Thursday, September 09, 2010

potty conundrum

I've been initiating potty training D for a little over a year now, just working off and on.  I've made a point to make it a very low-pressure deal-- if he was interested, great! If not, I haven't pushed.  I've heard way too many stories of potty training becoming a power struggle that leaves everyone involved a frustrated mess and am trying very hard not to fall into that trap.  We've had a few successes along the way, but then either through me not following through consistently or him losing interest, it never really gets very far.  I've been fine with this so far...  sure, it'd be nice to have the process be done with sooner, but I don't want to rush him if he's not ready.

Except lately I'm starting to feel more anxious about it all.  I know he's only 2.5yrs old, which is "young" as far as typical potty training of boys in the US.  But, I'm looking ahead at the coming months/year and starting to feel the pressure.  In 3 months I'll have a baby, seriously cutting down on my available time/energy/patience.  I've also found a montessori school that I love and want him to start going to sometime in the spring/summer.  I think he'll love the experience of going to school, and it'd also give me a chance to have one-on-one time with the baby.  But, he has to be potty trained before he can start.  And then there's how everyone says to potty train in the summer b/c it's warmer and so more comfortable for wearing fewer clothes, but temps are already starting to cool so that opportunity is quickly slipping away for this year...

And so I'm caught b/c I'm not quite sure how to proceed from here on out.  Right now we have potty chairs scattered around the house, along with child seats to go in the big toilets in our bathrooms.  About once a day I'll ask him to sit on the potty (which he currently says no to every time).  He's very familiar with the process, he talks about peeing and pooping in the potty, has been coming into the bathroom with me ever since he could move on his own.... but seems to have little interest in using the toilet himself.  I don't know if I should keep up being so laid-back about it, or if he needs more pushing... but am afraid if I do try harder he'll resist more and it'll become this Big Deal.

And maybe I just need to remember that he's the only one who can decide when he's ready to use the toilet and that I have little control over the situation.  All along I've had this idea of how nice it'd be for him to train early.  When we moved him from his crib back to a bed at 18 months, part of my reasoning was that he just seemed so grown up in so many ways, that a "baby" crib didn't seem to "fit."  I'm getting that same sense now, where he seems to grown up and so capable that it feels odd to still have to lie him down to change his diaper.  But, this is also one of the many lessons of parenthood-- things don't always go as you planned/imagined, and you're not the one holding the reigns.  Maybe I should just trust in D that he'll let me know when it's time.

Anyone have thoughts/words of wisdom to impart?  I think I could use them.


  1. Hm. words of wisdom? I don't know. My daughter was 26 mons old when my son was born and she was far from potty trained. I put her pull ups at about 29 months or so. She was getting close but still not there. Then, when she was 3 yrs and 2 mons we took a week long trip to Croatia (we lived in Germany at the time) and that is when she decided she would no longer need diapers. Not even at bedtime. She was ready. It just...happened. I never pushed. I did fret a little bit over the whole thing a few times but my good friend (who has eight children!) said only tried potty training her first and it was a disaster, so she let the rest do their thing. I followed suit and it really seemed to work. Good luck! He WILL get it.

  2. I'm in the same boat...only baby #2 is 12 days away. :( We introduced it at 10 months and yeah, we're making slow progress at 27 months, but it is progress (same as D--aware of it, knows what he needs to do, talks about it, etc.). He sometimes does ok with training pants, but lately, I've been letting him go naked for a lot of the day and that helps him realize when he needs to go, which he does by himself with a step stool (and without any kind of seat--he initiated that one all on his own!). So I've given up pushing and I wouldn't advise it--it only led to frustration on his part and mine. I can't say I regret starting early with him, because I had no idea how he'd be, but he's just very independent and I have to respect that and just accept he'll full-on do it when he's ready. So my advice, even though C is younger than D...wait until it clicks for him.

  3. My son is just a few days older than your D and 2 weeks ago, I would have been in the same situation that you are in now--no pressure, but he knew about going in the potty, etc. I don't really know what changed, except that he started preschool a week and a half ago. Anyhow, we decided to give it a serious try (no diaper wearing at all when not sleeping) over Labor Day weekend and oh! my! gosh! it took! My advice (not that I know anything about anything) is to just keep doing what you are doing and D will let you know when he is ready. If I had had any inclination of how much easier it was to train him when he was ready, I never would have put any pressure on him when he wasn't ready. Oh, and about having a baby?? No worries...I also have a 5 month old and if anything, that has made my son more independent. When we trained over Labor Day, he was going in the bathroom with no help from us (except the occasional wipe)by day 3. I guess what I am saying is that yeah, you'll have less energy/time when you have 2 kids, but you'll get used to that and so will D. Good luck!!

  4. I suppose I would agree with the no pull-ups/diapers unless sleeping, but invest in THICK, padded underwear. They can feel it wet, but you can also avoid massive puddles around the house. Unfortunately, I only have experience with potty-training at a preschool, where it's a bit of 'peer pressure', in that they sort of learn from their friends. They see their friends sitting on the potty/toilet, and get curious/grow used to doing the same thing. Also, we don't change them laying down, but standing up, leaning over our knee. That starts to get the feeling of pulling underwear up and down. We ask them whenever we change them if they'd like to sit on the toilet.

    "Let's have a seat and see if there's anything else, then we'll change you."

    i really do wish you all the best! :3

  5. We are going through the same thing! We have been doing it on and off for months, but he never initiates it, and we never push, but I feel like it is time. I will be interested to see what others say!

  6. I've never been through this potty training thing before, Mira being only 19 months, so I won't pretend to offer any sage advice. But I've heard that the introduction of a new sibling can be such a shock that it will cause the older sibling to regress back from any recent accomplishments, including potty training. So that's why, in my case, being pregnant, I've decided not to even think about potty training until after number two is here. But that's just my situation, and D is a year older than Mira, so you may feel differently.

  7. Anonymous6:52 AM

    I don't have an "advice" per se, but I do remember what worked for my Mom was having Grandma teach my younger brothers. Both of them responded to Grandma much better than Mommy. If your mother is coming up soon perhaps she could work on it with him?

  8. Anonymous6:24 PM

    My son was probably ready to be in undies before our second son was born, he would use the potty at scheduled times (in the morning, after lunch, after nap, and before bed) and his diaper was often dry, but I was hesitant to go for it before the baby was born. We decided to wait until we had the baby and settled into a routine, then we went for it, using diapers only for sleeping, and he did great. We had a few accidents here and there and learning to go #2 on the potty took a little more time than #1, but it was really very easy and "no big deal" all around. So I guess my advice is go with your gut and don't worry about having 2 in diapers or training with a new baby in the house. Our second son was about 1 month old when we made the switch and it really wasn't a problem. Good luck!

  9. The problem with Modern Diapers is that they work too well. Wetness is wicked away from the skin and children barely notice it.

    Try making it slightly more uncomfortable for him. And it's even a proven Montessori Method! Stop using diapers during the day and start using training pants with the extra padding instead. Still not a big deal if he goes in the training pants and still be low-key about it all, but it's an uncomfortable feeling and tends to make them more interested in using the potty.

    Good luck!

  10. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Hi! I just read your piece on and was led to your blog,where I read your bit on toileting your little one. I've been introducing toilet awareness to children and parents for 6 years now in an AMI Toddler Community. You may have heard some or all of this before but hopefully it will inspire you! The first thing that struck me was the fact that you have 'potties' all about the house. Toileting is a process and just like all things in Montessori and life, we want to allow a period of preperation and absorption of information. This is important in helping the child make vital and logical connections- I'd strongly suggest keeping the toilet in the bathroom, for that is the location we actually want the child to eliminate in. Give proper language. Name it as a toilet, rather than a potty or potty seat. Explain it's use to your child and give them time to process the information. If your child is 2.5 you could most likely eliminate the use of the "potty seat" and use your little toilet seats on the big toilet. The child's interest will vary depending on the preperation they have had & the stage of develpment they are in in terms of will and language. A 12-18 month old will most likely want to begin work right away and sit down on it. I would then introduce cotton underwear. This means the end of diapers. However, a 2.5 year old, if they have had previous confusing information while wearing diapers, will most likely not show any great interest in this work and could actually show fear and confusion. This makes sense, it is their body,you are asking them to do something very different from what they have been processing as part of thier own bodily scheme. They have passed the sensitive period. The senstive period for toileting begins very early, usually when the child beigns walking and showing interest in dressing/undressing.
    This is where your patience and your own will come in. If you have not already ended diaper use completely, doing so will help your child recognize what his body is telling him that much sooner.It's crucial to not go back to diapers once you've introduced underwear and also important to keep a laundry basket, as well as a supply of underwear and pants within reach of the child. There are many practical solutions to common questions concerning incorporating underwear use into travel, sleeping,clean-up, ect. Diapers don't allow any feeling thus making connections very difficult. When we consider that the child's body at 12-18 months has already completed the process of mylienation,we know that they are very capable.

  11. Anonymous8:07 AM

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  12. Anonymous (#2)--

    Thanks for your suggestions. He's definitely had a long process of introduction-- he's been using (and seeing us use) the toilet for a long time. I tried to switch over to cotton training pants when he was about 22 months, but after a few hours he asked to go back to the diapers... and I did not want to make a big fight over it (which I felt it would have become, if I'd forced him to stay in underwear). At this point, I think trying to force him into underwear would be possibly traumatic, since he has expressed so clearly to both of us that he does not wish to part with diapers yet. (By the way, he wears cloth diapers, so he does have the ability to feel when he wets himself. He just doesn't seem to particularly care when that happens)

    I have not wanted to turn this into a power struggle where I'm forcing him to do something he does not wish to do. Do you have any advice for when a child resists getting rid of diapers?

  13. (meant to say he's seen and occasionally sat on the toilet for a long time, and has occasionally gone pee or poop in it; knows what it's for, etc. I'd like to keep the potty chairs in the bathrooms exclusively, except the 2 bathrooms most convenient for his use aren't big enough to accommodate the chairs, but I do like having them around as at different times he's been more keen to sit on a small chair vs the big toilet & vice versa so like to give him options)

  14. Anonymous11:50 AM

    Hi again!
    It's very common for older,verbal children who have worn diapers for too long to ask to continue to use diapers. If they know that diapers are still available, they will naturally assume that they are acceptable to use. It's the idea of limited choices. It's the same thing with clothing choice, if you have summer clothes available duirng winter and they know this, they will assume that summmer clothing is a choice. I have found that when the child starts walking, this is 'generally' the best time to start toileting, although many people begin in infancy. If diapers are simply removed as a choice as soon as underwear are introduced and the toilet is in the environment, at this point, the child will never ask for diapers again. With our assistance,i.e sitting them on the toilet at an early age and wearing cloth diapers or underwear, they very soon know where to go and will gain control over the muuscles very quickly. What happens when diapers(disposable)are worn beyond this sensitive period for toileting,is that the diaper becomes part of the body scheme. We have essentially trained for a long time during a period of very intense brain development to think of the diaper as part of the body. They have no control over the muscles when diapers have been worn to long and this feels scary to them.
    In this day and age the concept of cloth diapering is very bizarre to most people. Nobody has time, it sems so inconvenient,but long term use of disposables cause many more inconviniences for the child who has billions of neurons firing at all times and needs to be developing further coordination and intellectual skills rather than spending time being confused by toileting. It's like the environment, if there is no order, the child will waste time attempting to create it. When the body is fully myelinized from the inside out,(the neurons are functional and ordered)it is capable of much and needs as much movement as possible. If you can I would simply tell your child at this point, there are no more diapers, we are not using diapers anymore. He will udnerstand this, he will probably be relieved. I had this same situation with a family a few years ago. The boy would leave the toddler environment after wearing underwear in the classroom all day, get into his car and ask for a diaper. As soon as they stopped giving him one, he no longer asked and was succesful.



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