Potty Training for Dummies

It started out so well.  Emily would run to her potty, do her business, and exclaim “I went pee-pee Mommy!”  Within the first week, she went number two without any urgings from me.  Her diapers were completely dry in the morning and accidents were very, very rare.

And then something happened.  I’m not sure what, but she started freaking out whenever she needed to go number two.  I thought this was a power struggle so I refused to cave into her demands.  Soon, she started having accidents galore.

Yesterday, when I was on my knees cleaning up another mess–this of the icky variety–I kind of lost it.  As I was cleaning, she went to the toilet and peed.  She came out and very excitedly announced that she had gone pee-pee and asked for a treat.  Since I was not very happy with her, I did not give her a treat and begrudgingly told her I was glad she went pee on the toilet.  At the same time, I wasn’t happy with myself for obviously overlooking something.

After she went to bed, and I cooled down significantly, I reflected on her recent regression and how I played into it.  Within in a few moments I had a prompting in the form of two questions: Are you listening to what your daughter is trying to communicate? Or are you pushing your own will on her? I hung my head in shame–good shame–and decided to take a step back and let her progress on her own time.

She can now request a diaper anytime she wants and I am back to giving her treats whenever she pees on the toilet.  Really, I am so proud of her for asking to potty train on her own and not rewarding something that she is obviously pleased with herself is like denying her a kiss when she really needs it.

As a mother, I am often the “dummy” when it comes to listening to my kids.  Thankfully, there is room to change. I hope I can take this lesson and use it continuously as Emily and Andrew grow older.

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Filed under Non-judgmental parenting

30 responses to “Potty Training for Dummies

  1. Love it! Sometimes I get so caught up in the way I *think* it should happen and then I get frustrated when it doesn't go quite the way I planned. I need to take that step back and really listen to what the kids are telling me. Sometimes it's so obvious. After the fact, of course!

    • admin

      Thank you, Shannon! Yes, after stepping back this week I can see exactly where I went wrong. When I decided to take control of the potty training rather than let Emily continue leading. Well, I got a big slap on the hand for that very obvious mistake!

  2. Oh… Yes… I could say so much on regressions and my poor behavior to them. Instead I'll say this – you are a good mama, just for questioning if you are listening to her needs or trying to force your own.
    Bravo. Potty training is tough. Even for dummies.

    • admin

      Thank you, Kate! There are so many other things, other areas, that I am not so conscientious with. I suppose that because this has much messier consequences I am much more willing to change. Or maybe I am growing less stubborn as my kids get older? Uh, yeah, probably not. Ha!

  3. Shelley

    Wow! She asked to be potty trained! I think I still need the reminder of keeping it cool with accidents! It's been a year now since my oldest was potty trained and she still will have accidents every now and then and I need to remember she is only 2 and it's ok.

    • admin

      Shelley–I was not going to potty train her until she was 4. I kid you not. So, the first time she asked I said, "No!" Then, after she ran around the house naked for a whole week and refused to let me put her diaper on, I pulled out the little potty and let her do her thing when she wanted. Of course after that I made some big mistakes by taking the lead and am now suffering because it. I do hope I learned my lesson.

  4. Potty training was a serious eye-opener for me, and not my most stellar parenting moment. I think it will go down in history as the time I totally missed the point, over and over. The thing was, he wasn't ready but neither was I. But I caved to outside pressure and my heart wasn't in it. It was a recipe for disaster. So I let it go…and then one day, a few short weeks later. He just did it. And we never looked back.

    • admin

      Oh Christine! I feel your pain and frustration so very much. I miss the point over and over on so many issues. Seriously, I'm sure I'll make the same mistake with this whole potty training thing next week because, hey, I want to control it! I am learning, very slowly, that Emily needs the independence and room to make her own mistakes in order for things to go smoothly.

      I believe there are so many things that we, as parents, cave into because of outside pressure. It is tough doing what you feel is right when you feel pressure to do something else. Bravo for you, Christine, in recognizing your errors and learning from them.

  5. Love your honesty here Amber. Truly inspiring!

  6. You are so right even though it's hard to do…to truly listen to what they are trying to tell us.

    • admin

      I once heard some excellent parenting advice: don't listen to what you want to hear, listen to what your children want to tell you. That's a tough thing to do when we, as experienced adults, want our children to do what's right the first time. A learning process for all of us.

  7. Potty Training of the #2 variety was a struggle for me, but once I backed off and really listened to her, we progressed. It's hard on those days when you just don't want to clean up another mess. But when she is completely ready, you will know. And once she gets it, diapers will be a thing of the past.

  8. Oh, Amber, mishaps and transgressions happen, and sometimes we just have to be kinder and gentler with ourselves (and our kids too) to make way for progress. It looks like you guys are there.

    I am on the cusp now, or at least my daughter is. She's been going on her own (when I do) and while she's on the potty, she's had successful pee attempts. Other than that, it's mostly the diaper and while her preschool teachers tell me it's time and I know she understands what she has to do, I have not started any training so to speak because I'm not ready, and I also have a feeling that she isn't quite there either.

    She's been so good with transitions – weaning, sleeping, no bottle, big girl bed – only because she led all of those herself without much prompting from us and I feel like if I were to push the potty issue, it would just frustrate the both of us in the process. So again, I'm letting her lead this one and following my instincts; I think I'll know she's ready when she's ready. And perhaps it will be as smooth a transition as the other milestones were. One can hope anyway.

    • admin

      Ah these pressures to do things at a certain time! You are so wise for waiting until your daughter takes the lead. If she is like Emily, and it certainly sounds like it, that is when she absolutely shines.

  9. Ugh. Potty training gets the best of us. I remember making Bella sit in her wet underpants because I was so angry that she wet herself not five minutes after telling me she didn't need to go to potty. After 10 minutes of sitting, she refused to use the potty at all. Period. We were back in diapers for another 6 months. All my fault.

    Which translates to: Good job for catching it early and allowing Emily to keep hold of the reins.

    • admin

      Kelly! That is kind of what happened to us. Emily will still go potty but I am sure that if I had continued in my very controlling manner, she would have been back in diapers. Now if I could be more relaxed about her eating…

  10. Our parallelism is showing again. Jack regressed in the no. 2 department, suddenly swearing it off altogether after what at first seemed to be a quick and easy potty training. I had some loud, impatient, not-so-proud moments – but things improved as soon as I relaxed and took the pressure off of all of us.

    • admin

      Even today I am seeing improvements because I am doing as you did. I also feel less stressed because I am placing the responsibility on Emily.

  11. hi amber! i found you from Diapers and Divinity! i'm excited to read your blog. i think we have a lot in common. 🙂

  12. Melanie Jacobson

    I'm shocked, but we just started potty training last week and it's gone surprisingly easily. I keep waiting for major drama and . . . there's none. It's weird. But I think it's because I've kind of just been "Go. Or don't go. It's all good." And it turns out to have been the right approach. Although we did pull ups all the way until yesterday, just in case. And every potty trip gets a treat.

    • admin

      That's exactly how it started out with Emily. Very easy. Until I decided to take the reigns. Silly, silly me. Well, I definitely learned a messy lesson from my mistake!

  13. Tay

    I've been reading through your blog this morning after a really long week that followed two really long weeks and next week will also be really long. You know, sickness, up all night, no napping for anybody, house slowly going into disaster mode, husband gone all the time, etc. You totally know. And the anxiety attacks and depression? Geez, girl. And don't get me started on how I relate to your potty training woes. I'm glad you wrote on D&D.

    Good luck figuring out your two-year old! Heaven knows you need it – they are quite stubborn and make unexpected changes in a matter of seconds.

    • admin

      Tay, I am thrilled to get to know you better. Seriously! Sometimes it is nice to share/read experiences that mirror your own. And, oh, I am so very sorry for your long weeks. It just seems so hard when your husband is gone all the time and you are on the cusp of a breakdown.

  14. Poop is hard. So hard. I pushed and pushed with my daughter, and it backfired big time. But I found that my son actually needed the push to convince himself he could do it. Each kid is so different, but it's always hard! Hang in there. And here's to stepping back and listening to our kids instead of ourselves … Why do I always forget to do that??

  15. I went through the same thing with my oldest. She did it. She knew how and then STOPPED. I eventually had to let go and wait for her to be ready emotionally, too. It made all the difference and I never tried to potty train before 3 years old after that.