Friday, July 11, 2008

Adventures in Potty Training

Potty training is one of the most frustrating tasks of raising a young child. I am currently training my youngest -- my little girl -- and am having a very frustrating time! And I know there are other parents that have the same experience. Why is it so difficult to get her to understand what she needs to do? And once she understands, when will she finally have the will to go the right way consistently? And why am I so wrapped up in this?

Maybe that's the toughest part of potty training for me. Sad to say, but I get really invested in whether they are doing everything right. I just want it to be taught, done and over with. (Maybe now that I can sense there might be a day when I actually don't have to change a diaper, I just want that day to be here NOW!)

I remember training my first son. I had infinite patience, compared to the way I feel now. I would read him a book while he was on the potty, he would sit down several times a day. Sure, he had setbacks like any child, and I distinctly remember saying to him, "Okay. You're not ready for this, so I'm going to stop pushing. You let me know when you're big enough to do this." I had the sense to lay off when he needed it. And he trained while we were taking a long vacation weekend. My husband and I looked at each other at the end of the first day and said, "Have you changed dirty pants? No? My goodness, he went on the potty every single time today!" It was a complete surprise.

My second boy was a lot more work. There was no miraculous training day for him. He had always had trouble staying dry overnight, so we knew that he just might have a smaller, well, capacity. We still wake him up during the night from time to time, just to make sure he doesn't have to go. But he had technical issues my oldest never had. He would clog the toilet from using too much paper. Or I would catch him trying to get clean with only one square. It makes me laugh now, but he truly had a process problem. We've worked through it -- he's 5 now -- but it sure took longer and we still have to be watchful.

I remember one thing that really helped both of them was for my husband to "get involved." With our first, he was completely hands off. Potty training was Mommy's work, apparently. It wasn't until my father visited and had a talk with him that he realized only someone with external plumbing can really explain how the pipes work. (My son wouldn't stand up to go. He didn't believe me when I said that's how men do it.) The power of setting a personal example was shown right there on that day. I remember chuckling to myself and thinking, "Well, it won't be the first discussion they'll have about how that thing's supposed to work."

And now I have a little girl. So, there's no husband to step in and bail me out. And, man! Am I having a frustrating time. ... It's not that she doesn't understand how to go. She's got that down pat. And she does have days when she will wear cloth underwear with no accidents. (We still have her in something absorbent at night time, just in case.) But she hasn't fully decided to be trained full-time yet. Yesterday she told me she just wanted to be a baby and wear diapers that day, and she fought me anytime I said it was time to try going to the bathroom.

I don't want to be the one pushing her; I want her to make the choice. And I'm not one to put the diapers or pull-ups away and force her to have accidents. (Because guess who has to clean that up!) But I don't have infinite patience anymore...

Yes, in my mind I'm saying, "please, oh please, let me be done changing diapers!" And why on Earth is my sense of well-being so caught up in this? It's not like she's going to be 20 and in pull-ups, right? (She's not, is she?)

I guess my point is this: If you are the mom of a girl and want to share some tips with me, I sure could use the help! Click on the "comments" link at the bottom of this post or check my profile and email me.

At least reading your hints will keep me distracted until she chooses to train.

Midwest Mom


  1. I would try potty training rewards. It worked great for our little one. She loved pushing the audio push button hearing she is a Big Girl and opening a door to fin d a chocolate surprise. She was peeing and pooping in her potty within a week. Have a look and see if this would work for you.

  2. I'm trying to find a way to use rewards. Maybe stickers or a chart will work...

    What I wonder is, what do you think about pull-ups versus cloth panties? Does it make a difference for girls vs. boys?

  3. OMG! This so sounds like me. It is so hard to be patient with this, and when my son has a setback, I wonder if I'm doing it right... I've lost my temper at him once already today. It does *not* feel good to be mad at my little guy.. (especially over something like the toilet)

    Good to know I'm not the only one. Maybe taking a break will be best for both of us.

    Thanx for the suggestions, you two.

  4. I so feel your pain-- son number two is impossibly stubborn-- he's three and refuses the potty. We've done the books. The songs. The movies. The sticker charts. The rewards....I'm just banking on the fact that when he's in high school, we'll have forgotten all about it-- or can look back laughing!

  5. Thanks for writing this.

    I am at my wits end with my second daughter.

    As far as girls go, I don't think there's any magic formula (lord knows I haven't found it.)

    Just hang in there! And every time she needs you to sit with her in the bathroom, remember that there are about 1000 other moms doing the same thing at the same time. (ha) It helps me, anyway.

  6. I have boy/girl twins and I thought the boy was going to be the hard one, NOPE, The girl! When I relaxed and stopped pushing, she got it, she is the kind of kid if you say black she says white. GOOD LUCK!

  7. Thanks for the ideas and encouragement. I remember my doctor asking whether she was ready to potty train -- at her 18 month well visit! "Girls are ready earlier than boys!" he said cheerfully... (His children are adults, and I wonder whether his wife would agree). : )

    At any rate, this weekend, we made a sticker chart with those little star-shaped stickers you get at the office supply store. She likes the idea of showing daddy how many stickers she's earned today -- he may have a role to play yet!

    I'll keep a good thought for all of you. I liked the comment that there were at least a thousand other moms reading when I'm sitting next her potty reading to her... I just know "Caillou and the Rain" (her favorite, because he sits on the potty in the book) by heart now!

    Hope you all have a wonderful week. Check back and share your successes! I'll update too. >< )

    - Julia


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