Potty Training

In the summer of  2019 the kids were 2.5 years old. All 3 kids, Lucy especially, started asking about the potty and wanting to learn how to sit on the potty like a big kid. Lucy talked about it the whole summer, and we planned a boot camp in July with me, Derek, and my mom to be 3-on-3. We wanted to try and knock it out in a week. We did the whole no underwear or pants thing for a couple days and stayed outside and pumped them full of water and juice and smoothies. We went to the potty every 15 minutes. We sat timers and did the potty dance and gave rewards and stickers and all the things. We went full out! We then tried to put them in underwear and let them feel how gross it was to pee and poop in their underwear. Even though the universe was fighting against us that week with Lucy getting a ruptured ear drum on day 2 and Oliver falling and busting his lip open and needing stitches on day 3, we made huge progress the first couple days. The kids loved peeing in the potty and the boys had pooped once or twice in the potty. However, the driver of the whole endeavor, Lucy girl, decided on day 3 that this was not all that she had dreamt it to be in her imagination. The boys had gotten a little toy train for pooping in the potty and when asked if she wanted to pick from the prize box and poop in the potty, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Mommy, my not want to do this anymore. This is so disappointing.” And from that moment on she was done. No interest. It didn’t matter what we offered or what we tried. She didn’t care. If we had let her, she would have straight sat in her poop in her pants for an hour and not care .

Without her as the driver, the whole operation fell apart and we had to quickly pivot expectations. For the foreseeable future (the next 9 months), we accepted that the kids would be in pull-ups. They still loved to pee often in the potty, but also peed without hesitation in their pull-ups. And they refused to poop in the potty. I still count the 2019 potty training boot camp as a win though, because after that they were very comfortable peeing in the potty and knew what to do and what I was expecting of them. They just didn’t want to do it. That is still progress.

Finally around their 3rd birthday (January 2020), they started to show interest again. We started encouraging it a little more, but still didn’t have the time to do another boot camp so we rode it out for a few months gaging if they were really interested. Quarantine hit during that time and Derek and I were both teaching with our kids at home with us, so that was not the time to make a big shift. We waited a little longer than we probably could have, but that is completely fine. We had a few other things going on in the midst of a global pandemic. It was actually comforting knowing that we didn’t miss our window. It did not matter that our kids wore pull-ups until they were well into their 3rd year. No one judged us. It meant nothing about their intelligence or our abilities as parents. Side-note: we as parents need to take that pressure off of the kids and off of ourselves. 

In April 2020, Derek and I as teachers were on spring break and decided that we had a couple days to just try and see how the kids responded to being motivated a little more. We had a potty treat mason jar that still sits in our bathroom that has held skittles, marshmallows, starbursts, M&Ms…it changes but the concept was easy – each time you pee or poop, you get a treat. I know that the whole food bribery thing has mixed reviews from doctors and nutritionists, but at this point, that was what worked. Also, they didn’t need the bribery long. After a couple weeks they stopped asking for a treat each time they peed and just accepted that this is what we do. We also offered them suckers if they went the whole day dry. This also only lasted a couple weeks and it just became the norm. However, they do still occasionally ask for a potty treat when they poop in the potty. But they only remember about half the time. I only give it to them if they ask for it. If that is what it takes for me to not have to change anymore poopy diapers, I’m all for it. You can have that little 2g of sugar! We also used stamps for a while and that was fun. Each time they peed I would let them choose a stamp and they could put it on their arm or belly or somewhere silly. Another motivator was fun underwear. We let them choose the characters (paw patrol) and we would throw away the pair if they pooped in it. This actually made them really sad to throw away Rubble or Skye and helped them stay motivated to keep their favorite characters clean and dry. I made them walk it to the trashcan and say goodbye to it and tell me why we had to throw it away. They also had to clean the mess up with a paper towel on their own (then I would secretly go back and clean it up with a Clorox wipe later).

Lucy is still somewhat of an outlier because she still sometimes gets in the zone and just decides that playing is a better option then peeing and comes up to me with a straight face and says, “Mommy, I peed on the floor. Can I have the towel. I’ll clean it up.” But for the most part they understand that being a big kid means you pee and poop in the potty. This was our journey. All journeys are different. The biggest thing I learned in our potty training journey is that the kids will let me know when they are ready. They always do. Each kid is different. It is ok if it takes a while. Taking the pressure off of myself and off of them made a huge difference. Life is messy, it’s ok if potty training is too.