It sounds easy enough: Hey kid, you have to poop? We have a room for that. Go, sit, poop, done. Right? Oh friend. You have obviously never potty trained a child. Or you have and you’ve blocked out the countless horrors that can go along with this very necessary milestone, in which case I cannot blame you at all.
Even kids who are “easy” to potty train aren’t really “easy to potty train” because of logistical issues. I have never met a single child who is good at wiping themselves right off the bat. This, unfortunately, leads to poop in places you really don’t want to have to deal with poop. Toilet seats, walls, hands, and, of course, underwear. I’ve also never met a young lad who has great aim right away. I’m pleased to say that in the year my son has been potty trained, I no longer step in a puddle of urine in front of the toilet every single day… but I still regularly step in puddles of urine in front of the toilet. I’ve also never met a child who hasn’t had multiple accidents since being potty trained. Like I said. These are the easy kids. Then you get to the more difficult kids. The stubborn kids, the kids who have difficulty with potty training as a result of developmental problems or delays, and the kids who inexplicably just do not care to be potty trained. I mean, those kids kind of have a point, right? Someone is literally taking care of their business for them, so why would they exert any effort whatsoever? Watch out for those kids—they’re going to rule the world some day, and then we’ll all have to deal with their shit.
So how does all of this ultimately affect parents? Deeply. There is little more frustrating in this world than potty training a child. It’s a real emotional roller coaster and we should all be kind to those brave souls currently trudging through this crap (see what I did there)? As such here are things you should and should not say to a parent who’s toiling through the shit-show that is potty training.
Don't Say... Anything In A Tone Of Judgment Or Even Surprise
Because, sorry, but you don’t know my life. But seriously, you don’t know my life and you don’t know my kid. You may not know any developmental issues going on with my child.You may not know what else is going on with either of us that has made us deal with that before tackling potty training. You may not know that we’ve been trying really, really hard for months and it just hasn’t taken yet. So no commentary required. A simple, non-challant “OK” is a fine response to learning a child is not potty trained.
Do Say... "This Stuff Is Really Hard."
They will appreciate your empathy.
Don't Say... Braggy Sh*t About How Early You Or Your Child Were Potty Trained
OK, yeah. Great. Thanks. This would be like you telling someone that your job search wasn’t going so well and you responding, “Oh, I got my job immediately after graduation. Like, I didn’t even apply. They just found me!” It’s braggy and, moreover, it’s condescending bragging. Just stop.
Do Say... “If You’d Like To See Any Of The Resources I Used Potty Training My Kids, I’d Be Happy To Share Them.”
And that, amigos, is how you make a suggestion. It’s all in delivery. Sharing is caring, friends.
Don't Say... "Here's Is What You SHOULD Do..."
Please do not automatically assume a mantle of expertise. There’s definitely a way to talk about things that worked for you (more on that later), but this automatically assumes A) that the same things work for all kids, and B) that the parent in question hasn’t tried it yet. You are not the Obi-Wan to my Luke; the Mr. Miyagi to my Daniel-san; the Giles to my Buffy. In short: a little humility here, people.
Do Say... "I Can See How Hard You're Trying."
Because sometimes, when you don’t have a child who is potty trained when people think or assume he should be, you get the sense of being judged as lazy. It’s nice to hear affirmation that there are those who recognize your Herculean efforts.
Don't Say... Any Jokes
Even if you mean it well. Even if you intend to laugh with them and not at them. Even if you think you’re commiserating. Even if you’re making a joke because you know everything is going to be just fine—don’t. You’re talking about a touchy issue with someone who, in one way or another, has been up to her elbows in poop and frustration for a few years now. If they crack a joke, feel free to laugh, but don’t try to initiate the humor here. You never know how it will go over.
Or, at the very least, buy your friend a damn drink.