The Best Potty Training Advice You'll Probably Never Get

Lately I've been encountering a lot of questions about potty training. How can you get your little monster to sit on the toilet, be interested in using it, or lose interest in crapping their pants? 

It might appear that I have successfully potty trained three children. As of today, all three of my children use the toilet regularly, and only one of them still asks me to wipe his ass when he's done. 

*high-fives all around*

So, how did this happen? 

Obviously I must be some kind of a potty training expert at this point, right? Each of you should be lining up at my door to paint my fence, wash my car, and trap flies between sticks for the opportunity to soak in all the wisdom I must have in this department. So many of you have asked, that I've decided to bestow upon you my fail-proof secrets to mastering the train of pottying.

I hope you're ready for this...

...


Just don't.

That's right. You read that correctly. 

Yup, you're on the right page. You didn't click the wrong thing. 

The secret to potty training a child who isn't ready to be trained is: 

Know and respect your limits.

Perhaps you're wondering, as you've tried literally every potty training trick in the book - repeatedly - and it hasn't worked, how the exact opposite might be the actual solution.

How could not pushing possibly be the answer to getting a toddler or preschooler to do something they don't want to do?? Because everyone knows if you push a toddler/preschooler hard enough to do something, eventually they'll just submit. 

BWAHAHAHA!! Just kidding. 

My daughter basically "trained" herself. She woke up one day and decided she was done with diapers. I won't say it was "easy," but I will say it wasn't hard. 

My sons were an entirely different story. I honestly worried I might someday have to send my oldest to college with a pack of adult diapers. No seriously, this was a legit fear that consumed my thoughts. So, I talked to one of my veteran mom friends, and I confided in her that my son was nearly four and didn't seem ready. 

It was during that conversation that I realized how much of this potty training thing I was making about me, instead of focusing on the actual fact that my son was telling me - every chance he could - that he wasn't ready. 

I was worried his lack of readiness would reflect poorly on me somehow; that I would be judged for not working hard enough at it. Who wants to be that parent in playgroup after Sally announces she potty trained her baby in the womb?

Nobody.

When did this milestone become all about when we think they should be ready, and discounting their right to take their own time?  

I took the permission a good friend offered, and I gave up. I stopped harassing my little boy every time it looked like he might have to go and attempting to bribe him with M&Ms and toys if only he would do it my way. I gave my son the space to hit rock bottom, and allowed him the opportunity to make the decision for himself that crapping his pants wasn't awesome. 

Here are some tips (based on what I found helpful) to help you get through this. 

Yes, you will get through this. 




1. Stop killing yourself slowly trying to change something you literally cannot change. 

Toddlers and preschoolers live to torture us. The more energy you exhaust trying to get your kid on the pot, the more energy you're exhausting needlessly. Energy is important, because those kids are like spider-monkeys. Conserve yours, and chill. Having a kid in diapers, compared to actual real problems, isn't the worst thing in the world. It's all going to be okay.

2. Change what you can (diapers), but take every opportunity to tap into your child's possible motivation for change, and then capitalize on that shit (literally).

Is diaper changing during play time an inconvenience for your kiddo? GREAT! Take the opportunity to point out that bathroom breaks don't have to take as long as diaper changes. Are diapers getting in the way of their favorite dress fitting? Make sure to point out that once they start wearing underwear, that dress might fit perfectly again!

3. Allow your child to experience natural consequences.

Natural consequences are a part of life that we all get to experience. Diapers aren't necessarily fun for anyone, but they are the "norm" and the only thing our kids know. Nobody likes change when it comes to the unknown, and natural consequences can often promote the motivation necessary to take the leap. 

4. Start a support/play group.

Host a Saturday morning group (so working parents can also attend), and use it to connect with other parents and bitch about how awful and inconvenient it can feel to have a kid in diapers. Maybe give away something fun every week for the worst/best horror diaper blowout or accident story. This might even motivate you to enjoy the process, as it will allow for laughable moments and less stress and associated shame. 

Make it fun, FFS. It's not like your kids will actually go to college in diapers...probably. And even if they do, they make adult diapers, and your child will have to carry whatever shame is involved from that point on. 

5. Make time for YOU.

Whether it's a night out with friends or a monthly massage package, do it! If you don't have any friends who will join you in lamenting about first world problems without making you feel like a dick, get some new friends -- maybe via your new support group! Parenting is hard, yo, and we all need a posse of understanding adults to bitch, moan, and ugly cry/laugh with.  

6. Stop letting someone else's shit stress you out.

Do I really need to explain this one?

7. Understand, even if your kid goes to college in diapers, you are an incredible parent.

Your incredibleness is not contingent on potty training failures or successes. No matter what age your little is when they're ready to go, it will not be a reflection of how much you rock parenting or life. You are and will continue to be one of the greatest parents your child has ever had. 

8. Enjoy the journey.

You will not love every second, and I will never suggest you seize all the moments, but enjoying the journey is important. At some point, before you know it, your little won't be little anymore, and you'll long for the day they needed you at all. I know it's hard to envision this, elbows deep in poo, but I promise you when the dust settles, you might even completely black this part out and convince yourself it was lovely.

9. No game, No shame.

Once I let myself and my kids off of the imaginary hook, I also let go of the unnecessary bullshit guilt. I stopped pretending embarrassment is ever a helpful parenting or negotiation tool, and it freed me up to support their actual process. Potty training is not a game to win, and sometimes it can be a really scary transition.

10. Congratulate the Sallys, and move on with real life.

In real life it doesn't matter how old anyone is when they decide to use the toilet. At no point will it ever go on a resume, and outside of the ridiculous sport of competitive parenting, it's a non-issue. 


For the record, five weeks after I gave up and allowed my son his own process, he decided he was ready. 

He has never had an accident -- not even once. 



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