Home > Attachment Parenting, Parenting > A whole new weaning… Diapers be gone!

A whole new weaning… Diapers be gone!

Oh where do I begin?  I just posted this to my twitter: “i have no idea what I am doing with this potty learning with my STUBBORN 3.5 boy. this is such a battle and I don’t want it to be.”  “NOTHING is working!!! He is so ready, but it is a power struggle. I am just done! My gentle parenting side isn’t finding anything works”  “Even “No Cry Potty Solution” says “sometimes you just have do it” just like when he used to fight teeth brushing and I had to hold him down”  “I hate hate hate that I can’t be the mommy I want to be!!!”  Can you sense my desperation??  Within moments I had 17 responses (can I tell you how much I LOVE my tweeps!? A shout out to them at the end…)

In order to really understand and offer advice, I need to give you the whole story since every kid is different.  So, get ready to know M better than you ever thought you would.

M is amazing!  I am about to talk about a lot of things that might seem negative and that is hard for a mommy to do, so I want to say that first.  I love and adore him and I am constantly amazed by him.  (here it is…) Buuuuttttttt, there are many parts of his personality that make him VERY difficult to parent.  Everything with him is an extreme.  M is just MORE.  He is MORE persistent, MORE stubborn, MORE independent, MORE active, MORE whiny, MORE clingy, MORE needy.  He is the poster child for “strong willed”.  I LOVE Dr. Sears, but I have a hard time when he talks about working with your child’s natural desire to please, because that part seems to be missing with M.  He is fairly defiant.  If you want him to do something, he is VERY likely to do the opposite even if he KNOWS he will receive a negative reaction.  Discipline with him has been just as difficult as potty learning because of these traits.  He seems to LOVE negative attention!  You can’t bribe him usually, everything just has to be on his terms.  He is also a perfectionist!  He wouldn’t let anyone but me, (not even A) see him on his new tricycle when he was 2.5 until he knew he had it down pat.

I learned VERY early that, because of these traits, potty learning would need to be handled carefully.  We did everything we could to make this an easy experience for him.  We have talked about what our bodies do, what our pee and poop are, how bathrooms work, etc.  We have allowed him in the room while we go, read many books, we have potty seats and a chair that he picked out.  We have sticker boards in each bathroom.  We have gently offered to take him to the bathroom and made it very non-pressure.  This has all been over the last year and a half.

He knows what he is supposed to do completely, so his issue isn’t preparedness with that. We have also had his friend from next door potty in front of him and encourage him (she is 6 months older).  He does say he is scared of the potty.  I don’t know why or where it came from.  He has never been afraid of the flush (still isn’t).  He told me one time about alligators in it.  So A got a book M has that shows how things work (love Usborne books!) and showed him how it worked.  We even took off the back of the toilet and showed him and we showed him how no alligator would fit in there.  He hasn’t said any more about that but still says he is scared.  I think he uses that sometimes as a resistance.

There have been a few short spurts (the most recent back in July) when he showed interest.  We would embrace it and encourage him gently.   In July, he would sit on the potty while I read book after book.  He never made any “deposits” and after a few days lost interest.  We took it as a sign he wasn’t ready and backed off to avoid any power struggle.

He started going to a daycare/preschool 2 days a week in Oct.  He is with 7 kids (ages 3-5) and is the only one not totally potty-trained.  I thought this would offer great encouragement.  He does sit on the potty there, several times a day.  He doesn’t like it but he does and counts to 30 with the teacher.  He even takes off his own pants and everything!!!!  But, never gets anything deposited.

2 weeks ago his teacher asked us to bring underwear for him.  He had an accident the first day and cried, but was proud of himself for being in big boy underwear (he even told me “I have accident just like my potty book!”).  At this point he would be diapers with underwear over them at home and during naps at school and then just underwear the rest of the day at school.  The next day he just didn’t pee all day!  They went ahead and left him in his underwear and when we got home and he was playing he had an accident and cried.

After that he started holding it for a LONG time… even WITH his diaper on.  At home we were still doing a diaper with underwear over it since he wouldn’t sit on the potty.  Well he would constantly be asking us to change him.  We think he would feel the need to pee and then hold  it and ask us to change him.  We tried to help him identify this as the feeling that means he needs to sit on the potty but he won’t do it at home!

Then this week came along.  He is only peeing 2 times per day!!  He is just holding it for a long time diaper or no diaper, until he can’t anymore.  He even went 3 days without a poop!!  So, we feel like we need to really get moving on this at home because it scares us.  He doesn’t want to go in his pants or diaper, so we HAVE to get him started on the potty!!!  His teacher felt that Weds. might have been too much pressure (when he finally did put a few drops in) so today she went to underwear with a diaper OVER them.  She said he was a so much better and was all involved with the day.  He even went to the bathroom himself, but still no deposits.  If he is so willing there, then why not at home or grandma’s?

So, how do you get a VERY stubborn 3.5 yo boy on a potty he will run from?  Hell if I know!  I had a total break down tonight and held him there.  It was awful. I am not proud of it and hated myself for it, but I am so freaked that he won’t potty!  (He only went once today at about 9am!!!!! And he didn’t poop all day.)  Of course it didn’t end well.  After I gave myself a time out I talked to him and this is what I told him… “When you were little you didn’t want to brush your teeth, but you had to or they would hurt.  So when you wouldn’t do it, mommy had to hold you down and do it anyways.  I didn’t like to do that, but I had to until you learned that you needed to do it.  This is the same thing.  You don’t want to use the potty, but you have to or your tummy will hurt.  So, until you decide you are going to do it yourself, I will have to take you to the potty and keep you there.  I will stay with you and snuggle you, but we are doing it no matter what, even if you cry.  So, I am going to count to three and then take you in there, sit you down and count to thirty.”  Then I slowly counted to three and carried him into the bathroom. He fought at first, but then it went well and we snuggled while I counted.  Nothing happened, but at this point I just need him to get used to the potty first, right?  Once he is getting used to it, he will be more relaxed and then try letting things out.  right?  After that, we let him pick a sticker and put it up.  He seemed a lot better, but I still feel lost.

So, please, ANY advice?!  We have done all we can.  Am I doing the right thing now??  Here is a list of all the things I can think of that we have tried:

  1. The big Lego when he made his first deposit, no matter how small
  2. Putting his diaper over his underwear (he just shuts down if you take diaper totally away for a few days it seems)
  3. Being consistent with what is happening at school
  4. let him pick his potty seats
  5. I even promised an iTouch when he stays daytime dry for a week (cheaper than diapers!!!!)
  6. sticker board for any attempt
  7. lots of praise for any try
  8. cheerios in the bowl
  9. pick out his own big boy undies
  10. books and conversations that he leads
  11. Been very positive about any accidents, etc
  12. tonight I assured him that being a big boy that uses the potty doesn’t mean he can’t snuggle or sit on our laps or be carried
  13. Made a big deal out of any attempt
  14. I even called my family doctor who I trust tremendously. I spoke to his nurses and they said to take the diapers away.

So, please, if you have a VERY VERY strong-willed child, I need any advice you have about ANYTHING!  But, seriously, please help me.  I have struggled as his mother since day one because his needs do not fit well with my personality.  I don’t get to be the mommy I always thought I would be because he needs something totally different.  It is hard and there are so many times when I feel completely unprepared and unqualified.  I wouldn’t trade him for the world.  I just need to keep learning how to be his best mommy.  So, please help me with that!!!

Thanks everyone!  And a special thanks to @jet_set @butterflysnbees @StayAtHomeMaven @Crunchynurse @LLeighMartin @Momalom @arlenetorres for your support and thoughts on Twitter!  If you are not following these folks, you should be!!


  1. Aly
    November 21, 2009 at 1:57 AM

    I think you should get rid of the nappies/diapers.Put him in his underwear and maybe training pants on top.Have you taken him to the doctor or paeditrician? Have you spoken to other mother’s at your son’s pre-school? I think you should maybe take on a more laid back approach and don’t push it too much.You say he does the opposite and this maybe the key to the problem.My oldest daughter aged 4 still has accidents and wets the bed every night, so I know what it’s like and it does try my patience.Oh, how about making up the potty dance or song.Make the idea of going to the potty fun.

  2. November 21, 2009 at 2:30 AM

    Gracie REFUSED to sit on the potty. When she was 2 we bought her a potty chair (it was a throne that made music when you “deposit” into it.) We tried that for a while, just in a laid back manner, but she just wanted to sit on it all day and all night, like it was a toy. Eventually it became kind of unhealthy, so I put it away. When she was 3 she saw a Dora seat that fits on the big toilet that she liked. We bought that and tried it a few times. She would sit there but nothing would happen. After a couple of months of trying, mostly gentle coaxing, she got to where she REFUSED to sit on the toilet. Finally, in the end of October last year, after trying everything I could think of (even a few techniques I’m not so proud of) I threw my hands up in the air and said screw it. I put her in panties. The first accident she had, she brought me her pair of sopping wet undies and just handed them to me wadded up. I told her that I was disappointed and that this is not what big girls do. I put her on the potty for a moment to help her understand what I meant, despite her arguments. The next time she needed to pee, I expected her to go in the potty. A few hours later, she came to me bare butt, asking for a new pair of undies. I found a puddle in her bedroom and the wet undies hidden under the bed. We went through the same routine but I could see that she was getting tired so I threw her back in a pull-up and gave up for the day. The next day, she came to me and said that she was going to need new panties. She was still dry, so I rushed her onto the pot and she started to pee but forced herself to stop, like she was going to be in trouble.
    “GREAT! GREAT, GRACIE!!! THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO! KEEP GOING!!!” I urged. She let loose and didn’t have a single (potty) accident for months. She wets the bed from time to time, but mostly only if she has a lot to drink before bed. (Pooping in the pot was much harder. We had some pretty big blowout fights over that. I’ll tell you all about that one another time.)

    Anyway – I didn’t mean to write the next great American novel in your comments section – I just wanted to tell you about our experiences and hopefully maybe you can pull something from that. ….ohnooooo…. I just realized I’m going to have to go through all of this again in a couple of years…. Crap.

  3. November 21, 2009 at 9:03 AM

    I am not much help I just have to say your son has the personality it sounds like of my 2 year old girl. My oldest is the exact opposite and wants to please and can be talked into anything. My 2 year old has been since a baby…if she doesn’t want to do something she DOES NOT and thats that. There is NO persuading, calming down…
    In a way I think man how lucky that she feels so strongly on what she wants and isn’t easily persuaded. And then the other part of me is terrified! And potty training her I know is going to be HARD SO! I am going to watch you do it first and hopefully you will have a post soon and what worked! Cause I am SO nervous!

  4. Tara
    November 21, 2009 at 10:09 AM

    I know that Ocean isn’t fully potty trained yet and I am no where near a potty training profesional but here was my experience with it. Ocean used to run away and yell “NO, I SAY NO!!” Everytime you even mentioned going to the potty. I think that was because I tried something “No Cry Potty Solution” told me, I let him run around naked all day so that he learned how it worked and associated the action with the feeling. He had an accident in the hallway and made quite a mess and I’m sure it tramatized him because he was quite upset. So I backed off a few weeks. Then I tried to let him run around in big boy underwear so that maybe when he peed he wouldn’t like the feeling of being wet and would want to go in the potty, he didn’t care about being wet. So I backed off for a while again. We still read the books and watched the videos (Ocean is a visual learner) and every time I changed his diaper I told him it was wet or poopy and asked him when he was going to use the potty like a big boy and went though the list of all of his friends who are big kids that use the potty. Then one day while I was changing his diaper he kept saying “Ice Cream Cone” so I told him if he used the potty Daddy would bring him home an ice cream cone. And to my suprise and amazement he said “All Right” and marched himself to the potty. So maybe you have to find the bribe that best suits him because I have tried using candy and toys even his favorite M&Ms and they didn’t work, but he really wanted an ice cream cone. And what he wants changes from day to day, minute to minute actually. So when he wants something, like to play outside or fruit snacks I tell him he has to use the potty first. This tactic didn’t work the first time I tried it, it took the ice cream cone for the break though. But I think it was because he was ready. And I’m sure there is a lot of pressure to get Maddox potty trained because of his age and being in pre-school but you may have felt pressure to wean him too but you took his lead and made it a pleasant experience. Maybe you could try taking the same approach to potty training and take his lead. Don’t worry he won’t be in diapers forever! When he is ready it will be a peice of cake! Ohh and another thing I just remembered, I didn’t do it with Ocean but someone told me to try to put the potty in the living room or if he has a place that he goes to ‘hide’ when he is going in his diaper to put it there. Ocean usually ‘hid’ next to the couch. This was going to be my next approach and if he regresses with the potty training it will be my next ‘experiment’ I hope this helps, you have helped me so much with the mommy thing I wanted to give back. 🙂

    • November 22, 2009 at 9:39 PM

      This is great advice and thank you so much for sharing. I especially thank you for reminding me about how we approached weaning with M. It is so easy to get caught up in the pressure and I am not proud to say that I think we did. We are doing exactly what you suggest. We are backing off and letting him lead us now. I am going to post a new blog to follow up to this I think. Thanks again!!

  5. November 21, 2009 at 1:00 PM

    Thanks for all the info everyone! I really hope more will continue to post. However, we have decided to step back and stop for now. M has not peed for over 27 hours!!! And he has had a diaper on that whole time. We told him this morning that we are sorry, mommy and daddy will not be pushing him and will give him some time. We aren’t going to do any more with it until at least the new year unless he does it himself. I just can’t watch him go through this. Last night he slept with us and woke up several times whining and flailing around. I asked him what was wrong and he said his belly hurt. He never did potty and was dry all night. I can’t let him go 27 hours without urinating. There is no way. So we are removing any expectations or pressure and not even going to talk about it. And I am going to ask the school to do the same thing. I am hopeful that he will realize that he is ok and start pottying more regularly again.

    Ugh, this is so hard!! I feel awful and helpless and frustrated. I really really hope that more information will come in from people that have been through this. Thank you again to those that have already offered your help.


  6. November 21, 2009 at 7:30 PM

    First, you’re definitely welcome 🙂 When I see an overwhelmed mom I just want to reach out and hug her. It’s not an easy job! There are SO many things I want to say, but the long and short of it is: I’ve been there. I have three boys who are simply MORE. More spirited. Higher energy. Higher needs. It’s a good thing I got sober a long time before having my kids or I would be that stereotypical 50’s housewife with the stashes of sherry all over the house! LOL But really, I’ve been there, and it is so damn hard some days.

    I was going to email you about my experiences with DS#1, but I can’t find an email link! If you want to talk about spirited kids, please feel free to fire me off some mail. I’d love to chat any time!

  7. November 22, 2009 at 4:40 PM

    Good luck to you Crystal! It’s kind of comical to me that you’re taking his diapers away… I’ll be checking up on how that’s going 🙂

  8. November 22, 2009 at 11:02 PM

    Please see the follow-up post to this http://thevervepath.com/2009/11/22/bringing-back-diapers/

    For anyone with VERY strong-willed children, please let my experience be a lesson. We have to let them lead and trust them. We MUST!

  9. Kristi
    November 23, 2009 at 10:18 PM

    My strong-willed, extremely stubborn child is now 14yo. We never really had potty issues, but had problems with other things. He too was very extreme with his will, emotions and his resolve. I’ve cried many tears trying to be the kind of mom he needed and there are still times when I feel this way. I don’t really have any advice. I just want you to know that you are not alone. -@TweetingMama

  10. November 23, 2009 at 11:49 PM

    No advice, but virtual hugs and sympathy. My youngest is also a strong-willed 3-and-a-half year old little boy (who’s still in diapers). My oldest son was strong-willed too, but this child consistently beats any record for strong-willed I’ve ever seen. Ever single day he amazes me and does something to make me shake my head — and with three brothers before him, frankly, I thought I was prepared!

  1. November 22, 2009 at 10:59 PM

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