Tuesday, December 08, 2009

toilet conundrums

Disclaimer: Yes, this is a post about potty training, which means there's some possible TMI-worthy content. You have been warned.

So I'm thinking we'll give potty training (I know I'm supposed to call it "toilet learning" now but am having trouble getting into that habit) a try sometime in January.  I was tempted to start a few weeks ago, but since we'll be out of town for 2 weeks for Christmas (and it's tough to stick to even his regular schedule with all the family around) it probably is more reasonable to wait till after the holidays.

Unfortunately, I feel like I already missed a possible window of opportunity early in the year when we had several casual successes with the potty.  At the time I assumed those would continue, and that it was too early to try anything more formal.  Then months passed, he stopped showing as much interest in the potty or even wanting to sit on it at all.  Summer came and went, everything feeling busy and me hardly even thinking about potties for a long time.

Then recently D has started showing interest again.  He's always been fascinated with my going  to the bathroom (I haven't been able to go alone since D became mobile oooh, what, a year and a half ago?)  He's also seen Zach use the toilet a few times... indeed he once managed to get his hand in the stream of urine as Zach was peeing (suppose we shoulda seen that one coming, seeing how much he loves playing with water).  He's since learned the words for pee and poop, is interested in poop going down the toilet, and has even caught on to toilet paper and started trying to "assist" me.

What?  TMI?

So I think he's getting ready, but I'm kinda worried he'll back off again if I don't take advantage of the opportunity.  Then again, I'm also terrified of actually trying, wondering how it'll all go and how life will be completely different without diapers around (yes, it'll be great... eventually...  but what will it be like going out in public when he's still "iffy" and how many accidents will we have to deal with in the middle of Target?).

He still sometimes sits in his small potty chair, though he's shown much more interest in the big potty.  So a few weeks back I got one of those kiddie potty seats that goes on the toilet to make the opening smaller, and by happy coincidence we also inherited a plastic stepstool that's perfect for him to step up onto to reach the toilet.  And so the past few days he's had great fun playing a game that consists of taking off his pants and diaper, sitting on the toilet for a few seconds, getting back up, asking me to flush the toilet, sitting back down, and then tearing half the roll of toilet paper off so "wipe" his bottom (meaning he drops the paper in the space in the seat opening just behind his butt).

Part of me is VERY excited about this-- a) he's not scared of toilets flushing, which I've heard can be a great obstacle for many kids, b) he's interested in sitting on the toilet and seems to know what it's for, etc.

Then there's the environmentalist in me screaming about the water wasted from flushing the toilet 10 times in so many minutes, and all the toilet paper wasted.  And, while I want him to be familiar with the toilet and feel comfortable using it, I don't want it to become so much of a game that he forgets what it's *really* supposed to be for to begin with.  But on the other hand if I don't let him do this he gets all upset and I don't want to foster negative feelings regarding the toilet before we've even really begun.

And since all the potty training websites out there seem to focus on giving you the same list of ideas and protocols rather than much info on anything else regarding the process, I'm asking you veteran parents for advice-- Do I encourage him to play this way with the potty?  Try to limit it somehow?  Should I just let the kid be until January?  Am I completely over-thinking this whole thing?


  1. Well, I have no real advice, because your D and my B are really close to the same age and are acting the same way when it comes to "toilet learning" (I still call it potty training, too!). I'm hoping you get some great comments so I can get some advice, too! I'm having another baby in March and was wanting to wait until then to start working on the whole potty issue. I've heard lots about kids regressing when a sibling arrives and I was hoping to avoid that. We just let B tell us when he wants to pee-pee and we let him sit on the potty and read books for as long as he wants. I don't have any experience (so take this with a grain of salt)but if I were you, I would try and hold off on the actual potty training until you can be in your house for an extended amount of days...like after the holidays. I think traveling would throw it all off. Plus, you don't want to be dealing with accidents at someone else's house!

  2. I have no real advice. A is nearly 3.5 and only just now - like in the past week - do I think we have real success with potty training. We may even ditch pullups entirely next week. Yes, she's late, like she is with everything...

    She started training early - 18 months or so - at daycare because she showed interest. I'm not sure how often she actually went, but the babysitter had all kids go every couple of hours, and so she did too. Then one time at home she actually peed in the toilet and it freaked her out for some reason, and she stopped for a couple of months. Then at daycare, she started again. Eventually, at about 2.5, she was using the potty all the time at daycare, and only occasionally at home. No matter our efforts, she wouldn't go at home - I think she was always too preoccupied with playing.

    Just after 3, she started regressing at daycare, probably due to a new baby in the home and fewer older kids (at that point there were only 3, with her the oldest). Eventually she adjusted to the new baby and got better at daycare. She was also better with us *when we were out* (i.e. restaurant, store) but at home, it was the diaper. She wants to go to school, but we've been telling her she can't go to school until she uses the potty all the time. That's helped, but still not consistent.

    Finally, in the past couple of weeks, she's been at about 95% with telling us when to use the potty. I learned it's because the 2.5 yr old at daycare is no longer wearing diapers and A wants to wear panties like her. Ah, the peer pressure!

    I'm not ready to claim final success, though even in the mornings she's been waking dry and asking to go potty....of course, new baby will be here any day, so I hope we don't regress again.

    So....no real advice, because to most people we weren't successful (how many times have I heard "She's not potty trained YET?!") Oh, and we cloth diaper which is supposed to make it go easier, right?!

    As for toilet flushing, A definitely went through a phase where she loved flushing the toilets. We do have low flow toilets and when we use them, only flush when necessary (so not every time we use them), so I feel her extra flushing kind of balances it out. She got over that phase relatively quickly though. She still gets scared in some public bathrooms that have the industrial flush though.

    Good luck!

  3. One quick note, be cognisant of self flushing toilets. I know of one child who was deathly afraid of all toilets after one flushed on her while still sitting on it. This also happened once with Josie, and although she isn't scared like the other child, she does ask "does this toilet flush by itself" every time we use a public potty. She's trying to prepare herself I guess in case it does. Good luck. He will do fine...it just takes a lot of patience and continuity from your part to get to the other side.

  4. jessiscoldinaustin10:48 AM

    i would say Let Him Play!! I think about the book i read on literacy and it saying that in irder for a kid to want to learn to read, it has to feel like playing, not like "learning".-
    also, u flush some extra stuff now but if u can pootty train him soon (what is this toiletr training business? he is a kid. it'^s a potty.) then think of all the diapers you'll be saving the world from!

  5. I second what We 4 Bears said. The bathrooms at Bennigan's had self-flushing toilets, and we learned quickly we had to cover the sensor with a bit of toilet paper to get it to not flush while Ashley was still sitting on it (she was so little the sensor couldn't sense her). She also liked to hug my legs while she pottied, just in case the toilet flushed. This way (holding on to me), she wouldn't get sucked in to the toilet.

    As for other advice... I can't tell ya. My children learned quickly how to use the litter box; they just choose not to. Just this morning Indy started throwing a kitty fit (while I was doing my morning business) and he jumped in the bathtub and peed. (Hey, at least it was easy to clean since I was about to shower.)

  6. well, here goes my $0.02:

    let him play as long as you are framing the situation as play. and once you decide to really start, the 'play' should end there. so the diapers should be done and there should be no exceptions. you should have expectations and talk to him seriously about those expectations (using the potty, wearing underwear, etc). to be clear, that doesn't mean that accidents are a 'bad' thing.
    i think it is sad when parents send mixed messages to their children about stopping diapers--like when a child is told they don't wear diapers anymore but then a parent puts a diaper on for a trip to target or a long car ride; how can we expect our young children to know the difference between that sort of outing and any other time of day? if we do not expect them to succeed, why should they bother being consistent?
    i firmly believe that it is a 100% committment, unless you want it to drag out for months and months. that is not to say that it is easy or convenient. but i do believe it is the most respectful way to assist a child in learning how to exist without diapers.
    good luck! i know i am in the minority with my advice, but i truly do believe in it and it has been very effective in my own life. :)



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