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The Mommy Chronicles: Potty Training and Diet Advice

The Mommy Chronicles: Potty Training and Diet Advice

In my attempts to teach my three-year-old some self-control, I lost mine.


I'm still not exactly sure what happened. I could have picked stickers. My daughter really likes stickers, but I didn't. I picked chocolate. Chocolate, I love; stickers, not so much.

So here I am… my daughter is potty trained. We're all done. She even uses the potty at Target, no problem. Okay, one problem: I've gained 10 pounds on potty treats.

Let me explain. We don't usually have treats in the house. Well, we have pretzels, ices (made from orange juice), soy chips, lollypops from the health food store (no sugar or food coloring), and fruit of course. My kids ask for applesauce as a snack. For potty training we headed to my parents' house in Florida where the weather and lack of carpeting lends itself to bare bottoms. I sent my mom out to stock up on treats for training without any instructions regarding the nutritional value of the goodies. You get the picture?

I must admit, I was excited, as was my three-year-old, at the haul my mom brought back from the store (cookies, chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, etc.). The rules were simple: my daughter could pick from any of the goodies after each accomplishment. Each time she got a motivational reward, I helped myself to one as well. Before we blinked, she was trained and I was in need of a new wardrobe one size up.

In my attempts to teach my three-year-old some self-control, I lost mine.

How we fare in the ring when we are fighting our own negative desires is the true measure of our might.

"Who is strong? One who has control over his own inclinations." (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1) The Torah teaches us that self-discipline is the indicator of strength. Being more powerful than a bully, a boss, a wild beast or a force of nature is not a sign of true strength. How we fare in the ring when we are fighting our own negative desires is the true measure of our might. The Torah is telling us that strength is what we exhibit when we do battle with internal drives, not with external forces.

So what does this mean in light of the potty treat incident? Am I a weakling? Should I just give up and open the pint of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough that's calling me from the freezer right now?

Of course not. Like all character traits, strength is something that needs to be developed, and that takes time. I may have lost a battle, but the war isn't over yet.

So how do we do battle with whatever's calling us from the freezer? Think of the war as a process. Where we are in the process will determine the amount of "force" we'll need to use in order to win the battle. First attempts at squashing a particular negative inclination deserve full armor. In my case, I wasn't ready to face my chocolate desires on the battlefield, and returning home to the land of soy chips was a big help. Not eating dinner out and avoiding Dunkin Doughnuts gave my will to do the right thing an additional power boost. Eventually I felt in control enough to start using the freezer again, even though it still houses my Ben and Jerry's stash.

As we grow stronger in our desire to do the right thing, we gain the strength to do it. Being practical and giving ourselves plenty of easy opportunities to listen to our yetzer tov (good inclination) helps us learn what that voice sounds like (sometimes it sounds a little like my mother). Focusing on how good it feels when we do what we know deep down is the right thing to do, makes it easier to do the right thing the next time we are faced with that choice. Focusing on how short lived the good feelings are when we listen to our yetzer hara (evil inclination) will help us disconnect from our desire to do the wrong thing. Yes, eating chocolate does feel good. But feeling good after doing what we think is wrong for us in the long run is short lived. Those good feelings are quickly replaced with feelings of guilt, regret, sadness or anger.

Winning the war doesn't mean we lose our desire; it means we control it and it doesn't control us. Can you imagine being surrounded by your desires and not giving in? You're in control of yourself. You're strong. You can win the war.

For me, winning the war would mean exhibiting enough control to shed what has become known as the "potty pounds." Now, excuse me as I arm myself; there's a chicken that needs defrosting and it's sitting in the freezer right next to Ben and Jerry's.

August 14, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, August 17, 2004 12:00 AM

I loved this article! I'm always dissapointed when they're over and look forward to the next one. As for the comment above, I would agree with you if you if I thought potty training was a behavior modification but it's not. Potty treats last for a week and then subside as the potty becomes a natural part of a childs life.

(2) Rebecca, August 16, 2004 12:00 AM

Going through this too...

I started out with stickers, my 2 year- old got bored with that idea, went onto chocolate, he got bored with that present he is doing fine on praise, and he likes the idea of sitting with a book while he goes...
Me? I'm putting on weight anyway, so maybe I should take a lesson from my son?!

Again, a fantastic new episode in the mommy chronicles....

(1) Kitty Katz, August 15, 2004 12:00 AM

food should not be used as a reward

Any child taught to equate food with reward may be courting weight problems in later life. This misguided lesson could be the source of the author's own "battle" with food treats from the fridge. While food undeniably affords pleasure as well as nourishment, it is not meant to be used for behavior modification. While the author was being humorous, she also gave a big clue why there is so much obesity and poor health today.

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