what I’ve been doing the last 4 days


The daycare where Theo goes (and where Phoebe goes 2 days a week) was closed this past Friday, and also today, as the provider was taking some vacation time. What this meant was that I was not going to be getting a lot of work done for a few days. It also meant something exceedingly rare: a 4-day stretch with Theo at home. Not in daycare, not travelling. And not sick, either. A combination of factors that may not have been experienced since he started full-time daycare over a year ago. I realized, with a combination of dread and resolve, that the time had come for…potty training.

(Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into details. At least not many.)

Our main motivating tool for this endeavor is a progress chart, linked to the promise of a bigger prize. Each successful potty usage gets a sticker on the chart, and a full chart gets a trip to a store pick out a toy.

On Friday morning, I printed out a new chart for Theo. (Actually, the same chart we used for Phoebe¹, courtesy of my digital hoarding tendencies.)

Phoebe got mopey when I made out a chart for Theo, as she realized that she wouldn’t be having a chart, and thus Theo was in position to be gaining a toy when she wasn’t. Seeing as I have been struggling to get Phoebe to practice violin, I thought maybe this was an opportunity:

Phoebe was quite pleased that she was on her way to a prize. She practiced enthusiastically that very morning, and again the next day.

Theo, it turns out, was good and ready to be using the potty. He earned many, many stickers on his first day. And by the end of his second day, he was well on his way to have a filled chart. This is, of course, fantastic.

Unless you are Phoebe.

If you happen to be Phoebe, this is a near tragedy. Because while Theo’s chart had 20-odd stickers, Phoebe’s had only 2. All Theo had to do for his stickers was pee in a pot, an achievement that he quickly learned to achieve quickly. Phoebe had to do somewhat more than this. It was not likely that she would be practicing her violin 10 times a day.

Phoebe does not like to be the one left behind.

Sensing that Phoebe was ready to give up on her chart and her new-found enthusiasm for practicing violin, I had a flash of inspiration:

Phoebe, observant girl that she is, realized that I would not likely outpace her with my chart. If she couldn’t be at the front of the race, at least she wouldn’t be bringing up the rear.

As you can see, I have yet to put any stickers on my chart. I made mine on Saturday, and it was a long and harrowing weekend of exaggerated cheerfulness and frequent handwashing. Then, as I mentioned, there was no daycare today. I do hope to start adding stickers. I think I’m going to have the requirement that I work on my own research for at least a solid hour to earn a sticker. Failing that, I may just have to reward myself for peeing in the potty.

I can’t say how well this will all go in the weeks to come. Theo heads back to daycare tomorrow, which may be great for my own chart, but likely to be a big setback for his. (We achieved success by having Theo not wear a diaper at all, but that won’t fly at daycare.) In the meantime, check out this measure of success:

Here is the toy Theo picked out for his first filled chart:


Molly, a yellow engine from Thomas & Friends. Our first train with a face.

I’m also very happy to say that Phoebe’s flurry of practice sessions also paid off, if not yet with a toy. Our violin teacher was pleased enough with her progress to say it was time for us to get Phoebe her first violin book. Phoebe was thrilled. She may even have described herself as “ecstatic.”

Moral of the story: peeing is not the only route to success.

¹ I’m still very entertained by my post “Standoff at the P. P. Corral,” which I wrote almost 3 years ago. I crack myself up.

20 responses to “what I’ve been doing the last 4 days

  1. I need a chart and a promised trip to the toy store for all the things that I am supposed to be doing instead of goofing off online… :-)

    • Well, I’d be happy to send you the pdf of the chart we used, absence. If “potty” is not the task you need to work on, you can just cover that part up.

  2. I’m about to start a new chart system for E. Maybe I should print one off for myself too.

  3. Oh, potty training! Fun. ;) I am considering this for Charlie soon, only I’m planning on using the 3 day method. Your Standoff post was indeed very entertaining, as was this one. :)

    • Thanks, Leslie! I’m glad you were entertained by my posts.

      We actually did largely use the “3 day method,” and it did seem to work very well, and Theo didn’t have any accidents at all after the first day. The trouble is, the 3 day method seems to require the follow-up of not wearing diapers, pull-ups or underwear for the following 3 months. (See, e.g. this.) Our daycare provider is not comfortable with having kids go without diapers until they have been using the potty consistently for 2 weeks. (This was also why it took so long for Phoebe to be totally potty trained.) So, either he has to wear diapers at daycare, or I have to keep Theo home for 2 weeks, which I can’t see happening for the next several months. (Lots of work deadlines.) So we just have to backtrack a bit and go a bit more slowly.

  4. Hmmm… should make one for P with the weekly prize being that he doesn’t get kicked out.

  5. Fantastic job, Momma! Way to be sensitive to everyone’s needs!

    I’m serious. This is fabulous.

  6. THAT is hilarious.

    I need a chart for washing dishes.

    • You know, Jennifer, I’m starting to think that there is a demand for more progress charts for grown-ups. Wouldn’t it be nice to get some sort of prize for getting stuff done? Especially when you have to do the same thing over and over. And over.

  7. Oh, charts. Sigh. Worked fabulous for BubTar…not one lick for KayTar. Good luck in filling yours!

  8. I am impressed with your extra charts! It’s interesting how the chart is a good motivator for Theo on potty training when it was not entirely enough for Phoebe at that stage. And it is also great that Phoebe’s competitive side got her practicing a bit more. Did she realize that it was the practice that led to her being pronounced ready for her first violin book? Maybe that was an even better reward than a toy!
    I hope that your chart helps you get some research done. Good luck!

    • I think Phoebe did realize that the extra practicing led to the teacher saying she was ready for the book, so that was really great timing. And yes, even better than a toy!

      Sadly, my own chart is still empty. I have another work deadline, so my own stuff is getting backburnered again. But maybe I’ll find an hour tonight. I want a sticker!

      As far as the potty chart went, it was actually a good motivator for Phoebe up to a point. She filled in several charts, but it was getting her to use the potty at daycare that was the problem. It was very frustrating. Also, Phoebe was about 6 months younger than Theo is now, so maybe Theo will get fully trained faster. (Or not. This may only be the beginning. Sigh.)

  9. That was great. I could use a chart of my own sometimes! Best of luck to all three of you for filling up your charts!

    • I’d be happy to make you a chart, Erica. Just let me know what color construction paper you’d like for the background, and what word you’d like me to tape over the word “potty.” (You see, I have a system.)

  10. What an excellent plan! I hope everyone continues to progress nicely with their respective charts. It kind of makes me want to create some charts of my own.

  11. what will be your prize when you fill the chart?

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