Potty Training as Long-Term Project


I am so done with potty training.

So. Done.

We started the whole “pee pee on the potty” routine back in July with our son James, who had just turned 3.  We had the books, the sticker charts, the rewards, the go-every-30-minutes method, the Baby Bjorn potty, the seat that fits over a regular toilet seat, the Pull-Ups, the “graduation” to big-boy undies. You name it.

Guess who’s still not potty trained?

He got #1 figured out within the first month or two — for the most part. He still had plenty of accidents. But at least he understood the process: When you gotta go, you run to the potty, pull down your pants, sit down and pee.

But #2? Forget it. Not happening. He fully grasps that we want him to poop in the potty. He simply refuses to do it. Instead, he does the old “I’m just going to hang out over here in the corner, being uncharacteristically quiet, for a few minutes” routine. Minutes later, he comes up to us and says “I pooped.”

I dealt with too many gross underwear moments to count, finally relented and went back to Pull-Ups.

So here we are, eight months after we started potty training, with a boy who still poops (and pretty much prefers to pee) in his diaper. *INSERT LONG SIGH HERE*

Today, I tried a radical new approach: No pants.

(To be clear, I tried this approach on him, not me.)

Here’s my theory: The one and only time James pooped in the potty (yes — there was that one slightly miraculous occasion) occurred when he was running around pantsless.

Maybe, just maybe, having no barrier at all will trigger his 3 1/2-year-old brain to say “Hey! Buddy! Why not take care of this poop and pee business on the potty already?”

Of course, I already have one report from the sitter that he weed a giant puddle on the hardwood floor this morning. Followed by a time out. So far, no pants is no good.

I’m at the end of my rope. This boy needs to be potty trained already.

Is there a boarding school I can ship him off to until he achieves this milestone?!

22 thoughts on “Potty Training as Long-Term Project

  1. if ti makes you feel better my DD who is almost 5 still has accidents

    1. Thanks, Jackie. I really am patient. Accidents happen. But this boy is so dang stubborn. He’s lucky he’s so cute!

  2. So very sorry. This made me giggle. He’ll get it. Eventually……. In the meantime, there are drugs you can take. 😉

    1. Karen, you’re only giggling b/c 1.) your kids are fully potty trained and 2.) you don’t have to be involved like you were with Cassie. 🙂

  3. We’re at the 2 month mark with DD, and she shows no sign of wanting to poop in the potty. I hope we’re not in the same situation 6 months from now. If we are, at least I know I’m not alone! Good luck!

    1. Amanda, you are most definitely not alone. I imagine this is a rite of passage all parents have to go through. With our daughter, it was easy peasy. This time, we are truly being tested.

  4. I’m a believer in the no pants method. The first two days, my son peed all over the house like a puppy. We offered no judgement at the accidents but plenty of celebration for the successes. He was surprised at the whole thing and though he had no problem going in a pull up, he didn’t like going on the floor. It was hard and occasionally gross, but by day three, he more or less had it all figured out and never looked back. We picked a weekend when we didn’t have to be anywhere. Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Dana. I think we’re going to do the no-pants weekend method. Got to get this boy trained before fall – he’s going to preschool and I’m pretty sure they will not be fans of the going-in-pants business.

  5. I’ve been there – in fact, just the other week my 3-year-old, who was fully potty trained at 2, pooped her pants 2 nights in a row, because she said she wanted to be a baby again and “babies poop their pants.” I’d thought I was done rinsing crap out of panties. It wasn’t fun having to do it again. Sending you my sympathies and good thoughts!

    1. Sara, I know there are setbacks (Cassie had them) but I’m really OK with those. It’s just getting over the hump from NOT pooping at all in the potty to DOING it (at least a few times). Thanks for your good thoughts.

  6. So we’ve been working with my son for about a year on this and we are now at a full month with no accidents. It is a LONG process. I literally would cry about this – thinking he was never going to stop having the “accidents” (which I hated calling accidents since they’d be on purpose) but I really do feel like I can finally say we’re on the upward climb to being done with this process. Hang in there. It’s hard.

    1. Jen, I hear you and am totally hanging in. What choice do I have? (Potty training boarding schools, though … good idea, right?!)

  7. Hang in there! I tried too early with my first daughter and she turned it into a power struggle. We waited a few months and started back up and she had a better mindset the next time around.

    1. Thanks, Shannon. I know eventually he will get it. They always do.

  8. What happens if you ask him, “What is not good about pooping in the potty?” You might hear answers ranging from: “It smells bad.” to “It hurts.” to “I don’t like to get wet.” I have a section on it in my book, “How to Potty Train Your Dragon Child”. It is one of the most COMMON issues that caregivers have. But it is easier to find things to try if you know what the child has a problem with. It can be as simple as lighting a nice-smelling candle in the bathroom.

    1. I will give it a shot, Stephanie. At this point, I will literally try anything. Thanks!

      1. Susan, If it doesn’t work, send me an email. I am more than willing to help. Very busy working moms/parents have to stick together, and this can be a very frustrating time. If you want to know my background, I can email you that too. (If we figure out something that works, you can add that to this stream.)

  9. ohcrappottytraining.com

  10. Tracey J. Vessillo says:

    Hi Susan, I’m a little late in posting a response to this feed. It is my hope that by now you have conquered the “great potty challenge”. I, too, have a child who struggled mightily with bowel elimination until the age of four. Family life became dictated by what was NOT happening in the bathroom. Adding to the frustration was the lack of printed material dealing with this particular potty training pitfall. I decided to turn our family’s experience into a book for children written entirely from the child’s perspective. “I Can’t, I Won’t, No Way! A Book for Children Who Refuse to Poop is available on Amazon.com. I can’t claim that it will solve the problem but, it will go a long way in breaking down the resistance. Every aspect of the story was well thought out (including choice of illustrations…meant to engage both mainstream and children with special needs). I wish you luck and remember…you are not alone!

    1. Tracey,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I immediately went to Amazon and ordered your book! I’ll literally try anything. I so want this boy to poop in the potty.

      Stay tuned to the blog for progress updates 🙂

      1. Tracey J. Vessillo says:

        Good luck, Susan. Patience, persistence and love…your new best friends. It might help knowing that in the case of our daughter, life literally changed from one day to the next w/o rhyme or reason. I do hope the book helps your little guy along! Please keep me posted!

  11. This has always worked for me in potty training. After deciding to start potty training with my kids (general consensus is that a child is ready around 18 months – yours might be earlier or later), I make sure I put him on a potty, say every 30 minutes, whenever we are around together especially when I’m back from work. This worked for my first son. Now the second one is potty-trained at 21 months. He doesn’t soil his pants and he doesn’t bedwet. Accidents do happen, however, especially when he doesn’t want to leave his food.

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