Monday, August 23, 2010

The Potty Plan of God

It is with great joy that I write these words:

My children are officially completely potty-trained!! ALL OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m ecstatic! I’m giddy!

The potty-training chapter of our life is now over, and it was hands-down the hardest thing we’ve ever done. I know the future holds more challenges for us, but I can’t imagine another developmental stage that could even come close to matching this. It’s been AWFUL.

And because it’s been so awful, I have A LOT to say about it, so I’m warning you now. The rest of this (really long) post is pretty much going to detail the struggle we’ve had in potty-training Zachary and how it all finally turned out well, thanks to GOD! So if you don’t care about potty training, feel free to move on to the next blog on your reading list! BUT if you DO care about potty training, if you are struggling to train your own child(ren), read on and find hope!

My first attempt to potty train the kids began early November 2008 (2008!!!! That’s almost 2 whole years ago!!!!) It was a failure. As the months have passed by, training in its different incarnations has continued. You can read through the different posts here, if you want: April 2009, May 2009, July 2009, October 2009. By Feb 2010, Jonathan, Reagan, and Thomas were all fully trained both day and night.

But not Zachary.

At that point, when all the other kids had moved on to full-time underwear, he was still in Pull-ups, only using the potty if you MADE him, and mostly doing his business wherever he happened to be. I feel certain he was the only child in preschool who wasn’t potty trained, and every day that went by with him making no progress toward BECOMING potty trained, the more guilty I felt about him being in preschool at all.

But Zachary didn’t care. He didn’t care one bit, and I couldn’t find anything to make him care. None of the incentives that had enticed the other kids were good enough for Zachary. I mean, he loved getting stickers or candy or whatever for using the potty, but not enough to actually motivate him to do it on his own.

It was a very discouraging time, as friends and family with much younger children announced their pottying successes, while Z continued to make no progress at all.

I told myself it would be fine. No child starts Kindergarten without being potty trained, right? I just needed to get through preschool. When it was summer, we could stay home every day, all day, for lots of consistent potty training efforts, and Z would have it figured out in NO TIME!

Plan Z for Zachary began on June 8. My unofficial goal was a potty trained child by his 4th birthday on the 20th. My plan failed.

The first few days were promising. I let him wear underwear all the time if we were home which he LOVED. We only wore Pull-ups if we were going somewhere. I reminded him frequently to use the potty, and when he did he got candy and heaps of praise. Those first days I devoted nearly every waking minute to him and he had very few pee accidents. However, as soon as I didn’t devote every waking minute to him, the accidents began to increase.

On June 22, I lost it! After playing outside, Zachary came in the living room, laid down in the chair, and just peed all over himself and the chair, WITH A LITTLE POTTY SITTING RIGHT THERE IN THE SAME ROOM. I lost my ever-loving mind! All of my frustration with Z’s potty habits spilled out in a loud, angry tirade centered around how that was completely unacceptable behavior and it would not continue for a single minute more. I made him clean the chair and I sent him to his room. After calming down, we had a very firm discussion about the CHOICES he was making about pottying and how they were absolutely going to change or there would be consequences. And for the first time, I began punishing him for his accidents (the #1 ones). His punishment was that he had to clean it up, he got a 15-min time-out, and he was banned from all TV viewing for the rest of the day.

This worked for about 3 days, and then he didn’t care about missing TV anymore and went back to having accidents.

I was completely discouraged. I was a failure. I was failing my child. What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with my child? What else could I possibly do to help him learn to use the potty? It was all I could think about. I searched and searched the internet for answers, but could find NOTHING that I had not already tried with no success.

And then it hit me. All my plans had failed. MY plans.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I had to face the truth and admit that I couldn’t do it. I WAS NOT CAPABLE OF POTTY TRAINING ZACHARY. I JUST WASN’T. I had to let God do it. That may sound ridiculous, but it isn’t.

And so I began to pray continuously for God to teach Zachary to use the potty, for Him to help Zachary want to use the potty, for Him to guide me to His plan so I could do what He needed me to do too.

And He did.

The very next day it struck me like lightning. All of the internet searching I had done looking for help, I had always searched for “potty training problems” and I found nothing that helped. What I needed to search for was “potty training OLDER CHILDREN”!! You can think whatever you want, but I know that God put that thought in my head as an answer to my prayers. I did the search and almost immediately I found this article:

“Toilet Training Problems” by Dr. Barton Schmitt, MD

It was a gift directly from heaven. The article is written specifically about older children who struggle to use the potty and outlined the plan that this pediatrician gives to his parents when their children struggle.

I put the plan into action that very day. Here’s the simple version: focus just on peeing in the potty at first, give the child full responsibility for using the potty (that meant I no longer reminded him constantly to do it), and use the perfect incentive, which turned out to be TV.

Every time Z peed in the potty, he got to watch a show. If he didn’t pee in the potty, he didn’t get to watch a show. It was that simple. After explaining the plan to him the first day, I only mentioned it when he would ask to watch TV. “Only if you pee in the potty!” And I never reminded him to go.


Zachary went 9 days straight without a pee accident, nights included. This also included our trip to IN to visit Uncle Clay and family, even the car ride! I was amazed!

Praise the Lord for He is good!

I decided it was time to add poop to the equation. I was anxious. VBS was coming, and I wanted him to be done before VBS. I,I,I.

I used the same plan as I had done with pee. If you poop in the potty, you get to watch TV. If you don’t, you don’t.

It didn’t work. Again, it was my plan, not God’s. And I will honestly admit that when I made the decision to do it, I really didn’t feel peace about it. God knew it was too soon. He tried to tell me, but I didn’t listen.

Zachary did not poop in the potty, and after a couple of days with no TV, he quit peeing in the potty too.


“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Start over. Be patient. Trust in Me.

So I started over. I made a chart and hung it up in the playroom. The chart had 28 blank squares, 4 rows of 7. We went back to watching TV every time Z peed in the potty, and at the end of every accident-free day he got to write a letter of his name in a square. Luckily Zachary has 7 letters in his name! When his name was spelled, we had completed a week with no accidents. I wouldn’t even think about poop until we had completed 4 accident-free weeks IN A ROW. I felt that that was a decent amount of time for peeing in the potty to become a habit.

Of course, I couldn’t HELP thinking about poop. I talked to Z all the time about how he needed to put his poop in the potty. Jim talked to him. I tried not to get on him too much for his poop accidents, but some days my frustration was higher than I could handle. I was not always as encouraging as I should have been. But I did my very best and continued praying for God’s guidance (and deliverance!).

One Sat was one of those frustrating days. Z had gone 3 weeks straight with no pee accidents, but continued to poop in his underwear EVERY TIME. That morning when he pooped in his underwear AGAIN, that was it. I had had it! I reached my limit of poopy underwear! I WAS NOT GOING TO CLEAN ONE MORE PAIR OF POOPY UNDERWEAR!!!! So I took the underwear away.

Zachary was now half-naked. He went bare bottom the rest of the day and didn’t poop anymore. Sunday he wore a Pull-up to church, but we went back to bare bottom when we got home. No poop all day. I let him have some underwear to sleep in that night. He pooped in them.


Monday we went back to the bare bottom. Around 10:30 he told me he needed to poop. (He had said this before, but never actually pooped. He did, however, get to spend a lot of alone time with mom listening to stories while sitting on the potty) I didn’t really believe him. I told him to go ahead to the potty, and I’d “be right there.” You know, in a couple of minutes when it’s more convenient for me. He went, sat on the potty AND POOPED!!!!!!!!!!!

“Mom! Come and see!” he shouted from the bathroom. He was so excited! I was so excited! The other kids were so excited! I gave him back his underwear! We called Daddy at work! I gave him a present! I gave him another present! I gave him brand new underwear! Daddy left work and came home just to hug him and say how proud he was! We danced and cheered and gave him candy!

I was so excited I couldn’t stop giving him things!

That was Aug.16. He hasn’t had an accident of any kind since then! Yesterday I let him wear underwear to church AND HE POOPED IN THE POTTY AT CHURCH! That meant he actually had to SIT on the big potty which was another thing he had never done!

I’m just so proud of him I can hardly wipe the smile from my face! (Unless it’s cleaning time. I smile very little then) And I’m proud of me too! But not so proud that I don’t remember who really deserves the credit here. I fully believe that if I had not surrendered the responsibility of potty training Zachary to God, he would not be pooping in the potty today. And I’d be crying in a corner. Yes, I did it too. Yes, I found a plan that worked. But it was not without God’s guidance. Thank you, Lord, for potty training my son.

Whew! I know, that was horrendously long! Kudos to you if you read the whole thing! Now, get up and stretch and do a little victory dance with me!


Samantha said...

Thank you for your encouraging post. I am currently potty training my little boy and it is always good to know that I am not the only one struggling to cope with the stress of it all. Well done to you for continuing to encourage him and to share this story about how proud you are of Z.

Nikki McElroy said...

Oh, A, think of a big celebratory hug from me! Little Trent is currently making me crazy (the others were at least pretty much PT by this close to 3). Add to that the neighbor whose 19 MONTH old is trained and I'm a wreck. So dumb not to think of asking Trent's creator to help him do what he was designed to do! Thanks for sharing your story and give Z an M&M for me!

Beth said...

Hi, I found your blog a while ago through some of the quad blogs and have enjoyed it. Yourquads are adorable! I felt the need to comment today because I was so inspired by your post. A reminder yet again that God is here. I have a 14 and 16 year old that drain me for different reasons. I recently gave my intentions to God and began to pray for guidance.I have been rewarded with new patience and like you resources and the right people or the right circumstance came into our life. I also believe it is his work and thank you for rienforcing for me that he contiues to provide support in many ways.

Suzy said...

This was hilarious!! Your account of it, that is ... it sounds like the actual experience was trying, to say the least! Congrats on having four potty-trained children. When it's my turn, I'm sure I'll be asking God *and* you for some advice! :)

Betsy said...

Hey Allison, Checking in after... like... a year. Yea for 4 potty trained kids!! Potty training took a full year for us and D was our hardest--some similar issues. Funny how quickly it happened when I gave up micro-managing (similar to Z--I just said you go take care of that and I'll check on you in a minute). what a relief (no pun intended). don't you feel amazingly free without the diaper bag/changes of clothes always on your arm??!!