8 Ways Your Potty-Training Toddler Is Trying To Say "Hang In There"

by Steph Montgomery

I’m not going to sugar-coat things: potty training is the goddamn worst. In fact, not only is it one of the worst parts of parenting, it's the worst thing you'll ever experience in your entire life. But when I stop and think about the experience, co-mingled with the seemingly endless accidents and failed attempts at bribery, there are so many ways your potty-training toddler is trying to say "hang in there" while you contemplate just how awful it would be to send your kid to college with a package of diapers.

And you totally should hang in there. It will get better. Today, your potty-training toddler might pee their pants at Target, or worse, in their car seat. And yes, today they might decide to poop in the corner of the living room, under the dining room table, or pretty much anywhere that’s not the toilet. They might totally refuse to use public restrooms, delay bedtime, and finally tell you they have to go as soon as you get them strapped into their car seat. But one day, and maybe even tomorrow, they will start to stay dry all day and all night, ask you for big kid underwear, and finally poop in the damn toilet. As they meet these milestones, you will believe a bit more each day that you are doing OK, and that some day you might get to join them in a potty celebration dance.

So as someone who has been through potty training hell twice I can tell you that this, too, shall pass — literally and figuratively. I promise that the chances are high your child won't be using pull-ups when they start middle school, and probably won't poop in the corner of their college dorm room. Parenting is hard, you guys, but moms are strong as hell. Even your potty-training toddler knows that you’re up for the job. You've just got to listen, and they will tell you.

When They Tell You They Have To Go

When a toddler says "I have to go potty" it can mean one of two things. Meaning number one: "I don't want to go to bed, and I know that mommy will let me use the bathroom even if I only manage to dribble a single drop of pee in the potty." Meaning number two: "I have to go, I can feel it, and I am actually letting you know before I have an accident."

Hang in there. Number two will happen.

When They Wake Up Dry

Having a toddler wake up with wet pajamas every night gets old pretty damn fast. So much pee. So much laundry. The first time they wake up dry, you can't help but think you are past the worst part and just might survive.

When They Give You A High Five

With my kids, potty training felt like a fight more often than not. So when they successfully used the potty chair or toilet, and then came to give me a high five, I felt like a potty-training goddess.

When They Clean Up Their Own Accident

All of the potty training guides I read instructed me to not make a big deal about accidents and to calmly instruct my children to clean up their mess and change their clothes. That all sounds great in theory, and until you are actually faced with a pee- or poop-covered toddler. The first time they help you clean up the mess will feel pretty awesome, like you are a team and not on opposing sides.

When They Ask For Big Kid Underwear

When I was potty training my first kid I tried a wide variety of potty-training strategies, including bribery, letting her run around commando for a few days, and setting a timer to let her know when to go. But for her, the biggest incentive ended up being trading in her diapers for "big kid underwear." When she asked me, I sort of felt like we'd passed the last hurdle, and we totally had.

When They "Hold" It Until You Get Home

There's nothing worse than hearing "I have to go potty" when you are 10 minutes from home and there's no place to stop in between. I take that back, cleaning a pee-soaked car seat is worse. So when your kid actually manages to avoid peeing their pants, and make it to the bathroom in time, you will feel like they are telling you that they can do it. Hang in there.

When They Finally Poop In The Toilet

Teaching my kids to pee in the toilet and teaching them to poop in the toilet ended up being two entirely different lessons with two entirely different timelines. When my kids finally pooped, I wanted to throw a parade or light off fireworks. In case you are wondering, for my daughter it was a stool, and for my son it was sitting backwards on the toilet, that made the difference.

When They Do The Potty Dance

Potty training your toddler is totally worth celebrating, and nothing feels better than your toddler mastering a new skill and then doing something adorable, like a potty dance, to let you know that you helped them get there. Actually, by the time we got past the hard parts of potty training, my kids using the potty was enough to make me want to dance.

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