There should be local support groups for potty training parents. We should all sit in circles and tell everyone why our potty trainee is the most stubborn and un-cooperative little learner ever. And then when you hear the next story, hopefully it will cheer you up and give you hope. You know, that your child isn't the only one running around the house for months on end with bare buns and still wears pull-ups to school.
However, I no longer need to attend this type of support group. Because we finally have reason to celebrate in our home. Blake, just two weeks shy of turning five, is potty trained. Completely.
After two very long years since our initial efforts, Blake finally figured out that undies are much cooler than soggy pull-ups.
Humor me, while I rewind and list all of the methods we have exhausted over the last two years:
- Two elaborate potty training kick-off parties with treats and drinks, potty training DVDs and books, streamers, balloons, and rewards (see here).
- Talking about potty training in advance like it is the best thing since sliced bread and highlighting the start date on the calendar for Blake to see.
- Modeling potty use with a boy doll in underwear.
- Having Blake pick out his own fun underwear with all his favorite characters.
- Using numerous versions of sticker charts.
- Every reward in the book. Treats, little toy prizes, pennies in a piggy bank, wrapped surprises, special outings with mom or dad, train rides, movies, you name it. Nothing motivated this kid (I wrote all about that dark cloud in our lives back here).
- Though I don't like to admit it; lectures, time-outs, yelling, door slamming, threats, and loss of certain privileges (it's been two years people).
- Natural consequences - i.e. having him cleaning out his own dirty underwear.
- Letting him run around the house with no bottoms. (Surprisingly, this was our most successful tactic. He never once had an accident when he was bare bunned.)
- Having him wear a timer around his neck that beeped every hour to remind him to go.
- Reading my own handful of books related to the subject and about a hundred online articles.
- Taking a few months off when the pressure got to be so much that we turned into the worst versions of parents and Blake started lying to us on a constant basis.
- Letting him have accidents at school in hopes that he would be embarrrased in front of his friends and have the desire to put some effort into the task.
- Talking to his pediatrician and countless other parents who were just as stumped as I was.
- Throwing away every diaper in the house and going cold turkey for about a month (which led to hourly accidents, even through the night).
- Helping Blake feel more "in control" of other aspects of his life in case it was all a big power struggle.
- Reminding him to go every hour vs. backing off and telling him that he could choose to go whenever he wanted (neither worked).
After Blake had been four for a few months and there was no hope of success on the horizon, we decided it was time to consult an expert. And from February until October of this year, this is what finally made the difference:
- We started seeing a fabulous Occupational Therapist. Through a lot of various testing methods, we determined that Blake has some sensory awareness issues. Our OT didn't feel comfortable diagnosing him with Sensory Integration Disorder because he didn't fit all of the criteria across the board. But, we recognized that there were definitely some sensory issues that were contributing to the difficult time he was having with potty training.
- We started out with a lot of body awareness exercises at first, both at the OT office and at home, to help Blake become more aware of his body.
- I made story boards with pictures describing any new potty training process we were going to start implementing. We read the story boards every single day.
- We started out really small - wearing underwear for one hour every day after lunch. We wanted to let him feel success after so many months of struggling. He was always rewarded with a small prize, regardless of whether he stayed dry or not. It was more about the act of wearing the underwear.
- After a few months, we gradually increased the time to a few hours. He was successful at staying dry some days, and other days he wasn't. And this was all still at home.
- Then, school started. I knew that with how sensitive Blake is to new situations, he wouldn't be able to handle a new classroom, teacher, classmates and wearing underwear to school when he still hadn't mastered the task at home.
- I talked to his teacher and presented my plan of letting him wear pull-ups in September, but once October rolled around, it was underwear city. She was so kind to agree to that plan.
- We made a huge deal out of the plan at home. On Blake's calendar that he follows in his room, we drew a boy with a pull-up in September, and a boy with underwear in October. We gradually increased the time that Blake wore underwear at home in anticipation of the upcoming month. He started to get a little more consistent in remembering to go.
- We held true to the plan and had him wear underwear to school the first Monday in October. I didn't send any spare undies because I didn't want him to learn that he could just change if he had an accident. I held my breath that entire first day, but he made it though, dry.
- And he has made it every single day since then. He has been begging for a Playdough factory for years so I told him if he could make it through every school day in October without an accident, he could get the factory.
I have never been happier to reward him.
In the end, it came down to his own sensory awareness and maturity. I think all of things we did this year contributed to his success, but he really just had to be "ready." Even though it took until he was just shy of turning five.
And what have I learned from it all?
The most challenging problems in parenting are sometimes only solved by giving it time. Sometimes a lot of time.
Oh, and I'm not potty training Nash until he's seven.