Many weeks ago, I promised to write a post on potty training. You guys should know by now that I never do anything on time, so hopefully you weren’t holding your breath.
Anyway, yesterday I got this message on my Facebook page:
I have a 27-month-old boy that I am potty training, and when I sit him on the toilet, he’ll go. But he doesn’t tell me, mommy I need to potty, nor does he go the the bathroom. Here’s my concern and question. Concern: I can’t keep taking him to the bathroom every hour. Question: does it sound like maybe he isn’t ready ? The reason I ask is, my oldest was three and understood more. . . I have taken diapers away completely. . . and am afraid if I put them back on it will mess up the potty training.
Okay, first of all, I’m humbled and honored that this mom thinks I know what the hell I’m doing and went so far as to ask my opinion. I’m also slightly amused because when it came to potty training, things didn’t exactly go “well” at our house.
Let me set the scene first: there’s me, the mother of a boy and a girl, 20-months apart. The boy is “difficult.” When we praise him for doing something, he freaks out. Perhaps this is because he takes it as a sign that he’s bent to our will. Perhaps he hates the sound of our voices when they go up an octave and decibel level to say, “Good job!” Perhaps he’s just a stubborn pain in the ass.
The boy, Newt, actually shows some interest in potty training at a very young age. We sit him on the potty before he’s even two when we think he has to go, and he does. We think, “Dang, we’ve got this wrapped up. We’re doing that crazy Chinese no-diaper thing that those annoying people online talk about. We rock.” Yeah. We suck.
Newt doesn’t do the potty thing consistently and instead remains a total diaper boy when Elfie, our daughter, is born. We are all, in a word, exhausted. Newt is 2-and-a-half, we’ve unwittingly entered “autismland,” and Elfie develops what turns out to be chronic ear infections that make her cry constantly. We’re barely keeping everyone fed, clothed, and relatively clean (including ourselves).
Enter various friends — all with girls — who potty trained their kids in one day at the hour of midnight on their second birthdays. Clearly I’m a total loser.
Over the next two years, we go through every potty training method known to humanity:
- consistent trips to the bathroom (which sometimes work and sometimes throw him into fits of rage, so that’s good times)
- reward (which obviously don’t work at all since he hates being praised)
- final goal reward like getting a toy he really wants if he goes three times (which works really well — three times)
- stickers (couldn’t care less)
- reward charts (see above)
- cute potties
- cute toilet seats
- practicing peeing outside (great fun and totally confusing for a kid who doesn’t understand the difference between Nana’s two unlandscaped acres of sage brush and a public park)
- dirty underwear that made him feel “icky” (yeah, whatever)
- cleaning up his own mess that he made in his underwear (yeah, whatever)
- sitting with him in the bathroom for hours (you get a lot of reading done). And finally…
- freaking out on him and asking him when he’s going to stop pooping in his pull-up
He finally got the peeing thing somewhere between 3-and-a-half and 4. But he told me one day that he was going to poop in the potty when he was 5. Low and behold, his fifth birthday rolled around, and the kid started using the bathroom. He’s been trouble-free since. I’ve never even had to bug him or argue with him about going before we left on an errand (unlike some girl-children…).
Newt did this to us once before. We tried relentlessly to pry him from his beloved sippy cup. One day he told us that when he was four, he’d drink out of a cup. Guess what.
So I took the potty training thing as my final lesson to just let Newt do certain things on his own time schedule. No doubt some of this had to do with him exerting control over us. We were in a titanic battle of wills every day. And he was out-manned…
He’s 10 now. And he wasn’t irreparably damaged by learning to use the potty or drink out of a cup at an age that was later than most (at least from what I can tell). So to the mom who wrote me on potty training, I’d say this: he may be ready, he may not. If it’s a battle you feel strongly about waging now, go for it. If this is making your life a living hell, stop for a while and chill. He’ll be okay.
But you probably shouldn’t take advice from me. I’m the kind of person who could make half-a-billion Chinese mothers slap their foreheads in disgust.