When going potty hurts
Trouble with potty training isn't always about their stubbornness, says this mom.
When it came to potty training our son, we tried everything.

Bribery, which came in the form of the world’s biggest robot. Stickers, sweeties, reward systems, and story time on the toilet – we tried it all. We even tried making a song about it, we watched an Elmo video (my fiancé humorously dubbed it ‘Elmo takes a dump’) and we even tried letting him run around with no nappy on, so he could become aware of his bodily functions.

The potty training that we began when he was about 2, turned into a battle of wills that lasted over a year. We willed him to use the potty, he fought back with every inch of stubbornness that he had; or so we thought.

We’d been told not to worry about potty training, that it would ‘happen when he was ready, and not a moment sooner’ and the thought never really occurred to us that there might be an underlying health issue preventing him from even being interested in potty training. He was a big strong, happy (if whiny at times) boy that made a number two as regular as clockwork – healthy, right?

Painful stools

We couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite filling a nappy once a day, there was something amiss in the health department. The day after I’d worked out the notice period after resigning from my job, our son was admitted to hospital with chronic faecal impaction.

In short, this happens when a constipated child is not able to have a bowel movement properly. He’d experienced painful stools, which caused him to hold back the movement for fear it would hurt to do so.

He eventually reached a point where his bowel was so oversaturated that he was partially incontinent and unable to fully control his bowels, and thus (we discovered) unable to actually partake in potty training.  Also part of the reason why this went undetected for so long – he still appeared to be having proper bowel movements.

The faecal impaction had also caused a bladder and kidney infection, which triggered a temperature – the only indication that we had that there was something wrong. After having his entire system flushed out and spending four days on a drip, my 3-year-old son is on a high-fibre diet and has to take a daily laxative. We monitor his stools and their consistency closely, for fear of having this trauma revisited on our son.

The only good thing out of this entire story is this: our son has since progressed to wearing a nappy only at nighttime; and is more than capable of using the toilet unassisted.  We also learnt a serious lesson as parents: don’t listen to all of the advice that you’re given by other parents and ignore your own intuition – sure, kids will reach milestones in their own time and at their own pace, but if it’s taking slightly longer than it should, and there’s more resistance than you think there should be, consult a health professional.

It doesn’t hurt to be concerned when it comes to your child’s health.

How was potty training for you and your child? Share your tips and challenges below.

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