This morning, when I went to pick up Curious Girl--who is now five-and-three-quarters-years-old-- at religious school, she was just coming out of the bathroom. Despite the convenient of three! toilets in our house, she didn't set foot in a bathroom again until bedtime (when, not surprisingly, her clothes were wet from an accident). Increasingly, when we are hanging around at home, she simply will not use the bathroom.
Potty training hasn't come easily to CG. She asked for underwear when she was two-and-a-half, but had tons of accidents all the time. By the time she was three, she got to the point of wearing underwear to school, but over the three-year-old preschool year, she was having more accidents at school, not less. That following summer, we did a timed voiding thing (we took her to the bathroom every 15 minutes for 3 days, then every 30 minutes for a few, then every hour), and also started using a laxative (b/c it turned out she was slightly constipated and that was likely interfering with her ability to tell when she had to go or not). All this helped, and over last year, she had accidents sometimes--much more often than any other kid in her class, it seemed--but things were better. I admit that when we decided to repeat pre-K, I joked that I'd learned how to make sure your kid was potty trained for kindergarten: repeat pre-K. These days, I"m not sure that's right.
Things have taken a turn for the worse in the past few months (when, yes, Politica has been off on a sabbatical adventure). Her teachers caught her twice squatting behind the bathroom door trying to poop there ("I want to be a baby and wear diapers," she told them), and there have been two incidents of, um, odd choices of location for some elimination in the house. Only two, granted, so it's not that common, but still. She is also having more accidents at home (not so much at school, squatting aside, but at home)--one day at Whole Paycheck, she just sat down and peed in the aisle. One happy, whodathunkwewerehaving issues day.
I set up a conference with her teachers to discuss strategy. "CG will respond really well to some behavior modification," one said. I didn't think so, but they were quite sure. Have a reward every day if she has no accident, and build to a bigger reward. They even gave me a lovely jar of iridescent jewels to use as the daily rewards. CG was excited by the prospect of a jewel, and she decided that a big cookie from Neighborhood Bakery would be the treat for a week of jewels. But the jewel alone just isn't working. She's happy to get one, but the bigger reaction is sadness when she doesn't. The idea behind the teachers' suggestion was to simply say "I know you can stay dry all day. This is the expectation. You can do it," and just stand back and let her take responsibility for it. So I don't use my timer to remind her (b/c then it's my responsibility). We urge her to listen to her body. I'm all about setting good clear expectations, but I didn't really think this plan would work. CG has never been motivated by the promise of later rewards--all our learning-to-eat rewards were pretty immediate. The ones we tried where she could bank points to earn a bigger prize later were just not motivating. But I said I'd try it.
The result: days when she simply doesn't use the toilet at all. Yesterday, she peed three times--twice in one outfit! I would think that would be very uncomfortable, to be wet, but she clearly doesn't seem to mind. At 4:00 today, I pointed out that I had gone to the bathroom three times since we'd been home, and she had gone none at all, and she assured me she was listening to her body and didn't have to go. Later, I told her to wash her hands before she could help me cook dinner. "Do I have to go to the bathroom?" she asked. I said she should go if she had to, that it was up to her to listen to her body. She didn't go. Some days, she mournfully says, "I'm never going to get my cookie." I always say, "I know you can do it." But when?
I am full of all kinds of emotions about this: partly, I"m wondering what I'm doing wrong when we're hanging around that is making her not want to go to the bathroom. Partly, I"m irritated at the stinky laundry this generates. Partly, I'm angry at the way she tells me she's checked her panties and they're dry, when they're not. Partly, I'm thinking I should just ignore it all. Partly, I think we need to find a child psychologist. Partly, I'm feeling good about how well I know my kid that I predicted that the jewel thing wouldn't work. Parly, I'm feeling like a lousy mother because I can't figure out what will motivate my kid to use the bathroom (thank you all for those kind comments on the last post, which I re-read this evening to help counter the lousy mother feelings). Partly, I think I should just set my timer and start telling her to try potty. She doesn't seem to hurt when she goes, or mind going, and she generally takes herself to the bathroom at school.
So I've been googling the subject, and have a call into a child pychologist friend to get her take on what I should do next, and I'll probably call our pediatrician in the morning. In the meantime, I thought I'd ask my blogging universe: what the heck should I do next?