When I asked my own mom about potty training, she gave me a ton of advice. She potty trained me when I was about 18-months-old and, according to her, it wasn't a big deal. So when my daughter reached that age I decided to give potty training a shot. Let's just say that, for me, potty training was a very big deal. In fact, it ended up being one of the worst parts of parenthood. I think it was my fault, though, because I set myself up for disappointment during potty training in multiple ways, and from the very beginning.
I actually thought I was low-key and easy-going about it. I put a potty in the bathroom, told my toddler what it was for, and simply hoped she'd use it. At first, it went pretty well. When she followed me into the bathroom I would encourage her to sit down on her potty chair, and would cheer and do a special potty song and dance routine if she managed to put even a drop of pee in her potty. The novelty of the experience wore off, though, and before I knew it she absolutely refused to go. The minute I put her in a diaper, though, she would pee or poop a whole day's worth.
Like most of my parenting experiences, potty training totally didn't go as planned. I eventually came to the conclusion that my mom either lied about potty training, remembered her experience incorrectly, or I was simply incapable of teaching another human being how to use a toilet. Either way, I definitely set myself up for disappointment in the following ways, and learned a few pee-soaked lessons in the process.
I Set My Expectations Too High
I can't believe I actually thought that it would only take three days to potty train my 18-month-old toddler. The guide I used said it would happen, but I also had a willful toddler with no desire to stop wearing diapers. I should have listened to my kid and not the books, my mom, or people on the internet.
Spoiler alert: potty training didn’t happen in three days or even three months. I totally should have waited.
I Refused To Try Training Pants
I absolutely refused to buy pull-ups or training pants for my cloth-diapered toddler. I moved her to panties right away, which resulted in an obscene amount of accidents. While I am not sure if it impeded the process of potty training her, it definitely made things harder.
I Started Before She Was Ready
Trust me when I say that trying to potty train your kid before they are actually ready is an exercise in disappointment and futility. After almost a year of trying to get my daughter to consistently use the potty, I learned that she wouldn't do it until she was willing, ready, and able to. My advice to any parent trying to potty train their kid is to wait. Then wait some more. And, when in doubt, try some more waiting. Believe me, it's so much easier to potty train a toddler when they are as into the process as you are.
I Thought It Would Be Easy
Based on my mom’s experience, I kind of thought potty training would be easy. When it wasn’t, I worried that I had failed and my daughter would wear diapers forever. I am happy to report that this is not the case. Thank goodness.
I Wasn’t Consistent
Part of the problem was obviously me. First, I tried to be casual about the entire potty training process. Then I gave rewards. Then I hoped peer pressure would do the trick. I wasn’t consistent, and my toddler wasn’t having any of it.
I Made Too Many Changes
Any changes you make in your life will inevitably impact your children — especially big ones. While attempting potty training, we went on vacation, moved to a new city, changed her child care arrangements, and moved to new homes three times. Needless to say, she had potty training regressions, which is to say that whatever progress we'd made went right out the window. It was a nightmare.
I Let It Become A Battle Of Wills
In my experience, toddlers show even more resistance than usual if they think they are being forced to do something they don’t want to do. As soon as I backed off and let my daughter do her business — literally — she got on board.
I am going to let you in on a little secret: toddlers know when you want something to happen. If, for some reason, you have a goal that doesn't align with theirs, you're probably not going to reach it. They are younger, stronger-willed, and in complete control of potty training. Your toddler will get theri way if you try to make them potty train before they are ready.
I Was Hard On Myself
When potty training didn't work out the way I planned, I lost hope. I thought it was my fault, and that I was a bad parent for not successfully potty training my child before they turned 2. Now, I know that potty training is hard, and even harder if you try to do it before your child is actually ready.
I am going to wait until my youngest actually wants to use the potty, and hopefully he will potty train himself as a result. This mom is tired, you guys, and I am setting my expectations low this time around.