We Failed Potty Training

Even if and when your toddler is mentally ready to potty train and is very willing, sometimes their anatomy isn't. Just because they understand what to do and want to be like big kids doesn't always mean they are physically ready. It is ok to experiment with potty training and decided to put it off for a few months.

Rhys has always impressed us with hitting milestones. He has always been above the curve and has always been such a fast learner. For the past two months, Rhys has been telling us after the fact that he had gone poo in his diaper, or if he had a very full and wet diaper. We took this milestone of his acknowledgement and our want to not have two in diapers come January, and decided that we wanted to start potty training Rhys.

But, we failed.

Even if and when your toddler is mentally ready to potty train and is very willing, sometimes their anatomy isn't. Just because they understand what to do and want to be like big kids doesn't always mean they are physically ready. It is ok to experiment with potty training and decided to put it off for a few months.

We thought we already had a headstart with potty training. Rhys could already say “peepee” and “poopoo.” He had a little toilet we bought in the spring to peak his interest, and he had gone in it a handful of times. Rhys isn’t afraid of the big toilet–when we announce we have to use the bathroom, he rushes in, points to the potty, gives us toilet paper, and flushes for us when we finish. He wasn’t scared of the toilet at all. And, the fact that he didn’t like a soiled diaper gave us hope. Rhys is 2.25 years old, so we felt he had the potential to succeed.

I do have to toot my own horn for a bit here. I was determined to be positive and patient with Rhys the whole time. And I was! With every accident, I’d reassure him in a calm voice and never show disgust or disappointment while cleaning up any messes. It was EXHAUSTING!

So, I grabbed a few potty training books, searched on Pinterest, called my mom, asked my sisters-in-law and friends of recently trained preschoolers for advice. We were running out of diapers and decided that next time we went to Costco, we’d get pull-ups rather than diapers.

Day one we decided to do an hour here and there of naked time. Every 20 minutes or so, I’d tell him to sit on the potty. Rhys was always willing. He didn’t really go on the potty, but did go on the floor once or twice before we could rush him to the potty.

Day two was naked time the whole day. We had quite a few accidents, but he was becoming aware of when he would go and say “uh oh” and try to rush to the potty.

Day three of naked time, Rhys started getting better at holding until he got to the potty and we only had a handful of accidents.

So, day four, we decided to take him to Wal-Mart and buy him some underwear. Yes, we had pull-ups, but Justin and I decided that pull-ups would be just for nap time, long days out, and night time. Our main goal was to have Rhys fully trained while he was awake before Evelyn came around New Years. We didn’t care if he wet a pull-up during naptime or bedtime. Rhys chose Blaze the Monster Machine and PAW Patrol pullups.

The next week, Rhys got to wear his undies. We made a few different sticker/reward charts. Rhys loved feeling like a big boy and loved earning the stickers. He was always willing to sit on his potty every 40 minutes when we asked him to. The first two days in undies, we had a few pee incidents, but he was able to stop when he noticed until he got to the potty. We had some poo incidents during that week–Rhys would let us know he had pooed. Then, the trouble would begin.

He knew he wasn’t supposed to poo in his undies. Rhys would come up to us and say, “Mama, poopoos.” I would then say, “Ok, let’s change it and put the poopoos in the potty.” He would then freak out and try to run and hide. Every single time. He would fight me in trying to pull down his pants, tears running down his cheeks. It would take almost 10 minutes of holding him close, him crying into my chest, trying to reassure him that we weren’t mad and we were very proud of him telling us that he had gone. Finally, he’d let us take off his undies. He’d point to the potty and say “poopoos”. But, never went in the potty.

Other than those accidents, Rhys stayed dry. I had a 45-50 minute timer on my phone to remind me to remind him to go potty. Rhys never really caught on to the sensation of having to go. Although, he was very good at controlling his bladder. He could hold it until he got on the potty. Then, we would tell him to go pee and he would focus, and do it. He was very successful with his potty charts, and I was able to take him out and about again. Rhys wasn’t nervous to go on the big public toilets either–as long as I held onto him to help steady him. He was even waking up from his naps with his pull-ups dry. I thought we were doing to make it!

However, after two and half weeks of undies, Rhys still had yet to go poo in the potty–only in his undies. And, the freak outs were becoming more extreme when he told us he had gone and we wanted to help clean him up. He started hitting us with his hands and with his toys and screaming bloody murder. Poor boy was so ashamed. Finally, we decided to have two naked days to try to help him catch himself with bowel movements. But, the first day, he waited all day until his bed time pull-up was put on, then went big time. And again when he woke up the next morning. Then, the second day, he had quite a few accidents of both poo and pee. Same with the third day.

I was at my wits end and so was Rhys. After crying to my mom and to Justin, we decided to stop training. I didn’t mind cleaning his underwear every day. I didn’t mind cleaning up his messes or accidents. But, the fact that he had never gone poo in the potty was our roadblock. I wished that he would’ve gone. Then, I’d be more willing to push through if it was 50% successful, 50% accidental. And, because we were focusing so hard on bowel movements, Rhys was starting to regress with pee. So, we stopped. Rhys knew what to do. He knew how to act. He knew the process of going potty. But, he just couldn’t make himself poo or catch himself pooing. We believe that he just wasn’t ready for that part of potty training just yet.

We put Rhys back in diapers the next day–he was a little upset every time he pooed and we tried to lay him down to change him. He would keep pointing at his potty and say “poopoos potty.” He wanted to be a big boy. I kept trying to console him and still give him love, confidence, and hope. The second day back in diapers, Rhys acted as if he had never potty trained–he never asked me for his underwear and never mentioned the potty. My mom says that is a good sign that he seamlessly went back. She says that means he probably really wasn’t physically ready.

I am so proud of my son for the progress that he had made and his absolute willingness to try. I as just upset with myself as the fact that Rhys just couldn’t control his bowel movements. I felt like I had failed as a mom training her son. I never felt like Rhys failed. His body, his anatomy, just wasn’t ready and that isn’t his fault. But, for the first little bit, it definitely felt like it was my fault–kind of how I felt when Rhys wasn’t being successful at nursing at 4 months. But, I am ok now. Justin is ok. Rhys is ok. We are back in diapers and will have two in diapers at the beginning of next year, and we are ok with that. At the beginning of potty training, we discussed that we didn’t want to push Rhys, we didn’t want to rush him. We wanted to follow his lead, his progress. And, that is why we quit. So, we are waiting. If Rhys asks to go potty, we’ll let him. If he finally decides he has to poo on the potty, we’ll be overjoyed. But, unless he decides for himself that he is ready, we will wait a bit after his baby sister comes to try again. I mean, he isn’t even 2.5 years old yet! There is plenty of time. Yes, we will have to buy double the diapers, which we aren’t too happy about, but that is life.

What has been your experience in potty training? Have you ever had to quit and try again later?

Tayler from The Morrell Tale.com

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • Potty training is so HARD! We had the same thing happen with Little e when we first started potty training early last year. She could do number one, but number two was always in her pants and her reactions were really similar. Everyone kept saying that she’ll do it when she is ready and everyone turned out to be correct. We ended up easing off and she actually started taking herself to the potty about a month ago right after she turned 3. We’re now going on two weeks now in big girl panties with only a few accidents and it seems to be much less traumatic for everyone.

    • I’m glad to hear that the poo isn’t just a boy issue, which I thought it was. He has asked to go on the potty 2-3 times since we stopped, but only ever to pee. We’re hoping that seeing that the new baby is definitely a BABY and wears diapers will help him along.

  • Oh goodness, I am not looking forward to potty training! I think you’re totally right to take a break on potty training. No reason to stress him (and you) out! It will happen!!!!

    • Don’t start until you feel comfortable enough! Wait to see some readiness signs with Caleb before even considering it, like we did with Rhys–when he would come up and tell us he had soiled his diaper.

  • Sandra Meaders

    I did a half attempt when my son started nursery. I read a book that mentioned that kids in Europe aren’t in diapers as long or don’t ever have diapers and are trained to cry a certain way as an indicator that they have to go potty. I would sit him on the potty a few times a day and a couple of times a day. By the time, he was two he wanted nothing to do with it and I was 7 months pregnant and it was getting harder to lift him up. We took a break and then recently started back up again two months before he turns 3. A couple of moms told me it just clicked for their kid after the age 3 and then we changed wards and all the moms have their kids potty trained at 2. We had a few days of naked time and he’s great at going potty when his bottom half is naked. If he has clothes on, then I have to help remind him every hour to try. If I don’t tell him, he has accidents. He doesn’t want to stop playing. He has told me a couple of times that he’s had to go and he has a tell. He’ll start pulling at his pants if he needs to go. My best advice is to listen to your gut/spirit on how to potty train. Every kid and parent is different and you have to find out what works for you.

    • Thanks! I know he’ll get it eventually.

  • Desiree @ Macke Monologues

    You didn’t fail at all! Potty training is such a big hurdle, and a hurdle everyone has to be ready to jump.
    Before you know it Rhys will be potty trained and this moment will be but a thing of the past!

    • I know. For now, I just have to suck up and be willing to buy two sets of diapers.