Saturday, March 9, 2013

Over it

That's it.  We're throwing in the towel on potty training! 

It's taken 6 full days of full, daytime potty training for us to realize that this just isn't going to work out right now.  I approached potty training all along with the mindset that just like everything else it was developmental and not something that we could force.  I planned to take a very hands-off approach and let Jack dictate when he was ready.  Maybe that's not the approach that everyone believes is correct, but it felt right for us. 

Recently, I really did think that perhaps he was ready.  It wasn't 100% clear to me, but there were signs so I thought it was a possibility.  OF COURSE we're ready for him to be done with diapers and somehow, my thinking quickly evolved from 'maybe we'll take this whole thing for a test drive to see how he does and maybe he's actually ready and it'll happen', to 'I'm ready so it has to happen now'!  Other parents are seemingly able to make their kids use the potty, so why can't we? 

Well, let me tell you, this is not something which can be forced.  Or at least not with all kids.  Not with my kid.  Maybe some kids respond better to their parents attempts, or maybe they're ready in their own way when the attempt is made, but I can tell you that it's definitely not something that can be forced with my kid.  I wish I would have just heeded my own instincts (what is the one piece of advice I always give new parents?  Listen to your instincts!  This approach has served me so well over the last 3 years, I don't know why I chose to ignore it now!) and given up on this situation days ago. 

And I know why I didn't listen to my instincts.  It's a combination of me wanting it to happen, not wanting to admit that everything we've been dealing with for the last 6 days has been for naught, him being SO close and knowing that one of these times it's just going to "click", and that outside pressure that I mentioned before.  This somehow equated to my thinking diverging from 'it'll happen when it happens' to 'it's my job to make it happen and if I can't make it happen I'm not doing my job'! 

But thank goodness, we only wasted 6 days putting us all through unnecessary stress before realizing that this is just like anything else.  It can't be rushed and Jack has to be on board.  We didn't spend days or weeks intensively teaching him to walk.  He had to work that out on his own.  We didn't spend days or weeks trying to force him to talk.  He had to work that out on his own.  We actually did try pretty hard to teach him how to eat as he was on the later side with that, but you know what?  Still something that had to evolve and he had to work out on his own! 

The only thing we could do in those situations was to support him through the process and provide him with the opportunity to do it and you know what?  Despite any worry that went towards those milestones and others, it all worked itself out.  I'm realizing the same is true for potty training.  It's not something you can *make* them do and while you know that on an intellectual level it doesn't stop you from madly googling all sorts of potty training topics for day and days trying to figure out how to do just that, make it happen!  You can't!  And that is why there are so many "right" ways to do this and so many conflicting opinions.  It all goes back to every child is different and every child is going to be ready for it at a different time. 

With the dawning of this realization, or really a return to my original thinking, which ever way you want to look at it, we're finally going to stop the torture!  Not one of us have enjoyed these past 6 days and there have been tears from both Jack and I. 

Our situation is not a power struggle.  It's not because he doesn't want to do it, or is choosing not to, it's because he *can't*.  As I said before, he has the control piece and he has the understanding of the general process.  He very much does not want to have accidents in his pants, but something is stopping him from being able to release into the potty.  This translates into him holding his pee for unnaturally long times and getting extremely anxious and frustrated when he gets to the point where he just CAN'T hold it any longer.  It is incredibly difficult to watch him go through this process.  And we're to the point where I'm genuinely concerned about potential negative impacts - both mental and physical. 

Something just isn't there yet, and I came to this realization after spending the vast majority of 3 hours earlier today trying to get him to pee in the potty.  I started making him sit on the potty (which he will do as long as we don't give him an option and keep him entertained while he is there) as soon as I could tell he needed to pee, but hours (with intermittent, but short breaks) spent entertaining him on the potty (which is incredibly taxing.  Trying to stay upbeat and positive and use all my creativity to keep him relaxed and sitting there isn't as easy as it may sound) he still hadn't peed.  It *finally* happened when he got to the point that he couldn't hold still because he had to go so badly and was visibly upset.  I again forced him to sit on the potty and amidst tears his bladder finally released while he happened to be on the potty. 

He earned the damn Hot Wheels car that we've been trying to bribe him with for days and he accepted my excitement, but I could tell.  I could just tell that it wasn't something that he did.  It was an involuntary action that I timed well. 

We've been continuing this potty training pursuit hoping that if we somehow managed to get him to pee in the potty a few times he would become more comfortable with it, but getting to that point is nearly impossible.  This wasn't something he was comfortable with or something that he wanted to repeat and that wasn't going to change regardless of the reward we presented him with or how excited I was or how many times we did this.  It's brutally difficult watching Jack struggle with this when I know he would do it if he could and I'm tired of putting that pressure on him and unwilling to continue it any further.  I only wish I had come to this realization a few days ago and saved us all some frustration and stress. 

So for now we'll put him back in diapers full time.  This is just not important enough to justify what we're going through to try to achieve it. We'll try again, but I can tell you that next time we try we won't be spending 6 days forcing the issue with no improvement.  I'm not sure if we'll wait a while and put him back in underwear to see what happens, or if we'll try to wait for some sign from him that he's ready (hopefully!).  I hope he's ready soon, I just wish we knew what kind of timeline we're facing so we could all just sit back and relax and wait!


  1. I will tell you what we did. Not because I think you should follow our path or I am judging AT ALL, but only because I know how you feel right now. Oh do I know how you feel! Maybe you won't feel so alone or maybe you find something useful. Or not. Just know you are not alone in this struggle.

    My son is 3.5 years and we have been in some sort of potty training mode for about a year. He just didn't want to use the potty. We did everything you did. Talked about it a lot. Had him shadow us into the bathroom. Announced when we had to go. Read books. Had other people talk to him about it. Offer some sort of award (we tried everything from toys to food to trips to museums). He just refused. And continued to refuse. But I also refused to force the issue for the same reasons you mentioned.

    I should mention that we didn't have the same problem with the holding. Our son just didn't care if he was wet or went in his underwear.

    About 3 months ago I decided to take the long road. I bought pull ups and just started having him sit on the potty every hour (sometimes it worked out to be longer, but so what, I knew it was going to be slow-going and I didn't want to force). If I saw signs that he was going to poop I scooped him up and took him to the bathroom. If he had already gone we put the poop in the toilet. Every time he happened to pee in the potty we made a huge deal. Every time his pull up was dry we made a huge deal. We danced around if he managed to poop in the potty. If he pooped in his pull-up we talk about how that's ok but he should try going to the potty next time. If there were down-times he would sit on the potty (for instance every day before preschool he sits on the potty while eating breakfast and watching curious george, weird I know, but it worked). Sometimes he poops during those times, sometimes he doesn't.

    We made a potty chart and every time he did ANYTHING in the potty he got a sticker. If he got so many stickers he got a treat of his choosing (got to go out with mommy to get a cupcake one time, got to pick out a $5 toy another). Usually there were 20-30 spots on the chart, so it would take a little while to get there.


  2. After about 2 months of this we saw that he was starting to get used to the potty. He was also starting to hold his pee longer and more able to go on the potty. So we put him part-time in underwear. He had accidents, but was starting to get the hang of it.

    Now after three months of this he's in his underwear most of the time. He still has problems with pooping, and still has pee accidents when he gets busy. And we still have to tell him to go. He doesn't go on his own very much. But he's starting to. If I see he's starting to hold in his poop we try to use the potty and then I put him in a pullup. I try to catch him in the act, but if I don't it's ok. I refuse to make him constipated and uncomfortable. He will get it sooner or later.

    Yes, it's taken 3 months, but there is progress! And on his own terms. My son is just not one of those that can do this in 3 days. It's been a long time, but it's not tedious and there has been less fighting and no crying. We just have taken him to the bathroom every once in awhile every day and he has learned how his body works in the process.

    What has also helped during this time is lots of naked time. He is more apt to go to the bathroom on his own when he is naked for some reason.

    I hope some of this helped. Or perhaps given you some hope that it's possible to do it without forcing. And kids do learn it on their own like you say. Just keep giving him chances to learn. I have stopped caring about what other people think about it, because every kid is different. They all have different ideas about all those things and they probably all have different tolerances to being wet or dry. And some have fear like your son. We just have to work it all out in our own time.

    Good luck! And just remember you are doing a great job of potty training YOUR son by doing what he needs, not what some book says.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! Sorry that it's been a long road for you guys, that's frustrating, but I'm glad to hear we're not alone with just not being ready. I'm also glad to hear you have made some progress though! It's also reassuring to hear that you started a while ago and are still in training mode because now I'm wondering if we waited too long! My instinct is that it wouldn't have mattered, but I guess we'll never know. I guess I've just heard too many 'I trained my kid in a day/3 days/my kid trained themselves' stories that I thought if we waited for some signs of readiness and just jumped straight to underwear it would work out quickly for us. This parenting stuff sure is a humbling experience!


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