Potty Training: M&Ms and One Mom’s Battle


The other day, my three and a half-year old, Joey, informed me he would not go on the potty until he was 14. Rather than explain how this would affect him socially, I offered him cash. One dollar for pee, two for, well, #2.  He looked at me with a smile and said, “I would like a dollar. But I still won’t go on the potty.”

The pediatrician told us not to worry about potty training until he turns five, but good god, he will be climbing onto a school bus by then.  Forget the social stigma associated with having a full diaper. Kids today seem to specialize in at least three activities while still in the womb; all we want is for Joey to be allowed in the town pool so he can learn to swim.  The Hubs and I are not so much worried about him physically, but that him refusing to be trained independently equates with other developmental delays, or that it will hold him back one way or another.

Are we crazy to think this way?  The last thing we want is to have him believe we think something is wrong with him, or get so hyper focused on it that we make the situation worse.  He has literally held onto the door post  of the bathroom and screamed, “NEVER!”  We called it a day after that.

Some moms even tell me it’s easier that he’s not trained – no potty stops everywhere we go!  I am looking for ideas and feedback here.  Perhaps if I describe what we have tried, it will open the floor for any suggestions:

1. Potty books – he thinks they are hysterical, but they have not been a motivator.

2. His own potty with music, and the small ring that goes on the real potty.

3. Aiming at Cheerios

4. Getting M&M’s when he goes.  (Last night, a few of those got poured into the garbage.  I am laying it all out here – The Hubs and I had tag teamed for almost an hour and he kept saying, “It’s almost coming.”  Then he would kick his legs and scream.  We thought if he saw some of his reward get thrown away…oh this looks awful when I see it in print.)

5. Cash

6. A new toy/present.  (I realize there are a few instances of bribery.  I have cringed during meetings at school when I hear parents say they bribe their kids to do homework.  Now look where I am.)

7. Ignoring it all together – letting him come to it on his own

The only thing I can’t do is let him poop in his underwear.  People have told me to try it.   No judgement – I just feel weird about it.  And Ladies, if The Hubs and I are acting obsessive, I can take the feedback.  Should we just back off?  Like we all want for our kids, I just want Joey to prosper and to protect him from – well, as much as humanly possible.  I do not want a constant battle.  The kicker is, Joey sits on the potty at school without a fight.  Every morning, he dutifully gets dressed in his Thomas the Tank Engine undies and heads off to pre-school where the teachers say to us, “You must be doing wonders at home.  Joey is sitting on the potty every half hour.  He is a little gentleman.”  They do not know about the M&Ms. 

6 thoughts on “Potty Training: M&Ms and One Mom’s Battle

  1. I think the best thing to do is just let him come to it on his own. We had similar problems with my daughter and she was not fully potty trained until she was 4. Although her problem was more physical than mental – she still has to take Miralax daily. But if we ever missed a dose, or I tried to reduce the dosage, then she would have problems going and we would be back to square one, where she was terrified to go on the potty. We tried letting her go in her underwear, but that backfired on us, too. She would just hold it and ask for a pull-up, causing even more problems with the constipation and pain. We just had to let her come to it on her own. Finally, finally, she is fully potty trained. Now I just have to figure out how to get her off of the Miralax.

  2. Thanks so much, Maggie. Like so many aspects of this thing called parenting, tt seems like what works is individual, and sometimes kids have to make decisions for themselves. I’m so glad your daughter is a full-time potty goer, and I hope you can wean her off the Miralax soon. I feel the same way about getting Joey to eat veggies – but that’s a whole other post! Good luck!

  3. I’m having the same problem with my 3 1/2 year old daughter. The teacher and her father (we are divorced) say she will go on the potty about 75% of the time. And I’ve gotten her to go on the potty half a dozen times (#2) and only once (#1). And after the very first poo and pee she was rewarded with a trip to Disneyland. Things were pretty smooth the next day then she refused to go again. She holds her #2 in by crossing her legs, and pees right through her undies/training pants. No health issues according to the pediatrician and now I’m pulling my hair out. Let me know if you find something that works!!

  4. Im just starting out now with my 3 year old daughter. She absolutely hates the feeling of the pee running down her leg….im hoping that-thats where my teaching tool lies.

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  6. Since it seems like he’s doing well at school, I might back off a *tiny* bit, but not altogether. I think M&Ms should still stay on the table if he goes, and I would ask him regularly if he wants to use the potty. But if he says no, that’s a fine choice end of story and no grief or pleading with him. I think once he has a little more control of the situation, he might decide those M&Ms are a great incentive.

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