Two kids potty trained and not a clue how to accomplish it

If you search on the web for “potty training”, you will find endless articles and guides with names like “Potty Training Guide” and “Potty Training – How to Get the Job Done”. It seems like everyone has the secret recipe for how to accomplish this great task.

Well, both my kids are now potty trained.

But I have no tips to offer.  No strategies to recommend.  Not even a “Well, this worked for me…”

I’m pretty clueless about how we actually ended up here.

My older daughter was a a potty training nightmare.  As is our style, we started gently and didn’t push it too hard at first.  At age two and a half, we offered her opportunities to sit on the toilet.  We made the bathroom a fun place to be, putting special books, games, and puzzles in the bathroom.  We got a fun sesame street toilet seat.  No luck.

Her day care friends were all potty training, so we hoped that perhaps peer pressure would have an effect, but it didn’t.  Then we tried bribes – the offer of M&Ms if she succeeded, but nothing happened.  We gave her chocolate chips just for getting on the toilet.  She got on but refused to use it.  We tried keeping her on for long periods using the iPad.  She watched TV happily, but still no luck.

As her fourth birthday was approaching, we started to get desperate.  Based on a suggestion from an online article, I created a mystery box.  We put some special presents inside, then covered it with stickers.  We put it in the living room and told her she could only open it when she used the toilet.  She was curious, but not enough to actually use the toilet.

Having failed with the carrot, I tried the stick.  At Thanksgiving, everyone left for the museum except me and my daughter.  I told her that we couldn’t go until she tried to use the toilet. We had a knock-down drag out screaming fight that lasted two hours.  I lost.

It became clear to us that she actually had perfect control, but she would only use a diaper. People pointed out that it had become a power struggle, and this felt somewhat accusatory – what had we done wrong in pushing the toilet to get her to react to this way? As far as we or anyone else could determine, nothing specific.  She just refused.

In the end, we had a former baby sitter come and look after her for a week.  She sat her on the toilet and told her she couldn’t get up until she used it.  It took about an hour and a half, but she did.  And she was very proud.

And that was it.  She was potty trained.

With my son, we remained very wary. Having failed so miserably with his older sister, we were scared to push it. At age two and a half, his day care teachers told us that he clearly was not ready and it would probably be a while.  Then, as his 3rd birthday approached, they mentioned that one of the other kids was potty training, and he was interested and liked to come along.

A few days later, as we were getting ready to go to the park, everyone went to use the bathroom.  My son announced he wanted to try, and he promptly peed in the toilet.

He practiced on-and-off over the next week or two, and then we started putting him in underwear.  That’s it.  He potty trained himself.

I’m sure “parenting experts” will look back on this story and explain the six things we did wrong.  Or that kids will simply potty train themselves when they are ready, and our mistake with our daughter was we tried too soon.

Sure, whatever.  Maybe they are right.  Maybe not.  I have no clue.

One thing I will say is that having kids potty trained is every bit as wonderful as I hoped. On a recent trip to Vermont, we simply used the bathrooms. As I walked out, I noticed the baby changing station and marveled at how much easier it was that my son simply used the toilet rather than having to haul a diaper bag around.

So to parents out there struggling with potty training their kids, you have my sympathies. I have no advice.

But it really is worth it once you get to the other side.

In the meantime, I simply cannot wait to throw out our diaper champ. It makes me want to recreate the scene from Office Space with the printer.

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