For the last several months my wife and I have been trying with very limited success to potty train our less than interested son Devin. We have been pulling our hair out trying to determine which potty training approach will be most effective for a child that is obviously intelligent enough to learn how to use a toilet, but otherwise unmotivated. When we consult the magazine and real life professionals we get answers that vary only slightly in degrees of discouragement. Devin’s pediatrician said “don’t force him, I promise he’ll be potty trained by the time he gets married!” Needless to say Shalawn and I were not amused. I just thought about the diaper and laundry bills form decades of pooping of Devin in his pants. It would be sure to make a catastrophic impact on his college fund.

Then we thumbed through several parenting magazines, which by the way, always seem to have an unhelpful article on potty training in every issue, and we were left in a chronic state of melancholy. OK maybe I’m being a bit hard on the parenting magazines. I guess I want the trick, or the pill or the 100% guaranteed foolproof thing that that will make my little Vin love the idea of taking a dump on the big boy toilet. The reality is that there is no silver bullet solution to the potty training dilemma. Even the pros cannot agree. One said you should wait until your child is four if need be, another said they’ll go when they are ready, and yet another refused to give an age range for when you should expect your little poo factory to start saving you some money on diapers.

Shalawn and I have recently decided on a course of action and are currently implementing it. It’s a gently encouraging technique that uses stickers as the prize for completing various stages of the potty process. A colleague gave me the suggestion after having marked success with her daughter and using these very special glitter and gel-like stickers that excited the little girl. The little girl was allowed to stick these stickers all over the bathroom door after she won them and loved looking at them as a reminder of her success. Eventually she no longer needed stickers as encouragement to use the bathroom because to her and her parents using a diaper was no longer an option. So for us to implement “operation sticker” we had to decide on a sticker style that would be special to Devin. So I ordered 600 Thomas the Train reward stickers. Like so many little boys, Vin loves that little blue train! We also use a different set of stickers to encourage overall good behavior. If he had a very good morning or afternoon, or behaved well during an outing we give him a sticker (I’ll get more into using stickers and other things as rewards in the next podcast show tentatively titled Will Behave for Stickers!). As far as the potty training goes the results have been much more encouraging than some of the other aforementioned advice.

At first we would give him a sticker for sitting on the toilet and trying to go of for washing his hands, then we moved onto telling him that he was so good at trying to go and washing his hand that all the stickers for that were gone and now he had to earn the pee pee stickers. Who knows if he understood us, he only knows that now he has to show and prove if he wants a sticker. As a result he does number one on the toilet somewhat frequently, but number two is still a challenge. Someone once told me that little people think of their poo as part of them and are horrified to see it flushed away. It’s a funny thought, Probably not true though.

The reality is that potty training is all about trial and error and your child’s personal readiness. I know some parents that have children that hate to be dirty in any way, so all they did was put big-kid underwear on their child and in an effort to stay clean the kid started using the potty. I have known other people that were so poor that they could not afford diapers, therefore they worked with their kids non-stop to make sure that they understood that the potty was the place to be. I also have known parents, and this smug group is the one I don’t like much because I’m the jealous type, where the kid was just ready to use the potty at 18 months and there was no training involved. You may find that doing the peepee dance and singing the peepee song is all that your kid needs to get the old juices flowing. It’s trial and typically a lot of error. There are so many ways to potty train a kid and so many signs that they are ready to use the potty that it just goes back to the old adage that you know you child best. So good luck in figuring out what works and know that I am with you in the struggle!

Until next time new dads, take care of yourselves.