Before I begin my list I want to preface it by saying that I am not an expert. I only have three kids. I don’t nanny or babysit or run a daycare out of my home. I have learned that all three of my children are completely different so I can only imagine that the differences in all children are exponential. That being said here are ten simple truths I have learned from the potty training process.
- Plan on it taking a year. For real. Full independence where a child is aware of their needs and can take care of those needs completely on their own without accidents will take about a year from the time a child “gets” the concept of toilet training. This is an approximation and could take longer or shorter so just plan on the year.
- Every child trains themselves. The phrase “My child figured it out on their own” produces feelings of guilt and anxiety in parents whose children are not fully trained yet. The truth is there is only so much that can actually be taught. It’s up to the child to do it.
- One cannot make a child perform on the toilet. Few things in this life are technically impossible but this is one of them. I cannot go for my children nor can I force them to go at my whim. So don’t micromanage this process.
- Motivation is the key to success. The frustration being that every child is different and finding what motivates each child can be difficult. One of my children finally found success when I left it completely in his/her hands. Stickers and other reward systems to earn toys worked for the other two. Some kids will work for food. It’s different for everybody.
- Pull ups are not evil. They are peace of mind in public and when a child is sleeping. Pull ups do not send the message to a child that it’s ok to “have an accident” unless a parent actually tells the child to just go because they’re in a pull up. When variables are harder to control a possible accident will be easier to take care of if a child is in a pull up instead of underwear.
- There is no magic age and no specific window of opportunity for potty training. Some kids are trained by 18 months (or younger) and some are closer to 4 years old. Unless there is a physical or mental disability most children are trained by kindergarten. Parents will not be changing their grade schooler’s diapers! So stop worrying about keeping up with the Joneses.
- Bed wetting is more common than you think and should not be a source of contention or anxiety. Patience, understanding, and minimizing embarrassment are the keys here.
- Regression happens. Recognize stress in your child and be encouraging. They will get over it.
- Don’t be afraid to throw out heavily soiled underwear. Seriously.
- Potty training can feel like the most consuming activity of your life. Trust me when I say it is fleeting. Once it’s over it’s over and you will forget more than you will ever remember. My kids are all approximately 2 years apart and I felt like it was my first time every time because I had forgotten so much. I feel like this is a good thing since what worked for one child may not work for another.
The most important thing to remember is that you are raising adults and not children. The goal is for your child to reach independence and take care of their own needs. Don’t potty train a child still sleeping in a crib unless you want the responsibility of taking them to the bathroom. I wouldn’t want to. There is nothing more satisfying than to realize I have no idea how often my child used the bathroom because they didn’t need me to help them do it.