Our Potty Problem
I had a big problem, and it wasn’t pretty. The problem was poop – poop that wouldn’t go in the right place, the potty.
There’s a lot of pressure on parents to potty train, and it seems the earlier, the better. Many pre-schools won’t accept students unless they are potty trained, and even at daycare there’s a push starting at 2.5 to potty train.
We knew that our older son was stubborn, and his daycare teachers said that he “just wasn’t ready.” However, after his daycare teachers in a new classroom gave up after a few weeks of trying, mainly because of issues “going #2,” we knew we had a problem on our hands.
After I pulled our son out of daycare for the summer before he started in a DC public preschool, I realized that this challenges we were facing wasn’t just a lack of consistency on my part or extra stubbornness on my son’s part. Both of those were factors, but the problem seemed to stem from deeper issues. It was after a trip abroad to visit friends and a few “accidents” that we realized that not only could our son not tolerate dairy, but he couldn’t have chocolate either. Poor kid!
I’d love to say that once we figured out those items, we went on to successful potty training, but alas, the consistency and stubbornness issues came back into play. It become much easier, however, to address the issue of potty training without dealing with food allergies on top of it.
How Problem Solving from Management Can Help
Problem-solving is a key skill I teach in my management consulting classes, and the tactics I teach have been helpful in figuring out how to solve tough family problems. From picky eating to sleep issues to potty training, there is no shortage of problems parents face in the first few years of their children’s lives. Figuring out a process for solving problems rather than going with the first gut instinct you might have can be helpful in creating long-term solutions for your family.
My student teams work with corporate or nonprofit clients to solve a problem identified by the client. We use a structured process to work through problems, starting with making sure that the client has identified the correct problem and then walking through a series of steps to identify the root causes. From there, we come up with possible hypotheses about what could be causing the problem and test them out. That leads to evidence that we can use to make a decision and then come up with our recommendations to the client.
Problem Solving for Potty Training
You may be thinking, “OK, but how does this apply to my family?” l’ll walk you through this process applied to my most difficult challenge to date, potty training my older son. Unfortunately, the using a problem solving process occurred to me after much frustration and, well, yelling; it’s only now that I’m able to reflect back and think about how we might have done it better. I’ll spare you the gory details but will give you the general outlines to see how this process works for a “real-life” problem, rather than a business one.
My son is strong willed. We did the typical process of putting out a potty chair for him at about 2 years old, letting him sit on it fully clothed and talking about where “pee” and “poop” come from. However, at the advice of his daycare teacher, we didn’t rush it. He wasn’t interested and didn’t seem ready.
When he moved to the older classroom, most of the other children were potty trained, but he was still struggling. We could get him using the potty at home on the weekends, and I would send him into school with underwear but he would always come home with a Pull-Up or diaper on. What was going on?
It took a long time to figure out that there were multiple issues behind his potty troubles. We weren’t really able to start solving the problem until we pulled him out of daycare and I started potty training him on my own. It turned out that there were several issues. One, he had what we’ll call “tummy troubles” when he ate milk and chocolate. Two, he was afraid of the flush, particularly the very loud flush of public toilets like the one a daycare. And three, he was strong-willed and needed a lot of positive encouragement for going potty. Once we figured out those “root causes” of his potty training problem, we were better able to address the real issues.
It’s still a work in progress, but we are careful not to jump to conclusions with this problem or any other problem with our kids. Despite the frustration you might feel when you’re having a challenging issue with one of your children, taking the time to think through the possible causes and test out a few ideas to helps solve can go along way. Otherwise, you’ll keep dealing with the same problem until you address it completely. Taking a bit of time to prepare and think through problems at the beginning can save time in the long run.
A Thoughtful Problem Solving Process
This is a simplified version of the problem solving process I teach my students. We go through a more structured process because one day, hopefully, they’ll be getting paid to do this for clients. Clients expect more detail when being presented with recommendations to solve their problem. It’s unlikely your child will need to see a fishbone analysis or spreadsheet when you present them with a sticker chart for going potty. I’ll outline the process and then next week, I’ll walk you through each step.
2. Identify the desired result and where the “gap” between what you have and what you want is
3. Brainstorm possible causes for this “gap”
4. Brainstorm potential solutions and test them out
5. Accept and reject your potential solutions and continue to iterate until you arrive at your desired result
Join me next week as we walk through the process for your family!