Candace Ganger

Potty Training Your First Kid Vs. Potty Training Your Second Kid

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My son turned 5 in October and let me tell you, he's one of the most complicated beings I've ever met. (He's a lot like me.) With eyelashes some women would pay for, a voice so tiny it rivals a mouse's squeak, and the most enduring lines ("I like your face"), there's little I don't adore about him. However, and I say this with all the love in my heart, we have one major issue and it has to do with the bathroom. I'm now painfully aware that potty training your first kid vs. potty training your second kid is vastly different. Seriously, you guys. We're talking night and freakin' day.

With our daughter, I now know we may have began the great potty training adventure a little early. She had frequent accidents which led to a longer learning curve than what most would consider "normal." We eventually got it worked out just before I gave birth to her brother, but thinking back, it wasn't as bad as I felt it to be at the time. I know this especially now that we're in the thick of it again only, this time feels a helluva lot different. The main points remain the same, sure, but what's changed is the way we've parented alongside.

With that, here are some of the ways potty training your first toddler isn't even close to going through it with your second. Godspeed, toddler parents. Godspeed.

With Our First Kid, We Had A Sticker Chart And Rewards...

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If there was an action item that existed during the time we potty trained my oldest, we did it. We had the giant poster board sticker chart and an intricate reward system which involved collecting a certain amount of stickers until reaching the next "level" and at that point, she could purchase a small toy. Just reading that through gives me a headache but she was excited seeing her progress.

We accumulated a mass of Polly Pockets and she ate her weight in chocolate during this period but it got the job done and her accidents became fewer and fewer (while we went broke buying all this crap).

...With Our Second Kid, We Didn't

Well, that whole system didn't last long the second time around. I could blame it on being exhausted or feeling lazy or that my son wasn't as thrilled as my daughter, but regardless; it quickly became clear the things that worked for her wouldn't work for him. Not even a little.

The one common ground we've found is keeping a drawer full of Reese Cups in the refrigerator to which he can grab from every time he goes. No cheers. No confetti. No toys. Just candy. That's it.

With Our First Kid, We Bought A Bunch Of Gear...

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We took stock in a potty chair, a seat for the big toilet, underwear, stickers; literally all the things ever created that are remotely "potty" related. We did use all the things because I was so adamant about being the "coach" and getting it done. I know now, we probably didn't need all the things because I don't think my daughter really cared that much. It was really for me.

...With Our Second Kid, We Used What We Have

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but we didn't have all the things to begin training my son. I know, I know. We did purchase a small seat to put on our toilet and a step stool to move things along, but honestly that's about it. It's not that they don't work wonderfully, or aren't helpful at times, but I was pretty convinced buying a separate potty chair was kind of a waste. Why spend money on things not needed (when our budget is tighter with two kids anyway)?

With Our First Kid, We Had A Strict Schedule...

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I scheduled and wrote down everything we needed for every day we went through this process, in order to successfully stay on top of it. Part of this is because of my need to have routines but, mostly, I did it to help her. To know when we'd have her try to go was beneficial.

Having a plan not only put my mind at ease, it gave her something solid to look to when she didn't know what or when or how.

...With Our Second Kid, We Have No Idea

"What potty training schedule?" I find myself asking anyone who will listen and on a daily basis.

To be fair, I tried. I started one at the first inkling he might be ready, but after realizing he wasn't ready at that time, we took a giant step back and waited for him to let us know. This approach has helped him gain the kind of freedom our daughter didn't have. His progress won't look like hers and I get that now. So, while we try to get him to go at critical times (before sleep, before we leave the house, etc.), he's sort of on his own to recognize the sensation and get to the bathroom as soon as possible. So far, it's working. Mostly.

With Our First Kid, We Asked Repeatedly...

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The continuous loop of, "Do you need to go yet?" gets tiring, even for me. I'm sure my daughter wished I'd gotten laryngitis or something, so I would at least shut up for a second.

To her record, she did try to go every time we asked, but it didn't always result in success and, a lot of times, ended in tears or frustration. I don't want to be the kind of mom that's always nitpicking or nagging (which can cause anxiety or heighten anxiety in a child already suffering) but at 10, she is potty trained completely, so at least there's that.

...With Our Second Kid, We Forget All The Damn Time

I'll be honest, I don't always remember to ask my son if he needs to go until either he's taken himself to the bathroom or it's too late and there's an accident to clean up. I don't do this intentionally, to be sure, but having two humans constantly vying for my attention (plus my life responsibilities, work, and all the other distractions) has my brain at max capacity.

When I went through this with my daughter, I didn't have nearly as much going on so I had the time to obsess over her bathroom habits more than I do now.

With Our First Kid, We Trained For Sleep Times...

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Along with my stringent potty training schedule, buying all the things, and constantly asking, we were always sure to be sure our daughter tried to go before all sleep times no matter what.

Much like training for the Olympics (I'm sure), we treated it as a competition. We wanted to help her get stronger and more secure in her ability to go. This helped and hurt her. While she did learn to go before bed, I've noticed a bit of regression the last couple of years where she's getting up to go a lot in the night. I think she's hit a rebellious phase in not wanting to try right before bed and honestly, after how strict her training schedule was, I get it.

...With Our Second Kid, We Just Cross Our Fingers

It was good while it lasted, right? My need for schedules and routines is still very much alive and well, it just isn't interested in all the potty stuff. Weird, right? Again, we do still try to get him to sit on the toilet before sleep times, but it's nowhere near the intensity it was with our daughter. We throw a pull-up on, tell him to go to the bathroom if he needs to, and hope for the best.

As with all children, our two are just different. They prefer different styles and learn at different paces. I respect this. I've grown and learned through trial and error that not everything will go the exact same way, even if I apply the exact same principles. So instead, I let my son be himself and when he's ready to commit to doing all the things to stay dry all night, it will be the right time. Instead of me telling him when, he'll be ready.