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Success Story: The Tale of Toilet Training


There’s no hard and fast rule about when and how to toilet train a child, but experts say that if the child is ready, half the battle is won.  Some people choose to *make* the child ready by programming them to go potty from the onstart, but I was of the *other* school of thought and only began starting Ethan on toilet training after he turned 3.

Yes, you may have noticed that I hardly blogged about toilet training because I wanted it to happen naturally, or so I thought.  I also didn’t wanna jinx the process by blogging about it and then having to retract whatever I had written.  You could say that I wanted to wait till the entire process was completed before I wrote about it.

I’m extremely proud of my little boy … now my little man.  Although it was a process that took us 3 years to complete, I’m so happy that through it all, he feels a sense of achievement in what he is doing.  The initial struggle has been well worth it.

Because once it happens, it just does.

In the Beginning

Ethan was able to let us know when he wanted to poopoo when he was about 2+, and that helped loads.  But the peepee portion was the one that was eluding us.  I tried taking him to the toilet every now and then, but I could tell he was not ready.  Even though he was in cloth diapers then, which were supposed to speed up toilet training, he just wasn’t ready.

We had a few successes during our US relocation, as sometimes he would peepee successfully when we take him to the toilet.

At other times, though, he just wasn’t interested.

So we decided to go cold turkey and put him in underpants.  But even then, he would not feel uncomfortable when he had small accidents.  Time and again, we went back to square one, and we were not going anywhere.  I tried sticker charts (1 sticker for a successful peepee and 2 for a successful poopoo).  It worked for a while but then the novelty wore off and he would go back to wearing his pull-ups.

I admit I did worry a little as to when he would be toilet-trained, but then I kept reminding myself that there weren’t any teenagers I knew who weren’t toilet-trained, so I knew the day he would be completely trained would come some day.  The question is just when.

Admittedly, it’s difficult when we were in the minority.  When people around you tell you about their kids who are toilet-trained since 2, you just have to learn to smile and say, “He’ll be ready soon.”

Back to Cold Turkey

When he started nursery school, I had a small chat with his teacher and she suggested we put him in underpants in school.  They would try to encourage him and handle any accidents, if any.  I was a little apprehensive at that time, but decided to try that.  Ethan did not take to “following the crowd”, so I knew that he would only go potty in school if he made that decision himself, and not because all his friends were doing it.

The first few weeks were scary, to say the least.  Ethan told us that he didn’t like the toilet in school, because it was wet and “dirty”, and he would want his teacher to wipe first before he did his business.  In addition, he would “prefer” some toilets in the school only, and avoid the rest.

At this point, Ethan was very into the Black Eyed Peas song, “I Got A Feeling”.  So I used this and told him that when he felt the urge to peepee, just start singing the song, “I Got a Feeling”.  It worked :) Periodically, I would also ask him, “Do you have the feeling now?”  He was very amused and would successfully peepee in the toilet with close to zero accidents.

I shared the “I Got A Feeling” method with his teachers and they told me it worked too.  They got a response from him when they asked him “Do you have the feeling?”

Pricey But Effective

It was also at this time that he was interested in Thomas and Friends.  So I introduced the Thomas and Friends reward chart.  A very expensive idea, it was. 😛

I would print out a picture of a die-cast vehicle that he did not own, and would like to have and underneath it, I printed some squares.  I had him choose his marker for peepee and poopoo, and told him that if he filled up the chart, I would buy him the die-cast vehicle for that chart.  For example, a blue star for peepee and a yellow oval for poopoo.

I still remember the first chart.  I wanted it to be a challenge for him and yet I did not want to discourage him.  So I think I started out with 5 squares.

He completed that chart in less than 3 hours.

And demanded that we head to Toys R Us to get the vehicle. 😛

I increased the number of squares for every chart and soon, he was able to collect vehicle after vehicle.  It felt like he worked hard for it, and we praised him every time he successfully kept him pants dry :)  He graduated to filling up 100 squares per chart for a die-cast vehicle, amassing an entire collection of Thomas & Friends vehicles along the way.

Sometimes he would still have small accidents at home and forget to tell us, so I remember bringing this up with his teacher in school.  She was surprised when I told her that, because she said that in school, Ethan had no problems letting her know when he needed to go to the loo and has been independently going by himself for a few months now.

The teacher then told me that she would encourage Ethan to do the same at home as in school, and it actually worked.  During this time, I remembered I was incredibly ecstatic the first time on Nov 2nd 2010 when Ethan took the initiative and asked to go potty.  He removed his pants and pull-ups by himself and peed standing.  You bet we praised him sky high then.

From then on, when at home, he would ask me, “Mommy can I go to the toilet?”

He was about 4 years old at that time, and would be dry in the daytime, everyday.

Day and Night

I wasn’t in a rush to push him to be dry through the night, and he was still in his pull-ups at night for some time.  At that time, when he was about 5 years or so, I started toilet training Hannah because she had shown some signs of readiness.  Each of them got a chart; Hannah’s was for successfully peeing and pooing in the toilet, and Ethan’s was for keeping dry through the night.

Ethan started showing a keen interest to fill up his chart way faster than Hannah.  Yeah, you can call it sibling rivalry, but I call it, “What works” :)

Anyway, he also asked me when he could wear underpants to sleep instead of pull-ups.  I told him it would be more comfortable in the night and he would sleep better.  But my deal with him was that he had to keep his pull-ups dry for 5 nights in a row, then only would I put him in undies for the night.

It Finally Happened

After several attempts, he finally managed to stay dry 5 nights in a row.  It was sometime at the end of the December in 2011 at that time, and we had just come back from a trip to KL.  He insisted on wearing underpants to sleep and I remembered I was wary but excited all the same.  We put him in underpants and in the morning, lo and behold, it was all DRY!  He was happy beyond belief.

Granted, he did have one smallish accident a few days later, but nothing major.

From then on, he has been in underpants all the time.  And what’s more, he would now encourage his sister to stay dry at night too (she’s doing a great job keeping dry in the daytime now).  He’s 100% toilet-trained before he hit 6 years old and that’s a complete milestone all in itself!


Growing Up

Now he wakes up independently at night if he needs to peepee, goes to the toilet by himself and washes his hands and then goes right back to sleep.  We put a chair right below the light switch just in case he needs to turn on the lights.

I’m so proud of my big boy now.  He made his own choices and it just proves that toilet training is a battle won, only when the child is ready.

  1. Susan’s avatar

    Yay for Ethan! :)

    Joyce says: Thanks Susan!


  2. Joey’s avatar

    A long but rewarding journey. I try not to pressure Ewan to be diaper-free, partly because I’m lazy and also because if I start training him but the daycare doesn’t follow through, it defeats the purpose as well. They train age group by age group, and so far, they’re focusing on the 3-year olds now. Good thing is, Ewan can already tell us whenever he feels a poop coming but for pee, he will need more time :) Will definitely refer to your tips when the time comes!

    Joyce says: Great! Although my advice would be to “take it easy” most of the time…LOL



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