I would consider the beginning stages of potty training our 3-year-old as extensive as playing in an AFC or NFC Championship in the NFL. The stressors and pressures were the equivalent of setting up all components to maximize chances of winning a Super Bowl appearance.
Training a young human to use a toilet is a much-strenuous endeavor for parents and caretakers. On the surface level is a timing sequence that must match skill and opportunity. Maturity is an additional factor to throw on the field, as well as a solid establishment of equipment and infrastructure.
Then there is always the underlying notion that the entire assignment could be a figment of parents’ own keen imaginations…that we, in reality, are projecting our wanting the child to go to the potty onto them, a humbling idea indeed, especially if the child resists. Extensive research has been performed and studies have been unearthed in the areas resembling the most effective techniques in everything “pee pee” and “poo poo.”
What the hubs and I found to be successful came out of absolutely taking some time and going at Jrue’s pace. We did not intend on our toddler’s pace to take almost three years, but, again, it was not up to us, just as he was reluctant to walk and took 13 months to confidently do so.
Our toddler showed a scant interest about six months before the actual potty training start date, but it was more in the mysticism behind the brand new seat than in the action of going itself. Jrue seemed to find unspecified joy in removing the soft blue seat from its place atop the underlying bowl and carried it around the house, as I would find the seat in his room amongst his toys or thrown under the cover fort he had created in the living room.
We had gone through thousands of diapers and 200 Pull-Ups over two years, winging the idea of potty training with little direction, before I came across a three-day potty training method from the website BabyCenter.
Different threads of the same formula of this method claimed that Jrue could be potty trained in only three days “guaranteed,” which, I’ll admit, sounded quite gimmicky. I routinely perform layers of inquiry before heading into most of my personal forays, a proficiency I capitalized while writing my master’s thesis years ago. This potty promise made me anxious, but mildly tinkly: I could actually, potentially potty train a less-ambitious little boy in a single holiday weekend? As a first-time mom, the possibility was hypnotic since I dreaded training him. BabyCenter had never steered me wrong before.
The “quick-training” style, first seen in 1974, was proven beneficial many times over, and I felt comfortable in introducing it to my family since I felt that we had fallen behind in preparation for the hypothetical potty training Scouting Combine.
Of course, the methods do widely warn of some accidents and some regression if a child is mentally unfocused on the task. The child will still need assistance with parts of the potty-going process, such as pulling underwear up and down. These cautions appealed to my common sense, though, as well as waiting until after I birthed Jai, for fear that training him before her appearance would induce relapse. The definition of “guaranteed” training involved the child becoming comfortable with using the toilet instead of voiding on themselves.
The specific initiative we were franchising, “Diaper Free Toddlers,” held enough credibility for me to declare Memorial Day Weekend 2016 “Jrue’s Potty Party.”
The approach we chose outlined why three days worked; a single scary element existed, the instructions explicit: the child-in-training was required to roam freely around the house “bottom-less” for the duration of the training period. For the first three days up to three months following, he was not to wear diapers or the like around the house. When he went out of the house, loose-fitting pants were the only acceptable bottom garment.
That immediately cut out the idea of a formal third birthday party. I could not imagine explaining to guests why my son wasn’t wearing a diaper when he flashed them while yelling about having to poop.
The Pep Rally and Parade
We kicked off on that Memorial Day weekend Friday night with a pep rally. I helped Jrue create some encouraging pictures that we hung from wall to wall in the hallway as a banner declaring “Jrue’s Potty Party” official. Mommy and daddy discussed how awesome he was because he was a big boy throwing away his diapers. We had purchased books and learned songs with his favorite characters. Both mommy and daddy embraced the toilet in conversation. Jrue was invited into the bathroom for observation each time either of us went, and he helpfully supplied verbal negotiations. We purchased an additional potty chair so that one would be visible and available in his bedroom and one in the living room, where we planned to spend the bulk of the three initial training days. The hubs and I announced our intentions on our social media accounts, and our watching audience cheered our toddler on and projected spirit fingers.
On the Saturday morning of Day 1 of 3, we woke up and excitedly pulled off Jrue’s last diaper like tearing off gift wrapping on Christmas. We made a big deal about tossing it, though, we had about four training diapers left in a secret stash, just in case. We did our rehearsed Pee Pee Dance as a warm-up. We played music throughout the house. Commentary began. I was nervous as hell. This was “all or nothing” in my mind. We had had quite enough diaper changing and recognized Jrue’s capabilities. As a unit, we were not walking backward since we had gotten that far.
We ran out onto a fictitious field of play to begin the game. Team Parents vs. Team Jrue battled. He peed on the floor four times throughout the day and pooped once on Jai’s bedroom floor, which was, frankly, quite telling of his attitude towards her at the time. The potty chairs received nothing but dust and, on occasion, a toy car. Each time he voided, thankfully, he told us where. We would then identify the spot, point at it, squarely chastise him, and order him to help clean.
Offensive and Defensive Strategies
We endured many challenges during those first three days that affected our playing strategies.
Raucous “crowd“ noise. Jrue started getting increasingly frustrated as we politely escorted him to the potty every 45 minutes, time alerted by the stove, about halfway through the first day. I suppose it was annoying, especially since we were encouraging waste by pumping fluids and snacks into him and followed him around the house. I reluctantly trusted the process and repeatedly explained the feeling of the “urge” to him. Toys, television, the new baby…all were roaring distractions. I struggled to keep us all focused.
Weather. We didn’t know what exactly to prepare for when living with an active, bottom-less boy for months. I assumed he would project some sort of initial timidity with his exposed body part, but would not particularly get cold since he was warm-natured and the climate of the house was comfortable for late spring. However, we feared elements outside our control, such as unscheduled guests, emergency occurrences, or Jrue hiding in uprising. We relied on what we could predict and sat on luck’s front porch, particularly when he went down for a bottom-less nap.
Pressure. In the most absolute terms, we were not to diaper him. Regardless of how many times he peed or pooped on the floor, we were to use consistency and firmness, indicating what was expected of him. Jrue got the point early, but it was nerve-wrecking. I honestly had no idea if the process was working. We thought he was ready, but did we really, really know? What gave us so much optimism? In my brain as his coach, this was it. The pressure mounted. We were not going back to diapers, I kept telling myself. We were going to the ‘Ship. It was our time.
Small margin of error. On Day 2, I woke up to pray that he would hit the potty at least once. Day 1 was an expected disaster for my carpet, and I was quickly running out of carpet cleaner foam. Jrue loved being naked (and giving hugs and playing horsey, ironically). We didn’t foresee that. We also didn’t foresee that he’d learn to hold in his poop, but he did. On Day 2, he peed in the potty twice. We treated them like touchdowns, cheering and high-fiving and embracing. By Day 3, there were no accidents and regular pee pee trips to the potty chairs. We had actually enacted a complete re-wiring of how our son viewed going to the toilet and how to feel the need to go, even after we had gone for long walks in the neighborhood in our loose-fitting sweat pants. We even had a successful poop in the potty that last day.
We all won. Victory was glorious. The energy spent completely focused so hard on one child was truly exhausting.
In later weeks, we worked on Super-Bowl-level training. When the time came, we went from bare bottomed to underwear and found that, when Jrue went to the potty alone, he would kick off and leave off his underpants and stroll the house (and sit on our couch) post-poop without alerting us that he needed wiping. There were some moments when he would forget he was wearing bottoms and would sit on the potty and pee through everything. We swapped overnight Pull-Ups for a waterproof mattress pad since he would hold his poop all day and wait until overnight to go on himself. We learned how to go on “big toilets” in stores while we were out of the house. He watched mommy and daddy dump his potties in the big toilets at home and, during various escapades, attempted to do it himself, ending twice in a bathroom sink. We have, magically, experienced few accidents since Day 3.
The game required so many moving parts and steady steps…about 52 or so from my calculations. The three-day approach that we followed launched belief in both parents and toddler during a process that we had never rehearsed and knew so little about, yet had to do. We continue daily encouragements to Jrue and look forward to the day when we can unreservedly remove the waterproof mattress pad on his bed.
Our inevitable Super Bowl victory is still pending.
Zuercher, Karen. “Potty training in three days or less.” BabyCenter, n.d., http://www.babycenter.com/0_potty-training-in-three-days-or-less_10310078.bc. Accessed 27 Jan. 2017.