Potty Training Restart

Vivian took a huge step backwards on our trip to Madison, just weeks after we started her potty training. My plan for the drive to Madison was to stop 4-5 times on the way for her to try to go (while having her in a pull-up, however). It turned out Mac had stop about 45 minutes into the trip. We all packed into the stall, as usual, and Mac went first, then I did. This bathroom had an automatic flush that was VERY loud. My kids don’t like loud. And this one was LOUD. When it was Vivian’s turn, she freaked. Big time. We’re talking yelling, screaming, kicking, huge tantrum. I wasn’t sure what to do. She had occasionally been resistant in the last couple of weeks, and I thought I was having a power struggle, so I dug in my heals. I calmly told her she wouldn’t have the iPad or a treat in the car if she didn’t try. She continued to scream. After about 10 minutes of the screaming in this public, very echoey, loud bathroom, I stopped and we left. I took away the iPad. There were no treats. I felt defeated and very frustrated. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. She’d gone on a public toilet before. She’s been around automatic flushes before.

We stopped again less than an hour later and went through the entire production again. Same result. I even tried to lift her onto the toilet and hold her there, but she stiffened up and I couldn’t do it. I was even more frustrated and felt myself losing patience and getting angry, which I knew would be counter-productive. I accepted that it wasn’t going to happen and didn’t make her try again, only offered. I wasn’t sure what was going on.

Then it got worse! When we arrived at my mom’s, she wouldn’t go on the potty there either. Uh oh! And I had forgotten our little potty chair… this could be a long week.

Later that day, I had to go to Target. We all went together, and I looked at potty chairs. I decided to get the cheapest one, thinking if it brings her back, great, and if not, I’ll return it. Well, we got home from Target, and Vivian immediately took out the potty chair, took the wrapper off, carried it into the bathroom and went! Whew! It was a huge relief, but the whole ordeal changed my vision for the week – now I felt like I needed to spend a day getting back into the potty-training routine, where we had finally gotten to the point where I was barely having to remind her to go. Thankfully, after the next full day, she was getting back on track. We were still behind, though, because she still refused to use the “big potty.” We still went on our outings after that first day, but I put her in a pull-up, and surprisingly, for the most part she was able to hold it while we were out.

By the last couple of days, I got her to go on the big potty at night, telling her if she was going to come out of her bed to go, she had to use the big potty. And she did, but not consistently, and she still refused to use (and seemed scared of) public toilets. I was stumped. What happened?! But after talking with my sisters, I think the loud auto-flush really did have a bigger effect on her than I would have ever imagined. I switched my thinking from power struggle to helping ease her fear. I started to carry a cloth in my diaper bag to cover automatic flushes. It took a while for her to get the concept. I exposed her to as many public bathrooms as I could without forcing her to try.

Then, while I was in New York, a text conversation:

Jeremy: Oh my gosh. I did not think and flushed the toilet just as Vivian was about to go potty at the toilets at the pool. BIG MISTAKE
Me: Uh oh! Can you recover?
Jeremy: Already did and she went on the big potty.
Me: At the pool?!
Jeremy: Yep
Me: Sweet!
Jeremy: It helps that I was able to hold her on it and gave her no choice.
Me: Way to go – keep it up! I’m a little leery of forcing after the setback.
Jeremy: She calmed down and then went. And when she was done she gave me a big hug and yelled I did it.

So we made it over another hurdle for the second time. That’s not to say there weren’t continued struggles going, at home and even more often away, but we did continue to make progress. We improved the public restroom issue with several outings throughout the month, with holding her on and hugging her to calm her until she went. Not pleasant, but mission accomplished.

She is still quite inconsistent, and she still usually poops in her underwear, but I am hopeful that a day will come in the very near future when we can say she’s been accident free for more than a couple of days!

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