Toilet Training In Less Than A Decade

Written for and shared with my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) friends

I hate potty training.

Had all my children been like my first, I wouldn’t feel this way. Anna passed my potty training boot camp with flying colors. She was an A+ student! I simply checked out a book called Toilet Training in a Day, read it, implemented the techniques and truly had a trained 2 year old within 24 hours. Anna never had more than a couple of accidents, mastered #1 and #2 the first day and within 3 days was also night trained  – all at 26 months. I became a huge believer in this little book and completely admit… a little proud and a little smug. What was all the fuss over potty training? Obviously, mothers with difficulty either waited too late to train or needed to read the book. I found myself entertaining entrepreneurial thoughts of starting a potty-training business. From talk I’d overheard, there were moms out there who could use my expertise! Then came Christina…

I used the same techniques with Christina as I did with Anna. I was even more motivated to get my second-born out of diapers because by this time I was expecting twins! I had no intentions of diapering three children at once! Thus, when Christina became 26 months old, I skimmed over the potty-training-in-a-day guidelines and got to work.

This is how Christina felt about potty training!

Christina didn’t get it. She refused to cooperate. As a matter of fact, she despised the potty game. At the end of the first day, she had not, even once, pee-peed in the potty. She’d pooped in her pants. She’d thrown fits. And I counted the months I had left before my twins estimated due date and decided to give it a little more time –like 3 more months, but not 4… no way! That would be too long!

Two months before my due date, I again attempted potty boot camp. “Epic fail” as my teens would say! Not only was Christina as stubborn as ever, I resembled a whale and was in no condition to squat near a toddler potty fifty times a day! It was inevitable that two and a half year old Christina would not be out of diapers by the time I was due with the twins.

We survived. Eventually, Christina trained and over the next five years, her three younger siblings did as well. Sarah and Bethany were relatively easy. Nathan was not and was over 3 before he “got it.” (WAY too old by TTILTAD standards!)

You’d think with my experience in potty training 5 children, I’d think nothing of training our 6th child, Esther. However, she, of all six, has been the most difficult! Esther, who is almost 3, is afraid of doing her poopies on the potty. She was completely trained for several months and then became constipated. After going several days without a #2, she finally went and it was terribly painful. She bled, cried for hours and, once done with the job, decided she’d just not ever put herself through it again. That was 5 months ago and she has tried with all her might to keep her promise to herself. Unfortunately, her fear that going potty is painful has become a self-fulfilled prophecy. When poopies are held in, they do hurt when they must come out. Going to the potty is traumatic for her and there seems to be nothing I can do to convince her that she is causing her own discomfort.

So why am I writing about this “trial?” It’s just potty-training… something very common. I’ve heard it said that no one goes to kindergarten in diapers and I believe that statement is usually true! However, kindergarten is 4 years from now… and that’s a long time to wait for her to “get it!”

Our children will, from infancy, test our patience. It’s tempting when faced with a trial, be it a toddler with potty refusal or a teen with an attitude, to turn to the experts.

TTILTAD might call me a failure. With certainly, the author pities my child and me!

So often, I want to “fix” my children’s “issues.” I’ll admit that I am a controller and lean toward finding “potty-training –in-a-day” types of resources. Just give me whatever works fast! However, my children don’t read the books and they certainly don’t respond like the model children described within the pages (well, Anna did… but 1 out of 6 is not a good statistic!)

The parenting books and internet experts are not my sources of wisdom regarding Esther’s potty refusal issue. We are consulting the Bible and we are praying for her. I wrote some of my dearest friends and asked them to pray as well. We are implementing some dietary changes and that is helping a little.

This is the first of many “big things” for Esther to tackle. It’s easy to get impatient. Yet I believe when our children struggle, they often need us to back away from externally controlling them and instead believe in them. This doesn’t mean there is not a place for discipline. All children need discipline. Yet it takes discernment to know when to just be patient.

I Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I am convinced that potty training has been a small trial that the Lord has used to teach me how to love. It takes patience and kindness. Desiring Christina out of diapers at 26 months was a bit self-seeking. She wasn’t ready and was unaware how inconvenient her immaturity was to me – soon to be mother of twins! Why couldn’t she “get it” like her big sister?!? I once was proud and boastful to have such a fast learning first-born child! Yet my future children humbled me in this area just a wee bit! (I know God has a sense of humor!) I’ll admit cleaning up poopy panties can bring out some rudeness in me – especially when it’s the 5th pair of the day and we’ve not even eaten lunch! Yet my frustration brings shame to my young one’s face… and she needs tenderness. She doesn’t need to be reminded of the other times she’s failed in this area. She needs encouragement and the assurance that I believe she will succeed.

As mothers, we all will face trials that test our patience. Knowing when to discipline and when to extend grace requires the Holy Spirit. Does your baby not sleep through the night? Are you tired? Are you frustrated trying to implement routine? Does your kindergartner talk too much in class? Do you wonder if your child will ever learn to read or their basic addition facts? Are you weary of sibling rivalry and bickering? Do you feel like if you’ve said it once you’ve said it a hundred times?

Pray. Read the Word. Consult I Corinthians 13 and be guided by love. Sometimes we must correct and discipline… but we should always be guided by love for our children and one another. When the trials come, there is a place for parenting books. However, resist the urge to turn to a resource before turning to the Word.

Also, the Bible has a commandment to older women in Titus 2:4 to “teach the younger women to love their husbands and children. However, so often we young mamas receive not because we ask not. I am guilty of this. I try to figure things out myself. However, I have never regretted turning to my mother, mother-in-law or older friends and mentors. I know these ladies will pray for me. I’m blessed by their life experiences. It seems that sometimes I need to only hear “This too shall pass.” They can tell me this with assurance because they’ve lived it! We are so blessed in our church to have godly, older women who are willing to pray for our children and us and share their experiences. Take advantage and be teachable!

Hooray for Esther!

I have a praise! Several days ago, Esther, while swimming in a pool, called her Daddy to get her out so she could go potty. AND SHE DID A #2 IN THE POTTY! We celebrated! We rejoiced! And we gave her a lollipop just for triple reinforcement! She has since succeeded two more times! I hope this means we can put the potty training season behind us! I’ve trained six children now and have either “just trained,” “must train” or “will need to train” a child for 13 ½ years. I do not, however, consider myself an expert! I can only say, that with God’s grace, I’ve learned a lot and survived.

Oh, and for the record, I don’t plan to start that potty training business I considered years ago when Anna basked in her star-pupil, potty-trained glory! There just isn’t time for it. Now I must begin teaching the first of all my potty-trained children how to drive!

This gal is still a superstar!

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17 Responses to “Toilet Training In Less Than A Decade”

  1. Amy Scott Says:

    Just so you know, my #6 has not done #2 in the potty yet. I know, I know–epic fail, because they are the exact same age, right?

    My #3 had the “holding it in” problem on a grand scale–one trip to the ER (not even kidding), 5+ doctor visits, and a trip to a GI specialist afforded me this bit of wisdom……

    Mineral oil.

  2. Tina Says:

    Mineral oil! How much and often?!?! I’ve been giving her Miralax mixed in pear juice and that definitely helps. She still has tried to hold it in, but at least she can’t succeed at doing so for 5-7 days! We’ve also been to the doc. I’ve avoided the ER only by giving her suppositories by the 4th day.

    I’m sorry you had to go through this too. Apparently, its’ pretty common.

    Esther did another poop on the potty last night, making it 3 in a row in the right place. I am praising God!

  3. Holly Law Says:

    Caleb got a tablespoon of mineral oil every morning in his juice for years! Put it in a cup with a lid and a throw away straw. Caleb could see the oil sitting in his juice and thought it looked yucky-the oil will ruin any sippy cups-so those keep/toss cups with the lid and place for a disposable straw work best. Nate will be 4 in a few weeks and still has to wear a pull up at night. He is a really heavy sleeper and just doesn’t wake up to use the potty. This drives Burleigh crazy-it doesn’t bother me at all-he had been toilet trained (just like the others) since he was 2 yrs. 6 months; it is just taking him longer to get it through the night. My boys
    were trained quicker and easier than Rachel was!

  4. Tina Says:

    Holly and Amy, I am going to get some good old fashioned mineral oil. My only experience with this was an attempted labor induction (midwife’s orders) with my first. Bad, bad memories, lol. I have thought about it for Esther’s problem but worried it might be too strong or that I’d have to force it down her because it tastes pretty nasty. The prescription of juice and Miralax has helped tremendously but I think she still gets too constipated. If a little mineral oil will do the trick and keep her from having to have suppositories, that would be wonderful. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Kim Says:

    My #3 (boy) had extreme poop terror. I wrote about it then … but can only laugh about it now 😉 My first (girl) had the same thing but she was much younger and it didn’t last as long. She would begin to sprint away from the potty as soon as the pooping began!

    It was sort of messy.

    With my third, I used suppositories as a last resort … and it worked! I only had to do it once because once he did it the fear was just about gone 😉

    Great post in so many ways!

    A post from the days of “poop terror” …

  6. Lois Says:

    my 2 cents for anything it’s worth–probably less :)–I didn’t know much about fiber etc. when our first one came along 40 years ago and I’m just “fortunate” he didn’t have the terrors about it because it was all set up that way–I won’t even go into any details.

    Our other one had no poop problems that I remember, but she wasn’t trained at night until after 5. I had some book out in Indonesia that was loaned to me and it said not to bother trying anything if they wet at night until after age 5. So right at her birthday, I started with the 5-step pattern. I still don’t know what happened because she went for 6 months with no change and then overnight stopped and only had one accident after.

    What I really wanted to say was that I think our daughter (that one) has found the solution for her 2. They have different digestive systems and once she found what worked (whether you’ve got to get them past it with oil or whatever), she watches their diet closely and knows how much fiber they need and what affects them. (yes, easier to do with just 2)

    Her daughter has a fine-tuned little system– straight apple juice one day or a pear and she has diarrhea. Little fiber the next and it’s hurting. So as difficult as it is, they watch what goes in and guard it. (like she had some codeine in her cough syrup for a couple nights and they knew what that would do…so I was dishing out one prune and apple-blend juice and 14 beans….lol. ok, I didn’t count the beans.

    one more tidbit…I just remembered our son was not potty trained at all at 2 1/2 in time for a trip around the world to Indonesia…on umpteen planes, etc. sigh. (And either there actually were disposable diapers 38 years ago or I’ve blotted it out of my memory.) I tried and my mom tried. (My mom had had great success with me, her only child.) She herself gave up with our son and said, nope, he’s not ready. All I can conclude at my advanced age is: some are–some aren’t. 🙂

  7. Maggie Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I got here from Amy’s blog. My first took over 2 years to potty train. I don’t mean she was over 2, I mean the process took over 2 years and it started with TTILTAD. Finally when she was 4 1/2 we realized that she hadn’t had an accident for awhile. She’s now 6 and will occasionally have an accident and she is not night time trained. Like Holly’s child, she’s a sound sleeper and doesn’t get up for anything. So I guess she’ll get it when her body can hold it all night. My second is almost 3, but we’ve only casually attempted this potty training thing, I’m a bit fearful, plus today is my due date with number 3, so I figure I’ll let her get used to that first. 🙂 Again, thanks for sharing. For a long time I felt like such a failure, I must be doing something wrong. Not to mention the frustration I would not attempt to hide in front of my little one.

  8. Ellen Says:

    I potty trained my first at nearly 3 last October. He was quick to pee train… but pooping is a whole other story. He finally starting pooping in the potty this week… almost a year from when we pee trained. He taught himself somehow to poop in his diaper during nap and nighttimes, and that’s what he did. I was beginning to wonder how I was ever going to teach him how to go diaperless at night and nap with this issue. Praise the Lord! I will approach teaching my second with much fear and trembling… and I’m hoping he doesn’t ask to go potty anytime soon…

  9. Sheri Says:

    My2 yo hated going #2 in the toilet also. We just took it in stride, knowing that someday she would go. We just kept reinforcing where #2 was supposed to go and today she came running to me to poop! She made it to the toilet. So we are celebrating today. Hopefully this will continue. If it doesn’t, we’ll deal with that too – patiently.

  10. Ugh « Pursuing Titus 2 Says:

    […] Toilet Training in Less Than a Decade This is a great post on mothering in the shadow of all those brilliantly marketed parenting books, as well as some cozy commiseration on potty training in general, and what mother couldn’t use that now and then? […]

  11. Melissa D Says:

    I love hearing from moms of lots of kids on issues like these. My oldest (so docile in every other respect!) took 2 years to train and was finally doing it all just as she turned…4. I decided to let the other two kids lead instead of forcing the issue after 2 years of tears with #1. My next is training herself pretty much from the get-go — just said “I want to go potty” one day and is doing great, no potty seat or little potty needed. I think kids just have their own timing… we can encourage them, but nothing is going to get them to cross that line, especially if I’m crying or getting angry as well. Having 3 in diapers/pullups has been hard — maybe #3 will be easier! I am just appalled at how much I’ve spent on diapers over the last 4 years….

  12. Jena Says:

    Great post. New here from Mrs. Parunak’s blog. I somehow survived 5 potty training experiences, and I’m not going through any more. Basically, it is a blur, and some of it was not easy.

  13. Tina Says:

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments and stories! I love hearing from you!

  14. Kelli Says:

    Yep, my daughter (now 13) is a mineral oil graduate. She had the same problem with potty training and the oil worked like a charm–She still does suffer with a tendency towards constipation though (she would be mortified if she knew I told people that ) 😉

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