Potty training may be one of the most dreaded parts of parenting. Everyone and their mother (especially their mothers) have an opinion about potty training. There are countless books and "experts" claiming to have the secret. I call bull. There are a lot of expectations we put on potty training and now I'm sharing 6 things I wish someone had told me before I started potty training my kids:
1. It might not happen in 1 day or 3 days or even 10 days
Let's start here. If you opened this link, chances are you have read articles and purchased books on how you can potty train your child in 1 day, 3 days, over a weekend, etc. This is bull crap. These are sexy ideas and they sell. I know they sell, because I bought and read not one, but 4 books on potty training before I started potty training my son the first time (yes, I had to potty train him more than once). I had it all figured out. I was going to have not one, but both children potty trained in one day. I'm an optimist to a fault.
I followed all the directions exactly the way the "experts" told me to do it. Day one came and went and I kept my spirits high, knowing that sometimes it takes 3 days to potty train. Then 3 days came and went and neither child was potty trained. I gave myself and kids as much grace as I could muster, knowing that if I was just committed enough and diligent enough, it would in fact happen. Finally a week went by and then 10 days and after 10 days, I determined that maybe my kids just weren't ready yet.
I put the underpants and the potty away for about 8 months and then finally gave it another go with my son (he was 3 years and 3 months this time) and within a day he had figured it out. He had maybe 2 accidents that first week but he has stayed relatively dry during the day since then.
We started again recently with my daughter when she turned 2.5 and she wears underpants during the day, but still has many accidents and needs to be told to used the potty frequently.
There is no short cut to potty training. It takes time with most kids, and that's okay. Every child develops at a different time and that's okay too!
2. It's boring
You just sit there. You will lose your voice from reading books over and over and over for what feels like infinity but is actually like 42 minutes.
I've learned that in order to potty train effectively you need to put your phone down and just be present because you need to learn your child's signs (which full discloser, I still cannot figure out) and watch them carefully so you can catch them in the act and quickly move them to the potty.
It is literally the most boring thing ever. Just lean into it. Have lots of books to read your kids. That's my biggest piece of advice. Just don't accidentally drop your books in the toilet. This is gross and it sucks and just be cool, okay?
3. Your second child will not respond to the same rewards as your second child.
Every child is different. I can't say this enough. This is part of the reason I am so irked by "experts" claiming to have the one way to potty train your children. My son is a child who values independence so he wasn't potty trained until I stopped asking him to use the potty. The day I decided to stop asking him to go, I told him, "If you have to go potty, you can tell me or you can go in and do it by yourself, okay?" And he did. I never asked him again, which gave him 100% control over his situation and he went on his own.
Now, my daughter, on the other hand, if left to her own devices will just pee her pants. She needs to be reminded every 30-45 minutes and it is always a fight. Also, she responds to my husband differently than she responds to me. My husband can say, "let's try to go potty and then you can play." And she will sit on the toilet and pee immediately. If I say that same sentence to her she responds as if I am pulling out her fingernails with a pair of pliers. Instead, I have to convince her that her stuffed animals need to use the potty and she has to show them how to go. It's really quite exhausting.
Your children will respond differently than both of mine and they will also be different from any of your other kids. I have a friend who has potty trained 6 offspring and each experience was different. This made me feel better knowing that even a veteran parent gets tripped by different personalities.
4. Teaching them to use the potty is easy. Teaching them to keep their underpants dry is the hard part.
This is where every "expert" and children's book misses the mark when it comes to potty training. They all talk focus on how to get your child to use the potty and keep using the potty, but that's the easy part. That takes like half a day. Give them a crap ton of apple juice and keep them on the potty for a couple hours reading books and they will have learned how to pee in the potty (poo comes later).
The HARD part is getting them to keep their underpants dry. My recommendation is to focus on peeing in the potty as a means to an end. The goal should not to be to pee in the potty, but rather to keep their underpants dry. It just so happens that the only way to keep your underpants dry is by peeing in the potty. BOOM. Is your mind blown?
5. Day two will not be as successful as day one
I see you there, all gun ho about potty training. You are excited. The kids are excited and energized and high on sugar from apple juice and M&Ms. Day one is done and they did great! Some accidents, but mostly they were compliant and went pee in the potty several times and even told you once. You are confident by the end of day two they will have it down pat.
WRONG! Day two is the worst. Just the worst. They excitement wears off, but they have proven to you that they are capable of peeing in the potty so now it is expected of them. Now it isn't something the get to do, it's something they have to do and they hate you for it. Let the tantrums begin.
6. It's hard for everyone.
In case you are sitting at home thinking wtf is wrong you, the answer is NOTHING! Potty training is hard for everyone. There are some magical unicorn children who they say potty train themselves, but for every other parent of every other child, the struggle is real. Even if they've potty trained 3 children, their 4th child will have a unique personality and needs in the process, throwing even the most experienced parent for a loop.
So here's what you really need to know about potty training.
It takes patience and grace. Give yourself grace and give your child grace. Potty training is a whole new world for both of you and your child will not know what is up from what is down and you are telling them everything they ever knew about going potty is wrong. Change is hard for adults, so we can't expect it to be easy for our kids. If it doesn't go the way the "experts" say, that's okay. You are doing great. Now, go pour yourself a glass of wine.