10 Things I’ve Learned From Potty Training My Son

To tell you the truth, I’ve avoided writing about our latest adventures in potty training because I didn’t want to jinx it.

You can read about past (failed) attempts at potty training here… and here… and here… Yep, you read that right — those first two posts are from February of last year. It’s so cute the way I thought my just-turned-two-year-old was trying to potty train himself. If only my (or, more to the point, his) enthusiasm had lasted.

But no matter! We’re making progress — real progress this time. He stays dry almost every night and nap (though he still wears pull-ups during those times, just in case), and he usually pees in the potty consistently during the day, too! Still working on #2, but I know that often comes later.

I don’t know much about potty training. This is really my first time at the rodeo. Although that rodeo seems to have lasted forever — and we’re not off the horse yet. But I have definitely learned a few things during this process. This isn’t meant to be advice and may not be applicable to all (or even most) kids, but these points have all proven true for our family.

Potty Training with Batman Undies

Potty Training with the help of Batman undies. No idea why he’s standing that way. Silly goose. But it kind of fits my horse metaphor. Score!

  1. Apparently he does have a basic understanding of cause and effect. We started out (this time) with a sticker chart to get J excited about peeing in the potty and wearing underwear. It was a piece of paper that I hung on the wall, with boxes leading up to different superhero logos, each representing the pair of underwear he would get to wear as a reward for going to the potty X amount of times. He got the concept right away and was excited about it at first, but as the boxes started to fill up, he began to avoid that last box for each row. He clearly understood that if he got to that last box, he’d be wearing underwear, which (for some reason) he was very hesitant to do. I guess the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” book wore off after all.
  2. There is a distinct lack of Green Lantern merchandise on the market. Actually, there should be way more Batman underwear available at Target, too. If a show is available on Netflix, merchandisers would be smart to capitalize on it, even if that show has been off the air for years. Times, they are a-changin’.
  3. Pushing too hard before he’s ready is a recipe for disaster. This is where I failed before — I’ll admit that. I totally get now that I was pushing him too hard. And this should be so obvious. But at the time, I thought he was showing signs that he was ready. Or maybe I just convinced myself that I saw the signs. OK, I’m pretty sure now that it was the latter. Hindsight is 20/20. I had the best of intentions and took any glimmers of readiness and ran with them, which turned out to be counterproductive and made the whole thing into a power struggle. (Guess who won.)
  4. But sometimes I have to make executive decisions on his behalf. There was a point at which I had to push him a little bit, and this time around, I got the timing right. (Dumb luck, I guess. Or maybe third time’s the charm?) I decided one day that we were going to wear underwear — whether he liked it or not. It was a turning point, but the same move didn’t work before. (See #2.) It’s a fine line.
  5. Those tiny potties are gross. Do I need to go into detail?
  6. Reward systems work — sometimes — but only temporarily. Remember that sticker chart I mentioned? At this point, stickers have lost all their appeal. Fortunately, he was in underwear full time by the time the fascination faded, so we never had to resort to candy (though past candy bribes didn’t work for us either).
  7. Preschool peer pressure hasn’t helped. Maybe my kid is exceptionally resistant to peer pressure (I hope that’s the case when he’s a teenager!), but all the ‘positive peer pressure’ that people touted didn’t help my son. He caught on to potty training at home long before school. The fact that his friends go in the potty seems to have very little effect on him. (Oddly, he seems more motivated by his blankie’s and bear’s needs to ‘go tinkle.’ Ah, the mind of a child…)
  8. He knows how to game the system. J has already figured out that potty time can be used to his advantage — particularly to get him out of doing things he doesn’t want to do. He gets this clever smile on his face and says, “I need to go pewp,” right after I tuck him in for the night. Or two seconds into a ‘time out,’ he says, “I need to go pee pee in the potty,” knowing that I won’t deny him the chance. I’m grateful that we aren’t using a candy reward system, because I’m fairly certain he’d be one of those kids who goes a little bit several times in a row just to get more candy.
  9. Patience is key. It’s difficult sometimes to see (and focus on) the progress despite all the accidents. But we’ve come a long way — D and I as much as J — and we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  10. Using the potty takes courage. It was undoubtedly a scary prospect — being told to start going in the potty when he’s been wearing a diaper from day one. But with each little victory, J is making this a habit and adopting it as part of his daily routine. When you stop to think about it, that’s pretty huge for a three-year-old. It may be a milestone that every kid hits at some point (and for many children it comes earlier), but this is J’s journey and J’s accomplishment. It may be frustrating (for him and for his parents), but I’m just so incredibly proud of him.

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