Potty-training can be one of the more frustrating stages in raising children. Between my three children and two granddaughters, we have had a wide range of ages and difficulties when potty training.
My oldest daughter, Alicia was one of the easiest children to potty train that I’ve ever known. When she was about one and a half, I found a wooden potty seat with a removable pot at a garage sale for twenty-five cents. I went ahead and bought it and put it in the bathroom. Since she was so young I didn’t do anything about potty-training. Alicia would follow me into the bathroom and sit on her potty when I sat on mine. At some point, I kept a couple of books for her in the bathroom including a copy of Once Upon a Potty for Her. She “read” while I read.
One day she started wanting to sit without her diaper. This was a bit annoying, since it was still before Velcro tabs for diapers. I just kept a roll of duct tape in the bathroom to tape clean diapers back on. Right around the age of two, she seemed to stay dry all day. I purchased some terry cloth training pants that were popular back then. For a few more months she still wore diapers at nap time and night, but she was even out of these by the time she was two and a half. My experience with her made me somewhat smug. Life came along and taught me otherwise.
My first son, Chance, showed absolutely no inclination to be potty-trained at three. I tried at this stage, but felt overwhelmed at the amount of accidents so I put him back in diapers. At over three and a half, I was feeling pressure from society and his daycare, so we tried again. Neither sticker charts nor elaborate praise had much impact. I even purchased Chance some Batman underwear. He loved Batman, but had little regret when peeing on him. Finally someone mentioned M&Ms. So I put a dish of them in the bathroom and gave him one or two every time he went. This worked like magic and he was potty-trained almost instantly. Since he still loves food, this is hardly surprising.
Dalton my third child was in between the other two. He wasn’t as fast as Alicia, but responded well to praise, stickers and special underwear. He was basically potty-trained at a little over three years old. However, he had frequent accidents when he was busy playing. My husband has a weaker stomach than I do and really gags when confronted with poopy messes. Once when I left Dalton with him, Dalton stood in the living room and pooped himself. Jeff got upset and gave Dalton a spanking telling him that this wasn’t acceptable. I was mad at Jeff and told him that he had made it much worse. But I was wrong, Dalton never had another accident. Obviously this goes against everything the professionals advocate, but apparently worked this time.
Neither of my granddaughters was easy, but Sophia was the easier of the two. Alicia tried with her when she was around two and a half; since she wasn’t ready she put her back in diapers. A few months later Sophia was potty-trained in a few days without a lot of effort. Her main motivation was a desire to wear princess panties.
Vivian was the hardest of all. After potty-training or helping to potty-train many children including my own, relatives and daycare children, I felt like I should have been a pro. However, Vivian was a serious challenge. She would respond to each motivator for a day or two and then start wetting her pants again. Between Alicia and me, we tried stickers; M&Ms, singing toilets, micro-managing her, and even letting her run around naked for a few hours. She ended up having temper tantrums and refusing to even sit on a toilet. We came to the conclusion to completely leave her alone. She was put in Pull-ups during the day and ignored. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks and then she started to go when her sister was going. Even when she went, we only commented when she told us. They hardest part with this is she really needed help wiping, but wouldn’t accept it. At three and a half, I actually gave away her left over diapers and deemed her potty-trained.
However, due to poor bladder control, she still has accidents at 4 and 5 years old. Eventually she will outgrow this, but it explains why she was so hard to train in the first place. My daughter did take her to the doctor and had her tested for urinary infections and neurological issues.
The children in my life have ranged from early to late and from intensive intervention to hands-off. My conclusion is that all children are different and may require a different approach. When children are ready and you discover what works for them, they will usually almost potty-train themselves. Parents know their children best and sometimes it takes creativity, patience and a willingness to fail before everything turns out right.