The closest I’ve ever come to potty-training is housebreaking a dog. I figured the same general rules apply: reward good behavior and recognize bad behavior without being too critical.
With this as my blueprint, I kicked off Operation Big-Boy Underpants last month. My 2 ½-year-old son showed all the signs of being ready to ditch diapers. Bubba knew when he needed to go #1 and #2. He would even sneak away to do his business behind a chair in search of some privacy.
Day 1 – Operation Big-Boy Underpants began with a ceremony commemorating the final diaper change. Bubba was clearly excited about putting on his new underwear. He was equally apathetic about sitting on his potty chair.
The promise of an M&M for every liquid deposit into the potty bank and two M&Ms for every solid deposit was a good bribe. Bubba got one blue M&M before his first accident at 11:30 a.m.
Changing soggy underpants is no thrill, but I was encouraged that Bubba went four hours without an accident his first day on the job.
Later that afternoon, I laid Bubba down for a nap, wearing a pair of Pull-Ups. I figured these disposable training pants would be good for any accidents while sleeping. I was wrong.
Bubba saved much of his waste removal for naptime. When he awoke, the Pull-Up was bursting at the seams. I washed sheets later that afternoon, swearing off Pull-Ups for the remainder of Operation Big-Boy Underpants.
Day 2 – After a promising start, there were several accidents on the second day of training. Rinsing soiled Spiderman undies, I began to question Bubba’s preparedness. Yet, we trudged on.
Day 3 – No accidents! I was thrilled. He was showing signs of grasping the overarching theme of potty-training too.
We had switched to diapers during naptime and overnight, providing greater absorbency. There’s a bit of a mixed message here. Before bed, Bubba recognized the contradiction saying, “Diapers are for babies, Daddy.”
“Yeah, so we are just going to wear them when we sleep. We’ll put your underwear back on as soon as you wake up,” I said.
Day 4 – Bubba wets his underwear along with his pants and socks around 11:30 a.m. Minutes before the incident, I asked, “Do you need to go potty?”
“No,” he replied, sounding annoyed that he was even being asked.
He clearly hadn’t grasped the concept of anticipating the urge to use the washroom. Up to this point, successful potty breaks were largely the result of my own keen awareness of Bubba’s bathroom tells – like a tug of the zipper or a wide-eyed stare coupled with holding his breath.
He also hadn’t pooped since early on Day 2. Either he was holding it in, or he found a new way to expunge human waste that will forever revolutionize modern sanitation.
Day 5 – Bubba finally loosens his bowels and on the potty chair, no less. He actually woke up from a nap to let me know that he needed to go. I heard him yell, “Daddy, I need to go potty!” through the baby monitor and rushed upstairs.
I was so proud of my boy. I handed him two well-deserved M&Ms. It’s all about rewarding good behavior, after all.
Spiderman underwear pictured above can be found at Amazon.com.
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.