Monthly Archives: September 2013

Potty training bootcamp


I thought I’d be writing this blog post approximately seven weeks ago. The first weekend in August, after reading an article about potty training an 18- to 24-month old in three days, we embarked on what the author termed “potty training bootcamp.” We were totally prepared: We had a fun frog-themed potty, we had lots of salty and high-water-content snacks to prompt numerous trips to said potty, and we had games and puzzles and books to keep us entertained while we stayed indoors. I took copious notes of Teddy’s progress, assuming that, after three housebound days, we’d emerge with a diaper-free toddler, and I’d need help recounting the pertinent details for our faithful followers.

Well, that Tuesday (we did Sat through Mon as our three-day weekend), Teddy was indeed diaper free. But only because we weren’t willing to concede defeat after anticipating for so long (we read the article back in June) having a potty-trained toddler. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being fully potty trained, our munchkin was about a 2. The article had given me the impression Teddy would be mostly trained following this intensive intro to using the toilet and would need only minor follow-up over the next few months. (The “few months” should have made me question my initial interpretation.) And maybe minimal follow-up is all that’s needed for other kids whose parents try this program. But after three days of applauding any effort Teddy made to relieve himself in the potty rather than on the floor, the best we could say is that Teddy had been introduced to the concept of using the plastic chair in the corner. What followed was four challenging weeks, camped out in square one, of constantly reinforcing what we thought we’d drilled into him over the course of those 72 hours.

We made lots of mistakes. We had power struggles. (I’ve since learned you’re supposed to avoid power struggles at all cost.) We expressed disappointment with Teddy for not using the potty. (Also a no-no. Shame should never be a factor with potty training. Evidently, we should have read more than just the one article prior to helping Teddy transition from diapers to underwear.) For every one step forward, we seemed to take two steps back. One day, Teddy would enthusiastically plop down on potty; the next, he fought it tooth and nail, arching his back and screaming, with no apparent difference in circumstances.

We were at a loss. Every week, we faced a decision: Power through or return to diapers. At one point, overwhelmed and frustrated, we gave him the choice: Pampers or Spiderman. I about cried when he chose the disposable plastic over the cartoon cotton. I was clearly way too invested in this. I needed to back off.

The trouble was, Teddy didn’t mind being wet. The article actually advised keeping the trainee in only a t-shirt as toddlers of the target age like being naked and thus will be motivated to use the potty so they don’t have to wear diapers; but we learned quickly that Teddy greatly enjoyed watching his urine splash on the floor—nakedness was no incentive for him to hang out with the frog. So a few days after bootcamp, we returned to keeping him clothed, albeit, just in shorts. But he didn’t mind damp shorts. He loves playing in the fountain in the nearby park, and he isn’t bothered at all when he soaks his clothes splashing in that water. Having urine-logged shorts from relieving himself probably wasn’t much different. We needed an incentive.

We didn’t offer treats for using the potty at the beginning because the article deemed them unnecessary. Enthusiastically celebrating each trip to the potty—for every member of the family—was said to be sufficient. However, when success was not immediate, we did begin to tempt Teddy with various confections (including my chocolate chip cookies). But, while he clearly enjoyed them, he didn’t seem compelled by them. We needed something else.

From the second week of September, we tried a few new things, telling ourselves that this was it. If this didn’t persuade Teddy to use the potty, we were going back to diapers. I’m honestly not sure if they all worked together, if any one did the trick, or if none of them was a contributing factor and it was just the right time for Teddy. But a couple weeks ago, we at last started seeing consistent progress.

Which is why I’m finally writing this blog post (without the minute-by-minute recap of the first weekend). I can now confidently say we are done with diapers. Teddy is consistently telling us when he has to use the potty, and accidents are becoming less frequent. We’re not considering him trained, by any means. After all, he still needs our help to pull his pants down, among other things. But we seem to be on the other end of the scale. Where we were once a 2, we’re now more like a 6, and progressing toward 7.

I know now that I went in with way too high of expectations. As I mentioned, I wish I’d read more before starting out. To do it again, I would take a much more gradual approach. We may have the same results—consistency achieved after a few weeks—but it will be less stressful for everyone.