Sunday, June 13, 2010

A BIG (and stinky) milestone

Over a year and a half ago, after Chickie had learned to pee in the potty, and a few months before her third birthday, I wrote on this blog, "Chickie is talking positively about pooping in the potty, so I'm earnestly hoping we'll hit that milestone soon."

A month after that, I posted about the potty chart I'd made to encourage her to poop in the potty.

The next day I wrote about Placebo, the magic "pill" I was giving her to encourage pooping.

A week later, I posted about how I'd started crying when I'd had to take Chickie home from church early because she was writhing on the floor of the nursery, incredibly uncomfortable because she was so determined to hold in her poop to avoid the potty. I'd given her a Pull-Up at home, and she'd very willingly used it.

I didn't write another update on this isssue until several months later, almost four months after she'd turned three. I wrote about how I'd pushed Chickie to poop in the potty for several days, and she'd become more and more traumatized by the experience. She'd learned to very successfully withhold her poop until we'd finally used a suppository to force the issue. After days of frustration, stress, and guilt, I once again let Chickie do all of her business in Pull-Ups.

That was in May 2009--over a year ago. Since that time, I'd avoided saying much on the blog about Chickie's potty training struggles. Most of you, if you knew the history and ever thought about it, probably figured it had resolved itself.

It hadn't. Until this past week. Chickie is finally pooping in the potty instead of in diapers or Pull-Ups. She's doing it without tears. She's still not entirely comfortable with the concept, but she's doing wonderfully. At four years five months old, she's a big girl. And one of the most challenging phases of my parenting so far seems to be finally over.

This may be one of those posts I need to delete when Chickie gets older. It could understandably embarrass her. But I'm going to write it anyway, because I know there are other parents that are going through this, searching the Internet for answers just like I did, and I hope it helps them to read this story. (And hey, as embarrassing as it may be for Chickie, it's such a hugely fabulous thing for me that I just have to share!)

So for all those parents who are Googling phrases things like, toddler won't poop in the potty, preschooler won't go #2 in the toilet, 3- or 4-year-old still poops in diapers, how to get my kid to poop in the potty, child afraid of pooping in the potty, etc., this post is for you. In fact, I'm going to address the rest of this post directly to you, parents or caregivers going through the same frustrating thing we went through
  • I know it feels like your child will never poop in the potty. People are telling you, "Hey, I've never seen a kid graduate from high school wearing a Pull-Up!" and while you know that's true, it sure feels like your kid can never get past this! If your child is free of serious developmental issues, he or she will get past this. But it could take longer--maybe a lot longer--than you expect. If you can accept that, it'll be easier to get through it.
  • I know you may feel like a failure. You aren't. Even if you aren't a textbook potty trainer, you probably didn't cause this problem. I think this issue, this fear of pooping in the potty, is usually primarily due to a child's temperament and/or physical issues. Please realize this doesn't make you a parenting failure!
  • People will probably offer you a lot of well-meaning advice. You may be lucky and find that some of it works. But if it doesn't, it will frustrate you to hear so many "sure-fire solutions" that you already know don't work on your child. It's okay to ask people politely not to give you advice on this issue--preferably also acknowledging their very kind intentions!
  • You may worry that people are judging you. And some of them might be! I remember when we were near the beginning of this frustrating journey, a friend of mine told me she'd been through the same thing. Her son hadn't overcome his fear until shortly before kindergarten started. I blurted out, "Oh, I won't let it go that long!" Immediately I realized how judgmental that was. But I still believed it. When I had a four-year-old still pooping in diapers, I realized how silly my attitude had been, how little control over the situation I had. But I'm sure some parents have understandably seen my situation in the same way I saw my friend's! Trust that your true friends will still respect you as a parent, even though they may not understand why you can't get your child out of diapers!
  • The strategy that worked best for me was to stop forcing the issue so my child could grow out of the fear. I tried so many things. Mineral oil (even though her issue was not constipation!). A potty chart. Pretend "pills" (Reese's Pieces) to "help her poop." Offers of candy, toys, gymnastics classes, and a party as rewards. I put her in the bathroom until she pooped, even if it took two or three hours. (I'm not proud of that. At all.) Pleading, cajoling, loosing my temper. A countdown with a calendar. I required her to stand, sit, or squat on the potty to poop, even with a diaper on. Holes cut in her diapers. Comparisons with her potty trained friends and her brother. A warm drink for her while she sat on the potty. A warm tub, followed by Vaseline on her bottom. A video to watch while on the potty. Books and songs while on the potty. And I wouldn't be surprised if I'm forgetting some of what I tried. None of it worked. It wasn't until I relaxed and stopped trying so hard that I found quite a bit of peace. (And then I'd try something else that didn't work, and I'd have to force myself back into that relaxed mode!)
So...what finally worked for us? Before I disclose that, let me warn you. I don't have a magic tactic. What worked for me probably won't work for you unless your child happens to be ready! But if you can wait until your child shows signs of readiness, then I bet you'll figure out what does work!

In the past, I'd tried two times to take the diapers away altogether. Both efforts followed the same pattern. Instead of becoming more comfortable with the potty, Chickie became more and more traumatized. She started withholding, which she's unfortunately quite good at. She was so uncomfortable. I ended up using suppositories just so she could, screaming, sit on the potty and poop. Both times, I realized she wasn't ready, that we were going backwards, and that it was better for her to poop in a diaper without trauma than to poop in the potty with escalating trauma.

Then I started potty training Zoodle, my 2-year-old. I've been lucky with him; potty training has been pretty easy. And something shocking and amazing happened. Chickie (after observing her brother's efforts) sat several times on the potty and strained, trying to poop. She only managed to poop a tiny bit, but I realized that since she was initiating pooping on the potty (even though it was pretty minimal), maybe she was getting over her irrational fear.

Then it all stopped. Chickie decided she really just preferred diapers for poop. But I had seen that possible sign of readiness, and I decided I wanted to try to push it again.

Remember how I mentioned a calendar and a countdown? I tried that just before Chickie's third birthday, and it didn't work. I decided to try it again. I sat down with Chickie and let her decide what her first no-diaper day would be. I gave her the option of picking any day within the following two weeks. She chose the last possible day, June 9, and with my help she began marking off the calendar every day.

Chickie was not thrilled. She kept saying that pooping on the potty was scary, and pooping in diapers was easier. I encouraged her that she could do it, and reminded her that she had chosen the day.

Wednesday was the big day. In the afternoon, Chickie started telling me she needed to poop in a diaper. I was firm--no more diapers. (I knew if this experiment went really badly, I'd need to change my mind, but I really hoped we could stick with it.) She went a tiny bit in the potty that night.

The next day, Chickie withheld her poop, and by Friday she was obviously uncomfortable. But in the evening, she suddenly walked to the potty, sat, and really pooped, without freaking out. We rewarded her with candy and lots of praise. The next day (yesterday) she went upstairs and did the same thing--again, no apparent fear or trauma.

After trying so hard, so many times, it amazes me how easily it's happened...since Chickie was finally ready. That's the key--waiting until the child is ready. It doesn't mean you can't push at all...but when the pushing makes things worse, you may have to back off and try again another time.

Waiting can be the hardest thing in the world. But believe it or does work. We're still buying Pull-Ups for Zoodle at night, but as of June 9, we are done with diapers! And that's a milestone worth celebrating!

Check out this post to see the cake we had to celebrate Chickie's milestone!


Unknown said...

Now that my son is old enough to start having fears I understand how very powerful fears are. Ian is still working on handling bath time. It might be years before my son will enjoy a pool because he is just terrified of water. I am glad that Chickie found a way past her fear. Enjoy this huge milestone, I am so happy for you both.

beckiwithani said...

I'm so glad she is finally doing it!

mdf356 said...

William learned how to hold his for days, until it became an emergency and he demanded a diaper. He's finally gotten over it a few months ago... at age 4 years 8 months probably.

SciFi Mama said...

Congrats! I know how hard that can be. Chickie is doing amazing. Now, if we could only get Paige to stop peeing overnight. She's no where near overnight trained. We've tried it all, but it comes down to her just sleeping so hard she doesn't realize she needs to get up to use the potty.

forever folding laundry said...

I feel your pain.
Avery was *potty* trained at just over two. No accidents...wearing undies...great.
But the "other" part, notsomuch. She pooped on the potty for a bit, until an unfortunate incident with constipation, and then she didn't even want to go in diapers. It was awful. She had great "hold it in" control, too. (5 days!) I finally called the pediatrician b/c she was in a lot of pain & he put her on a Miralax regimen for a bit, and it worked. (Miralax is just an OTC laxative you mix in juice.) She finally became 100% potty trained about 3 weeks ago, just shy of 3 years old. And is wearing undies overnight, too. Hallelujah!

So, no, you're definitely not alone!! I'm glad she's got it figured out. And sounds like your little E is on his way to being diaper-free as well. Nice!


forever folding laundry said...

And that is officially the longest comment I've ever made on any blog ever. :)


Janell said...

So very happy for you! That is a huge milestone and must be such a happy relief for you. It's funny how as parents we often become less and less judgmental of other parents as our kids challenge and humble us. I know I have anyway. :)

Mellodee said...

Evidently this "withholding" behavior happens with a lot more kids than I ever realized. Maddie went through it too. It is such a frustrating thing. I guess the lesson to take away is follow your kid's lead, because no matter what you do (or don't do), the kid won't do it until they are ready!

M. went a very long time unable to stay dry at night, multiple accidents, wouldn't even try, etc. She got to be way too old to wear a diaper!

She had wanted a bunk bed for a really long time. Finally, her mom and dad told her she couldn't have one until she stayed dry through the night all the time. So Maddie decided she wanted to try. She gave up her pull-ups, and NEVER had another wet night! She REALLY wanted that bunk bed!!

Her timetable, her schedule, her own good time....and the right incentive! That's our girl!!

Mrs4444 said...

This is terrific. I'm adding it to my post today.

SurvivorBlessing said...

Congratualtioins!!!! It is a big milestone and totally worth celebrating. I am glad that fight is finally over, I know it took alot out of you! I am sending a big hug your way....

And even though I disagree with some things, like the readiness, I am respecting you as a person and a parent (disrespecting never crossed my mind!), because you have to deal with it, not me. And I am your friend and there for you!!! We all are different people and deal with things in very different ways. I am a big advocate in potty training, the earlier the better! But there might be other things that I am delaying where you are more pushy... WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN WAYS. And that is fine, otherwise life would be boring. And how could we be there for each other when we are all the same???

Love you!!!

Unknown said...

congrats!! This is awesome...
I just stopped by from another blog...saw your link in a comment and thought what the heck? Can't hurt to get more info since I have a very stubborn 3 year old (3 yrs 8 months to be exact.....) ugh....
Thanks for sharing!!

Unknown said...

I'm so happy for y'all! That is a big thing!!

Unknown said...

Oh yes, and this was beautifully and tastefully written...I think a lot of parents will get new wind in their sails because of your post.

Lisa said...

Beth, I'm so excited that Chickie finally figured things out!!

We never had a problem with the pooping, but my daughter totally rebelled after about 6 weeks of being potty trained and just flat out refused to go on the potty. After about a week long battle, I did like you and just let it rest. 8 mths later an opportunity arose for her to be in a dance class but you had to be potty trained. So with an incentive that was exciting to her and on her own time table, she miraculously re-potty trained herself overnight!!! I am definitely for the "they will do it when they are ready" philosophy!

Rebecca said...

Thanks for sharing your potty training story. My son is 4 (and 2 months) and still nowhere close. We've been working really hard on potty training.

C. Beth said...


I know you may be VERY frustrated by now--it's so hard when it seems like all the other kids get it, and yours doesn't!

I will tell you that my daughter is now 5 years 5 months, and there are NO remaining fear issues for her. She goes poop completely on her own. I started having her wipe herself at age 5. (She was nervous to do it herself.) She does fine with that too.

Your son will get it. It probably feels like he won't--it sure felt that way to me--but he really will. :) Good luck, and email me ( if you want to chat about it.