Potty Power: Who's Training Who?

(The first part of this post appeared on my Training Wheels blog earlier this week. There's a sweet little postscript below the original text -- with an emphasis on "sweet.")

A couple days ago Kostyn went into the bathroom and peed in the potty as usual, washed his hands as usual, and then came out and asked for a treat for him and his brother, also as usual. (Not to get into the ins and outs of the whole potty training fiasco at our house, but suffice it to say we haven’t had as much luck with various tactics as we’d imagined we’d have when we started this process A YEAR AGO, so the “bribe with treats” thing is currently in full effect as we try desperately to build some positive momentum with the whole thing while he seems, finally, at least mildly interested.)

Both boys enjoyed their Hershey’s Kiss, as usual, but then they asked for more, which is surprisingly unusual. Of course I shot that request down, saying that there would be no more treats until there was more peeing or pooping in the potty end of story go play.

But instead of running off to the playroom, they both ran back into the bathroom, with Kostyn yelling “Ohhh Kaaaaaaay I’ll go pee!”

Curious, I followed him into the bathroom where Evan lifted the seat and Kostyn pulled down his pants and peed approximately .01 ounce of urine. Seriously, I peed more in my pants when I sneezed while pregnant.

“I peeeeeeed!” he said proudly, pulling up his pants while Evan helpfully flushed the toilet (because this has somehow become a team effort. Frankly I’m happy Evan’s pulling his weight in this whole exercise since he always gets rewarded with a treat, at his brother’s insistence. Then again, only one kid’s peeing and I still have to wash both their hands.)  Then we paraded out of the bathroom and Kostyn asked for chocolate again, with Evan echoing “Treeeeeat!” for good measure. 

I was a little perplexed, and a little impressed. He did technically pee in the potty, which was what I had suddenly come to realize was a way-too-vague stipulation for getting a treat. But did I really want to get into the amount of urine necessary to deem the exercise “treat-worthy,” some sort of baseline grid for what actually constitutes “peeing in the potty”? No I did not.

Did I want to discourage him and undermine his progress by removing the one incentive that seems to be working? No I did not.

Did I want to risk losing my shirt in Hershey’s Kisses now that my son seemed to be able to pee on demand? No I did not.

It was one of those tough parenting calls, and I had a split second to make my choice. So I told him I was proud of him for peeing in the potty, and that he was doing so great with it that starting very soon we were going to focus our treats as rewards for pooping on the potty only. I told him he had mastered the peeing part and I was sure he could do that treat-free.

And then I let them have more chocolate.

Fast-forward a couple days to this morning, when both boys decided it would be a good idea to strip naked and run around the house. Before I scooped them up to get dressed I asked if anyone had to pee in the potty, and Evan enthusiastically exclaimed "Peee pottyyyy!!" So we ran into the bathroom and he hopped on the stool and pushed and grimaced and squirmed like he's seen his brother do a million times, a look of determination on his face. And all the while Kostyn, standing beside the toilet where his little brother has stood so often in the last eight months, served as cheerleader.

"You're gonna do it!"

"Evan's gonna be such a big boy!!"

"You'll get it, it's OK Evan."

And then, triumphantly, he did. It wasn't much, but it was still more than Kostyn's on-demand peeing episode from a few days back. I think Kostyn was even more excited than Evan. Then they switched spots, washed their hands, got dressed, and ate some well-deserved M&Ms for breakfast.

Life is a learning process. And rewards sure are sweet.

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