Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tiger Mother: Potty Training

It's been a long time coming, for me to actually write a blog post. It is still about parenting so not too far off my typical path.

For over a year Elliott and I have been negotiating the potty situation. She is now 3 years 8 months. For a long time El has been able to pee on the potty but she has not been able to seal the seal and have a bowel movement on the potty, which brings the gifts from the gods spilling from the heavens (toys, candy, various bribes).

We had a problem. A poop problem.

Upon returning from a recent vacation Jeremy and I decided it was time. We were not buying any more diapers. We proceeded to have a count down of diapers. Frequent discussion about the dwindling diapers and what Elliott would have to do when the diapers were all gone.

Going through all the diapers was helpful for me too. It helped me mentally prepare for what I was committing to. We were going to do this. I found EVERY LAST DIAPER I could find in the house, car, pantry and random other places and used them all.

Finally the day came when we were all out.

Did I have a sticker chart? no. did I have a real plan? no. I was winging it. We had tried those things before and I was OVER it.

From reading, attempting, and being deemed a failure by "Toilet Training in Less than a Day". I did have the gist that it was a good idea to reward dryness rather than "the deed". I decided to reward both because I am THAT nice. However, my rewards were limited to stickers and gum because I am grossed out at the idea of how much candy my girl would consume otherwise. Candy was reserved for when she "closed" and pooped on the potty. At least that would be only one time a day.

Anyhoo, as expected, Elliott would not poop on the potty so I poached a bit from the book "It Hurts When I Poop! a Story for Children Who Are Scared to Use the Potty" and met her half way. She could have a chocolate bunny IF she pooped in the BATHROOM in her Pull Up. At least she would be learning the skills of a) noticing what her body is telling her b) pausing, asking for a pull up (holding it) c) comfort with the bathroom area. d) maybe something else awesome that I am missing right now. She totally went for it. I was quite pleased. She was quite stoked to eat a chocolate bunny. WIN.

We continue peeing on the potty. Yay. She can do that.

This is when I got evil:

The next day I took her to the park. (This story has "it's all your fault, mom" written all over it, but, sorry for the spoiler, we do have a happy ending so it is all worth it.) I should not have taken her to the park. Home girl just hopped on her trike and took off. I said fine. Pregnant and with a broken tow I am cutting myself some slack. Unfortunately, this situation set her up for an accident. Big time.
She pooped at the park at the top a slide. She peed too. The pee actually went DOWN the slide. Pure Awesome. It was time to go. Elliott did not want to ride her trike home for the same reason I would not want to. I would have no desire to sit in my own poop. She asked me to carry her trike, I declined and told her to ride it. She said no. I called a spade a spade and told her what we both knew. She did not want to sit in her poop. I told her she could either ride her trike home or we could leave it at the park. Not wanting that to happen she had a miserable ride home. When we got home I put her in a cold shower while she cried. I kept repeating "Elliott had an accident." "we don't want to have accidents". I made her throw out her beloved Tinkerbell underwear and clean her trike.

Then came nap. I am not sure what the deal with nap pee is so I threw on a Pull Up with underwear over. She does nap in my bed.

After nap the Pull Up needed to come off. Elliott did not like that idea. I totally get it. Why pee in the potty when you can just go in your pants? I did that tons of times post c-section. I had to tackle her to the ground and pull it off. The poor girl just lay on the ground and cried. I cried (almost) with her. We laid on the ground together and grieved the loss of diapers. I talked to her about how sad we were, how we missed the diapers and wanted them back. My heart was so sad for her. She laid on the ground quietly. I talked to her about how I know it is hard. I know she can do it. I know she can pee and poo in the potty because she can do hard things. I told her the I believed in her. We laid quietly and then I got up and let her think, feel whatever she needed.

That night, not having to worry about an accidental bowel movement, she stayed dry no problem.

Over night Jeremy and I discussed an added incentive. No TV until after dinner and she has been dry all day. This was a serious shake up to the household routine. You can accomplish a lot when your kid has a babysitter for an hour! We were bumming all around and our hearts, again, went out to Elliott, no "World World"?, lame, but we felt it was a good thing in the long run.

That morning, as you can imagine, she was pretty ticked. Who are we totally screwing with her life?! I had decided that I was going to give her A LOT of latitude around pretty much everything except for the potty. So please, thank you, general niceities were not to be found. I just tried to stay positive. Keep rewarding for dryness. Sadly, that day she did have an accident during a play date. Back into the cold shower, I used tough talk about getting yucky pee pee off her body so she can be clean. "we like a clean body" - again tears. The episode was 5 min long and she was back to having a great time in the back yard.

Post nap she did not want her Pull Up taken off again. I gently gave her the option of cooperating (that's a big word around our house) or having me "rip them off her like yesterday". Thankfully, she chose option A.

No poop that day, No TV that night, but she did have a TON of popcorn.

The next morning she had to GO. Jeremy was home. I was in the shower and the bathroom door was locked. What was a little girl to do? Jeremy suggested she sit on the potty and see what happens. She did and SHE DID. Success! She had a princess dress up doll her in hands in 30 seconds flat. She learned that she CAN do it!

I think Jeremy was the perfect person to usher in the poop (or usher out the poop?;) Those two don't have the same every day mother/daughter power dynamic that three year olds typically love to engage in. I am glad he was there. It was great timing.

We are now at 3 potty poops. No accidents. I know I need to expect accidents with training and I am open to them. I am mostly just so happy that El has overcome her fear of pooping on the potty. I knew she could do it I just was not sure how it was going to happen. Prayer, encouragment and tough love were all in place. And does she EVER look SO adorable wandering around in her underpants.

Other note: I never used the term big girl in the process because she does not want to be one.

note 2: Every child is different. I would not engage tiger mother tactics if I did not think that Elliott had the Ego Strength to tolerate it.

note 3: "cold shower" is handheld shower head sprayed to bottom/legs fast. In and out of shower no play.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm impressed with your perseverence and creativity. Keep being the Tiger and show no weakness. I love how you showed her that you understand her sadness about leaving diapers behind. That's very insightful.
I'll admit that I cringe a little about the "cold shower" part of it, but I'm not judging or running the show. You do what you need to do. I can also see the logic of not making the clean-up process any version of a reward for the behavior. And anyway, cold showers can be refreshing. Finally, I'm glad it's not me having to deal with it.
Good luck and keep up the good work. Fancy underpants, here we come!

Anonymous said...

By the way, Anonymous is Grandma Sharon.

Kristin Johnson said...

I thought that I was a horrid mean mommy cuz I used all these tactics and thought I would try your more docile way next time. Hmmm, maybe they just need the line set down somewhere. But we are done with diapers and cold showers for now. Good luck!

The Thackers said...

Rachel, I love this. E's story and fear of pooping in the potty sound a lot like Lauren's. This is helpful. I'll have to get that book you mentioned and I liked the idea of getting her to just poop in the bathroom even if it's in her underwear. I'm also going to have to break out the Tiger tactics and make her clean up her mess more. She'd hate that because she hates the poop. She screams when she sees it. I can't imagine what she might do if she has to clean it up!
Anyway, thanks for sharing! :-)