Pregnancy Parenting

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This week I had the pleasure of meeting many new and amazing moms! All with questions about the many tasks of parenting little ones, but one that I heard asked several times was about potty training. And I will be honest… nothing strikes more fear in my heart than potty training! I will be honest, while I have successfully advised many families through this “rite of passage”, when it came to my own kids, well, let's just say it was a bumpy road.

Here's what I learned from the whole experience:

1. Readiness Signs: GOOD!

-My son and daughter both showed these signs LOUD & PROUD. My son started around 30 months, and my daughter around 19 months. They were:

*telling me when their diaper was dirty

*had distinct patterns or time frames when they went (able to stay dry for 2 hours or more)

*had an interest in the toilet/potty

*were able to pull their pants down and up with little to no help (up gave them more trouble)

2. Bribes: GOOD!

My son was easily bribed. He was obsessed with jelly beans and Hot Wheel cars! So every time he sat on the potty, he got a jellybean. And if he was successful at going he earned a car. We tried the sticker chart (which I advise to many parents), but he lost interest in it quickly and it no longer had any effect as an encouragement tool. I had a friend who just let her kids flush the toilet and that was all they ever needed. Lucky girl!

My daughter had a little more complex and expensive taste. She loved My Little Pony. So I came across a lot of them on eBay, and voila! We found a cost effective way to keep her motivated.

3. Lots to drink & a timer: GOOD!


My son was so excited…I hardly ever gave the kids juice, let alone non-watered down juice. So I took 2 days off from work and bought him his own assortment of juice boxes. You would have thought he had won the lottery. The squeals could be heard down the street! So began the juice marathon. Every couple hours he received a new juice box (we alternated with a glass of water…I just couldn't do straight juice all day long), and every hour the kitchen timer went off and we went to sit on the potty for a potty break. Everyone was excited about the new experience, him: the new juice boxes and potty chair. Me: the beginning of this major accomplishment…potty training!

4. Peeing on the floor: BAD!

Okay, I feel victim to one of the biggest no-nos of potty training with my son…I didn't read his cues! Every time he had a successful time on the potty chair I would cheer and yell and clap! I wanted him to see how excited and proud I was. But he didn't. Then, after a few days of potty training, my son started saying he didn't want to use the potty chair, but I insisted and even picked him up and put him on the chair myself! He was going to do this and show that I was successful at potty training. Because at this point (& I didn't realize it at the time) it was all about my success as a mother! And with me being so wrapped up in this train of thought…I missed his cues. His non-responsiveness to my cheers, him crying that he didn't want to go potty. Finally he got me to listen the only way he knew how. He peed on the floor. And not a little accident. Nope. He sat on the potty after I made him for about 3 minutes. Nothing came out, so he got up, looked down at the potty and peed right next to it! Okay- message received! Needless to say…we took a break from potty training for a while after that.

5. Multiple kids and 1 potty chair: BAD!

So you may have noticed that I mentioned my daughter started potty training much earlier than my son. She actually became interested when she saw me training with him one weekend. So when he decided to take a break, and she showed an interest, I was ready to try it. And then it happened. The thing that every parent deals with if you have more than 1 child- jealousy! My son suddenly decided one summer day that he was ready to start using the potty. He just marched right in the bathroom upon waking up and sat on the potty chair in the bathroom and went pee. I was amazed! My daughter heard the commotion and toddled into the bathroom only to see her brother sitting on what she had claimed as HER potty chair. She was furious! At only 20 months she stomped her foot and shouted, “No! MY potty!”. I tried to explain that the potty chair was there for her and her brother, but she was no having any of it. It ended with her yelling “No potty mommy! Me diaper!” and that was it. I sat there shell-shocked. She was not having any part of the potty chair again. Her brother had defaced it. It was now covered in boy cooties! So my advice…get a separate potty chair for multiple kids if potty training at the same time.

6. Use the right words: GOOD!

I learned early on from the plethora of books I read at the library on potty training both for work and for my own kids, that you have to plan out your vocab for potty training. Who would have thought? What I mean is, make sure that all the adults that care for your child use the same words for the body parts and the actions of going potty. Don't use a word for going potty that you are not okay hearing your child yell at the top of his lungs in the middle of the grocery store. We learned this when we mistakenly taught our daughter that she had a vagina. Because she would yell “Mommy! My vagina has to go pee!”. She still talks about her vagina to people….aghhhh! And for boys, the thought of their “wee-wee” which is attached to them, going into the potty and being flushed away can be very upsetting. Kids are very concrete thinkers during this stage. So if you call his penis a “wee-wee” and you tell him he goes “wee-wee” in the potty and we flush the potty to make it go bye-bye….his thought process and your thought process won't likely be matching up well.

7. Open door policy: GOOD!

Come on moms. Many of us lost much of our modesty while pregnant, and many during delivery of our baby. So an open door policy where we let our little ones see us go to the bathroom is not a hard thing to do. It helps them learn what is expected and how it actually works. But here's the kicker….if you have a boy…try to get dad on board with this one. Remind him that by letting your little guy watch the “Big guy” go potty it will help answer questions. And if dad can “take one for the team” and pee sitting down once in a while…well, even better for the learning process!

And here is my final thought on potty training. It is a piece of advice given to me by a close friend while I was having one of my many breakdowns while trying (seemingly unsuccessfully) to potty train my kids:

Don't worry…they will be potty trained before they leave for college!

This simple statement made me laugh so hard- I almost peed myself (oh the irony!), and made me realize that even though it was hard now, and it wasn't being made any better by the weekly comments from my mother-in-law about how easily she potty trained my husband and his brother, or by the clients I was supporting during potty training in their home who had no problems what so ever, that this “rite of passage” would eventually be successful. And you know what? They did eventually get it!

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