Potty Training: One Mom to Another

Question: I am frustrated with my 2.5 year old daughter. I started potty training her today but she doesn’t get it at all. She has peed herself 3 times and is playing and jumping on the pee. I tell her to do it in the toilet – when do I start seeing results? How long did it take you? What am I doing wrong? What do you say after you notice they had an accident? Maybe I am not emphasizing enough?

The first potty training mom I ever saw was my sister – my amazing, patient, teacher-of-the-year winning, supermom sister. She was trying hard to teach her daughter (whose charm and smile may be the reason I wanted to have children at all) how to use the potty.

I walked past the bathroom at my parent’s house to find both my big-hearted sister and her beautiful daughter sitting on the floor in the bathroom, both red-faced and frustrated, crying, each so desperately trying to explain to the other what just happened.

“But I DID tell you!” sobbed my niece.

“After,” my sister said quickly, “you have to tell me before!”

It occurred to me (it’s so much easier from the outside looking in) that maybe my niece just wasn’t ready yet. It seemed like it shouldn’t be so hard.

So I looked it up. And of course, like everything we do, there’s so much research and so many opinions, so many techniques and so many methods. And there’s statistics too, in case you want to compare your parenting to someone else’s. “In XYZ country, children are potty-trained at age ABC,” or “Potty-Training should take this many days and you should use sticker charts and make a big deal about peeing and and and and…”

It’s much.

Here’s what you really need to know and remember:

Eventually she’s gonna get it. Your daughter is not gonna be 30 years old in diapers. She’s not even going to be in Kindergarten and still wear a diaper. She’s going to get it. You can release yourself of whatever pressure, expectations and/or goals you might have for what the process is going to look like or how long it’s going to take. Just let that all fly right out the window. Rest assured, knowing that someday she’ll be on the potty, just like every other adult you know. Maybe it will take 3 days, maybe it will take 3 months, maybe it’ll take a year.There’s no trophy for completing the process early, no penalty for completing it late.

Don’t get too emotionally involved in it. If she’s happy that she used the bathroom, be happy with her for her sense of pride, her sense of accomplishment. Share her joy. And if she’s upset that she had an accident, you can empathize with that too. “Oh shoot,” you can say, “I’m sorry that happened.” Try not to be upset when she’s not. Learning how to use the bathroom isn’t easy.

Their tiny bodies have a lot to do in order to understand this thing that we’re so intent on them learning. First they have to understand that all this bathroom business is tied to a physical sensation. Then they have to recognize exactly what that sensation is. After that, they have to recognize that the sensation comes before they rush to the potty. Finally they have to train themselves to strengthen (and use) their own muscle control to stop the accidents after they recognize the not-so-obvious-to-a-tiny-person sensation. It’s an intense undertaking.

All of that said – There are a few things that helped our kids:

  • Potty Books
  • Kid-Sized Potties
  • Travel Potties. Pulling over on the side of the road when they asked me to. Letting the use the potty in the playground.
  • Stickers. But not on charts, we put them on their shirts.
  • M&M’s. I’m sure you’re not supposed to use candy as a reward but we did it sometimes.
  • No Pants. They walked around the house with no pants and no underwear on. Letting the air hit their bottoms seemed to make them more aware.
  • Pull-Ups during naptime. And bedtime.

You got this. Take your time. Talk to some moms, do a little googling. Get some ideas on what might work for your daughter. And also: You’re doing it right.

More on parenting:

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Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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