Failing at Potty Learning

Remember that post I wrote a few weeks back in which I polled people on the most annoying things parents post on Facebook? One of responses was potty-training posts.

Well guess what?

I am one of those people. You know why? Because potty learning (that is the now the preferred term, I've been told) is equal parts hilarious and frustrating as all hell. Reaching out to a support system (a.k.a. Facebook) is sometimes the only way to retain your sanity.

HJ will be three years old in May and she is determined to wear diapers for the rest of her life. However, since it’s frowned upon to send a kindergartener to school in Huggies, we decided to start taking this whole process a lot more seriously lately. We've been gently encouraging toilet use for the past year. It went well the first two weeks and then crashed and burned since. We've desperately been searching for ideas that would work. So far, here’s what we've tried:

  • Buy her really pretty or really special underwear and she won't mess in them: I bought her Bubble Guppies and Minnie Mouse undies. I talked them up, got super excited with her about wearing them, and made a grand production about the fact that she was wearing “Super Special Big Girl Panties.” Aaaaand she peed in them five minutes later. She was completely unfazed by the wet undies and I didn't realize it until I stepped in the puddle in her bedroom.

  • Start a sticker chart: I got a piece of cardstock out, drew her name in some block letters that I mastered in my dance squad days, and excitedly explained that she'd get to put a new sticker on her name every time she used the potty. Well, that was cool for a day. The stickers lost their luster when she realized that they couldn't be removed from the cardstock.

  • Stage a lockdown: I got this idea from Pinterest. It claimed “Potty Train your Child in just ONE day!” I should know better. Pinterest is full of lies. This one said to lock yourself in your house for a day or two, put the kid in underwear, wear an apron full of candy, and set a timer for every 30 minutes. You're supposed to have the kid try to go when the timer goes off and reward them with candy. These constant visits to the potty gave HJ a complex and she refused to use the potty for weeks afterward. She was beyond over it. Thanks a lot, lying Pinterest mom.

  • Tell her the potty is hungry and thirsty. She didn't care.

So that brings us to our current strategy:

  • Bribery: Yes. I know this is the frowned upon solution, but a combination of taking away all electronics and giving them back after potty trips with a piece of candy has shown a 50 percent success rate. The times it does not work are when HJ decides she just wants a piece of candy and yet does not need to use the potty. Instead, she has a meltdown.

Super awesome.

Now, I'll need to finish this blog because HJ just peed on the fireplace brick ledge and the girls are playing in the puddle.

Please send wine.

Tagged: potty learning, potty training, parenting, toddlers


Chantal Prost 4 years, 3 months ago

My husband just forwarded this blog to me with the comment, "see we are not the only ones!" I loved reading every bit of it. You are so right in everything. Mine is 3.5 years old and it has been a battle since she was 2.5. Today we threw a fit because we had to wear panties instead of pull-ups. ;/ I have been told to try all the same things to no avail. Some kids are great about it and some are not. They say girls are easier to train, which I feel makes it more frustrating that we have daughters that refuse to potty. You last comment said please send wine. LOL We own a liquor store in Lawrence on the corner of 23rd and Haskell. Please come visit us today and I will give you a free bottle of wine because I know what you are going through!


Randy Erickson 4 years, 3 months ago

"Tell her the potty is hungry and thirsty." I never use LOL. Never. But I mos def LOL'ed at this.

Erin Cottrell 4 years, 3 months ago

Ugh. I remember potty training. It actually was not too bad with my own son, but I cared for 2 -3 year olds at a daycare several years ago. One little boy refused to use the potty. He was a very willful little guy, so I went out and bought him his own copy of "Where the Wild Things Are" and told him it was his potty book and he could ONLY have it on the potty. He was using the potty and out of diapers in a week. Not to say it will work with every kid, but it worked with him!

John Kyle 4 years, 3 months ago

Wow. I never had the problem with potty training but I would never go to your lengths. Put the kid in underwear: one or two accidents running down her leg and she will potty train real fast ( I did not do this with my kids, by the way). The key is to not let it bother you because as Dr Spock pointed out, this is one of the first times a child gets power (over their own body and over their parents). Rather than bribing your child, you and your spouse should agree from this point on, to never mention or show reaction to your child's diaper wearing. Ask once if they want to use the potty and if they say no, don't argue, put the diaper on and leave it.

What a scheme your child has going. As long long as she doesn't get potty trained, she gets gifts. What a racket!

Erin Graham 4 years, 3 months ago

Great ideal- this was our first route. We also tried a special book/story (not interested) and later a special toy he could only play with on the potty as mentioned above. We quickly put an end to the toy bribery- it quickly escalated from a small matchbox car to demands of toys so big Santa's Sleigh would tip over lol. We DID use Elf On the Shelf as a bit of a ploy. His elf would go back to the North Pole at night and tell Santa if he used potty or not. Then in the morning, we'd put him somewhere different, but typically potty-related.

Each kid is going to be a little different. Some are going to take to it immediately. Some are going to take some creative coaxing. Best of luck to all that journey down that path!

Erin Graham 4 years, 3 months ago

We just went through what I hope is the worst of this. We have a 3.5 year old boy. We tried every trick in the book, but he unfortunately (or fortunately) inherited my stubbornness and will of rebellion. We tried candy, we tried toys, we tried a 'potty board', cool underwear, seeing us pee (ok less creepy than it sounds) and yes the 'stay in the house and let him run around with nothing' lies from the internet. All this only after "just putting the kid in underwear" consistently didn't work. sigh It took a coordinated effort between us, his teachers, and anyone sitting for him (ie grandparents). There were a lot of meltdowns. A lot of frustration. I still don't know how we did it. I guess persistence showed him that he HAD to learn how. Also I think his teachers are somehow magical. He won't pee sitting down, but will 'hit the target' if TP is thrown in. Poop training is another issue....... hah!! Did you know it's possible to poop the bed!??? Yep. Neither did we. That one's mostly curbed. We're getting there.. Care to share a glass of that wine or three!??? ;)

Charlie Sabotage 4 years, 3 months ago

I have this problem with my kid at night. I was told to try a bed wetting alarm. It goes off when it senses moisture. The kid is supposed to eventually realize their bladder is full and go to the potty. Huh? But, the buzzer doesn't go off until there is moisture detected. The kid has already peed!
I need it for night time. Last tHing I need is the whole house, including dogs and cats, losing their $4!% at one a.m. because said alarm is blaring. How does one get a small child to keep said alarm attached to themselves with out losing the device? I mean, I'm lucky if my four year old knows where both her shoes are let alone something clipped to undies that are frantically being changed through sleepy eyes. Not to mention if you are using it daily to keep track, the kid can't follow a simple potty routine let alone a buzzer that would most likely make a grown adult pee themselves. Useless. I have decided that it just part of my life to change sheets constantly and scrub mattresses. Whatever. It beats having to search for the potty alarm I spent 50 bucks on. Good luck. This whole potty game sucks.

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