My least favorite parenting duty: potty training

Warning: This is not a post that will help you potty train a child.

No, really. Just because we successfully brought one kid to the proper age of schooling does not mean we know how to raise the other. This a post that will tell you how I spent a weekend trying very hard to convince a very stubborn child to use the toilet.

Here are my tips for potty training:

  1. Stock up on the essentials.
  2. Clear your schedule.
  3. Give them lots of fluids.
  4. Sit on the toilet A LOT.
  5. Give them treats.

Real life:

  1. Nailed it. Stocked up on all the essentials. Even put all the underwear in a cute little bucket. Had the washing machine ready, too.
  2. Three days of no reason to leave the house. Check! That worked until day one evening when he wanted nothing but to leave our house. We bribed him all night long and finally left our house at 8:45pm to get supper because trickles of pee came out!
  3. Day one: He refused to drink more than sips because it would make him pee. {This is when I knew he 1. is very capable of using a toilet,  2. was going to be more stubborn than I thought, and 3. fight me until the death.}
  4. Day one: he willingly sat every time I asked. Day two: he refused to sit on any toilet in our house because he did it yesterday and doesn’t want to do it every day.
  5. YOU CAN HAVE ALL OF YOUR HALLOWEEN CANDY IF YOU JUST PEE IN THE TOILET! Here, have three pieces of candy if you’ll just sit on the toilet. Here, have three pieces of candy because I know you have to pee really bad and you “want to go to bed.”

I did have a few wins during the three-day endeavor. Like telling a story about his older brother wearing underwear when he was little and then we guessed which pair were his favorites. {I totally made up a favorite, because he was engaged in a story with me and I had a chance of getting him into underwear.}

My second win was when he asked to go play outside. Within three minutes, I had surpassed a HUGE hurdle and had gotten him into underwear. When I asked how he liked them, he said, “these are comfy!” It seems his previous experiences in underwear may have been a bit dramatic. Or maybe the underwear were no longer laced with acid that burned the skin when worn…

I suppose I would count his first accident as another win. He held the pee in for 3 1/2 hours and didn’t like it when he was covered in pee. That’s a win, right?! So then he held the pee in until 8:30 that night. That’s a stubborn child. He sat down every hour and refused to ever pee. Super stubborn.

Have you ever seen a three-year-old pace the house because he has to pee so bad? We hadn’t either, but it’s pretty funny. Us: “What are you doing?” Him: “Nothing. Just doing this.” Us: “Why? Do you have to go potty?” Him: “No.” Sure. 

Have you ever had a three-year-old ask if it’s time for bed? We hadn’t either. It appears the King of Bedtime Stalling wanted to go to bed at 6:30 one night. Why you ask? Obviously because he had to pee and wanted a pull-up. Here’s where parenting can be fun! All of a sudden we’re willing to let him stay up later, because eventually that pee has to come out. That backfired on me. Literally. He was pretty bouncy {to stop the pee from coming out, obviously} and when he went still I got concerned. Rightfully so as I felt my hand get warm. Yup, he totally peed on me when we were sitting on the couch.

It’s basically a rinse and repeat every time we’re at home. He goes into underwear and holds the pee in. It’s beyond me why I thought that weekend was the magic weekend. He has clearly decided he’s not going to do it yet. I’ll take the wins when I can at this point…and wearing underwear is one of them! Plus, I don’t have the anxiety of a fresh three-year-old mom. He’ll be four in a few weeks and that means he has a bladder of steel that holds up for hours and hours.

Step 1: Stock up on the “essentials”

*Disclaimer: please, no potty training tips. Only tips on favorite stress relief after a LOOOONG day of parenting.  

How we accidentally potty trained our kid

One Saturday I was changing a poopy diaper and I decided that I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I told Maximus he was going to wear underwear and he said no. I went and made lunch and he followed me around the house asking for a diaper. After 20 minutes, he got tired of asking and brought me a pair of underwear. And that’s how our second and finally potty training adventure started. It was a little too spontaneous, but it worked for us. I didn’t think about naptime being just around the corner or how Bryan and I were going to be at a charity event that night and he was going to be with my in-laws for the evening. But, we quickly made the rule of only wearing diapers when he sleeps and he did really well with my in-laws.

The next big hurdle was to send him to daycare in underwear. We’d been constantly reminding or asking him if he had to go. He did have a couple of accidents that first weekend, but his success rate was much higher than failure. Our daycare provider was awesome, “let’s try it!” she said. That Sunday night I tossed and turned for a long time because I was so anxious for him. Anxious about our decision. Wondering if he was actually ready. Feeling like I was pushing him to do it. Thinking he was too young and little to be able to tell anyone if he had to go. Luckily a friend reminded me that parenting is about pushing your kids. And, if he’s old enough to get out of bed every morning, well, then he’s a big boy. (And big boys can tell time, right? That’s next on the list!)

In hindsight, I should have talked to him on Sunday evening and told him he was going to wear underwear to daycare too. Since I wasn’t sure when we put him to bed, I didn’t say anything. Monday and Tuesday mornings were a little difficult. He cried and wanted to wear a diaper. As with any other toddler fit, we somehow convinced him (or Bryan may have PUT them on).

In the past three weeks he’s had a handful of accidents. One in the car on the way home from daycare. A few at daycare and a couple at home. For whatever reason, he’s being a little stubborn at daycare. I’m not sure that he’s told her any time he’s had to go and in turn spends a lot of time “trying.” He’ll figure it out (or stop being stubborn) eventually.

For the most part, he tells us when he has to go. We’re still forming habits so we remind him when he wakes up and after he eats. We transitioned him pretty quickly from his little potty to the regular toilet because that is what he uses at daycare. She taught him how to push a stool over to the toilet and get up there on his own. He’s had to do it a couple of times by himself at our house if I’m busy with Quinten. It’s weird to see him do that. He may seem a lot bigger since we had Quinten, but he’s still my little boy!

We’ve been doing normal things, going on long car rides, going out to eat, and going over to friends’ houses. He done awesome in all those places and hasn’t had an accident!

We started off giving him m&ms every time he went but we aren’t nearly as consistent now. Because pooping is an issue, we’ve been giving him Cars tattoos when he goes. I hope I’m not giving him grand ideas of sleeves of tattoos. Right now he has four on one arm and three on the other …

I’m looking back on this experience and still a little shocked that we potty trained him. Other than that one weekend in November that we actually tried, we’ve put him on his potty before baths and other random times. When I told him I wouldn’t put a diaper back on him, I didn’t actually think I’d potty train him that weekend! I’m fairly certain that it was 90% him being ready and only about 10% of our technique. It was so much different this time compared to when we tried previously. I credit all of that to Maximus and being mature enough to understand what was going on.


Our venture with potty training

In an effort to combat the ugliness that has turned into diaper changes, I decided to turn our long weekend into a potty training experiment. Sounds fun, right? Maximus is 2 years and 4 months. Young for the stereotypical potty trained boy. I’ve wasted enough Internet space talking about pooping and more pooping. I’ll just say that a two year has a mind {and attitude} of his own. He wants to be independent and does not have time for diaper changes. We either get flat out denials or he kicks and screams during the change. Giant belly, plus kicking toddler = daddy diaper changes!

Here’s what we did…

Friday morning we woke up and convinced an upset toddler to sit on his potty in the bathroom. We read a potty book that he basically knows by heart and explained that when we wake up in the morning we sit on the potty and pee. He wasn’t into it, but he wasn’t crying alligator tears either. He talked to us about the book and got pretty pumped up about being a big kid. After an unsuccessful session, we put him in a long sleeve shirt and underwear. We ate breakfast and then got him to sit on the potty again. Another unsuccessful session. I set a timer for another 30 minutes. This time I moved the potty chair to the living room and turned on cartoons.


He sat there for 30 minutes and was unsuccessful, again. He got up and colored a little at the coffee table. Next thing we knew, a small puddle on the floor. We changed his underwear and sat him down on the potty. Now we at least had a timestamp, but we didn’t really know how often he would need to pee.

We watched more cartoons, with him sitting on a blanket or a towel. {Perfect timing, new couch!}


We were on a bit of rinse and repeat actions. The timer made him mad and he made me stop using it. I asked him every 30 minutes and he always responded with, “no.” After the first few hours we had a hard time getting him to sit down. We got a good idea that he peed about every 1-2 hours. {Not nearly as often as his 9 month pregnant mama!} We had three or four accidents on Friday. Ironically, we had successful poops every time we got him to sit down in the afternoon and evening. Towards the end of the night he even told us he needed to go. The last two times he peed and we tried to explain that when he felt like that he needed to sit down on the potty. Just when you think they catch on to something, he ended the night with “uh oh mommy.” Peed in the kitchen.

I was hopeful because he appeared to be understanding. When I was making supper on Friday, I let him watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse but bugged him every 10 minutes. I finally said, if you need to go potty what are you going to say to mommy? We hadn’t talked like that, we’d only asked him if he needed to go. “MOMMY POTTY!” he said. I gave him some high fives and was feeling great about the progress.

Saturday we had two “accidental” pee successes. I call them accidental because we convinced him to sit down and he sat there long enough that he peed. But he never told us he peed. When he finally stood up and we told him he did then he’d get excited for a m&m treat. As the afternoon went on, he started whining about wanting treats. He peed while eating supper but didn’t say anything. We sat him down after eating and told him that’s what we do after we eat. We tried asking him if he felt like he had to pee. All of a sudden he said, “like that daddy?” We looked and he had peed a lot! We made a huge deal about it and talked about the feeling of going. He headed down in the basement to “help” Bryan sort through junk. We put sweat pants and shoes on him because it was cold down there. He had an accident about an hour later, but said, “uh oh daddy.” I’m not sure if he said it right when he started going or if it was after. Either way it was still good. Onto the next pair of sweats. An hour later it was time for bed. Bryan had tried to get him to sit down but he wouldn’t. We tried to convince him that before bedtime you have to go pee. We decided to let it rest and Bryan changed him into pajamas. We found that he’d peed in those sweat pants, but he hadn’t said anything. And then we had an epic meltdown that lasted at least 30 minutes.

Sunday morning when we heard him wake, I rolled over and said, “just put him in a clean diaper. I think it’s too much for him.” He didn’t mention anything all day. I asked him a few times if he needed to go potty, but he always told me no. We decided that we didn’t have enough successes so he probably wasn’t grasping the concept yet. There’s a good chance he isn’t recognizing the feeling yet. We gave it a shot to see if he was ready to pick it up. He’s not so we’ll try again some time after little brother arrives. There’s no hurt in trying and nothing wrong with him not being ready.

I just may wait until it’s warm outside and let him run around naked! Do you have any advice on potty training?