Guest Post: Potty Training- Three and Counting

My 3 potty trained children
With four children ranging in age from toddler to teen I am no stranger to potty training.  Unfortunately, I am certainly no expert either.  One thing I know for sure is each child is different.  I have potty trained 3 children so far.  Two girls and one boy and each has had its own challenges.  What worked with one definitely did not work with the other.  It has all been a matter of trial and error.  With each child I felt completely clueless like I had never done it before.  Here is my story.

Potty Training My Oldest

Oh my children will be thrilled when they realize one day that I have shared every aspect of their lives with the world.  My oldest is 13 years old and she has been trained for some time now.  Well before she started Kindergarten.  So see, the people who tell you that your child will not start Kindergarten unpotty trained were right.  Or well, mostly right.  We shall see when we get to the other two children's stories I guess.

I didn't even start potty training my oldest until it was absolutely necessary because she was starting preschool and needed to be trained.  She was 3 years old.  She had a speech delay and when she turned three she was still only speaking in one or two word sentences.  Plus, she had a new baby sister just eleven days before she turned 3.  That summer though I was determined to get her potty trained.  I don't remember too many specifics.  Day training went relatively smooth.  I started out trying the rubber underwear like my mom had used on me thinking if nothing else it will help contain some of the accident.  I remember her standing in the middle of the room, pee dripping down her leg, and it completely not phasing her.  So I ditched the rubber underwear and went straight to the big girl underwear.  That she did not like at all and she potty trained during the day relatively quickly.  I started in July and by the time she started school in August she was completely trained during the day.  It was a beautiful thing, or so I thought.  I decided to give her a few months before I attempted to train her at night. 

By November we finished off our last package of diapers and I was ready to start night training.  That was where things got difficult and I was getting all kinds of creative with her.  We lived with a family friend at the time and she used to bribe my daughter to stay dry at night.  It worked sometimes, but most nights not so much.  She loved going to the arcade and playing games so I bought a bunch of tokens and she could earn one every time she stayed dry all night long.  That didn't work either.  Finally after months of bribes and most of those nights her waking up wet and completely unfazed I started making her help me wash the sheets.  Stay with me here, I know it's like a punishment and negative reinforcement is not a good thing, but all the positive reinforcement in the world was doing bupkiss for her.  So I was at my whits end.  I knew I had to do something.  Let me assure you I did not have my almost 4 year old working the washing machine by herself.  I helped her carry the sheets down stairs and I helped her put them in the machine and I was the one who started the machine and put in the detergent.  She simply helped me strip the bed and put the sheets in the machine.  And it worked perfect with her.

It's all a matter of finding what works best for a specific child.  A friend of mine convinced her daughter to completely give up diapers by telling her that if they could stop buying diapers, then they could use that money to buy her something special at Disney Land.  That worked for her.  She proudly picked out a castle at Disney Land with the diaper money.  Told the lady behind the counter that Mommy and Daddy could afford to buy her that now because they didn't have to buy her diapers anymore.  Apparently my daughter couldn't be bought.  I wish it had been that easy.  Instead for her it was a matter of don't make me work.  Who knew.  But she has been day and night potty trained now for over nine years.  Looking back on it now it does not seem as bad as it did going through it at the time.

Potty Training My Middle Daughter

My middle daughter was an early talker so by the time she was two I was ready to start potty training her.  And she did great until she got what our doctor diagnosed as toddler's diarrhea.  Poor thing, shortly after turning two and we started potty training had weeks of diarrhea.  She tried so hard to make it to the potty every time, but she just couldn't do it and my carpet wasn't handling it all too well.  So I made the difficult decision to put her back in diapers and feared potty training might be another year off after that since the doctor had said the diarrhea could last weeks or months.  There was no real reason or explanation for her diarrhea other than she was a toddler.  So we waited it out and it cleared up sooner than we had anticipated, but the going back to diapers did not do much good for her.

Once we started to try potty training again it took her a few months to catch on.  She was potty trained before she turned 3 though.  I was hesitant about night training her after the issues I had with my oldest, but I noticed that she was staying dry at night too.  So I bit the bullet one day and sent her to bed in underwear.  And we never looked back.  She was so easy to night train.  Day training had its hardships with her unlike her sister, but night training ended up being a breeze.  See, every child is different.  Now what about training boys?

Potty Training My Son

Have you heard people say that potty training boys is so much harder than girls?  I never fully believed that.  I mean my girls weren't entirely a walk in the park.  How could it get worse?  Well, it did.  My son is 4 1/2 years old and he just potty trained at day time a few months ago.  Sometimes I wonder if I can even say he is in fact potty trained because recently he has been having accidents.  Would you believe, I am sending him off to Kindergarten in the fall and at his Kindergarten Orientation this past week he had an accident?  What's worse is I don't think the teachers even realized he had done it.  He says he asked to go to the bathroom and they told him no.  I wonder if they didn't hear him.  I don't know.  He hasn't had an accident at preschool all year this year so I guess that's a good thing. 

I started potty training him late.  There was no interest in it when he turned 2 and there wasn't the language skill there either.  Our city has a 3 year old preschool program which he was accepted to last year and they were okay with him not being potty trained.  Shocker, I know.  But he had to wear Pull Ups to school.  I had never used Pull Ups before for potty training.  I always felt they were too much like diapers and that's exactly what they have been like for him.  I did not have much of a choice.  He started school last year and he was still 2.  He didn't turn 3 until November.  I was very pregnant with his baby sister in what was a difficult pregnancy.  There were lots of changes.  I did not push potty training with him.  Not until after the baby was born.  And maybe this is what my problem has been all along.  I expected too much out of him at a time when too much was changing in his life.  I had a school that was willing to help us in anyway possible to potty train him and I knew that if he was going to be in the 4 year old preschool program this year he would have to be potty trained.

So my youngest daughter was born the beginning of February, three weeks later the children were on their February break, and I chose then to start working on him wearing underwear.  He did okay with it at first.  I started sending him to school in his underwear.  He had accidents usually once or twice a week at school.  Several times at home.  I was bribing with M&M's, I was creating sticker charts, I was doing everything I could think of to get him to use the potty.  That even included making him rinse out his underwear when he had an accident.  Nothing was working.  He would go days with being dry and then days of having accidents.

One of his prizes on top of the fridge
I sent him to school this year without him being fully potty trained.  Four hours away from home he would manage to stay dry the whole time, but then he would come home and have accidents.  I asked his doctor what we were supposed to do about this and she suggested the prize on top of the refrigerator.  Wrap up a gift for him in a huge box and have it overflowing with ribbon all over the place and then talk to him about what's in the box.  Is it a book, a TV, an elephant?  We don't know, but we sure want to find out.  And to do that you have to stay dry all day long.  Then we cut a piece of the ribbon off and tie it on him somewhere as a reminder.  And Daddy got a piece of the ribbon to remind him all day.  And sissys all got a piece of ribbon to remind them that there's a box on top of the refrigerator.  And even Mommy has to wear a piece of the ribbon.  And when he stays dry he gets the box.  Then the next day he had to stay dry for two days.  We would discuss what we thought was in the box.  There was excitement over the box.  It seemed to be working, but he had stayed dry before for several days.  When we got to the point of going a month that was when it took longer to earn it.  But eventually he did it and eventually he didn't need the box on top of the fridge anymore.

But he's 4 1/2 and I will not even attempt to night train him.  And as I said he is still having accidents.  Not all the time.  He has come a long way.  I wish I could say we have no more Pull Ups in our house, but I can't.  He has tested my every last nerve in trying to get him potty trained.  But he will be going to his first day of Kindergarten in underwear.  He is a heavy sleeper so I have the feeling there will be Good Nights pants in his future.

There's One More To Go

So now I have a 16 month old daughter.  I have joked that she might potty train before her brother.  She really might fully potty train before him.  We have not started potty training her yet.  She's not ready.  She needs more in her vocabulary besides cat and hi.

I cloth diaper her.  She's the first one I have cloth diapered of my four children.  I hear that potty training children who are cloth diapered is easier.  I hope so.  I couldn't imagine it being much harder than my son had made it.  I think I need a break from the potty training for a few though so I'm glad she's not quite ready to start.  Besides, the cloth diapers are just too cute.  I am not ready to say so long to that.  This is my last baby, I might want to keep her a baby as long as possible anyways.

Going through potty training with each child has been so drastically different it has been like with each one I've never done it before.  Because what worked for one has yet to work for another.  What worked for my friend's kids hasn't worked for mine.  One thing I know for sure is I HATE Pull Ups.  The one piece of advice I have for anyone starting out potty training is DO NOT use Pull Ups.  I strongly believe that contributed to the difficulty I had with my son.  It's too much like a diaper.  Even now when he wakes up in a Pull Up it does not phase him that he's wet.  I will not rely on Pull Ups again for potty training.  My wallet will thank me for it too. 

Thank You So Much Monica for all of your advice.  I have only gone through this once and it goes to show you how different every child is.

What would be your one piece of potty training advice?

Monica is a blogger over at Monica's Mom Musings.  She is the mother of four ranging in age from toddler to teen.  Monica is the former PTA President at her daughter's elementary school and also a former Girl Scout leader.  She took time off from all her volunteer work to focus more on her own family and it has meant the world to her.  Go check out what Monica has to say about motherhood at Monica's Mom Musings.

Monica's Mom Musings

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ChaCHA online said...

Oh the woes of potty training! LOL Enjoyed your post and your writing. I am your newest follower from the hop! :)

thebeverlyhillbabies.com said...

I have had the worst time with my girls, my son was easy he did it himself, Serendipity took forever and it was insanly horrible. Bellatessa is 2 and we've been working on it part of the problem is she is a nudist, she refuses panties or clothes...fun times. And to make it more fun I have to do it on camera now because we have a film crew documenting her potty training adventures lol fun times.

Meredith said...

Oh gosh! This is so timely for me! We are in the throes of potty-training right now and I literally just logged on to try and look up some "input"--thanks for yours and very much appreciated your take on Pull-Ups!

Monicas Mom Musings said...

Thank you Jenny for letting me share my stories here. Looking back at it all it definitely never seems as hard as it did going through it all. Well, except with my son, lol. Although, maybe it's just still too new with him, ha.

♥ Shar said...


I'm Shar! Your newest follower from the Monday blog hop!

Come visit me over at: http://sharmartinez.blogspot.com

I'm am SO nervous about potty training! Thanks for this post!


healthymommyhealthybaby said...

So glad I stumbled across this post today. I am in the midst of trying to train my 2 year old (very early stages here) and she is mostly reluctant to even sit on the potty. Sometimes she does, and she has even gone in it once (yay!), but we are using pull-ups and I have been thinking the same way as you lately. Just how much do they help?, that is...

I think she is still too young for panties and her vocal is not very extensive either, so I am just sort of taking it day by day and encouraging her every chance I get, but not forcing her at all. I'm waiting until she actually lets me know she has to go- which she does sometimes, but not all the time -until I really get serious about it.

Thanks for sharing your experience, I think that ribbon box idea is cute! I will keep that in mind if things get rough!!