It’s been an interesting eight months at our house. We’ve been steadily working on potty training our boy/girl twins since Christmas. Notice that sentence is in present tense.
Potty training has been a roller coaster ride. One kid was significantly easier to train than the other in every way. The other kid raged against it—on board one minute, defiant the next. All the while we were feeling like we had failed.
We did everything we were supposed to:
- They were showing interest and dry for long stretches.
- We made a big deal about buying new undies and letting them pick out which ones (side note: who knew underwear for kids were so expensive?!?!).
- Reward charts were hung on the refrigerator with corresponding prizes.
- Family members were queued in on being enthusiastic about a potty run.
But still, we were going through multiple changes of clothes a day.
In exasperation and desperation, I reached out to Carnigee Truesdale-Howard, Psy.D., who is board certified in childhood psychology at Beaumont Children’s Hospital. She’s also a mom, so she could relate.
“If you try to force it when they’re not ready, that’s going to make things difficult,” she explains. “With potty training, patience is the No. 1 thing parents have to have. There’s an emotional component to this. Potty training and eating are the two things they have control over.”
Ahhh. The light was coming on for me. Control. Should’ve guessed with this kid.
Then I asked about “revenge pants peeing.” Turns out, it’s a real thing. “Sometimes if kids get angry or if they know it’s something to make you upset, that’s something they might do,” she explains. “That’s where the not pushing the issue comes in and you could create a power struggle. You have to pick your battles.”
We’re back to patience again. Breathe in, breathe out.
Then I sprung this question: So why is it so much harder to get them to poop on the potty?
“Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a different sensation, or if it’s coming from a different area or because their stomach hurts. But it does take longer for the ‘number twos.’”
Well, that’s a relief. But the best thing Dr. Truesdal-Howard said to me was this: “There’s no specific target age. There’s no, ‘Your kid isn’t potty trained by 3? My goodness! What are you doing as a parent?’
Be patient, be calm and expect accidents,” she continues. “If you go into it expecting there to be accidents, you’ll have an easier time being patient and calm. If it’s not working, you can always try again later. That’s typical.”
And then, in that moment, I decided to stop feeling like a failure. There was no magic bullet. My kid just isn’t one of the others who just started going on the potty one day and hasn’t had an accident since. But that’s normal.
There’s the word: Normal.
I’m relieved and feeling recharged to work on this even more. But one thing hasn’t changed: I’m sick of smelling pee.
My son was not potty trained until he was over 4. And I tried everything, from rewards of candy, toys, money, whatever he wanted. I needed him potty trained to go to preschool. And then 1 day my mother was over and she told him some big elaborate story about how when you go potty on the toilet your potty gets to go live on a fancy island with rainbows and a beach and lots of candy….. but that if he goes potty in his pull up, his potty will be sad because it wont get to go to its new “home”. That was apparently all he needed. We never had an accident since, and he has gone to the potty on the toilet ever since! Every time he flushes he says “Goodbye potty, enjoy your new home”… He’s 6 now and still says it…lol.