issues. Imagine doing something your entire life and then one day you have to change. This is exactly what potty training is. You are now telling them what was previously acceptable is no longer an option.

We started #1 on the potty at age three, but he didn't have pottying autonomy until age five. With #2, we started at three and by age four he had pottying autonomy but was in a diaper at night for another year and a half. #3 fought us and outright refused. We attempted multiple times with a variety of rewards and nothing worked more than a day. What we learned from him was that he was the captain of his own ship; he wasn't going to do what you wanted no matter what the reward. It was not until we threatened to put him on the potty every 10 minutes,(that was fun) and we did that for a day, he decided to do it on his own.(he was 5.) No night accidents, he just did it. Control was his issue.

The girls....a different breed entirely.

Twin "R' sashays into the room singing, "mommy, I have to go pee-peeeeeees". "Ok", I say," go do it". She replies and her song turn to whine, "no, you come with me." (What are you the queen and want to receive an audience). As she is on the potty, Twin "S' makes her announcement, "I have to go too." (Identical twins. Biology doesn't lie). We are at the point where I am just monitoring autonomous or quasi-autonomous behavior. At almost four, they are just a pull-up at night team and really good during the day. They just want to hold court when they go.

In the end, potty training boot camp varies from kid to kid. you may hear the victory song quickly or it may take years. And when all is done, you're just glad you've made it through. And now that you're not buying diapers, you have more money for beer. Cheers!


  1. LOVE it, Shari! I went through this... it soo resonates. I realized Ashley was totally working me for M&Ms when she would sit on the potty 10 times an hour, pull up her pull-up, and promptly pee in it.

    I don't even know WHAT I did but one day, magically, it happened. Wait. I do know. One night, after insisting that NO advice, no programs, nothing anyone shared would work, I read on a mom forum to just tell your child something very specific: "Going potty is your choice. Whether you do or don't is fine with me. But you will be wearing underwear. And if you wet it, you will change it. If you pee on the floor, you'll wipe it up. BUT it is entirely your decision what to do." (For sanitary reasons, I did not make her clean up her own poop.)

    Now, I'd tried this once before and her "choice" was to sit in her own pee for HOURS. But this time, it worked. We've had minimal accidents and I'd say she trained in about 2 weeks after that revelation/conservation.

    Now it's on to the boy. I've heard boys are harder. Somehow, I don't think that's possible. (P.S. Ashley is almost 4 and a half.)


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