Potty training for some reason is the most dreaded of the milestones. As much as we hate changing diapers, transitioning our children out of diapers seems to be even worse for most parents. Before my daughter was even born, I gave some thought to potty training and didn’t feel either way about it. I just knew that it was something that had to be done but the more I talked to parents who’d gone through it or were going through it, the more I started to dread it myself. Children pick up on our energy even more than they pick up on our words and before starting potty training, I knew I’d have to get a new perspective on my attitude about it before introducing it to my daughter Sydney. Here are some tips that you can take from my experiences to help you with potty training your little ones when the time comes.
Wipe clean your expectation slate – When it comes to potty training, whether you know it or not, you probably have some expectations in your head. These expectations may be positive like you think your kid is really going to get it and you are really hopeful or they may be negative and you think it's going to be a complete disaster. It could also be an expectation around timing. You think your kid is going to be potty trained after a certain amount of days or by a certain age. Whatever they are, get rid of them. The fewer expectations you have about what success is, the more likely you are to achieve success.
Disregard any urban myths or legends that you’ve heard – Before starting potty training, I’d heard all of the things they say about potty training like boys are harder to potty train than girls or poop is harder than pee. They all seem to be true because people I know who are potty training are actually experiencing them but I really don’t know if they become true because they actually are naturally or if our buying into it reinforces it and our reinforcements become reality. It is because of this that I say, before you start potty training, disregard anything that you’ve “heard” about it in the case that it's our reinforcements that cause them to be true.
Be present – Potty training is about your kid learning a new skill but we’re their teachers and our job is just as important. In order to teach them the skill, we need to be present. If you’re truly committed to doing this, you need to drop everything for your child when you’re focused on teaching them, no phone calls, no text messages, no Instagram or Facebook, let the mess in the house pile up until nap or bedtime and order in when you need to eat. Clear your schedule and make potty training your number one priority.
Be consistent – I’m a believer in consistency in everything related to parenting. I personally believe that we give our kids mixed signals often based on how we’re feeling at the time. We tell them not to do something one day but the next day we’re busy or tired and we let them get away with it. This applies to potty training as well. We let them wear a diaper when its convenient for us and pee or poop in it but then expect them to turn the potty training switch back on when we have time to focus on it and to then pee or poop in the potty. This is confusing and is giving them mixed signals and being inconsistent.
Give it time – This is a completely new skill for your child and the same way that it takes you time to learn a new skill, it takes them time as well. Just because we’ve decided that we’re ready for them to potty train doesn’t mean that they’re going to follow suit. Be patient and give it time. Some kids may catch on pretty quickly and others may take a little bit longer.
Don’t compare – So much of parenting seems to be a competition and even if you don’t think you’re doing it, in your head, you’re probably thinking about the most successful of potty training stories that you’ve heard about from other parents and comparing yours to that. DON’T! Every kid is different and they all have different strengths. Plus unless you were actually there when the potty training happens, you don’t really know what happened.
Mistakes are great – I don’t know about you, but mistakes are the way that I learn and I firmly believe that its the same for our kids. The same way that a mistake leads to an “aha” moment for you, it will with your child. We shouldn’t applaud them for making mistakes and should absolutely let them know what actually needs to be done but if they’re learning from their mistakes, they’re making progress.
Progress over perfection – It may take your child a while to become fully efficient at potty training and reward and appreciate progress over perfection. If you expect your child to go from complete novice at using the potty to an expert, you are setting yourself up for failure and you will be upset. Rather look for them to do better than before. If after their nap, they seem to be getting it more than before, that’s great. If day 2 goes better than day 1, that’s all that matters.
Talk to an expert – I don’t know why seeing advice or help gets frowned upon. Not knowing how to do everything with your children naturally doesn’t make you any less of a mom or inadequate. If you haven’t the slightest clue about what to do when it comes to potty training (or anything else), go to the experts! Read a book or an online article, educate yourself some way or another. I read “Oh Crap! Potty Training” by Jamie Glowacki and I’m one of the few parents that I know that didn’t/doesn’t absolutely hate potty training.
Don’t give up – If you set your mind to it, don’t give up, double down and work harder. Giving up on potty training is not a vote of confidence in your child or in yourself. Rather than giving up, look at where and why you think it's going badly and restrategize. The first morning of potty training for my family was an absolute disaster and when I looked analytically at the situation it was because we thought our daughter would be a natural because she hated diapers, we made assumptions about when she would have to go and we really weren’t watching or helping her as much as we should have been. After reassessing the situation and restrategizing, it got much better.
Potty training was a very rewarding experience for my family. It was somewhat exhausting because it was all we talked and thought about for a few day and our schedules were completely put on hold for a few days but it was something that we came together to do and it took all three of us to accomplish it successfully. As parents, there was nothing more rewarding than seeing your child get something and the look of excitement and pride on her face when getting it was priceless.