Friday, March 8, 2013

Potty Training

I've discovered the tenth circle of Hell.  It's potty training a three-year-old.  I'm not sure what we as parents have done to deserve this purgatory, but we're here.

I posted several months back contemplating the topic of potty training.  Leading up to that I had already spent so much brain power just trying to figure out where/what/when/how to address potty training and since then we have intensively been working on introducing the topic.  Well, as intensively as you can without totally forcing the issue.

We have watched videos and shows, read countless books (over and over again, Jack actually really enjoys potty books), picked out big boy underwear, talked about the big boy underwear, talked about the potty, let Jack shadow us while using the potty, talked about all the people we know (real and imaginary, and in fact, not completely people, like Thomas the train and Daniel Tiger) who use the potty. 

I have come to discover that it's no wonder I'm so confused about potty training despite feeling fairly educated on the topic because you've got "experts" on one side saying if you're kid isn't potty trained by 18-months you're lazy more than anything and that waiting until the child is ready is a bunch of made up modern day parenting hooey.  There are "experts" on the other side who say don't even try to potty train before the kid is really ready even if this commonly means the child will be somewhere between 3- and 4-years-old for fear of creating long term physical and mental problems by forcing the issue before its time.

All of this conflicting "expert" advice has left my head spinning and me feeling like we've pretty much ruined the poor child before we've even started the process.  Helpful.

Added to that, I've started to feel this outside pressure.  Not pressure in the sense that other kids around his age are potty training so he has to too, because I recognize that every child is different, but pressure in the sense that what if now is the time and I miss the sweet spot?  What if we've pushed it this long and pushing it even longer will only make it increasingly harder?  Also, there's some sense there (likely mostly imagined) that I'm not doing a good enough job as a mother if I can't get my child potty trained by a "reasonable" time.  Or at least TRIED it.  I feel like my hands-off approach was starting to make me look lazy, or disinterested, or even neurotic, which certainly is not the case.

It's hard when you don't know the best way to approach something as important as this because all I want is to make this learning process as easy as possible on everyone involved.  If that means doing it now, I'll do it.  If it means waiting, I'll wait.  If it means cleaning up accidents for weeks to yield the best results I'll do that too!  Whatever, I just want my kid successfully potty trained without any physical or mental damage and as a bonus it sure would be nice if my sanity was also intact by the end of it all.

Right around the time of Molly's arrival (of course!) Jack started showing some signs of potty training readiness.  I had always wanted to "wait until he was ready" (whatever that means), but was at the same time afraid of "missing the window" (whatever that means).

So once things settled down a little bit (and Mark was still blessedly home to help with the process) we decided that we would just put Jack in underwear and see what happened.  We figured it would be apparent pretty quickly if he was ready for this whole thing.

Over the weekend we talked to Jack about how on Monday he was going to start using the big boy potty.  We had picked out a potty seat long ago, but he hadn't wanted to touch the thing with a 10-foot pole.  He had, however, voluntarily sat on it recently, which was part of the readiness signs.  We told him he was going to get to wear his fun big boy underwear (which we've also had for a while, but he hasn't wanted to wear) and it was going to be so much fun!  Surprisingly, the times we brought it up he seemed unusually interested so I thought, hey, maybe we're on to something.  Maybe he really IS ready and this is going to be great!

Motivation in hand, when Jack woke up Monday morning we promptly removed his night time diaper and put on his big boy underwear explaining to him that he needed to use the potty, otherwise his pants were going to get wet and we went on our way.

A little while later he inevitably had an accident.  He wasn't upset to the point of crying or anything, but he wasn't happy that his pants were wet.  That's fine, we said, it was just an accident.  Next time you'll put your pee pee in the potty and your pants won't get wet!  We changed his pants and went on our way.

A little while later he had a second accident and we repeated the process.

After those first two accidents he hasn't had any more full on accidents like that.  But he also isn't going on the potty.  What he's now choosing to do is hold his urine until he is at the point of exploding and then one of two things happens a) it's bed/nap time and he gets his diaper put on so he goes then, or b) a little bit leaks out relieving the pressure just enough that he can hang in until a diaper is produced.

Yesterday he had not. one. accident. (small or large) the entire day.  Pants and underwear totally clean and dry.  He even got quite a bit in the potty at one point, but that was actually because we timed a potty trip for one of the times when he just couldn't possibly hold it in any longer and amongst tears some finally made it into the potty.  HOW did this kid hold his urine all day long like that?  He of course was able to relieve himself at naptime in a diaper and at bedtime in a diaper.  He also finally had a bowel movement after holding it all week, which was quite concerning.  

So, to recap, yes, he will sit on the potty if we force the issue.  No, he will not pee in the potty.  No, he does not like his pants to be wet and avoids it at all costs.  He's actually rather upset when he has an accident because he just can't control it any longer.  But NO, he will NOT pee in the potty.  I don't even want to think about #2.

He has the necessary control (that's extremely obvious).  He has the understanding of the process.  He does not want to have accidents in his pants.  But he's too scared to do anything on the potty and I don't know how to get him past that without him actually GOING in the potty to see that it's okay and it actually makes you feel better!

Bribes Rewards have not worked.  Timed potty breaks have not worked.  Letting him dictate potty breaks (which means just not going to the potty) has not worked.  All of those results have yielded a kid who "potty dances" around the house for more than 1 1/2 hours rather than letting his bladder release in either his pants or on the potty.

I'm at a complete loss.  Jack has been in underwear full-time during the day (except for nap and bedtime) since Monday and I feel like despite being SO close we're not going anywhere and it's nothing more than torture for all of us. 

On one hand I feel like backing off might be the answer.  Let's discontinue the whole process and revisit it in the future in hopes that something will change between now and then and he will suddenly be okay with the process.

On the other hand, we've all put so much time and energy into this process and we're SO close.  Maybe he needs the exposure to the process in order to become comfortable with it and maybe continuing on is the best thing we can do to get him over this hump even though it's difficult for all of us right now.

I really, really don't know the answer and I don't think I've ever been so educated, yet so clueless on a parenting topic before.  

If anyone has experienced a kid who was scared to use the potty (and I'm not talking about using the potty itself, I'm talking about actually peeing in the potty) and was able to successfully get past it, I'm all ears!

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