Puttin’ on the Underpants: Mommy Learns about Potty Training

With a busy fall in play and following an equally busy summer, I’ve lost track of my constant goals to monitor my parenting style and skills. My photographs of my little one have fallen by the wayside and I’m generally exhausted, trying to unpack the boxes that are still full a month after we have moved in . . trying to make meals daily and get things in order for the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas and little one (!) to come. It’s fatiguing but fun.

Our last visit with L’as doctor – in July – left T and I (mostly I) with several tasks to undertake. Both T and the doctor were concerned about my boy’s overdependence on nursing and the lack of sleep that both he and I were consequently getting at night. They were essentially worried that with another pending addition to the family, would L and I be able to cope? Well I’m happy to say that we have dramatically decreased the nursing through the help of the ladies at Dr. Milk and the advice of Dr. Jay Gordon – who provides an excellent guide to nighttime weaning on his website. So L and I are getting a little more sleep at night and I did have him in his own bed for most of the night until I became too roly poly to be able to go down to the level of his bed and put him to sleep. But you can’t win ’em all, can you?

But . . .one thing that didn’t seem so urgent but was also important to us getting our little toddler more independent was his overt dependence on his pull ups. As I have mentioned L has had a lot of independence in using the potty over the past year, but out of sheer laziness he has avoided potty training fully.  “Just put in him in his underwear,” my mother-in-law suggested.  But with all the carpet in our condo and such limited time, it seemed to be so tough. And when he did it the accidents that ensued seemed so upsetting he just went back to pullups. What can I say? The kid would rather play with his trains than be bothered with any training. While in the morning and the night potty time is a habit, during the day he just wants to run around. Over the past few months we have tried a variety of methods and I can say that almost instantaneously one method is working like a miracle . . .so here was our process:

Method 1: (my own) – Sticker method (AKA just try to keep taking him to the potty as much as possible)

What is it?  : This method involved maintaining the pull ups – yes we had him in disposables for awhile especially while traveling around and using a sticker chart to get him to go.

How did it work?:  I had trouble getting him to use his cloth trainers and the minute he found Lightning McQueen pullups there was no going back. He only wanted Lightning McQueen first thing in the morning. I would take L to the potty and reward him with a sticker after he went. This worked well for about three days. I would try to take him to the bathroom as much as possible – every 1.5 hours or so. . but the problem here was that he just wanted to play and refused to go potty to the point of tears and tantrums. And stickers were no help. And the pullups – well, basically they’re like regular diapers – a child doesn’t feel the wetness so there’s no incentive to go potty . . . so on to the next strategy we went.

Method 2: (grandparent method) – the M&M Method

What is it?:  The M&M Method was coined by my mom, who decided that we could incentivize potty usage by rewarding my boy with an M&M after he went #1. I knew that this method was suspect from the start.  But I was willing to give it a try given that it was used successfully for family members when I was growing up.

How did it work?: This worked for a little bit but at Nani and Nana’s house the M&Ms quickly were switched to Hershey Kisses . . . not my idea.  It was successful off and on but the true mark of my son’s knowledge of the whole scheme came when he started to drink massive quantities of water during the day, just so that he’d have to go to the potty. And when I wondered aloud to my parents whether he really knew what was the score, they said that he definitely did. Apparently he began to announce energetically, “Drink Water, Make Peepee, Get Kisses!!”   And then my son became uncontrollably whiney when he couldn’t get this incentive.  Since I don’t keep M&Ms or Hershey Kisses at home (don’t get me wrong, I do have chocolates, just not these) . . . .this method dropped off the map once L was back to daycare.

Method 3: (daycare’s method and the one I should have used from the start) – Put on the Undies, already!

What is it?:  Put your kid in underwear and take him to the toilet regularly. Once L started at his new daycare, his teacher noticed that he was able to use the potty regularly during the day. She wrote me a note on his second or third morning there: “Bring in his underwear and we will start potty training.” So I brought in his underwear and . . .

How did it work?:   From Day 1 all of a sudden he was dry all day – with a few accidents here and there.  Take them to the potty every hour or hour and a half without fail. If they don’t pee at the hour mark, take them back in a half an hour. After an accident or two the child knows they don’t want that to happen again. When it’s Potty time, L is generally very willing to go. And it’s further incentive to parents. What I didn’t mention about Method #1 is that the other reason it failed is because *I* too am lazy. I depended on those trainers to catch accidents when I didn’t feel like enforcing the need to go potty. Not a good recipe for success! With the underwear method both child and parent know it’s important and want to avoid accidents as much as possible. So for the past week he has been dry all day at daycare and into the evening until he puts on a night diaper. I’m not quite ready to tackle night potty training yet.  The thing here is that you have to really remember to take your kid to the potty and to remember he is in underpants, not a pull-up!  Because no matter what you do the accidents will still happen.

Weekends have still been tricky because we go out a lot, so I am not as much of an enforcer then, but we try. The other thing we’ve done is get all sorts of cool designs (Thomas) on his clothing to further incentivize the use of underwear. They don’t just have logos on pull-ups, do they? So that is our episodes in potty training these days. It’s pretty cool to know how quickly it can go if you just put the right systems in place and make things comfy and easy for them. We’ve also installed light extenders in the bathroom to make it easier for him to turn the lights on and off and I also have the stepstools around. The easier we make it for him to be independent, the sooner he will assert himself!

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