I'm not sure I've ever been more terrified as a stay-at-home Dad, than when I decided to (literally) strip Liam (my oldest) of his diapers. Seeing as we also have 17-month old twins, we knew that Liam having just turned 3 was a bit older than when most people train, but we didn't care! I went out on the weekend and got some underwear - both a boring 3-pack of trainers as well as fun 3-pack of Bubble Guppies underwear.
(In fact, Liam picked those ones out with me. THIS ALWAYS HELPS!!! Involve your kids in decision making that affects them. If you're going to make pizza, cut up spinach and red peppers and mushrooms and then ask them for help and have THEM put the toppings on... they will be way more likely to eat that Pizza). I wanted to see if the same would work with underwear. After the underwear was purchased, I headed over to Toys R Us and got a real looking potty that flushed and everything. (Liam is a copycat and loves to mimic. I assume most 2/3 year olds are like this, so, I knew that a Paw Patrol, or other character toilet would not work for him).
I also went out and bought a sticker book. Liam thrives on praise of any kind, and stickers are special in our household, so, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to use them as motivation. I bought two different books, and a sticker chart. I was ready to go!
Oh... and I got a potty training book... which of course, had a button to push where it made the sound of a toilet flushing. That's right... I went all out here and was gonna do everything possible to ace this milestone with Liam. I even made a deal with my sister in law that every time I had to clean up poop from... well anywhere, I would simply text her, "aww, sh*t! 💩".
Monday morning rolled around and I told Liam after changing his diaper that I wasn't going to put a new one on, but rather the underwear we had purchased. He was not having any of it. After a lot of coaxing, some time sitting on the potty and a million tears he finally relented and we put on his first pair of underpants. Fifteen minutes later I grabbed him and we ran to the potty again and we both sat on our respective "potties". He was confused because he didn't have to pee, but I did. Five minutes later he peed his pants with the force and quantity of a tsunami! He was destroyed. He didn't understand what was happening and he certainly didn't understand why he wasn't getting stickers.
Another thing I had done in the weeks prior to this was read a lot of articles online and talked to my sister-in-law who had done this just a few months ago and it was unanimous: whatever you do... don't scold, yell or punish your child for having an accident. So, I grabbed another pair of underpants, wiped him down, tears and all, and we started over.
We ran out of underwear that first day. And again on Tuesday.
On Tuesday he pooped too. That was gross. I sent off a text. 💩 Then, on Wednesday something snapped. We went to the potty roughly 719 times that day. 712 were false alarms. We did have one big accident where he just completely forgot while he was having fun with his brother; but in the end we only went through 2 pairs of underwear, and Liam started stockpiling the stickers on his chart.
On Thursday we only used 1 pair, as he didn't have a single accident, and somewhere along the way, he started to forget about stickers and simply thrived off of the high fives after "Da pee!". But then on Friday I realized that he hadn't pooped since his accident on Tuesday. He was holding it! That's how adamantly he did not want to poop in the potty. It took all day, but we finally got it out. I was gone that day... Lisa gets the credit for that. She simply left him alone to walk around in the bathroom, readjust positions, and finally, after many tears, loud frustrated noises, and encouragement, it happened. And we've been clear sailing ever since. I potty trained my 3-year old boy in 5 days and I only got to send one text to my sister-in-law!
We all grew during the week, most of all, my wife and I as we saw a different side of our son. It wasn't about the techniques or how many times he successfully used his little potty, but it was about the trust we built with him, all embarking on something totally new together. He's a confident, potty-trained 3-year old. Now, onto the next life lesson...