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The psychology of potty training

Here’s the deal.

I’m not hardcore pushing the potty training thing. I know my child isn’t 100% ready for diaper-free living based on various signs of readiness.

But I do need you, wise People of the Internets, to talk to me about poop and how to get it in the potty. (The toddler’s, not mine. Just in case you were confused.) Because I’m baffled as to how, exactly, this works.

We can get Joshua to pee in the potty with some regularity when we ask him if he has to go. This may be partially due to the fact that there are candy bribes involved thanks to Dr. Schneider’s lecture on potty training his daughters in my Psych 1001 class as examples of classical and operant conditioning a decade (GASP!) ago.

So then we started talking to and asking Joshua about “going stinky” in the potty. To which he says, quite pointedly, “I don wanna go stinky in dah potty.”

And then last night I think we nearly gave him an anxiety attack.

Here’s how it went down:

He came to us around 7:00 and said “I got a soaky butt!” (which he sometimes says but more often does not say). Dan took him to his room to change his diaper and instead of putting a diaper on him, I thought we’d just let him wear some Thomas underwear. There were only about 30 minutes until bath time and the chances of him peeing were slim. I didn’t want to potentially waste a diaper if we could get him to the potty to pee on time. Except he hadn’t pooped in a while and he’s a pretty, uh, regular guy. So we knew we were taking more than just a pee risk.

He was standing in front of the TV and we smelled what smelled like he’d pooped, but he hadn’t, so we took him to the potty and put him on it and told him he could have a popsicle if he went stinky on the potty.

He passed gas and proclaimed “I DID IT!”

Except he didn’t. I was sitting in the floor with him and he kept trying to get up and I kept saying “No, Joshie go stinky on the potty!” all excited-like. And he got less and less amused with my antics and began to cry. Which made me FEEL like poop. Because I was stupid for pushing this and should’ve just cut my losses.

He came back into the living room and played trains and then ventured into the dining room where he turned off the light and got quiet. Dan and I were all “JOSHUA! LET’S GO STINKY ON THE POTTY!!!”

And he got kind of hysterical. So we offered to put a diaper on him so he could poop and when we laid him down in the floor we discovered he was mid-poop and he kind of freaked on us a little bit.


I fastened a diaper with lightning speed, scooped up my wailing toddler, and snuggled him until he was ready to go back into the living room where we waited on bath time until he’d gone back into the dining room, turned out the light AGAIN, and finished what he’d started 15 minutes prior.

I felt awful for the kid.

And last night I realized I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to potty training except to know that he’s probably not really ready and I don’t want to push it because it’s more “convenient” for me. (And really, after reading my friend Suzanne’s post about a potty-trained toddler, I’m not so sure it’s more convenient.)

His reaction last night also tells me that I am in no way entertaining the idea of Boot Camping him into using the toilet full time.

But tell me, y’all, am I doing this even remotely right? Or should I study up on my Freud and his theories of anal retentiveness?

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Monday 26th of December 2011

My husband's cousin would let her son play video games - either on phone, PSP, whatever portable system you have - to get her son to sit on the potty long enough to poop on the potty. BTW Funny, true story - As I was reaging this story, my son (who is 2.25 and sometimes uses the potty and sometimes tells me he has to go on the potty but more frequently tells me after he goes) ran to the potty telling me he had an "acky poopy" as he was pulling down his pante and upon pulling off his diaper, I discovered he already went poop. A while ago. *palm/forehead* Good luck! Can't wait to read more about your experience in PT!

Rocky Mountain Mama

Thursday 22nd of December 2011

Alright lady. During our potty training escapades, I learned that you HAVE to be consistent. No underwear until he is completely ready! It is just too confusing. Am I allowed to pee and poop in my diaper? But mommy and daddy put me in underwear sometimes, so what am I supposed to do?!

Whenever you decide to potty train, you should go cold turkey. Throw out the diapers and have Joshua say good bye. It's over and done.

And then the next few days will suck and you will have a lot of cleaning up to do, but he isn't going to learn to go pee AND poop in the potty until he has an accident in his underwear. We used the 3 day potty training method and it worked for us. Does it work for everyone? No, but she definitely has some good ideas.

Here is a word vomit post of things I learned during our journey:

Good luck!


Thursday 22nd of December 2011

I've read a lot of the 3-day potty training and in so many ways, I just don't think it would work for us and for Joshua. I think I have to go for a slower process than that and I know he's just not ready yet.

I can see where the occasional moment in the underwear could be confusing, though.

Elle @ Elle The Heiress

Thursday 22nd of December 2011

What worked for Sebastian was having him go naked from the waist down. The first two days were rough because he would sometimes pee on the floor, but he absolutely would not poop on the floor - he went to the potty every single time for that. After about four days, he was peeing and pooping in the potty without any trouble. He did have a few accidents for the next two weeks when he didn't make it to pee on the potty in time, but there weren't very many at all.


Thursday 22nd of December 2011

Joshua does NOT like being naked. When shower time is done the first thing he says is "I need cover my pee pee!" and we wrap him in a towel so we can brush his teeth.

Debbie J

Thursday 22nd of December 2011

Oh honey,...don't sweat this one. Mine are now 14 and 17. There will be plenty of time for stressing over many other things. He won't go to kindergarten pooping in the diaper. You'll know when is completely ready. Then just stay home for potty training boot camp . Stay home all weekend and just do it! Hmmm, I don't think I'd do it during the busy holiday season....just sayin'! Enjoy that little fella and take care!


Thursday 22nd of December 2011

I'm not so worried about when as much as how. I feel like maybe I underestimate what he's capable of understanding sometimes so I don't try things I should.


Wednesday 21st of December 2011

My son is 4 and it's still something we're dealing with. It's a control issue with him. We tried when he was 3 and it became an absolute battle. He was screaming and crying..... I was like this CAN NOT be right. Just the other day he comes to be and tells me he has to pee. Off we go to the potty. Do I like the the fact that my 4 yr old isn't potty trained?! NO. But at the end of the day, who gives a rat's ass! :) Each child is different and each child will do it when they're ready.


Thursday 22nd of December 2011

I know he won't go to Kindergarten wearing diapers, so for the most part, I'm not worried. I'm just trying to prepare myself for how to do this when he's ready.

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