Potty Training: Who is Really Being Trained?

Potty training – dreaded words you rarely think about until you’re actually doing it with your child. To those lucky few, their kids potty train themselves. But to the majority of parents, potty training can be a tedious, yet obviously necessary thing that every child goes through. Whether it takes a week or two years, every child goes through it (even Elmo says so in “Elmo’s Potty Time” – a DVD on potty training that I highly recommend).

With our oldest, she decided on her own that she wanted to start potty training when she was around two years and four months old. The entire process took around a week, and she was even dry at night by the end of the month. We sound so lucky, right?

Well, if I tell the story in more depth, the truth was, I had tried to begin potty training her when she was around a year old. I bought her books, a little potty, movies, the works. She was actually pretty interested and would sit on the potty and watch television. But in all reality, she wasn’t ready for this (there may be some babies that are ready at a year, but she was not). She certainly liked the attention I was giving and was reveling in all of the adoration she received every time she made a pee pee. But looking back, I still can’t believe I tried to push her when she had not shown any interest other than telling me that she had made in her diaper (she was very verbal at a young age).

How to Start? My Method, the Two W’s: WAIT and WARM

WAIT: It may not seem easy to do, but my first suggestion more than anything else is to wait until your child shows interest. What does that mean exactly?

Does your child:

  • Tell you before or after he/she goes to the bathroom?
  • Seem interested when you or older siblings go to the bathroom?
  • Want to wear underwear?
  • Stay dry for long periods of time (like more than 2 hours)?
  • Complain after going in his/her diaper?

Any or all of these things are clear indication that your child is ready to start training.

Many “experts” will say that your child should also be able to pull his/her pants down and pull them up again or that he/she should be able to go to the potty or toilet by themselves, but I strongly disagree with these. Little children do not develop the dexterity to take their clothes off when they REALLY NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM, nor can they go by themselves if they can’t pull their pants down by themselves! In a relaxed setting, sure. But it can be very stressful when your child is doing the pee pee dance, yet you have to wait to let them take their clothes off themselves. So I really don’t think that these are things that you need to wait for in order to start potty training.

Others might say that if your child goes to poop in the corner, that they are aware that they are doing something “wrong” and are aware of the act of pooping, but I also don’t really agree with this. A child doing something secretive to me means that they are not ready to make it a public thing and potty training is really public.

WARM: My second suggestion about starting to potty train is to do it when the weather is warm, if you can. There are many reasons for this:

  • Less clothes to take on and off
  • Easy to let your child go around naked (depending on the age) or just in underwear
  • Easier time with night training (as long as your child drinks enough throughout the day that they’re not dehydrated) *this will be discussed in the next blog*
  • Accidents happen less, because your child isn’t cold during the day or at night

Why This Article is Called “Potty Training: Who is Really Being Trained?”

Well, because the most important thing you can prepare yourself regarding potty training is to know and accept that YOU, the parent, are being trained. Not your child… not really.

  • YOU will have to schedule potty breaks – somewhere between every 20 to 40 minutes (trial and error works best). But you can know for certain that your child will not know to take themselves away from playing to remember to go to the bathroom, which is when most accidents happen.
  • YOU will have to pick up your child and RUN LIKE CRAZY to get to the potty when your child starts to squirm or even begins to have an accident (if your child is trying to hold it in, you should always try to let them finish in the potty or toilet, and give a lot of positive reinforcement even if they had a little bit of an accident).
  • YOU will have to wrack your brain to decide the best incentive to give your child as a reward (you know your child. Sticker charts may work for one, while giving a piece of chocolate may work for another).
  • YOU will have to make sure you have enough clothes and/or underwear available when you go out, or even at home (when potty training my son, it took me two days to realize that he had peed through everything he owned and I hadn’t done the laundry yet!).

And lastly, YOU will have to remain calm throughout the entire process, especially when your child has his/her fifth accident of the day.

A Potty Training Tip (or Maybe Trick): Peer Pressure

The easiest way to potty train is to find out in the beginning of the school year if your child’s pre-K is planning to potty train the class as a whole. Many private pre-K or small groups do this, and it makes the entire process much easier.

Every single one of my children (all three of them) finished their potty training only when their friends in school were doing it, too (I tried with my oldest two children for a couple months to a year before they were doing it in school, and I almost regret not just waiting and saving myself all the headache).

Peer pressure is an incredible tool, if used appropriately. If your child’s pre-K doesn’t offer this, or if your child is at home with you, you can still make sure to setup play dates with children who are potty training, too. If your child continues to see other children trying, they might feel compelled to want to try themselves.

The Secret to Potty Training: Hour Power (No, Really, This Really Works!)

Even if you don’t have the option of having your child potty train with the rest of his/her class in school, there is a surefire way to successfully start potty training that most schools would agree to. Let’s call in Hour Power – and yes, I just came up with that name right now. But the concept was actually introduced to me this year from my son’s school, so I can’t take credit for it… just the name.

When my son’s entire class was going to begin potty training, his teacher told me that if I had him in underwear (or without a diaper) for an hour at home, they would have him out of a diaper for an hour in school. If it was two hours at home, then would do two hours at school (etc. etc.). What this meant was that I only had to commit to a limited amount of time knowing that he could have an accident. Within two weeks, he was out of diapers altogether during the day! He still had accidents here and there, so it’s not like he was instantly potty trained, but this gave him incentive to want to go to the bathroom out of his diaper.

What If the Two W’s Just Don’t Work?

It might be hard to accept, but you may just have to wait some more (and then, the Two W’s become the THREE W’s: Wait, Warm, and Wait again). The most important thing you can do, which is what I did when my daughter was one, is to know when to take a break with potty training. If your child is really resisting, maybe he/she isn’t ready, and that’s okay. Write down in a calendar the day you stopped, and give it a full month or two before you mention potty training again, unless your child starts to show initiative on his/her own.

Potty training can be a very scary thing. Many children may conquer peeing, but might be too scared to poop right away. The most important thing you can do for your child is to show enthusiasm and excitement when they succeed in making it to the potty or toilet in time, and to keep your cool when they have an accident or if they refuse to go. We basically have to unteach our children the basic things they knew their entire lives: when I make in my diaper, someone cleans it. I don’t have to think about anything when I make. Potty training makes your children aware of their bodies in a way they never had to be. As long as your child knows that you’re proud of them, no matter what they do, the biggest help you can give them is raising their self-esteem in this new and confusing time for them.

(And Don’t Worry – You Are a Great Parent!)

Trust your instincts, and don’t be so quick to ask everyone what they do, because the truth is, you probably won’t always like what they have to say. Be sure not to listen (you can listen, but don’t take it to heart) to what other people say if they “helpfully” give you tips from their own potty training experiences (e.g. snide comments their child was potty trained at two if your child still isn’t – something I’ve heard LOTS of parents upset about).

YOU ARE A GREAT PARENT. No one has the same experiences. Boys are said to take longer than girls to potty train, but have been known to be able to stay dry at night before girls. However, if this isn’t the case with your child, there is nothing to worry about – your child will eventually be potty trained, and it doesn’t matter what other people’s experiences are. YOU are the one going through this now, so you don’t need anyone’s affirmation or approval.

People tend to like to raise themselves up by speaking of their accomplishments rather than their shortcomings, even (or especially) when it comes to parenting. Someone might say how they potty trained their child so easily much faster than they will admit to being a sub-par parent because they pay their Smart Phone more attention than their child! While this is the age of social media, and everyone wants to get everyone’s opinion and support, know that you don’t need anyone’s support, because thousands of parents, where you live, are also going through this, too. How much more support do you need than that?