Potty Training May Kill Me: Journey to the john

For all of you who aren’t into all the potty talk, I apologize. Next week’s post will not be about potty training, I promise. But whenever we have a success that has potential to help other parents, I like to share it.  I love to hear about your successes too, because God knows I need all the help I can get! 


vector_toilet_original_1I thought it would never happen. But it did. It DID! This week my son pooped in the potty! And all it took was two bribes, lots of frustration and a whole lot of trying.

As I said last post, thanks to the herculean efforts of his preschool staff, my son learned to pee in the potty in about three weeks, but pooping was a whole different story. Every day he pooped in his underwear and every day I cleaned it up. My husband has always changed diapers but changing poopy underwear made him “sick.” He did gag pretty convincingly, I’ll give him that. Having poopy underwear did not seem to bother my son. He didn’t enjoy it, because the few times I said he’d have to wait to get changed, he wasn’t happy. I made him wait because I was weary of changing him, and I thought maybe giving him a disincentive to poop his pants might push him closer to the toilet. I was wrong. 

At first we had him practice sitting on the toilet. I know the toilet scares some kids, so we thought that by practicing, he’d be more amenable to attending to his business on the throne. He was fine with practicing, as long as he didn’t have to poop. When he did, he’d do it far away from the toilet — usually at the dinner table. My husband argued that we should put him in pull-ups. I knew that wouldn’t fly with his school but I was thinking about it too.

I figured he needed an incentive. He never had a potty chart, because school trained him so fast. During pee training, we’d give him gummy bears for using the potty at school and at home. But gummies weren’t enough for the deuce.  I thought that since it was such a big deal to him, he needed a big incentive. So I  went to Kmart and bought a “Planes” toy. When I got it to the car, it started to make noise. So I went back in and returned it. Then I bought two small, mercifully-silent “Iron Man” action figures. My plan was to use them one at a time to entice my son to take a trip to the crapper.

When my son got home that night, I showed him the first action figure – the silver one if you’re a fan. Ohh, he wanted it. We told him that he’d get it when he pooped in the potty. He went to the bathroom and peed, and then he asked for the action figure. Sorry, kid, we said. The bar has been raised. No action figure without some action.

My son wanted that Iron Man pretty badly, so he wanted to sit on the potty. My husband and I took turns sitting with him and reading him books. We read the whole Ninjago saga. We read a Batman and a Superman book. We read Ninjago again. Nothing. We gave up after about an hour, and the boy had red marks on his legs from sitting on the potty seat for so long. He wanted the action figure for trying. No dice, kid. And then he dropped one in his pants.

The next night, we had a repeat performance. Again, he wanted the action figure. Again he sat. And again he didn’t get it. The next day he had an accident at school. He still wanted to practice at home, and he did, but we knew that was a lost cause. The next day, I talked to my birth mom, who raised two boys. She said to limit his tries to ten minutes at a time and don’t read to him. Focus solely on pottying. So the next night, we tried that. No success.

We went through two more nights without success. On Friday night, after dinner, we headed to the potty. I sat with him for a while. He kept saying “I pooped!”

I kept saying “No, you didn’t.” Nevertheless, he tried to convince me, even after I’d explained that I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it, and if he did do it, I’d hear it. I left him alone for a second to get the action figure so I could dangle the carrot, and when I got back he was making his poop face. And then…and then…he did it! I let him admire his work (another tip from my birth mom) as I gushed praise and told him he could have the Iron Man. Daddy came over, praised him up and down and the two of them went to play with his Iron Man.

Yesterday I showed him the other Iron Man. He wanted it, and he tried, but he couldn’t go at all. This morning he started to make his poop face at the breakfast table. My husband spotted it and called him out. I rushed him to the bathroom and I left him for a second to get the Iron Man. On my way back, I heard “I did it!” And he did. So my very happy boy got his other Iron Man.

I don’t intend to give him a toy every time he poops in the potty, but to him, it’s not a self-reinforcing behavior — yet. He just needs an incentive until he’s used to using the potty. Since he started to poop at the breakfast table, it looks like we’ll be rewarding him for a while. I think I’ll buy a couple more small toys and then step down to stickers or candy. I don’t want to be too indulgent, but I’m sick of changing poopy underwear and will do whatever it takes to get out of doody duty. But he’s over the first hurdle and that was the hardest one. I’m just hoping it’ll be a short race.

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