Monday, February 4, 2013

Motherhood Monday: Potty Training A Stubborn Kid

I want to start off this post with the big disclaimer that I am in no way saying this is THE way to potty train a kid or that I am any kind of an expert! That being said, Phillip and I had one previous potty training attempt that was a failure of epic proportions. It left me pretty terrified of the whole idea of potty training him. I followed a pretty popular method that seems to work for tons of people out there, but in hindsight, was just not right for my stubborn kid. That method basically involved a three day bottomless potty training boot camp. You were supposed to pump your kid full of snacks and drinks so they would have lots of opportunities for practice. Then, set a timer for every 15 minutes and put them on.

I do think we might have tried a bit too early for him (2 years and 2 months), but I also think that if I had used the same method that I used this time it probably would have worked and at least would have been less stressful for me. So by now you're wondering: well what did you do?? I will keep you in suspense no longer!

First step: I don't think this is absolutely essential, but I do think it helps. Well before starting potty training, buy some books about going to the potty (we liked "My Big Boy Potty" and "Once Upon a Potty"), maybe get the Elmo potty time DVD, and if you want get a little potty. Read about going potty, watch Elmo go potty, and let your kid see you and daddy go potty and just generally talk about it. If you get the little potty, they may want to try sitting on it clothed or put their toys on it. The goal of this step is just to make them familiar with the concept. You can start this whenever you want. I think we got our first potty related thing when Phillip was about 20 months.

Second Step: Buy copious amounts of big boy underpants (or big girl). Ours were Thomas and Mickey Mouse, but I honestly don't think that mattered all that much to him. Also, take a trip to your local dollar store or the dollar spot at Target and load up on fun little toys and prizes. You can also get some candy to mix in. I also purchased a couple of Thomas trains to be his first prizes so he would get really psyched but that could obviously get really expensive and he was honestly pretty psyched to get a dollar store toy boat too.

Third Step: Wake up and say today is potty day. You are a big kid now. No more diapers. Put on underpants and shorts. Tell your little darling, let me know if you want to go potty. And, lets keep our fancy new pants clean. That's it. You do not ask them if they need to go potty. Ever. See, this is where we ran into a problem the first time. Because unlike so many kids I read about, my little boy doesn't really delight in pleasing me and if I say left, he wants to go right. So every time, I would ask "do you need to go pee pee?" Or say "time to go sit on the potty!" His automatic response would be to fight me. So, I made it all about him and all up to him.

Of course, pretty shortly he peed in his pants and came and told me. I said "uh oh, next time you need to go pee pee in the potty. That was yucky. Lets change clothes." And if he got it in the floor I had him help me clean it. Not mad, not frustrated just, maybe next time you should pee in the potty. It was so hard for me not to prompt, but by the afternoon of the first day, he was already getting it. He would start to go and then stop and then say potty and we would run. On the first day, any success, however small was a HUGE deal. So much praise and then I introduced the prizes. One for each pee or poop that made it in.

By the second day, we had ONE accident. In the beginning, I took multiple changes of clothes with me if we went anywhere, but we tried to keep outings fairly short. Still, I didn't tie us to the house because that felt like too much pressure to me. I just accepted that there would be accidents and he would figure it out. And he did. With his personality, it had to be his idea.

I did still put diapers on him for naps and bedtime (and still do at night). I just explained he's still learning and might not be able to wake up. It did not set him back at all. I'd say 9/10 nights he stays dry, but we are going to stick with the diapers for a while longer.

By day four I started telling him that when the prizes were gone that would be all and then he was potty trained. I think we made it til day 5 when we ran out (I bought a lot of prizes plus candy really helped flesh it out). He asked a couple of times and I just said no more prizes you're potty trained now, but still made a really big deal of it. I honestly still try to praise him a lot.

Now once I felt that he really got it, I did begin making him go pee before we leave the house. Just because you never know when he'll say "pee pee coming!" (His phrase!) in the middle of a freeway. Again though, I do not ask, I take him to the bathroom, pull his pants down and put him on. Then I say, go pee. He usually does. If I feel like he's playing and doesn't want to stop and I see that potty dance going on, same thing.  Don't ask, he will say "no."  Just take him.  If he doesn't go, just say we'll try again later.

The first few days whenever we were out somewhere, I would say let's find the potty and then if you need to go, you can tell me and we will run fast and go. It worked great and he had no trouble going on the big potties, but of course I did have to help him stay stable and teach him to point his pee downwards, ha!

All in all, it was such a non-event and such a pleasant experience. Really, I think the lesson is to follow your instincts. There is no one right age or one right way to train. The main thing to take away from my method is that if you have a stubborn child, do not turn this into a battle! Your kid will not like going in their pants. Have some faith because they will be able to figure it out pretty darn quick if they're ready. And if they just aren't "getting it" they are probably not physically mature enough. Take a couple of months off like we did and start fresh. As my husband told me so many times, "no kid goes to high school in diapers. He'll be potty trained eventually."

Good luck and hope that helps someone out there with a hard-headed cutie like mine!



  1. Good for you! Those are excellent strategies for potty training. We're going through potty training regression right now. I tried the whole naked potty training thing and then she pooped on the floor. Backfire!

  2. potty training can be a real nightmare. I had to try 3 times I think before we got it. My son pooped on the couch like 6 times the first few days. I know discusting!!!! Thank God we have removable zip off cushions that go straight into the sanitary cycle on the washing machine:)The only thing that worked for me was taking his pants off all together and not leaving the house for about 5 days. But it was HARD. I hated every minute and am not looking forward to having to do it 2 more times. BOOOO for potty training!


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