Potty training is one of those eternal parenting challenges. Every time moms with babies or little kids get together, someone will bring it up. Someone will have had no trouble at all, while someone else will believe it’s never going to happen. So I’ve made a list of potty training tips I’ve learned this time around. (And hopefully, for the last time!)
Soooo, potty training, no problem right? I’ve done this before, how hard can it be to get this other tiny person to use the potty…correctly? Piece of cake.
That’s when my motherhood reality check hit me smack dab in the face. Here are my potty training takeaways this time around.
NO POTTY TRAINING BLUEPRINT
Here’s a little secret about parenting: “ALL KIDS ARE DIFFERENT.”
Just because you’ve done this once (or twice…) before, does not mean you know what you are doing. There is no one size fits all way to potty train a child. My four children couldn’t be more different both in physical stature and in their personalities. What worked for my oldest does not work for my youngest, so why then would I think potty training would be any different?
I’m learning that potty training has less to do with technique and more to do with each individual child. Also, you are not the same parent you were before. With baby #1, you likely were focused and regimented with potty training. You read all the books and blogs on how to potty train. You made it a focus of daily life. This might’ve had a little to do with only having one child to focus on. Potty training with baby #2, as with many other things, will be less of an all-consuming affair.
Do what works. And work with family members and child care providers to get on the same page. Don’t worry about what anyone else might think about what works for your family.
CELEBRATE THE POTTY
With all my kids, praise was huge. Enticing them to get on the potty or reprimanding them for hiding behind the couch to poop in their pants will get you nowhere. Some kids respond more intensely than others to harsh tones, like my Emily-girl, making it even more important to accept mistakes and put all your energy into celebrating their successes.
Reward them with a sticker for their chart or other reward (we used jelly tots) for sitting on the potty when it’s time – even if they don’t go. Reward them for trying so they have incentive to stick with it. But when they made their first drop in the potty, we made a bigger deal and gave her a marshmallow fish. Now we don’t reward for just sitting because she has moved on to level 2 of potty training 🙂
If they loose motivation for trying again and not succeeding in successfully using the potty, go back to a jelly tot for trying.
MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR
If you have more than one child, you would have seen this obsessive need to copy their siblings. Mine are at the “Mom, she’s copying everything I say” – stage. So much fun.
I used that to our advantage when we potty train. Getting big sister involved not only helped the little one, but I could see their confidence and pride grow each time they helped out. And before bath-time, when everyone went to the toilet, it was the perfect opportunity to encourage my youngest to do what Emily/Alexander/Nika is doing, right next to, or across from her sibling on the toilet.
This also means, though, that if you are going to reward your toddler for going pee in the potty, that you have extra. When I was handing out marshmallows for a successful pee in the potty, there were more than two hands waiting for their handout. And that is totally ok. Fostering the sense of accomplishment not just for your own achievements but for others as well is a great lesson to learn as an older sibling.
IT’S A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT
Remember that potty training does not happen overnight and every child is different. Take your time and know that your child will have accidents. It happens and that’s okay. Stick with it and they will get potty trained!
There will be setbacks. Lots of setbacks. Potty training accidents will happen. One day, you’re the best mom in the world because you got your threenager to do pee pee in the giant scary public potty. And then he refuses to use any potty for a week, and you’re sure you’ll be sending him to high school in pull-ups.
Big successes don’t mean you’re all done, and neither do setbacks—no matter how big or small they seem. In the words of the immortal Dory, just keep swimming.
And don’t take it personally. – With Emily’s struggles I felt like I failed parenting, with Nika I felt like I nailed it. When in all honest I had very little to do with any of the outcomes. Potty training is completely the child’s accomplishment, as a parent I just aid them in the process. So don’t feel guilty or like a failure if your child doesn’t get it right away. And by all means, don’t gloat if your child comes out of the womb potty trained. All kids are different. PERIOD.
You’ve got this. So does he/she.
The bottom line? Be patient, be kind, and know that you’ll both get there eventually. And one day you’ll look back at this stage of life, diaper explosions and all, with wistful nostalgia.
But enough for now. I have to go buy some more big-girls panties…