I’m fairly certain there is nothing worse in the life of a parent, aside from parenting a teenager maybe, than figuring out how to potty train your child. There are a hundred different methods, and a thousand different stories, with varying degrees of success. Most of them will induce horror for those who haven’t yet been indoctrinated into the potty training club. Pretty soon, though, nothing will horrify you (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).
We potty trained our 4-year-old daughter just a few months before she started school. I was pretty much in full panic mode by early July. We had been trying to let her lead the way, not wanting to pressure her too soon. I had read somewhere that putting pressure before the child is ready can result in all sorts of emotional issues with elimination, and that was the last thing I wanted.
Yeah, that was a great plan, in theory. In reality, I’m pretty sure she would have stayed in diapers until she was 10 years old, if I had left it up to her.
So we finally just took away her diapers during the day. I endured cleaning up many, many accidents, and while her success rate hasn't been 100% since school began, she has come a long way. Here are some of the things I learned along the way.
Being Toilet Trained Is Not An Age-Related Milestone
Sorry, but that friend who told you that kids should be starting to toilet train by 24 months? She’s wrong. According to experts, children show signs of readiness any time between 18 months and 4 years.
There Will Always Be A Parent With A Story Worse Than Yours
I have a friend whose son peed down the air vent when he was learning to pee on the toilet. I have another friend whose son smeared his own poop all over the walls of the bathroom. I have yet another friend whose daughter tried to eat her own poop. So, you know, I really don’t feel that bad when my daughter has six accidents in one day. It’s all about perspective.
Your Kid Will NOT Be Wearing Diapers When They're 16
Barring actual medical reasons why a child cannot become bathroom independent, it will eventually happen. At some point, our children are going to care that they’re peeing their pants in front of their friends. That is the magic of peer pressure!
Every Parent Has To Potty Train Their Kid, So You Have An Empathetic Audience To Share Your Stories With
I have yet to tell a fellow parent that I started potty training and receive anything but a hug, a sigh, or a reply along the lines of, “It’s going to be OK.” We all know this is a tough stage, and we will tell you our war stories, offer advice, or buy you a drink, if you need it. We’re all in this together.
It'll All Be Over Soon
I know, that sounds like a bullsh*t answer, but there’s truth in it. It’s like breastfeeding, or being pregnant, or feeding your newborn every 2 hours. They’re all stages and they will be over before you know it. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...
It's Nobody's Fault If You're Running Into Trouble
This type of milestone is a bit physiological (figuring out what the urge to pee feels like, and then learning to control that urge), and a bit psychological. Children are complicated, and if we don’t always have the key to unlock them so that they do things how and when we want, well, we kind of have to let go.
Parenting really is a series of moments where we learn to let go. And I believe that potty training is one of those moments. We can’t force our children to succeed, but it will happen.