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Potty Training Tough Kids

Melissa Roja Lawlor
Dec. 11, 2012

One mom explains the differences in potty training her two boys as part of the Care.com Interview Series

Savvy bargain hunter Lea Ann Stundins of Mommy's Wish List thought she got a free pass when her oldest miraculously potty trained himself, but she definitely paid her dues with her youngest (appropriately nicknamed Hurricane). The mom of two shares with us her fears of "revenge-poop," and why you should never turn your back on a kid who is not potty trained.

Tell us about your family and your blog.

I have a husband who works for the city, a super smarty-pants math-nerd teenage boy who goes to the number one public high school in America, and a 6-yr-old who'd nickname is Hurricane. *guess why*

How long did it take to potty train your children?

My oldest, whom everyone refers to as "The Poster Child For Having Children", actually potty-trained himself when he was 11 months old. He couldn't walk yet, but he was speaking full sentences. I explained to him "This is the potty, this is what it's for." One time. Then he would just say "Mommy I need to go potty." And I'd pick him up and set him on it. Never wore a diaper again. I think he stopped wearing them at the Size 3.

My youngest had more important things to worry about, like peeling veneer off dressers and painting furniture with red fingernail polish, to be bothered with mundane things like potty training. He was probably 4 before he had the daytime potty thing conquered. And he just stopped wearing nighttime diapers a couple months ago. "It's too hard to get up in the middle of the night and pee. Gah."

See expert tips on ways to help your little one stay dry at night »

What books/resources were most helpful to teaching potty training?

Since I felt like a new mother with my second one, I read everything I could find on the internet. I never had to learn this stuff the first time around. I also asked all my friends and any babysitters, preschool teachers, and childcare specialists I knew for help.

What was your biggest fear going into potty training?

That the kid would revenge-poop in my sock drawer for making him take a minute out of his busy schedule to use the potty.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you before you started potty training?

Be hardcore about it. Stop EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, and get it done in a couple days.

What's the biggest mistake you feel you made while potty training your children?

Overall, with Luka, the biggest mistake I made was assuming that he would act like a human. Not a zoo animal. Having had the perfect child first, I was fooled into thinking that reasoning with small children actually works on all of them. When it came to potty training, Luka tended to act more like the animals in the zoo than a rational person, as evidenced by his monkey poop flinging.

And this didn't just happen at home, where no one could see it. He did it in public too. Throwing a loaded diaper at one's friends makes you legendary in this neighborhood. Lesson learned: never turn your back on a kid who is not potty trained.

After a few years of this monkey business, potty training wore me down and I became less enthusiastic about getting it done. "So what if he still wears diapers in high school?" I thought. At three and a half, he had acquired an extensive vocabulary of popular idioms and metaphors. And he used them correctly. The potty training reasoning (why NOT to in this case) rose to a whole new level. He used sports metaphors to explain why he just couldn't be bothered with going potty. I'm pretty sure I could get this kid a gig on Comedy Central.

Maybe if he's this funny in high school, no one will notice he's still wearing diapers.

Tell us about a time when you realized that you might have to change your strategy with potty training.

I already knew it was going to be an uphill battle dealing with a kid who is not motivated by reward or punishment. But when Luka started using sports metaphors to explain why he couldn't possibly go potty for me, it confirmed that I was not dealing with a normal 2-yr-old. I was dealing with a tiny, sarcastic teenager who had already learned to push my buttons for fun.

Read more tips on potty training a reluctant child »

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently with potty training?

I might have given every penny I had to hire someone else to go through that hell.

Can you offer any tips for parents about to begin the potty training process?

Decide to block out a couple days and do this and nothing else. Don't put pants on your child and let it run down their legs and make puddles. Diapers and pull-up pants just cover up the gross-factor, which is sometimes the only motivator.

If you potty trained both boys and girls, which presented the bigger challenge? Have you or any of your friends experienced a huge difference between sexes?

I've only trained one boy and one superhuman. Not girls. But, all my friends with girls say they are so much easier to potty train, mostly because they are more compliant, more focused, more motivated. They also do not take their loaded diapers off in public and throw them at their friends.

Are girls easier to potty train than boys? See what the experts say »

Lea Ann Stundins is currently a creative freelancer and a nationally recognized blogger at Mommy's Wish List. She is married and has two boys ages 15 and 6. She can often be seen handing out coupons to other mommies in the school parking lot or cursing at both Photoshop and Illustrator in her glamorous dining room office. You can find Lea Ann on Facebook or Twitter.

For more potty training tips, visit our Care.com Interview Series: Potty Training Survival »

Photo used with permission from Lea Ann Stundins.

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