I feel as if John and I are locked in a battle of wills. I’m his mom and he’s just a little boy, so already — not ideal. It revolves around the potty, his sporadic use of it and my inability to let it go. We have had amazing successes with the potty this summer and as I sit here, ashamed at how angry I’ve been over the last week, I remember with a smile the times at the pool and at home and at camp.

All behavior is communication.

I keep returning to that phrase. I’ve heard it before of course, but I heard it a lot at BlogHer by special needs moms I admire.

All behavior is communication.

I imagine then that John is saying, “I have no say over where you drag me all summer, I have no say when I do anything really, but this is mine to decide. If I want to poop in my pants on the morning of my sixth birthday…well, I will. And if it makes you crazy, then bonus!”

I don’t know what to do with the anger that bubbles up and out of me. It’s directed at John and I’m not proud of how I’ve yelled at him. I shouldn’t yell, I think, but he knows, he knows how to go in the potty. Why, why, why is he choosing this instead?

I am a control freak, this is ridiculous. Give the child some space to decide on his own when to go. I give it a full day. I will not ask him, not once, if he has to go. Instead I will take him every two hours and refrain from talking about it while I do. I will not dwell or react to what looks like a potty dance. I will ease up, let him breathe. If he can stay dry for ten straight hours at night, then surely he can do it for just two.

But he can not— or maybe he will not. And now, on top of it all, he’s started to run again. In a crowded store. In a parking lot. On the beach towards strangers.

All behavior is communication.

One of the more frustrating aspects about having a child who does not converse is that bribery simply doesn’t work. I get mad, I ask him why he had another accident. I get nothing in return — I am left with myself: utter helplessness, my failure as his mother, the deep deep fear that this isn’t just a phase. And my anger at not having any control — absolutely positively no control over any of it.

What is he trying to tell me?

How do I let go? Do I trust that when school starts up again that he will fall back into the familiar, that the successes will return? What have you done?


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  • Oh, sweetie. I SO understand the feelings you are having about, well, the feelings. It’s so difficult to reign them in; we’re only human after all, aren’t we? I, too, have days or moments when I am ashamed of how I’ve responded to something Nik has done. But we have to forgive ourselves and move on or the guilt will eat us alive.

    I don’t have any suggestions for the toileting issues; I haven’t been brave enough to tackle that one with Nik yet. But I have hugs and understanding. xo

  • Sigh. I think the poop issues are among the hardest because it does matter to us…a LOT. And kids know it. And yet it’s one of the few things that they control 100%, which sets us up for a battle royale. It sounds to me like you’re asking all the right questions and are on track with the message he’s sending. It’s been a summer of changes/transitions, I’m guessing, even just having some idea of your last month.

    I suspect that if you do find a way to give him a hug and in essence say, “Better luck next time” when he has an “accident”, you’ll both relax. Maybe the change will come when school starts again and he’s back in more of a routine, but either way, you’ll both benefit from taking a deep breath. God knows, this is far easier said than done.

    Hang in there!

  • I hear myself in this post…I can control most of my reactions now by channeling some form of myself that is rational…but the things that roll through my mind as I look all calm and collect absolutely shock me and make feel utterly ashamed. That said, I have a 10 year old who still has issues with bms.

  • Christine! Thank you for giving me that link back to your post! Funny how I even commented on it way back then. Obviously, three years ago we were nowhere near getting John on the potty. I’m glad my instincts on backing off seem to be right… now just need to put that into practice.

    Niksmom and Jordan – thanks for your support, too. Ange, I really appreciate your comments and thank you for linking me back to your blog!

  • Sometimes I wonder about all behavior being communication. Or at least, I know I can’t take time to interpret all the communication that’s coming in the form of pee and poop at my house
    Hang in there and I hope it gets better soon!

  • My last comment didn’t convey the sympathy I feel (too many boys hanging off me and touching the keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc)
    We go through times when it seems as if the potty thing will click soon, and other times i worry that I’ll be changing them when they are seventeen.
    I think the idea of backing off for a while sounds very smart. He is really doing great for just turning six. I would think getting back in the school routine will help a lot.

  • Oh poop.

    I know a woman who recently adopted a boy with DS from Eastern Europe. He kept pooping places, as a control issue. So she would set up an activity that was desirable and then pause things to get him to go sit on the toilet. Once he realized just pooping in the potty was easier than having his fun interrupted the behavior decreased.

    Poop is always trouble. I only had one kid poop himself this summer, so I feel it was a success. hehe. Pee on the other hand? Oh boy. Don’t get me started.

  • I was about to attempt to comment… to post something about making Foster walk around pants-less for far too long, making him sit on the potty forever only to have him poop himself while playing with trains… how even now I’m not sure he was truly conveying a message to me. Maybe he simply didn’t get the messages his body was sending him. Maybe.

    I was attempting to form some comment about all of that. And I saw the word verification. squat. I kid you not.


  • Aaaaiiii!!!! Primo is pretty much trained to the point that he now occasionally has “accidents”. We should be thrilled with Secondo in that he holds his pee, will go when asked, and has even started going pee on his own.

    And then there’s poo (think the Maude theme). The usual concepts of reward and/or consequences just don’t work. We think he’ll eventually get it as there was a similar gap between understanding #1 and #2 for Primo. The problem is that the wonderful preschool where the boys start (IN THREE WEEKS) expects kids of their age to be trained. The biting of fingernails can now commence. Hopefully we can work everything out. He goes to the special needs preschool in mid-morning, so hopefully poo won’t arise between 9 and 10:30 in the morning.

    Hopefully, I’m not a bad person for hoping that if he does have to take a dump in his shorts, he’ll do it on the bus or at the school where he won’t get kicked out for doing it. Such is life.


    P.S. Read the barn incident post and my heart broke. Both for him and his “guard”.


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