The Underwear Project.

February 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Posted in milestones | 18 Comments

Yesterday, when I went to pick O up from school, his afternoon teacher, Miss Friendly, told me she was having success with getting him to sit on the potty.

But she told me that she thought he needed a push to get him to take the next step. And that she wouldn’t mind having him in underwear in the afternoons, even though she knew that he’d have accidents initially.

And, you know, this meshed with what I know about my kid.

I think she’s right. O doesn’t really get the POINT of sitting on the potty, since he can pee or poop whenever he wants and be changed at his convenience.

She then told me that she LOVES to potty train kids, to see what works with them, and she was more than happy to help O learn how to use the potty.

Honestly, after talking with her?

I thought it was a GREAT idea to bring in underwear and extra clothes so she could get started this afternoon. I talked it up with O on the way home today. I put him in a pull up this morning, and even got him to sit on the potty this morning before we went to school (a huge win for us, since usually mornings are fraught with tantrums and TV and stress).

And I happened mention the Afternoon Underwear Project to his primary caretaker, Miss Quiet, this morning, when I dropped him off.

Because I personally want everyone on the same page when it comes to things with my kid.

Miss Quiet, however, didn’t think it was a great idea.

In fact, I think her words were something like this:

I don’t think he’s ready. His diaper is always wet when I change him. I’m concerned that we’re pushing him too far too soon and it’ll become a control thing. I know boys train later, my son wasn’t trained until he was four.

Now, some background. O is in school from 8:30 until just before 6 on a daily basis. Miss Quiet is in charge of him from 8:30 to 2:30, which includes naptime. Miss Friendly then takes over.

I like BOTH of his teachers, and I actually believe that both of them are looking after O’s best interest.

And honestly.

Miss Quiet could be RIGHT. It’s possible that O isn’t ready. Because he’s NOT one of those kids who loves to sit on the potty. It’s a struggle to get him to take time out of his morning for a freaking DIAPER change, much less sitting for more than 1 minute at a time on the potty.

I have no idea which approach is best in this situation.

And you know, I’m sure that if we did nothing for another year, O WOULD potty train just fine. Because he’ll be potty trained when he’s ready.

So this is not a “OMG my kid will never potty train like EVER!” issue. It’s not really even a WORRY, because I know we have time before it becomes a worry.

But for me.

Aside from the frustration of having two different teachers with two different approaches to this whole thing?

The question is, for me, how we can encourage him to learn a new skill – like potty training. How do we work WITH him to teach him to learn something new?

It boils down to how he learns. O is one of those kids that doesn’t commit to a new skill unless he’s CERTAIN he’ll do okay. Like his parents, I get the feeling that he’s a perfectionist.

But that also means he’s unwilling to step out of his comfort zone and try something new, skill-wise.

Which means that in some situations, he might need a bit of a push. In a safe environment, where he’s got teachers and his parents behind him, encouraging him the whole way.

And what bothers me about Miss Quiet’s reaction is that she doesn’t think it’s a good idea even to TRY.

It’s possible that he might go the other way and after an afternoon of accidents, not want to go on the potty EVER. If that’s the case, then I’m fine with dropping the potty thing altogether for a while.

But honestly, we’re at a point with potty training that we either need to shit or get off the damn pot. Because for more than a YEAR now we’ve talked about the potty. We’ve read “Everyone Poops.” We’ve watched Elmo’s Potty Time a bazillion times. We’ve emptied umpteen bazillion poop-filled diapers into the toilet, where O loves to hear the “plop” and flush the toilet to watch it go down.

He KNOWS that poop and pee go in the toilet. I believe he is CAPABLE of learning how to potty train.

The question really boils down to which technique will work for my kid. Miss Quiet’s “Wait Until They’re REALLY Ready” approach, or Miss Friendly’s “Take a Risk and See What Happens” approach.

I, personally, am of the “Take a Risk and See What Happens” ilk.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.


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  1. A little peepee on the floor never hurt anyone! That’s why it’s called “training” just like learning to ride a bike with “training” wheels first. I don’t see any problem exposing him to it as long as there’s not stress and fret from them about it. That’s just my little assvice which is worth less than two cents. Ha

  2. For what it’s worth (not much, I know), TRYING isn’t going to do permanent psychological harm. If you put him in underwear for a day, a week, whatever works and it backfires, then you stop. You go back to diapers, you don’t mention the potty, you don’t pressure him to try again, you wait until he’s showing more or different signs of possible readiness before you introduce the subject again.

    TRYING is not going to hurt him. If Ms. Friendly thinks it’s worth a try in the afternoons, then by all means give it a try – just keep an eye on his stress level and his response to the new situation. If it’s not working, you stop. Plain and simple.

  3. I am much more in the “take a risk” boat. We did with Aiden. He was 3 and a half before he got the hang of it but we at least gave him plenty of opportunities to try along the way. Good luck!

  4. I never bothered with pull-ups with Lu. One day during the summer when she was 2.5 I let her run around the backyard with no pants on. She figured it out in a day. I say take a risk.

    Okay, I lie, not fully potty trained–just pee-trained. She asked for a diaper for another looong year and a half when she needed to poop before she finally did that on the toilet.

  5. Since Ms. Friendly will be able to provide both the supportive environment and the necessary push, I’d say go for it. He may not be ready, but you won’t know for sure until you try.

  6. If someone else was around to clean up (or, hey, at least corral) the accident mess, I’d totally give underwear a try. It won’t hurt anything, and pull-ups are just way too absorbent to get the message across. I just really haven’t found a good way to give it an honest go here since there is rarely a second set of hands for wrestling the sopping wet underwear and clothes off the tantruming boy before he sits on all the furniture.

    They won’t go to school in diapers. And if they do, they’ll be old enough to go change themselves in the bathroom.

  7. Bo finally trained when I made up my mind that we were going to do it. He was ready, it was just a matter of being able to devote the time that was needed to the cause.

    I seriously do not think you’ll scar him for life either way. πŸ™‚ And if his teacher wants to help, more power to her!! πŸ™‚

  8. I’ve commented before about how we did things, which was pretty much how Miss Friendly seems to want to proceed. It worked in a day. Seriously. If this is what you want to try, try it, because you’re the parent and Miss Quiet will just have to deal with it.

  9. I’d go for it – I think boys tend to train later because parents get told that, therefore shy away. My oldest trained at 2 years 9 months and my middle son at 2 years 6 months. As soon as they are capable, I can’t see any harm in giving a gentle push in that direction. If he’s totally resistant, then he is and shelve it for a bit – but what’s the harm in trying, gently? Even using rewards, etc? As long as you (and the teachers) don’t go negative or into punishing, it should be fine either way. I have read, you either need to do it when they are closer to 36 months as an almost 4 year old is too stubborn to change that easily – and if you wait that long, wait until they are just over 4 and much more agreeable/able to discuss it with you.

  10. You can always change your mind. So I would take a risk, see what happens. If it goes badly – drop the whole thing for a few months…and I mean drop it totally, don’t even mention potty…and give him some more time. Hang in there – I am going through it over here too. We started, and my son was so stressed he started having nightmares. So we are waiting for warmer naked weather, and trying again. Everyone gets it eventually!

  11. I my opinion he should be able to get the hang of it. He is almost three and most three year old boys that I know is off the diapers at around this time. (My son trained at 2y4mnths.) My approach to potty training is that the only way for them to learn is to pee and poop in their pants and thus realise that the feeling they had just before messing on themselves, was the feeling of having to go. Personnaly I would go with the afternoon teacher’s approach. It might be worthwhile to wait for warmer weather, though.

  12. Yeah, we ended up doing that, too. The risk option, that is. We had got to the point where PB would go “on command” (ie when we put him on the toilet he would go – I think I said before we started with once a day – we were a bit lucky because he would get the urge to pee when we ran his evening bath so it made it easier to get a foothold) but didn’t understand that he should tell us he needed to go, so maybe we were at a slightly different stage/along a different path. At any rate, we got to the stage where we decided to take the underwear approach and that is when it all seemed to click. We didn’t punish for accidents, but it just seemed to make more sense to him after that.

    Anyway. Best of luck. There are so many approaches and different kids learn in different ways. I’m sure there’s more than one solution for each individual, even.


  13. I think you should give it a try. Lyla had more accidents than I could count in one day …. we really didnt make progress until we moved to her being on underwear for a period of time during the day. If the afternoon teacher is willing to take time to help train him…. go for it. He will get it soon

  14. I think just give it a try and see what works. And, we have to remind ourselves that none of this stuff is going to scar them for life and who’s to say a little scarring isn’t a bad thing? But, still, frustrating to have the two teachers with two different approaches. Can I tell you how much I am dreading this????

  15. I think you and the first teacher are on the right path, but that’s just me. He sounds a bit like BabyHope – she wanted to get it right, and was scared of wearing underwear at first – scared to sit on the potty – and I think 1/2 was anxiety, 1/2 was that need to be “perfect”. I felt like she was ready, just needed that breakthrough moment. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard, either. Yeah, there was lots of pee on the floor, but we just stuck to the plan at home – and they were willing to do so at school, too. Good luck.

  16. I’m a little late and believe me I’m no expert, but I think you should go with the afternoon training sessions. I had little confidence that M was ready to potty train. Since he was 18 months old there has been a potty in his bathroom and there were many times that he initiated sitting on it. I would think “wow, he is ready” and then as quickly as the interest came it disappeared. His main teacher is amazing and SHE saw that he was ready. He was going in the potty at school very regularly (since about 2yrs 5months), but not too much at home. She told me that the week after Thanksgiving she wanted me to bring him in underwear. I thought she was crazy so I packed 5 pairs of pants and underpants that morning thinking that he would go through every single one and guess what? He didn’t! He is also a perfectionist and he is very driven by being like the “big kids.” So, once the diapers were off he made a conscious effort not to have an accident. He is sort of any urban legend I think and I don’t take any credit for his potty successes! What I am trying to tell you is that they will surprise you sometimes. Training never hurt anyone and if you have an awesome person that wants to help take on that task I think you should go for it. Plus, at home you could try doing an hour here and there until he gets more comfortable. Who knows he might shock that main teacher! And, no one will know until they try. I’m also a little shocked by that other teachers lackadaisical attitude. Our teachers encourage every child in my son’s room to use the potty. The ones that are still in diapers are taken to the bathroom just like everyone else and they are asked if they would like to try. They don’t have to, but they are taken at regular intervals so they know the option is there. Of the 16 2-3 1/2 year olds only 2 aren’t potty trained and they are the 2 youngest.

    The other morning on GMA they had a segement called “Pressure to Potty Train ‘Earlier and Earlier’ Lay Off the Diapers: Moms Are Being Pressured by Preschools to Potty Train Their Toddlers”

    This is a direct quote from the article that I found very interesting:
    “The trend is all part of the roller coaster ride potty training has gone through since the dawn of disposable diapers. In 1962, an estimated 90 percent of children were out of diapers by age two and a half. By 1998, that number had plummeted to just 22 percent.”

    So, they used that statistic, but they also were trying to hit home that there is too much pressure to potty train early these days. I found it very contradicting. There is too much pressure to train early, but the percent of kids potty trained young has dropped 68% in 46 years? I know there are a whole host of reasons that more kids were potty trained earlier back then (no disposable diapers, moms not working outside of the home, very busy active lifestyles now, etc.), BUT it also says to me that kids CAN do it if given the chance. I also think that kids will do it on their own time, but if they don’t know their different options how can we expect them to take the steps to be diaper free.

    Ok, I’ll shut my mouth now since I have no room to preach…I can’t take any credit for my son’s potty training success so I really have no idea what I’m talking about…

    Good luck with whatever you decide, but I think O can do it!

  17. I have NO advice, NONE…ZILCH, Zero. Because you know I’m trying to do with 2. LOL
    honestly, I just hope we all get to 4 next year and we are NOT blogging about PTing anymore…you know??? πŸ™‚

  18. we started out putting Jim in pull ups and encouraging him to go potty. Then we switched to underwear in the afternoons. Just recently he graduated to underwear all day.

    It took several iterations to figure out what works for Jim and what didn’t. we found the greatest success with his teacher was excited about it and encouraged him to do it on his own. Some other greatest challenges were to get people to actually put him in underwear and stop using a pull-up.

    we figured out over time that Jim can be bribed with Stickers, candy or snacks, but not with toys or “future gifts”.

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