Warning: this post contains potty language and humor.
I have a two and a half year old. And until this week, he wasn't potty-trained. Egads!
Actually, I have two children, but my older son is ten. We did this dance a long time ago. Now I can barely get S out of the bathroom, and his reading material is taking up too much room in the water closet (Percy Jackson, anyone?). But it's been a long time since big S learned to go to the bathroom, and apparently, I need a refresher course on how to train a small one in potty etiquette.
And no, I am not commenting specifically on age appropriateness in this post--there are a lot of different theories about when the optimal window for potty training is, and I recommend parents who are beginning to train take a look around the interwebs. For reasons of our own, this summer Hubby and I began talking the subject up to our little darling. Then we got rid of diapers, and I asked little E almost every hour on the hour if he had to poop and pee, and he would go to the potty and tinkle. Hooray!
Turns out that our little darling had waited until Hubby was talking on the phone to his dad and the little guy crapped on the floor of his big brother's room. Then he rode his tricycle through it a few times. By the time Hubby's olfactory senses started to tell him something was wrong, we had a really big problem.
Oh Sh$%! Right!
What did we do? We relaxed. We put the diapers back on. We let little E choose whether or not he wanted to wear a diaper. We also bought a little potty, instead of the seat that fit on the large toilet, so E could get down to his own level.
What did we do? We relaxed. We put the diapers back on. We let little E choose whether or not he wanted to wear a diaper. We also bought a little potty, instead of the seat that fit on the large toilet, so E could get down to his own level. "You'll get it!" I encouraged him. And he peed in the potty all day until late evening when I was exhausted and laying on my bed staring at the ceiling fan. During this time, little E gets an hour to watch Chuggington (the poor man's Thomas the Train) or Magic Schoolbus. Magic hour came, and my toddler trundled down the stairs, cute bare bottom scooting down the unfinished wood and a few minutes later, the fumes started to rise. And somebody in the house yelled, "What is that smell?".
Fast forward a few weeks, and now E was peeing and pooping around the house occasionally. And thanks to our training, he took his own diaper off to do it.
1) Little E is not his older brother. We had been treating him like a replica of the child we already knew and raised. E obviously does things a little differently. He is more independent than his older brother was as a tyke (always asking to do things himself) and very private (generally preferring clothes to being naked).
2) E's pooping problem was actually our problem. Yes, I am not proud to admit it, but our laissez-faire approach to the crapper was not actually working for our second son. As baby number-two, little E has enjoyed a more relaxed (and tired, so much more tired!) set of parents who don't stress the small stuff, but in this case, that tendency was hurting, not helping him.
Social behaviors are learned, and our cues were not clear enough for our smallest child. Worse, we established a pattern whereby the attention he was getting was negative. (Dad, stuck at home with the little monster, was getting really tired of cleaning up poop.) We needed to make some changes--and fast!
So armed with research and strategy, I took a weekend off to train little E to use the toilet. First, we put hook and latches on all the household doors (because he, being the intelligent little chap he is, took the time to hide and poop). The first morning when I took the diaper off and explained that we were done with diapers, that we had not done a good job of teaching him how to use the potty, but now we were going to work on it again, E cried and told me he wanted his diaper back.
I stuck to my guns, and to him. Smartphone was put away. No checking my email or catching up on work. We spent the next 24 hours together, playing, cleaning, moving around the house (no trips until we had a strong, healthy pattern underway) and halfway through crashing a truck into a tower of wooden blocks, little E started to poop! "I have to go to the potty," he cried, pooping the whole way and smearing it on my wood floors. But he made it to the toilet and pooped for the first time there too. Success! Once clean, we danced around screaming and whooping. The next day, nothing. The day after that, he ran to the toilet a little earlier, and a week later, he is pooping in the potty everyday! No accidents. He's proud of himself. And it's pretty exciting to me too.
It's trite to say, Know your child. Maybe it's more accurate to say, when there's a problem, try to learn more about what makes your child tick. There is a certain logic to most choices kids make. As a parent, spending time learning the why behind unwanted behaviors often leads to the how that solves, or perhaps, resolves them.
Coranna Adams is a writer, filmmaker, and educator from Asheville, North Carolina.