Potty training, the bane of my motherhood. You’d think after 7 successful potty trainings I’d be a pro, or at least not think much of it. Well I hate it. It gives me anxiety and creates a whole bunch of negative emotions inside. Did I have negative experiences? Yes. Did I have positive experience? Yes. And yet the negative experiences live on and create the fear inside.
I potty trained my first two around 2 yrs old, the second one being my worst experience. He took 6 months, a lot of patience, and a whole lot of stress! From that point on I decided I wouldn’t do anything until the child showed interest and was ready, which for the next 5 children was right before their 3rd birthday. Henry was different. Although he’s very independent and could recognize when he needed to poo since he was around 2, he wouldn’t sit on the toilet. He refused to wear underwear and was just fine with his diaper. I tried to potty train him when he was about 2 and a half and I was pregnant with our last baby, but it lasted a day before we reverted back to the diaper. Neither one of us were ready.
Fast forward to this past week when I was fed up with him taking off his diaper and asking for me to put a new one on. I had already gathered new exciting underwear and treats as rewards and put then in a basket on a shelf just waiting for him to want to try potty training. I told him he was too big for diapers now and he could wear a pull up until Friday when he’d get to wear underwear. During the week he’d sit on the toilet a few times and have some successes, but mostly I didn’t have time to designate my energy solely on him until this weekend.
I began Friday meditating. Breathing in positive, peaceful, and loving feelings; breathing out anxious, fearful, and negative feelings. Once all the big kids were in school, I made juice (to give him LOTS of practice), put on his underwear, laid a towel on the floor in front of a show, and got ready for a LONG day. But to my surprise he recognized he needed to go and went! And then he did it again! And again! I just couldn’t believe it
My other children would go through 7-15 pairs of underwear during that first day, learning to recognize the sensation of needing to go to the bathroom before it actually comes out. Henry only had to change his underwear right before bed. He wore the same pair the entire day! I told Jacob how thankful I was that Henry was doing so well, but he reminded me others have started off good but then took 3 steps back. So I braced myself for his digressing. It’s now been almost a week and Henry is still doing great! He will have an occasional accident once in a while, but most of the time he’s running to the bathroom and doing everything himself. He isn’t even asking for a treat after each time he goes, which means it’s becoming more of a habit instead of a novelty.
Do I think I’m now a master at potty training? Nope, not in the slightest. Do I think I have anything to do with how well it turned out? Maybe a little with the positive meditation energy I was bringing to the table, but no it was all him. Do I still hate potty training? Absolutely! But now maybe not all experiences are horrible!
What tips would I give after my 8 experiences? First find a method that works for you, your personality and family. I’ve used the 3 Day Method where you put them in underwear, load them with liquids, watch them like a hawk, and any time they start to go you whisk them into the bathroom to finish the job there. I’ve also used a more lax approach slowly getting into the training with the child wearing pull-ups for a few days and randomly putting them on the toilet. And then when I do put them in underwear not loading them with liquids but every so often take them to the toilet to try. I did this more with the twins because the thought of watching them both that closely all day didn’t seem doable at the time. And I’ve done a mixture of both when it felt right! Listen to your parent intuition and what will work best with your child or family at that time. That being said here’s my top 5 tips:
- Make sure they are ready. Can they tell you they have a soiled diaper? Are they interested in sitting on the toilet? Because if the child doesn’t want to be potty trained, they won’t be and it will just make your life miserable to push it.
- Don’t be afraid to use pull-ups. With my first few kids I heard you should never put your kids in pull-ups because they resemble diapers too much. Well coming from a mom that spent months changing wet sheets every night, I’m here to tell you it’s just fine to put them in pull-ups. Sometimes genetically they can’t make it through the night, that’s not your failure or theirs it will just take more time. More time in pull-ups.
- Be prepared with lots of underwear (because it does take practice), juice or favorite liquid (to create lots of practice), small treats for instant rewards (I like an M&M or two for going pee in the toilet and a cookie for going poo) and a some larger rewards as incentives when needed. (With 5 of my kids I bought a pack of matchbox cars and every time they successfully went poo in the toilet they got a car, since this was harder to master and they needed some more motivation.
- Try to stay as positive as you can. I just realized this is why potty training is so emotionally draining for me, because I’m usually an even tempered person. But when I’m potty training a child I’m over the top excited for them and praising them as much as I can, but when I feel frustrated or discouraged I mask those emotions so the child only sees this experience as positive.
- Know that you are not alone. Potty Training is HARD! Some children are better than others and some mothers must have the magic touch, but it’s my experience that most moms dread potty training and will commiserate with you and bring you a treat for just hanging in there. Because it is very draining emotionally and physically.
If you are about to brave the training of the potty or are currently doing so now, you’ve got this! Keep your head up and stay positive because it will eventually all work out! (Just hopefully sooner rather than later!)