Potty Training Power Struggles: Part 2

 Just to review, Part1 discussed our potty training experiences with our first two children,  Snowflake  and Raindrop. I also detailed some of the many techniques we used in our journey.

Today's post will focus on our son, Starman, who is still wrestling with the process. Aftewards, you will find a comprehensive review of methods, which while unsuccessful for us, we feel hold promise for children who are more motivated and invested than our children were when we tried them.
After the trauma of our first two kiddos, The Husband and I decided that we would approach #3 differently. We were going to get it right this time. When Starman was 18 months old we hauled out the potty chair and explained how it worked. We thought after trying at 2 1/2 and 3, maybe the answer was earlier. At 20 months he started asking to go potty. He did great. We took him whenever he asked and we started to hope. I bragged that "God wouldn't curse us with another tough potty trainer, surely we deserve one easy one."
One weekend we had work/school stuff  that prevented us sitting for hours in the potty reading books, which is what he wanted to do. It was just not possible that week with work, school, 2 other children and the holidays so, we put a diaper on him for two days. To this day, I wonder. If only I  hadn't done that, If only I had dropped my class instead, at least for that semester, would he have trained? Maybe, maybe not. I'll never know.
After that week, he never looked back. For the next year the mere mention of the potty would send him running. So The Husband and I decided, this time we really will be patient and wait. He will do it when he is ready. We will model potty use, but ignore the subject of training all together. He was going to need to get there on his own. I was done, this kid was going to have to potty train himself.

That worked right up until he turned three. Shortly before his birthday I noticed that I was staring to get pointed questions from people, "have you guys started potty training yet?" or "I noticed he is still in diapers, still not training yet, huh?." I also got loads of "helpful suggestions" from people like, "oh he is still in diapers, have you tried X, Y, and Z yet?" To be honest, it was all I could do to hold my tongue and not shout at them....."My daughter was in a life threatening situation because she refused to potty train, do you HONESTLY think there is something out there I haven't already tried!!?!" Instead, I just thanked them for their suggestion and walked away feeling pressured and out of sorts.

Around his 3rd birthday the social pressure became too much and I decided we were going to go cold turkey. Starting shortly before his birthday I talked up the idea of no more diapers. We placed a stack on the fireplace and watched it dwindle, and then when it was gone, we put him in big boy underwear. I held fast to that for almost 6 weeks. And all I got for my trouble was a whole lot of time on my hands and knees cleaning my carpet and doing laundry. For the record, when I bought that box of diapers at Costco, I cried, right there in the aisle at Costco, big fat crocodile tears.

He now has a sticker chart, and M&Ms, cheerios to aim at, and we bought presents for him and placed them on fireplace mantel. We also got him a potty watch and special big boy underwear with his favorite characters on them and tried reverse psychology saying that I was glad he wasn't potty trained because it meant he couldn't go stay at Grandma's house over night yet and that I wanted to keep him home.
He is almost 3 1/2 now and he is showing little to no signs that this potty training thing is EVER going to happen. He asks to go occasionally, but the minute I suggest it myself we backslide. Logically, I know we will get there. But, I want it NOW! I am tired of waiting. Seeing the end of the tunnel is agony and it feels like this car is not moving fast enough. Besides, I need to start my counseling for potty-training PTSD (a half-joke at best).

Most of all, I am ready for the judgmental looks, pointed comments and "helpful" suggestions to stop. I am tired of the smug satisfied, "Oh, he is still in diapers? How old is he now? Well my little darling trained on his second birthday, in a weekend.....did you try X, Y, and Z yet?." I can see the sub context clear as day, that they are a much better parent, how sad they are for me, and there must be something wrong with that kid.
But if Starman's response to my friend tells me anything, it is that we have a long way to go.  My friend, trying to help me out, said to him, "don't you want to use the big-boy potty like your friend Jonathon (10 years old)?
He looked at her, cocked his head and said, "Nope. It's not my problem. I not going to  use the potty, Mommy just has to change me"

WHAT!?  *deep breaths, deep breaths*
The Moral
The moral of this story, and the lesson I hope you come away with, is that our children are their own little people. Sometimes the best parenting in the world can not make them deviate from their own chosen course. Potty training my kids has taught me, unequivocally, that it really is not me. It really is them.

Because of this, I have also found that the most frustrating thing for me, as a parent of 3 late potty trainers, is the constant "advice" and judgmental comments I receive from well-meaning friends and family.  Comments like,"Well we just  used [insert whatever trick or method you want] and it just worked like a charm" drive me crazy because, trust me, we really have tried EVERYTHING!
So the next time that a parent smugly tells you how little Jr. potty trained in a day at the age of 18 months, sure their children may be potty training savants, but it is probably just their personality, not some model of perfect parenting. And parents, if your child is one of those resistors, if you are fighting the good fight and living with despair and frustration, it is not your fault. It may be hard to see in the moment, but it really won't last forever (something I am typing out because I really need the reminder myself).
So with that, maybe your little darling will find his or her perfect currency on the list below. We have tried many, many things and I am sure all of them work for someone. Just apparently, not us.
  • Bribery: this can be M&Ms, candy hearts, jelly beans, a trip to the zoo, stickers, whatever you think will resonate with your child. Some people do one small treat each time their child tries to sit on the potty and then graduates to when they actually go. Some people give one candy for peeing in the potty and 2 or 3 for pooping. Another bribery trick is to buy something they want and place it up high so they can see it, but not touch it. The idea is that they will want the toy and therefore train faster.
  • Intense Training: We had limited success with this. The 3-day potty training technique, the doll/potty party technique and the potty watch/going every 20 min for 5 days. This takes seriously dedicated time to achieve and can have good results (think rehab, as long as the addict is truly committed). It is however extremely soul-sucking to take 3 days off of work to try and accomplish something only to have it fail, so be realistic before making this choice.
  • Cold Turkey: I have heard this works for some people. We have tried it with all of our kids and it has not worked for us, but for the less stubborn, head-strong child I imagine it would probably be fairly effective. Just putting them in underwear is going to be messy at first though, so be prepared with proper cleaning solution and lots of patience.
  • Go Naked: We did this over Christmas break and I fully plan on trying this again if Starman hasn't trained by the time summer comes around. The idea is that going naked helps them figure out what is going on faster. Again I caution, make sure you have all the proper cleaning supplies and that you are prepared for a mess at first.
  • Reverse Psychology: I read this fantastic article about a lady in California who told her son that she was so glad that he hadn't potty trained yet, because the pirates called and they wanted him to join their gang, but only boys in underwear could join. He potty trained in a day and then she took him down the road to Disneyland where she signed him up for the Pirate for a day program. Genius. Now if only I lived near Disney. I imagine this technique works best if you have something epic to dangle in front of your child.
  • Ignoring the Elephant in the Room: This is what worked finally for Raindrop. We finally gave up and stopped talking about it and one day she just did it. I imagine doing nothing does eventually work for everyone, but the key is being able to resist social pressure to be more proactive. Despite my vow that I was going to ignore potty training with Starman, I bowed to that peer pressure and impatience and started trying other techniques. 
  • Modeling and Positive Reinforcement: These are great. Singing a potty song, reading potty books, taking your kids with you to the bathroom to show them how it's done are all fantastic. Giving high fives and celebrating after every success is wonderful too. And for the child who is self motivated to train, these things may be all you need to achieve success. Congratulations, you are one of the lucky ones.
  • Negative Reinforcement: I only add this to the list, because for us desperate parents, feeling the pinch of social pressure and KNOWING that our little darlings are perfectly capablebut they just won't do it, this technique tends to find its way into the mix. Watching your child achieve success only to backslide can cause anger and frustration. You know that they can do it, that they are aware of the situation and that they are making a conscious choice not to. This can cause parents (read: me) to start giving time-outs, making kids wash out their own underwear, cleaning up their own messes, etc. These techniques do not work. Even if the nice lady at church assures you that these techniques are the magical answer, they really aren't.