Let’s Talk About Potty Training

I recently read this article and found it very encouraging, because the author’s experience potty training her son(s) is very similar to my own.  To all the moms who are in the midst of this particular battle, keep going.  Kids learn at different paces. So don’t be too hard on yourself if they don’t pick it up at the same pace as someone else. You’re doing a great job!

I went into potty training with a lot of pre-conceived ideas and notions. All of which have gone out the window. All save one. It will happen when they’re ready.

When my son David was eighteen months old, a friend told me how she had potty trained her kids before they were two years. And she explained the methods used.  I was immediately fired up to potty train David early and have him out of diapers in the next few months. I was told it was best to teach them to use the big potty (with a training seat), to wear underwear so they could feel the uncomfortable “wet” feeling, and to avoid using bribes, because the child could grow dependent on them or upset if you ran out of whatever the particular bribe was. This all made sense to me.  

I began bringing David into the bathroom with me and explaining how it all worked. I showed him how to potty and flush. He became interested right away.  

When he was twenty months, I bought a package of underwear for him and began potty training in earnest. For the most part he just made mess after mess, all day long. After two days of this, exhausted, I went back to diapers.  

At two years I decided to try again. I had hoped to have him already trained by two, so at this point I felt behind. Our day began with me attempting to help him into a pair of underwear and him growing very upset because he wanted to do it himself.  He then got himself thoroughly tangled in the underwear, but melted down when I tried to help him.

 Our day ended with him running around the house commando; eventually I wrestled him into a diaper, (with him screaming the whole time), got in the car, and went to the store for more diapers. Potty training take 2: Failure.  

When he was two-and-a-half, I determined that we really did need to get on top of this. By this time I had developed a deep dread of the whole process. But it could not be put off forever. I also had very few theories left. This time we used the small potty, and I bought a bag of chocolate kisses and started the week out unashamedly bribing David to use the potty.  

Take 3 started off better. David did not throw a tantrum about wearing underwear or having me help him put it on. And he was excited about using the potty and getting a reward. However, the first two or three days were still rather rough as he had a lot of accidents. By day four he seemed to be getting the hang of it pretty well.  At that point we had discovered that gummy bears were a better reward than chocolate kisses.  

By the end of the week, I felt like David was pretty well potty trained.  

And then.

David lost interest.  

He showed he had full cognitive knowledge of how to use the potty. He could do the whole process by himself. But unless we reminded him, he wouldn’t go. He would just wet his underwear and go on playing. Nothing we could do seemed to induce him to want to go. We tried bribery, taking away screen time, coaxing. Nothing worked.

When he was two years and eight months, I was so tired of cleaning up pee messes all over the house that I was ready to go back to diapers. Eventually I did, for two days. Then, thankfully, my husband convinced me to give it another go. So, with a weary sinking in my heart, on day three I told David to “go and put some underwear on.” He did. And for the rest of the day he used the potty on his own, without any reminders.  He hasn’t looked back.  

All of my work and effort and expectations were not what worked.  At the end of the day, David was just ready.

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