Potty training: is it a myth?

When I ask parents about how their kids became clean, I generally get some confusing mumbling that ends up by: ‘I don’t really remember; it just happened’. This concerns me greatly. It sounds a lot like when I used to ask about labor, delivery and C-section. The confusing mumbling, the ‘I don’t really remember’; all this because it is perhaps the goriest thing that can ever happen to you. Could potty training beat being in labor?

Note: I apologize for the lack of originality of this post. There must be thousands of similar posts out there in the blogosphere but I really need to write about it… to exorcise the crap (literally) out of my brain.

DH has been pressing me to potty train G & P since they have been able to walk. He has solid arguments:
• Diapers alone have cost us $7,000 so far (to this we have to add the cost of wipes, diaper pails refills, diapers sacks, ointment etc.)
• The amount of time we spend changing diapers is …absolutely ridiculous. And while I welcome the exercise that I get from lifting them and placating them onto the changing table, DH and I have grown very tired of fighting every single freaking time to wipe pipi and caca (French words for pee and poop) off their butt. Changing diapers should last 2 minutes top but instead the following one sided conversation takes place almost every time:

-‘Stop kicking me.
– Eeeeee (high octave scream)
– Stay still for god’s sake. Do you think I really want to be here cleaning up your butt? Don’t you think I have better things to do?
– Eeeeee
– Stop kicking my face or I will tie your ankles. OK, if you don’t stop turning around I swear I will leave you here with your poop and you are gonna have to do this on your own. I said STOP!!!!

So yes we are indeed very motivated to potty train our kids. However, I honestly don’t know how the hell I am supposed to do this. I have a horde of younger siblings and cousins. In the Lao culture being an older girl in a clan means you are defacto a kind of for free surrogate mother. I thus I knew everything about changing diapers, preparing baby food, milk bottles, rocking babies to sleep. But potty training? No idea. I just don’t fucking remember.

Anyway, every 2 months since the twins turned two, we have been adding a new weapon to our ‘War against the pipi caca’ arsenal: potty seat, padded toilet ring, pull ups, stool to get on the toilet seat etc. We even paid for a 3 days potty training camp at their day care. They came back with bags full of dirty clothes and underwear god knows how long some of these have been in the bag.Yuck. All this investment…but still kids never really showed any sustained interest in the toilet bowl.

DH has his mind set on this issue though; and I won’t be able to get out of this one. So here we are making the big jump in the land of ‘pipi caca’ but alas without holding hands, it seems. We indeed disagree on how to handle the situation.

His approach: let the kids run around naked all day long, not react to accidents and let pipi and caca on the floor for them to understand the consequences, what comes out of them, and hope they’ll be somewhat embarrassed and thus go themselves to the bathroom.

My approach: 7-11am at home without diapers, let the kids have their normal activities outside with diapers on, 6-8pm without diapers, nighttime with diapers. If there’s any accident, I will swab the thing off the floor immediately because seriously yes my house is a mess but turning it into a dog kennel is a dangerous boundary I would rather not cross. And I also ask every five minutes if they want to go to the bathroom. I also rush to get them to sit on the bowl as soon as one of them starts wincing. Thinking about it this whole thing might be more exercising than changing a diaper.

In short, the kids were understandably confused like hell and results were catastrophic in our first ‘training’ day. G peed 6 times over the floor and pooped once in his underwear (I had to wash the underwear, wash G entire lower body, wash the toilet bowl; suddenly 35 cents a diaper did not seem that expensive…). P kept everything inside for 5 straight hours, no fluids in, no fluids out. Major case of stage fright, I reckon. As for L, he washed his hands with his brother’s pee. Total failure.

I am starting to think that somehow parents go to sleep a la Sleeping Beauty and that when they finally wake up, their kids had stopped crapping in their pants and learnt how to eat with a fork (proper table manners training should probably be next on my to do list…).

The icing on the cake came when, after hours explaining to G that urine comes from his body and he needs to release it in the toilet, G showed me water leaking from the neighbor’s plant containers upstairs onto our backyard and said happily: ‘pipi, pipi, pipi’

I looked at DH and said: ‘he thinks the neighbor or God just peed on us and that seems ok. We are so fucked’.

I started to read the book written by Michel Cohen, the French pediatrician who owns and runs the practice the kids go to aka the ‘hip’ ‘ pediatrician superstar.

Here’s what he says about potty training:
‘Okay, get ready for this. No matter what you may have heard or read, toilet training is unnecessary. Children learn to move on from diapers, not because they are run through drills but because they become sensitive to the increasing discomfort of marinating in their own dirty diapers. Just like any other milestone, this occurs naturally as a normal part of a child’s development, and it does not require training‘. Hooray…I may let them in diapers until they are 6!

9 thoughts on “Potty training: is it a myth?

  1. Hm. Well, I believe that eventually kids will cotton on to the idea that not everyone wears nappies and will start asking questions, but I seriously doubt they will do it all by themselves if you don’t at least give them answers! It probably works best if you’re the kind of family who don’t mind getting undressed and going to the toilet in front of each other (and if you dress them in nappies which are less than super-absorbent, like cloth nappies). I think drills are excellent for hurrying the process along, too.

    I wouldn’t expect a child of two to naturally feel embarrassed about piddling on the floor, either – in my experience they casually step to one side and carry on with whatever they were doing before hand, and later seem quite surprised to think it would be important enough to mention.

    I know a lot of people who’ve used bribery. A lot of people who’ve used potty-training story books and personal demonstrations and toy demonstrations (or demonstrations by slightly older children). Then I think it’s just practice and patience and remembering that they will get there eventually.

    1. Thanks for all this advice! I may try the training diapers. As for embarrassment, they indeed did not seem to feel anything close to this 🙂 and as you said, just moved on the side and got on their usual business. Patience will be key.

  2. Oh, I feel for you! I’m in the middle of training my three-year-old and by now, I’ve worked out that toilet training is stress on toast at the best of times and unbearable stress if the kid’s not ready. It must be even more of a nightmare with twins! Your system sounds like a good one. Console yourself with the knowledge that they won’t be wearing nappies when they’re thirty!

    Hang in there!

    PS I’ve never heard of potty training boot camp before but it sounds like such a rip-off!

    1. Thanks for the support! It’s nice to hear about others who share your plight 🙂 I think we decided to give up and try again in a couple of weeks. Plus P seems more ready than G so might need to tailor my approach. What’s frustrating is when you see signs that they might be ready but then it ends up being a fluke Arrrrgg. Re potty training camp, it is something that the drop in day care I use from time to time runs every now and then. I did not have to pay extra (thank god) but just had to provide extra clothing and underwear instead if diapers. That’s why we thought ‘why not?’ but after 3 days of bags full of soiled clothing we all agreed to put the diapers back on hihihi

      1. Oh, that’s not so bad then – I thought they were being scammers and charging extra for something they should be doing anyway! None of my kids were trained before three.

        Another thought: children’s underpants aren’t all that expensive. When my boy poos his pants, I’ve been known to throw them out rather than do battle with nappy soaker…

        Just sayin’

  3. Oh, I remember one tip I did hear from a twin mother. She waited until the twins were nearly four (I think) then she started talking about this super-exciting kids’ place they’d never been to before. They talked about how cool it was and then explained they didn’t let anyone in wearing nappies except on this ONE DAY of the year. So they went and they had the best time, and then as they left they said well that’s it until next year I guess… unless you wanted to use the toilet from now on? And twenty-four hours later the twins were toilet trained. So, essentially, bribery. I believe it was Mel at Stirrup Queens (http://www.stirrup-queens.com/ – you may have to hunt for the post as the twins are a lot bigger now).

    1. Thanks for this! I hate to use the fact that I have twins to hold off doing stuff but the reality is that it makes things such as toilet training different. Not only the kids have different attitudes towards this but also the sheer level of energy used to ‘train’ 2 tots is just…In short, I completely understand waiting a later age when communication between me and them is improved. Thanks for suggesting Mel’s blog; a ‘veteran’ blogger whom I can take inspiration from!

      1. Oh, I think you should totally use the twins thing as an excuse. I noticed the difference between training my eldest (and at the time only child) and training one nearly three years younger when I had big brother to pay attention to at the same time. And that’s with them staggered considerably!

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