23 steps to potty train your toddler in one short year

Are you trying to potty train a stubborn toddler? Have you tried every method out there with little success? Throw the research out the door, stop clinging to those last remaining shreds of dignity, and come on over to the dark side. Crafted especially for the indecisive and weak-willed, my 23-step method is sure to drag out the process for as long as possible. See below for detailed instructions:

1. Read the potty training articles. Talk to other parents. Weigh your options carefully and choose your method: when your toddler shows signs of readiness, you will try the three-day no-pants method. No pull-ups, just straight to underwear. Sticker rewards are a possibility, but you will never, ever use treats or other food items as a reward.

2. Your 18 month-old begins to poop at the same time each day. Decide that this qualifies as a sign of readiness. Try putting the child on the potty. He does not protest – yes, definitely readiness. Motivate him with stickers. Avoid changing a poopy diaper for one week. Pat self on back. You are almost there!

3. 18 month old refuses to ever sit on the toilet again. Choke back tears. Rescind back pat.

4. For the next year, every time your obviously pooping toddler heads to the corner of the living room for some “lone time,” offer stickers and other non-food rewards if he will just stop and come to the bathroom. Occasionally, beg. When he refuses, tell yourself he’ll be ready on his own time.

5. Spend time thinking about how infant poop is just so different from toddler poop. Toddler poop is like real people poop. You are very tired of getting up close and personal with real people poop. Wonder if there is a way to transfer your motivation to your toddler.

6. Tell your obviously pooping toddler that diapers are for babies. He must be a baby, not a big boy. Wish desperately for the power to turn back time when he agrees, putting on a screechy, whining “baby” voice and demanding to be carried like a baby.

7. Certain that it will not work, in a moment of frustration, offer a chocolate chip in return for a poop on the toilet. It works. Toddler happily runs to the toilet and does his thing.

8. You are now committed to chocolate chips as rewards. Stickers have lost their motivational power. Feel ashamed for a minute, then embrace the chocolate chip. Use chocolate chips for everything.

9. Recognize that the chocolate chip reward train has officially left the station when you observe your husband offering 5 chocolate chips in return for the toddler’s consumption of 5 black beans. This is not sustainable.

10. Curse your weak will when you cannot give up the chocolate chip bribery.

11. Curse your toddler’s strong will when he decides he is over chocolate chips, and resumes pooping in his diaper.

12. Remember your original plan to cut out diapers altogether with the 3-day no-pants method. Take heart – you just need to stick to the original plan and everything will be fine! Plan to spend a week at home doing the no-pants method. Pat self on back for this excellent decision.

13. Realize that you have a lot planned this week; maybe you should postpone until next week.

14. Realize that next week is Halloween; you should definitely postpone until after Halloween. Rescind back pat.

15. Buy cool underwear to motivate your toddler.

16. On the first day of no-pants potty training, remember that it’s the day after the fall time change. Oh well, that doesn’t really affect toddlers much, right?

17. Google the best method for cleaning pee off of your couch.

18. Rush to the store to buy more cool underwear, because all the cool underwear you bought last time is already in the washing machine. It is still day one.

19. Your toddler is a wreck. Wish again for the ability to turn back time – actual time, not just the clocks – so that you can tell yourself to postpone potty training until after your toddler has adjusted to the time change.

20. This whole debacle happens. Quit potty training for now and decide to resume maybe next week.

21. Try not to act surprised when after the spectacular failure described in #20, your toddler decides he wants to try again.

22. Your toddler refuses to wear pants inside. Resign yourself to the fact that your home is now pants-optional.

23. Have your first accident-free day. Pat self on back. Job well done.

Moments in parenting incompetence: part deux

It hasn’t been long since the first Moments in Parenting Incompetence post, but I have so much raw material on this topic it’s already time for the second installment. Enjoy!

Incompetence 1

My two year-old is obsessed with trucks. Obsessed. So last week, when I happened to see this crane truck at Winners for half the price it would be at a regular toy store, I jumped on it. Christmas is right around the corner, I thought. Or it could be for his birthday in February.

crane truck

I drove home, proud of my savvy shopping, thinking of the elation on his face on Christmas morning. A chronic last-minute shopper, this was also the earliest I had ever bought a Christmas present in my life. Then followed a series of truly incompetent moments.

Mistake #1, in which I forget

When I arrived home, I saw Bean at the window and so I left the truck in the back of the car, intending to come back out and get it after he’d gone to bed that night. I forgot.

Mistake #2, in which I am too slow

The next day all four of us were headed out of the house when I remembered the truck was still in the car. I frantically signalled to my husband, who was just about to put Bean into his carseat. He stalled while I ditched Monkey in his bucket seat on the driveway and went for the truck. But our timing was off. Before I could get to the big yellow box, Bean had climbed into the car by himself and was standing on his carseat, looking into the back of the car. I snatched the box away, but not before he caught a glimpse of the back of it, which has pictures of all the other trucks made by the same company.

“What is that?”

“Um, it’s…”

“I see trucks! I see pictures of trucks!!”

My husband turned Bean around and maneuvered him into his seat as I ran for the front door with the big yellow box in my hands. As I dashed away I could hear the wails:

“I see it? I see it!! Show me that thing! Truuuuuuucks!”

When I got back to the car, after I’d clicked the patiently waiting Monkey in, I lied through my teeth and told Bean it was garbage – an empty package from one of his old trucks. Then I turned the music up really loudly as we drove away.

Mistake #3, in which I forget… again

In the aftermath of Mistake #2, I had put the box in our laundry room/workshop and shut the door, planning on finding a better hiding spot later. The next day, Bean followed me into the laundry room and saw it again. I fed him the same lie about it being an old box from his old trucks and then distracted him by offering a cookie.

Mistake #4, in which I have been overcome by laziness and forgetfulness and end up ruining Christmas

A week later, the truck was still in the same place. That’s right – after two close calls, I still had not moved it. So I really do deserve what happened next. We were on day one of cold-turkey potty training, a method we were sure was going to work. (Run around the house in just underwear for a few days, with diapers only for naps and bed.) Bean was doing wonderfully, and was excited about the whole thing.

He followed my husband into the workshop. He saw the truck. Not just the box, the truck itself. Hubby told him he could not have the truck. And then his little truck-obsessed toddler heart broke. Loudly.

They came upstairs to me, Bean sobbing in confusion, my husband frantically looking for a way out.

“Who that truck for?”

“Well…” I searched my brain for an acceptable answer. How do you tell a two year-old that the most amazing toy he’s ever seen, that is in his own house, that he has seen not once, not twice, but THREE times now, is meant for him but supposed to be a surprise so he can’t have it now and if he could just forget about it entirely that would be great?

“Who we gonna give that truck to?”

“You see…”

“I play with it?” (Escalating intensity… face crumpling… tears flowing.) “I play with it just a couple? Just a couple?”

My husband and I looked at each other, recognizing defeat when we saw it. He was never going to forget, and we were never going to hear the end of it.

“That truck is for you!”

The elation on his face was exactly as I’d pictured it. (Only without the Christmas tree in the background, and also with more tears and less pants.)

He played with the truck, completely absorbed. He was so busy playing that he was no longer paying attention to his body and had an accident. And another. We’d inadvertently set him up for failure by giving him such an effective distraction.

Mistake #5, in which we try to make lemonade out of lemons, but end up with failure

So, we decided that for day two of potty training, we’d tell him that the truck was going away and would come out again as a prize for when he’d had a whole day accident-free. We could fix this! It would be motivation! Why didn’t we just do this from the beginning?

That led to an entire day of whining for the crane truck, pleading for the crane truck, and crying for the crane truck, followed by the entire potty training thing falling apart. The full detail of that particular failure is a topic for another day, but suffice it to say that the crane truck was the catalyst for an entirely incompetent series of events involving bribery, tears and frustration for more than one individual in this house.

I’ve shared my shame with you… now it’s your turn. What important things have you completely messed up?