Friday, August 28, 2009

Damn: the potty training edition


It's days like today that I dearly wish I had not committed myself to refraining from the use of stronger profanity on this site (and in real life, though in real life I almost never quite manage to refrain from it).

But anyway...DAMN!

Just damn.

I've been trying to potty train Graham for almost a full year now. I beat myself up over my failure to do so way last January. Then I decided to just let it happen on its own. Then I tried to put my foot down again in May. That was a disaster that upset me more than I thought it possible to be upset over something like potty training. Then I resolved to just let it happen in its own time. And now?

We're back at square one.

Well, not square one. Let's just say square one as far as number two is concerned: as in, he won't, absolutely won't, poop in the potty.

It's been three days since he's gone at all. I know this can't go on. I know he WILL go eventually. But here's what you don't know...

The last time we got to this stage, he did go eventually. In his sleep. In his bed. And guess what? The humiliation, the discomfort, the sheer GROSSNESS of that experience was NOT enough to convince him that perhaps the potty was a better alternative.


What happened was he seemed quite comfortable to get settled into a routine of just holding it all day, soiling his bed in the night and going happily about his normal routine in the morning.

So now he's not gone for three days and he's refusing to go on the potty. I know eventually he will go. And if I continue to refuse a pull up, I suspect he will go in his bedsheets tonight just like last time.

In fact, I suspect he will continue to soil his bed on a nightly basis as long as I refuse him a pull-up.

Graham has told me outright, over and over, that he will NOT poop on the potty.

Graham will be FOUR in November.

Graham is not frightened of the potty and no longer has any hang-ups about the potty: he is stubborn, plain and simple.

I have pleaded. I have cajoled. I have firmly instructed. I have shouted. I have talked softly. I have sobbed. I have tried rewards. I have tried letting him take the lead. I have tried making him stay bare. I have tried withholding privileges. I have tried EVERY single piece of advice I have been given.

I feel like a complete and abject failure

I never, ever thought that I would find myself in a power struggled of such epic proportion but now that I have, I feel that it's a power struggle from which I must, as the PARENT, emerge victorious. After all, what kind of message does it send to him if I don't follow through? If I repeatedly threaten consequences - no tv, no school, no birthday party tomorrow that's he' s been looking forward to all week - only to turn around and give in?

And yet, deep down, I don't believe, even for a second, that my following through on these consequences - and a million more I tearfully threw at him in the throes of frustration last night, consequences that will make us ALL miserable - will change his mind.



I almost forgot to say thanks for all the tips on locating the Curious George Balloon - thanks to Cheryl and Wendy I believe one was found in the shop at Sick Kids Hospital. Also, many thanks for suggesting we visit our old house to look for our missing kitty. We did just that AND put our former neighbors on lookout duty: I'll let you know if our dear Eddie turns up.

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Cat said...

I've not been in your exact shoes so take this idea with a huge grain of salt.

Maybe make it okay for Graham to not poop on the potty. Buy one more package of the cheapest pullups possible. When he needs to go poop he can put on a pullup and do his business. But then he has to put the soiled pullup in a bag and deposit it in the outside trash. He sounds like a pretty mature boy, maybe he'll put it all together and decide the toilet is easier.

Involve Graham in the cleaning of any poop outside the potty incidents. Not in a punishment sort of way but in a cause & effect sort of way.

Good luck!!

Vic said...

We had the same problem with the boy - he just wouldn't go on the toilet. Pants and pullups were fair game, but not the toilet of the potty. When he got to school he just suddenly pulled it together - something about embarrasment in front of friends I guess.


I gave my 4 year old a lsuppositry just once. We then spent the next half hour in the bathroom. He achieved victory (Yah! Poops in the potty!) And he used the potty from then on!!!!

Melisa Wells said...

You are so NOT a failure. I've been there too (my boys were just about four when they finally got it, too), and I'm with Catherine: a good strategy might be to have him throw away his own pull-ups, help clean up, etc. That said, different things work for different kids, so...ugh.

And here's a thought: you, as the parent, WILL be victorious in that he will EVENTUALLY poop in the potty...but no matter what you do, it's gonna be on his timeline.

Stay strong; soon you'll be onto the next milestone! xoxo

Shauna said...

Oh man. I'm putting off toilet training and this makes it clear as to why. I shall be reading posts and comments with avid interest so that I have ideas of what to do.

Good luck Kelly.

Anonymous said...

I think I may have commented when you posted about this previously...sorry if I'm being repetitive. My son would not poop on the potty until he was FIVE! And even then, the doctor said "don't worry about it" He managed to not poop during school hours and for a while he was holding it for A WEEK at a time before finally exploding usually in bed too. Have you tried the Lansoyl? It's this stuff that looks like strawberry jam...we used to mix it into applesauce, every other day (some do it every day, it can't hurt them) so it's IMPOSSIBLE to hold it. The grossness...yes...but this way the child SEES and FEELS the grossness once they are awake...I think that is what finally did it for my son....Good luck with it all..I know it's incredibly frustrating!

Anonymous said...

Catherine's idea sounds good... But what about getting one of those inserts for the toilet seat that makes it into a Potty Seat Gone Big and try that?

Unknown said...

All I can say to you is hang in there. I could have written a post quite similar to this about a year and half ago. My son still has poopy issues to this day and even had some when we recently moved. I totally FEEL for you and my heart goes out to both of you, big time. I just know how terribly frustrating it is because my son was the same way (one week he didn't go for 6 days!) and just would NOT go no matter what I did or tried. I also felt like a failure and couldn't believe such a silly thing like poo in the potty was taking over my life!!

I hope and pray that you find some resolution soon my friend. I REALLY do.

Flea said...

Exact same thing with my boy. Same solution as Sue - a suppository. Had to, since he was holding it in. Told him it was potty medicine. It worked.

mep said...

I've got no good advice to offer, but I offer in solidarity: DAMN.

Anonymous said...

Oh man. He's seriously stubborn, isn't he? It's kind of impressive, actually. Spunky guy you have there. Does his own thing.

I don't have any advice to offer. I wish I did. All I have to offer is my assurance that he will eventually go in the potty. I guess he just needs a reason that's good enough (from his point of view) to do it. I bet he'd do it if that girl at the playground told him to...:)

Yeah. I got nothing. Hugs.

InTheFastLane said...

At least you know that you are not alone. And others have and will go through it. I am sure that doesn't make you feel all that much better, though. said...

I soooo know this struggle. Son #1 was "trained" around 4, but not without serious accidents on a regular basis. Son #2 was the same.

Alcohol helped.

Really, the only thing that "worked" for my stubborn boys? Time. Time and consistency. Don't threaten if you aren't going to follow through. But if you DO threaten, even in the heat of the moment, I've found it's best to follow through. Even with missing birthday parties or fun outings. Cuz those are the things that hurt the most and make the most impact.

Love to you. Hang in there. He WILl poop eventually.

Corey~living and loving said...

What your son is doing is totally normal. you are Not a failure.

My friend tried this. She gave him a pullup, and said that he is a big boy and if he isn't ready to poop on the potty then that is okay, but from now on pooping happens in the bathroom. "hand him the pullup, and direct him toward the bathroom where he can put it on, and then take it off, and clean up. YOu will want to show him how to dump the poop in the potty, and clean up the first time. after is his job. provide lots of wipes, and hope for the best.

She found that him having to do all the work himself really gave him the incentive to just go on the potty after awhile.

good luck.

Heather said...

I was there with my oldest. She would hold it all day for days...and days...and days. Seriously, I'm talking 5 days at a time. Eventually she would birth a baseball in her sleep. I have no idea how those things came out of that little butt, but there you have it. We thought maybe it hurt for her to go potty so she was holding it. We gave her a daily dose of mineral oil in her juice for quite a while. Eventually the stools were slippery enough that they wouldn't hurt and she stopped holding. (She was - and is - very stubborn too, so I really do know what you're going through.)

I will bet that he won't use the potty as long as there is any inkling that you care if he uses the potty. In which case, I would give him the pull up so he can poop. Perhaps when he sees that you REALLY don't care, he'll do it on his own. Because if he's asking for a pull up and you're refusing one you're telling him you still care about his potty habits...and he's still telling you that you can't control that part of him.

That's my 2 cents as a mom who struggled with potty training TWO kids so far. I hope I don't get into a power struggle with #3 when it's her turn, but I am stubborn too so I probably will. Sigh.

Erin said...

As I was reading your post I kept thinking that I had read this before but not on your blog. I found the first post here:

and the follow up, what finally worked post here:

It sounds like there is a good resource to read and what worked for her might work for you. I like the slightly different take on this same plan suggested by Corey. In your boat I might try a combo of both and hope for the best.

I can't find my blog said...

I have had those same issues with my boys. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE! Relax. (believe me, easier said than done, i've been there) Repeat after me... "He won't go to university in pullups. He won't go to university in pullups." See? It's so ridiculous that you'll smile and relax a little. He'll get it. It may not be until he's closer to 5 (like mine!) but he WILL get it.

Fawn said...

My dad tells me that he used to soil his bed pretty much every night when he was little. He said he knew he had to go, but he didn't feel like getting up, and besides, it was all nice and warm... What finally made him change his ways? My Opa told him that if he didn't stop going in his bed, HE WOULDN'T TURN FOUR. Instantly stopped going in the bed.

I know that doesn't help, but I think it's a hilarious story and I hope it at least makes you smile. :)

OHmommy said...

Oh man, I am sorry. What a stubborn little guy. At least you know that no one will make him do anything he doesn't want to do. Right?

Jess said...

Giant hugs, hon. I'm so sorry. I really liked that blog that was linked here.

Jess said...

You might (just might) want to take him to the doctor and see if there's anything they can do. Probably nothing besides prescribe stool softeners, but I have a friend whose daughter has pooping issues (as in she doesn't go at all) and she's mucked up her system pretty well.

BUT that wasn't her fault, and this isn't yours. It ISN'T.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

My kids were all potty-trained early (by 27 months), except for my youngest son. He was 3 when I woke up one day and thought, "What? I haven't potty-trained him yet?" (The youngest 2 were pretty close in age).

I think the older they are the more likely you are to have power struggle issues. The flipside of this is that they can understand you.

We had the poop problem with my son. The third time it happened I got mad. I put him in the tub with a box of baby wipes and a grocery bag and told him it was his mess and he'd better clean it up. I closed the door and left him there.

That was the end of our problem. Some people may find this harsh, but it worked and I don't think he suffered any psychological damage from it.

Good luck--I know firsthand the frustration you are dealing with. I agree with you that this is one you have to win.

karengreeners said...

Don't know what to tell you. I'd be going apeshit by now. My #1 was out of pullups before she turned 3, and I thought that was late. But you know, didn't want to rush it, blah, blah, blah.

#2 is almost fully toilet trained and she is 21 months. It was smart to start while she was still in the 'I want to please you' mode, and not wait until the 'I can control and defy you' mode.

Honestly, I think early tt was something our parents did right.

Cristin said...

My Graham is 6&1/2 and still craps his drawers if that makes you feel any better.

Michelle said...

It WILL happen. I know it will. For me, I refuse to make it a power struggle. You are not a failure. Absolutely not.

Cynthia said...

Girl...I am in the EXACT same boat with Miss Peach. Just will not poop on the potty. What do you do? I got nothing:P

Anti-Supermom said...

Kelly, I was hoping to see some good news in the comments. Wyatt is fabulous on going pee in the potty, but pooping is his problem, his fear and he too, is stubborn.

I'm wishing us both the best of luck.

Rowe said...

Hi, I will be potty training my daughter soon, once the weather warms up. I am not looking forward to it, hope you get some success soon. I think what commenter Catherine said was good, but perhaps flush the doggy do in the loo instead of putting it in the trash, maybe? Oh, and also remember, there is that fear factor and ownership of the poo that goes on inside their little minds to deal with. I cannot even remember my method of toilet training my youngest son many moons ago, but for years he had to remove all of his clothing when doing a number two, LOL.

Racheal said...

THE POTTY BOOK FOR BOYS/GIRLS. I didn't have the problem of refusing to go in the potty, my wonderful little girl would get lazy and just do it where ever she was at that particular time, then we went through the phase of only going at home/cottage which was a huge issue when we were out for the day. The Potty Book for Girls helped my little girl (as well as my step-daughter) to start the potty training and we revisited the book when the laziness and pooping at home/cottage issues popped up.

Thank you all for the George balloon tips - we had a very happy 3rd birthday party for my step-daughter.

Jaina said...

That does not sound like fun. I wish I had some brilliant idea to share with you.

Karen MEG said...

Oh geez, Kelly, that boy of yours is so stubborn! It is all about control, isn't it?

I was lucky that my boy was trained the old fashioned way by his Chinese grandma, to poop on the potty at 10 months. I know, I should rent my Mom out. She thought I was a bad mama that the girlie didn't get it until she hit 3.

He will change his mind eventually, but I wonder as the others have, if just letting him wear the pullups like underwear, under his control, might help? The girlie's friend was still wearing hers at 4 and a half, but finally switched to underwear on her own. Her Mom didn't stress over it, as her son was so stubborn.

Good luck with this, and hope the smelly chapter is over soon!

Parent Club said...

crap - both literally and emotionally. big hugs to you to get you thru the struggle!

Cloud said...

I had to delurk to offer you virtual hugs and encouragement. And this true story: we have family friends whose first son was not potty-trained until he was over 4.

He is now a successful college kid, who had his pick of top schools to attend and is at one of those schools on a full ride scholarship. He spends his summers doing internships that sound so cool I'm tempted to go back to school and try for them.

As far as I know, the admissions officers didn't ask when he was potty-trained.

Which is to say- hang in there, it will happen eventually and none of this will matter a bit in a few years.

Kelly O said...

I don't have this figured out by any stretch of the imagination, but my son was pretty much the same as yours. He turns 4 in November and was steadfastly refusing to use a potty. Then his daycare decided to move him to the big kids' room, whether he was ready or not.

It's been two weeks, and he's peeing in the potty every time (except in public restrooms) and staying dry all night. Still no poop in the potty, but that seems pretty normal?

So, when he was with the little ones, the 2 and 3 year olds, he insisted on diapers. With the big kids, he's learning to use the potty.

I hope this helps! I was at my wit's end and feeling like a total failure as a mother.

Aurelia said...

It really is normal for boys not to poop in a potty until they are 4 or 5 or 6.

Really. I don't get it, why does it matter?

~Shelia said...

Hi. I'm the mommy in the trench next to yours. We are potty training, unsuccessfully, as well. My darling son will also turn 4 in November, and currently cannot return to his Mother's Day Out program until he is potty trained. The program did offer to put him in the 2 year old class, where they were outfitted to handle diapers. But that would have caused more problems than created solutions, so now we are in no man's land, so to speak. Since we are having to do this "cold turkey" we really can't utilize any other public childcare scenario (like church, daycare, etc), which puts me in an ugly penalty box.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm right there with you, crying and cursing, and crying some more.

Thank you for posting this. I needed to know that I wasn't alone in this struggle.