First Rule of Race Potty: Don’t talk about Race Potty. Don’t sit your son down and tell him the pros and cons of doing it. Don’t analyze it with him in anyway. Second Rule of Race Potty: Don’t talk about Race Potty. If you decide to try it, just do it. Third Rule of Race Potty: Don’t talk about Race Potty. Just announce that it’s on. Say, “Race Potty!”, jump out of your couch and race him to the bathroom.
As with all parents, we started with The Potty Chair and all the prescriptions laid out in parent guides to help us through the 1-3 stages of potty training. His mom had some experience with potty training, but she forgot most of it over the course of decades. So, we read the books on the subject, watched YouTube videos, and sought advice from friends, family, and his physician. Their advice progressed us to stage four, an arbitrary description we’ve developed to describe urinating in the toilet while standing up. By completing the first three stages, our son was completely potty trained, except he preferred to sit. While standing to urinate is not a mandatory stage of child development, in general, or potty training, every man wants his son to take advantage of the biological luxury of standing while peeing. As such, the focus of this article will be limited to the fourth stage of potty training procedures males.
The three of us found ourselves so mired in this agonizingly repetitious stage that we felt helpless. Our son knew what to do, how to do it, and when, but he just couldn’t put them altogether.
One of the best ways to teach a two-to-three-year-old anything complex is to talk to them. The more we talk to them, the more they understand. They probably won’t understand 3/4ths of what we’re saying, but it might be a tone that suggests that there are reasons for everything we do, and it might help lay the foundation with them. Regardless our approach, parents are going to make a ton of mistakes, and the best antidote to making mistakes is time. If we spend enough time with your child, and talk to them while we’re there, we’ll round off the corners of any mistakes we make. In these areas, it doesn’t hurt to try to sympathize with our child. We might try to empathize, but we can’t remember how difficult it was to learn all of this at once. If we take a step back and think about how overwhelming learning this overflow of information must be, in such a small space, it might help us relate to them better and focus our lesson plans. My lesson plan has always been to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) it. I probably overestimate and underestimate him three times a day, but I don’t worry about that near as much as some people do. I weather the storm, and I try to keep his learning grade gradual.
We don’t need to talk about everything though. Some matters require tactical maneuvers through the maze of their limited psychology, and any discussion of such tactics only undermines whatever results they might achieve. Even when they get disappointed by losing the
Potty Race, don’t say, “I’m only doing this because we are desperate to find something to aid you in this stage of potty training.” By keeping my intentions unspoken, I might have overestimated my two-to-three-year-old , but I thought if I discussed it, he might see Race Potty as the tactic it was.
After we successfully completed those mandatory stages, we began whooping and hollering, and plying him with the treats experts prescribe. Our enthusiasm was genuine, because it was exciting to watch the learning process. He wanted to learn, he wanted to succeed, and he showed how much it meant to him by celebrating his accomplishment with us. A problem arose in stage four. He stood once, and a microscopic amount fell out. When he was done he was done, he thought he was done. It was one of the best days of his young life, and he hadn’t heard such praise since he first learned how to talk and walk.
“What an accomplishment, am I right?” his beaming-with-pride expression said. “I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m glad that’s over, so I can go back to the more comfortable routine of sitting down when I go.”
If you had a child, you know this reaction well. You spend countless hours repeating the process in the hopes that you might eventually help him establish some sort of routine. You don’t expect instant success, and you learn how vital patience is in stage four, but at some point you reach the “He isn’t getting it, and I’m not sure he ever will” level of frustration. You don’t show your disappointment to him, and you don’t say it to anyone but your spouse, but you feel it. The repetition becomes second nature to him, but he has his fallbacks. Those stuck in this stage also know the shrug you get from friends, family, and physicians when their advice doesn’t work, “Every kid is different. What do you want me to say?”
I don’t know how to potty train your child, and you don’t know how to potty train mine. No one knows. It’s a guessing game. Did my guess work, or did I use it at a time when he was finally ready to learn and anything would’ve worked at that point? I don’t know, you don’t know. So the next time an author writes a piece, such as this one, and they suggest they’ve discovered the foolproof, take it to the bank, works every time method of potty training, symbolically place it in the trash bin right next to the heaping pile of diapers you’ve accrued since you started employing their method.
Is it about stubbornness, intelligence, or some sort of behavioral issue? We don’t know, because every kid is different. Every complex, little brain full of mush tackles complex tasks in such unique, individualistic ways that one of the best methods involves learning what makes your child tick. What makes him smile with pride? My little fella showed an ambitious nature pretty early on, and to try to turn the repetition into routine, I keyed in on my son’s competitive nature. I found a trick that might only apply to my son, but it worked so well for us that my wife began dropping it at work to parents who were having their own trouble with their kids in stage four.
Prior to Race Potty, we tried everything. We went nuts on the microscopic dribbles that fell into the water. We tried standing him in front of the toilet for an extended period of time. We tried having him watch me so often that we hoped something might click. It didn’t. A friend of ours suggested putting Froot Loops in the water and telling him to sink them. That seemed like a fantastic idea. It sounded fun. I showed him how. He cheered me on. He told me what colors he wanted me to sink. “Why don’t you try to sink a few?” I asked him. He gave me a devilish grin that led me to believe he was in on my dastardly plan. He wasn’t. Nothing worked, until I developed Race Potty.
It plays out like this. It’s potty time. You know it, and your son knows it, but he doesn’t know what to do with it. “Potty time!” you say with no explanation, and you race him to the bathroom. He’s running with you, but he doesn’t know why. The only thing he knows is he wants to beat you. Some parents might not want to do this, because they fear instilling or fostering a competitive nature in their son, but as I said my son was very competitive early on, and I encouraged that in every way I could.
Race Potty is not a mean method, as you’ll read, but you do have to move past the nice stage. Being supportive and whooping and hollering work great in stages 1-3, but their effectiveness begins to wane in stage four. There are, however, some details of Potty Race that might make some parents squeamish.
Once at the toilet, you have him whip it out with you, as we’ve done probably a hundred times before at this point. This time, however, you issue a challenge: “Let’s see who can hit the water first.”
This is the point where some fathers might grow squeamish, for I prescribe a touchdown dance once victory is secured. The more obnoxious the better. Which touchdown dance is appropriate? For that answer, we might want to consult NFL rules. We should not get in the face of our child, for we might draw a taunting penalty, and we shouldn’t celebrate in groups. We also shouldn’t engage in a lewd dance, otherwise known as twerking. Most fathers don’t want to do a touchdown dance after beating their two-to-three-year-old son at anything. It feels weird, and you’re sure that some pointy-headed child psychologist will frown at you for such a thing, but there’s a reason you’re desperately stuck in stage four, and it has everything to do with that frustrating “Every kid is different” phrase. The touchdown celebration stokes the fire.
He almost beat me on a Tuesday, but I refrained from celebrating his accomplishment. I celebrated mine instead. He was frustrated. It stoked his fire. It stoked his ire. On Wednesday, he came closer, and he was frustrated that I no longer celebrated him hitting the water.
When the pain of his disappointment hits us, our inclination is to soothe him. We might want to tell him that it’s just a game, or that you’re just joking around. My advice, change the subject. Don’t let him grow despondent, wallow in the misery of his frustration, or let him cry. Change the subject to something he beats you in. Do whatever you can to avoid negative connotations and build up his pride, but don’t give up the game, and don’t talk about Potty Race. Just do it.
My patience and diligence paid off on Thursday, when he beat me, and it was glorious … for him. I feigned the agony of defeat. My inclination was to share the victory with him, but I refrained from doing so, knowing that I had to keep that stoked fire bright orange. I was inconsolable in defeat, and he loved every minute of it.
He was almost undefeated from that point forward, and whatever wounds he experienced in the early stages of Potty Race were healed. To show how healed they were, he would shout, “Potty Race!” and I would have to chase him down the hall to pointlessly try to defeat him.
He still sat to pee, particularly when I wasn’t around to race him, but the repetition of potty race eventually established the routine in ways my wife couldn’t believe.
She didn’t care for potty race when it began, and she all but bit her tongue as I continued to employ it. She didn’t appreciate the philosophy behind it, the methodology, or the lack of results. She had particular disdain for the touchdown dances, as she didn’t see them as constructive. Potty Race did not work in the beginning, but what does with a two-to-three-year-old? “We’ve tried everything else,” I said. “I say we what-the-hell it.” She conceded the point, but I could tell she didn’t think my idea would ever work, until it did. She’s such a convert now that she’s spreading the gospel even though I told her you don’t talk about Potty Race.