Raising Richmond: What the poop?

When my son was first born, and I started including him in my compulsive need to over-share my life with the Internet, I made a promise to us both. A promise that I am going to break right here and now. Guys, I need to talk about potty training.

When my son was first born, and I started including him in my compulsive need to over-share my life with the Internet, I made a promise to us both. A promise that I am going to break right here and now.

Guys, I need to talk about potty training.

That sound you just heard was half of your once-fellow readers groaning in disgust and continuing about their business in another part of the interwebs. But I just can’t care about them because, frankly, I’m disturbed by how much of my brain space is currently occupied by the mysteries of someone else’s bowel movements.*

As those of you who have been reading Raising Richmond for a while know, I tend to err on the (shall we say?) “fretful” side of things when it comes to most parenting issues. I’m always assuming I’m doing something horribly wrong or that I’ve totally forgotten to teach my son some essential skill which won’t be revealed until it’s too late, thus dooming him to a life as a social outcast.

(You could say I err on the side of “dramatic” as well.)

However, there’s been one exception during this almost-three-year stint of constant hand-wringing: potty training. I know! It makes no sense! I mean, you’d think considering my history, helping my kid not make a giant, disgusting mess in his pants would rank high in my parenting priorities. I was convinced that making A Big Deal about it would give him anxiety about the whole thing, which would inevitably lead to that whole social outcast thing I mentioned before.

So our philosophy was “Keep it breezy.” He’ll let us know when he’s ready. We let him take the lead, limiting our discussion of the matter to reading the occasional book and answering questions when asked. When he was 18 months old we took advantage of a 50-percent-off sale at Babies’R’Us and bought him a potty**. We stuck it in the bathroom and waited to see what would happen.

A few weeks later, he asked to sit on it. Much to my surprise, he peed on the first try. From that point on, whenever we were in the bathroom we asked if he wanted to try again. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. Every attempt was celebrated, and every success was rewarded with the be-all-end-all of toddler motivators: a Spider-Man Band-Aid.

This went on for about a year until one day (right around the time his classmates were bidding adieu to their Pampers) my son looked me dead in the eyes and said “Mama, diapers are for babies. I don’t wanna wear them anymore.”

(Not all peer pressure is bad, my friends.)

Big Boy Underwear was purchased. For a few weeks we had “practice” time every day once he woke up from his nap until bedtime. We very gradually increased the time spent out of diapers over the course of several weeks until he was spending all of his awake time in underwear, using any and all toilets like a champ.

Sort of.

After talking to several friends and relatives with considerable potty training experience, I took comfort in the widely-held belief that it could be a while before my son would be out of diapers completely; most kids (especially boys, it seems) will wear a diaper or Pull-Up during naptime and bedtime for several months after they’ve been otherwise potty trained. But I didn’t expect my son to adjust his “elimination” schedule according to when he was diapered and when he was not.

Oh forget it, I’m just going to say it: my kid won’t poop in the damn toilet.

Or potty. Or anywhere but his diaper.

We’ve tried all the tricks: M&M’s, stickers, singing him songs, reading him books, letting him watch TV while he’s sitting on the potty. Nothing works — or if it does, it only works once or twice before he’s uninterested. We’ve even gone so far as letting him take a nap sans diaper, thinking maybe he just needed to experience the horror that is crapping your pants in order to get the message — not that my husband or I actually remembers experiencing such an incident, but we can imagine it’s unpleasant.

Well, turns out, he didn’t mind it one bit. Our breeziness backfired right into our dumb faces with our son’s resounding “meh” when greeted with his own poop-filled skivvies.

And still, every day, without fail, he waits until naptime or bedtime to…ahem…fill his diaper. Then he gleefully announces “Mama, I pooped!” and I spend a few seconds tearing out my hair before going into his room to clean him up.

I feel like I should add here that we don’t scold or punish him when this happens, and I don’t think we ever will. I think that’s as likely to backfire as our breezy approach. But we need to figure something out because, y’all? Imma ‘bout done with this mess.

I don’t usually come right out and ask for parenting advice in this forum, but I have no idea where to go from here. So here I am. Just a girl. Standing in front of an Internet. Asking it to help her get her son to put the poop where it belongs.

*I realize that one day my son could be mortified by this post. But the way I figure it, pooping in your pants at 16 is WAY more embarrassing. CONSIDER IT AN ACT OF LOVE, KID.
**Can we all agree that “potty” should be voted “Word Most Likely to Strip Parents Of All Dignity Based Solely On How Many Times You Hear Yourself Saying It Each Day”?

  • error

    Report an error

Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Kristi on said:

    In my experience training just one boy, I think fear was the biggest problem. Once our son pooped in the potty and had a positive experience, he was OK with it.

    I’m not saying this tactic will work with JR, but it may inspire you with a creative solution…

    Our boy took an incredibly long time to potty train — he was interested in using the potty, just not interested in using it exclusively, and most definitely not interested in using it for pooping. He knew when he had to go, and would go off into a corner, then come back and tell us he pooped. We encouraged, we celebrated successes, we rewarded with M&Ms, and we never reprimanded for accidents – we simply cleaned up with no comment.

    He pooped in the potty for the first time, an accident on his part, on the night his little sister was born. Then, he refused to do it again.

    Many months later, he became obsessed with soccer. We bought him a soccer ball and told him it would be his, when he pooped on the potty. A few weeks passed with no progress. One afternoon, I watched him carefully around his usual pooping time, and when he headed for the corner, I scooped him up and ran to the bathroom. At that point, he couldn’t hold it, and he pooped in the potty. Then, he cried. We cheered and clapped and hugged, and then we went outside to play with his new soccer ball.

    He never pooped in his pants again.

  2. Caroline on said:

    My daughter was also pee trained, but refused to poop in the potty. I tried it all: rewards, begging, pleading, patience. Finally, it came down to force. I waited until I knew she needed to go and I put her on the potty. Then, I held her down. She screamed, she kicked, she begged, buy eventually she pooped. I celebrated and hugged and apologized for holding her down. Call me cruel, but she was scared of pooping and it was the only way I could get her to do it. From that moment on, she pooped in the potty. (she actually asked me to put my hands on her legs for the first few times as comfort. It was kinda weird, but whatever).
    Talking to other moms, I wasn’t the only one who used this tactic. I remained calm, told her I loved her but that it would be the best in the end.
    My parenting philosophy has always been, “do what works for you. And ignore the opinions”.
    Good luck!

  3. Jeb Hoge on said:

    Potty training is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in parenting. It’s epically frustrating, it’s messy (to say the least), and it’s nerve-shredding. With our first, we found that the “Once Upon A Potty” and Caillou potty-training book really got the idea across and made him ready to try it. I do recommend both of those texts (and some good alcohol for whichever adult gets to read the book or run the DVD over and over and over).

    Our second one was more challenging to actually get on the potty…he was super skittish about it and didn’t really get used to it until a month or two ago (he turns 4 on Thanksgiving). He’s OK with it now but he still has accidents. If you saw me tweet about finding poop in a pocket on Sunday, that was him. I think that the combination that finally worked was planting him on the potty, staying with him, and…well, telling him what to do while rattling a cup of M&Ms that he could have once he’d finished. It was a tough week, especially since we had the new baby home and summer had just begun.

    Last, we never used a kid potty…we use the real thing, with kid-sized inserts made by Bjorn (I think…they’re about $30 each) and stepstools. I think it makes it easier for kids to get used to the idea of using any toilet.

  4. I have 2 boys 8 and 10. I honestly cannot remember a single thing about potty training. I think it’s a memory that I have blocked for good reason. We are also convinced that our 2 year old girl will never poop in the potty. This will make dating hard when she gets older – and I’m okay with that.

  5. Jennifer C. on said:

    Hmm. Neither of mine really had any anxiety about going in the potty – they just didn’t feel like it.

    I’ll echo Jeb with the potty-insert thing. With our firstborn, we went out and bought the Bjorn potty, which he absolutely ignored. Wouldn’t even sit on it. I spoke to his babysitter (she watched kids at her home) and found out that she used the insert+stepstool method. Turns out he just wanted to sit on the big potty (consistency is key). After having gone to the stores and skidding all the stools around, I can say that the Baby Bjorn people have got kid toilet habits down to a science – theirs is the most stable of all the ones I tried, and their toilet insert is also well-designed and worth the money.

    My first son sort of did his own thing until he was precisely 37 months old, at which time he abruptly ceased to have any sort of accidents. We sort of botched things by having a baby when he was 2.5 and then splitting up, so I wasn’t even remotely pushing him – he just did it. I did follow my mom’s advice and teach him to pee sitting down, which limited the amount of gross trajectory-related cleaning I had to do. Once he got to school and saw the other boys, he started standing up, but by that time he was tall enough to aim, more or less.

    On the peer-pressure front, once the second one came along the sitting thing was toast. He’s been a little longer getting straight – he never really had poop accidents, but he took a relatively long time to stop having nighttime pees. His brother taught him how much fun it is to pee under a tree in the backyard, and once took it to the extreme of pooping under the tree. ONCE. There was also an incident in the bathtub, but as they were having a farting contest at the time, I considered it more junior-frat-boy than a continence issue. “Hee hee” *poot* “Hee hee” *poot* “Hee hee” *poop* “Oops.”

    Oh, and there was a diarrhea incident. Protip: when your kid has a tummy bug, make sure your child is able to process food from, ah, start to finish before you send him back to school. I found “bubbly tummy” to be a very efficient descriptor of imminent catastrophe for a recently-continent child who hadn’t experienced diarrhea yet (as in, “If you feel a bubbly tummy, you might want to go sit on the potty until it stops.”). I didn’t count that as an accident, although the cleanup was spectacular.

    My sister-in-law was kind enough to give us a couple of washable bed pads that are a lot more comfortable than the plastic sheets – I highly recommend getting some of the washable, quilted underpads to put on top of the sheet, unless you like making beds five times a week.

  6. Gianna on said:

    1st I wanted to say: My 3 year old LOVES band-aids. Ultimate reward..whatever works right!

    I realized I was done with diapers when I ended up with a big glop of poop on my thumb. My son thought he would be nice and take down his pull-ups to help himself to a clean one and GOT POOP EVERYWHERE! I was done. He on the other hand needed a few more weeks. It took a combined effort between my daycare center and my parents (who watch my son while I am in class.) Our lives were centered around getting my son to use the potty. We found that in the beginning facing him backwards worked best. For some reason their little bodies fit better backwards. I heard that once you put your kids in underwear NEVER put them in diapers again. That was it. I woke up one day, took a deep breath and looked at my son and said “this is it, no more diapers.” Kids will have accidents..even into elementary school. When I first started training him, I used his built in schedule to help me get him to poop in the potty. I would have him sit there until he went, or I would make him hang out in the bathroom until he was ready and we would read or play with toys. Potty training consumes your life for a little bit, but once they get the hang of it, you will get your life back.

  7. Sarah Milston on said:

    I have a girl, she was different. But I think the soccer ball idea is the key. We had a trampoliine. She had a cute indoor one at the sitters and wanted one. She we made her a deal – clean undies for 3 days and poops on the potty and she got it.

  8. Gwyneth H. on said:

    Discussing potty training… always reminds me of the phrase “how the mighty have fallen”. We have had a relatively easy transition into pottyland but not without our share of clean-ups. We put logan into underpants, but whenever he had an accident we would have him clean it up, and then strip him down to nothing down below for the rest of the day (not for embarrassment… for a preschooler, ain’t nothin’ embarrassing about naked!) As ambivalent as he may have been towards the potty, knowing there was nothing down there to catch his “presents” sent him running to the bathroom whenever he felt the urge. And for naptime poops… don’t hate me… plastic sheet and a bare-bottomed boy. We actually never even had a mess. Since the boys are old enough to make a conscious effort to go, they most likely WONT go knowing where it will end up. Especially if they know they have to help clean up accidents when they happen. And if a mess DOES occur, well… parening is neither clean nor glamorous and at least you will have a funny story to tell JR’s first girlfriend! And seriously, there’s no way that sort of mishap would occur more than once!

  9. Both of my boys were 3-4ish when they finally were potty trained. It’s been a while for me, but one thing I can say for sure…my little one was weird. Well he’s a weird kid, it’s OK, I’m cool with that. But man…weird in the poop department is an eyebrow raiser. First I was catching him squatting on the floor in front of the toilet, then cleaning it up with handfuls of toilet paper. When questioned, he said that there were octopus and sharks, maybe, in the toilet. He was taking no chances. Then for years…heck maybe still (he’s 10)…he perched with his feet on the seat to go. I recently read an article about the different types of toilets, you know how in some countries they have squat-style instead of sit-style, yeah? Well turns out squatting is actually (supposedly) better for you. Nature intended humans to squat. It unkinks the hosing. I guess. Well I’m not really interested in giving it a try myself but so long as munchkin can avoid falling in, and so long as it’s not on the floor…I’m not gonna argue I guess. o.O

  10. Oh my god im never having children

  11. Love this post! As a fellow Richmond blogger, I look forward to out your site.

    As for potty training – the best advice I ever got was that you can’t make a kid eat, sleep, or potty in a toilet. Period.

    Hang in there. Time is your friend. And wipes. Lots of wipes.

  12. Don’t worry too much about your son’s fear of pooping outside his nappy. I have heard this tale of woe many times, it’s more common than you think. The best advice I can give, having potty trained my three with various problems along the way, is to keep as calm as you can and pile on the praise when things go your way. He will soon get over his fear and it will become a distant memory. We often reward our children with a gift from a fairy specific to the issue involved ie potty fairy, sleep fairy, food fairy. She leaves a little gift under the pillow during the night. Terrible bribery but it tends to work. Good luck.

  13. Thanks for all of your ideas and encouragement, everyone! And thanks for not being grossed out by all the poop discussion.

  14. David on said:

    Hi, my son, who is on the autism spectrum (lower end, very bright but most likely with Aspberger’s) will be five on Thursday. He is fully continent but will not pee or poop in the toilet. He is very articulate, but he can’t or won’t tell us what is holding him back. He insists on using diapers to evacuate. He will sit on the toilet, but he won’t use it. We are trying to get external help in the form of ABA therapy or occupational therapy, but for whatever reason, we keep coming up against long waiting lists. He starts kindergarten in a few weeks and we would love to conquer this in the short term on our own if at all possible. None of the books we’ve picked up seem to address this particular situation. This little forum is the closest thing to our son’ s issue that I’ve found! Any insights or thoughts would be so appreciated! Thanks!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Or report an error instead