the one about potty training

I know what you're thinking.

"The one about potty training"?

Just one? I can do it in three words.

Don't do it.

Here's three more.

Diapers for life.

This is a fun game.

In my 3 1/2 year career as a parent, nothing has made me more angry, more frustrated, more emotional, and more ecstatic than potty training. Who knew that my daughter's poop could drive me to drink one minute and send me into a touchdown dance the next?

Moms can literally talk about potty training anywhere. I was just at a nice, fundraising dinner with a bunch of people I had never met, and within 5 minutes of meeting this other mom, we were sharing stories about potty training. It's like we all have the same look about us, and we can pick each other out of a crowd. I've discussed my daughter's potty habits with strangers at the store, at school functions, and at weddings.

I have made a gazillion mistakes on my journey to diaper freedom, and I am here to share them with you so that you can be spared. I have gray (GRAY) hairs upon my head, and I know that at least 75% of them are from potty training. Don't ask about the other 25%.

Mistake #1: Listening to any of these people....
The "I Potty Trained My 14 Month Old" Lady
The "I Told Her Not To Poop In Her Pants And She Didn't" Lady
The "She Potty Trained Herself" Lady

Never, ever listen to these people. Ever. You'll be able to pick them out right away. You will start to engage in a conversation about potty training, and before you can say, "poops her pants," she will chuckle, smile broadly, and start "sympathetically" shaking her head while saying, "I just told my daughter not to poop or pee in her underwear, and that was that!"

Any reaction is entirely understandable at this point...laughing, crying, punching her (or yourself) in the face...it's all fair game. However, the best (and most appropriate) thing to do would be to smile nicely, congratulate her on her "Parent of the Year Award," and get the heck out of there. You can know, with certainty, that she is either one of two things...1) a representation of a very small (and lucky) minority of moms, or 2) lying.

Mistake #2: Trying to potty train too soon

When Noelle was a little over 2 years old, I decided it was time to potty train her because I was pregnant with Charlotte and I was not going to have two children in diapers. Did you catch how many I's were in that sentence? Yep. It was all about me. I didn't care to think about if Noelle was even ready to potty train. She was 2. She was ready. I was ready for her to be ready.

I had received some information about the 3 Day Method of potty training. It seemed like a miracle. You could potty train your child in 3 days, and then you could live in potty training bliss for ever and ever. I read the information (it was like a 100 page document), bought the underwear, and I decided to give it a try. I actually knew moms who did this and had success with it. Surely I could handle 3 days of potty training.

Everything was great until I realized rather quickly that Noelle had no idea that pee and poop were two different things. Even though I repeatedly said, "Tell me when you have to go potty," and even though I took her to the potty every 15 minutes, and even though we had stickers, treats, juice, and celebrations out the wazoo, she peed on the floor probably 20 times that day before I threw in the pee-soaked towel.

I cried as I was on my hands and knees cleaning up urine all day. I thought I was the biggest failure ever because we couldn't get this. However, the bottom line was that she wasn't ready.

Aside from not knowing the difference between #1 and #2, Noelle was still sleeping in a crib. It made no sense to have underwear on my child while she slept when she had no physical way to get out of the crib to use the bathroom at night. I am seriously blaming this experience on pregnancy hormones, because it was honestly a really bad idea.

By day 2 of the 3 Day Method, Noelle was back in diapers and all was right with the world.

Mistake #3: Feeling shame

After the "3 Day Method" debacle, I abandoned potty training for a few months. Noelle went to a daycare where some of the kids in her class were potty training, so she started seeing other kids get up to use the bathroom. She became more interested and started to have some success with going to the potty. This was last September.

Fast forward one year later to this September, and we are finally out of Pull-Ups at night. Yes, it has taken us an entire year to "potty train." I guess the "365 Day Method" wasn't as marketable, but I bet it would be a lot more relatable.

Over the course of the last year, I have done everything you shouldn't do while potty training. I have scolded, disciplined, raised my voice, and cried buckets of tears. There came a point where I was simply tired of running her to the bathroom after finding her pooping in a corner or bringing 3 sets of clothes with us everywhere we went. I'll even say it...I was embarrassed. When she turned 3, I thought it meant I had officially failed as a mom because she still wasn't potty trained. When she would have an accident while playing with other kids, I would feel shame, and I would even scold her. I am only admitting these things because I know that they are easy traps to fall into, and I know that I should have handled things better. You should never place pressure, shame, or blame on your child while potty training, but if you're human, you probably will.

So what worked?

Well, I can attribute our closing of this chapter to a few things. First and most importantly, she was ready. At nearly 3 1/2, she fully understood potty training, she knew more about her body, and she could feel the urge to use the bathroom far enough in advance. We didn't set a timer to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes. We wanted her to know when to go on her own, and finally, she did.

Secondly, I stopped making such a big deal about it. I stopped throwing parties and acting like it wasn't normal to use the bathroom. When she went, I acknowledged it, but I didn't bust a poop pinata or anything. We also stopped rewarding with candy (m&m's, jelly beans, etc). We wanted her to understand that it is expected of her to use the bathroom like a big girl, and we don't get candy when we use the bathroom as adults (even though that would be mega awesome).

With that, I stopped (most of the time) getting angry if she had an accident. I made a conscious effort to take it in stride and just move on with our day, wherever we were and whenever it happened. By evening out the highs (celebrations & rewards) and lows (shame & punishments), the whole process was much smoother.

You can't rush it. You can't snap your fingers and make it happen. You can't set a deadline. You can't force it.

You can't change that some people potty train their infants or their super amazing kids just potty train themselves.

You can, however, ask those people if their elite potty training methods work on adults, and they will probably never go near you again.


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