My 3 Beliefs on Potty Training

We are officially done with diapers at our house!

(My budget and I are going to enjoy these next few years before we have to spend that saved money on tampons.)

But perhaps even more exciting is that I am done with the dreaded parenting job of potty training!  4 kids down. 0 to go.

(Do you think this picture will come back to haunt him someday?)

Since all my kids are potty trained now, I decided to write a few of my thoughts and experiences about potty training.  If I had written any earlier on the opinionated topic, I was sure my own beliefs would backfire on me.  That is how parenting goes — just when you think you have something figured out, the next kid comes along.  I am old enough to know never to get too cocky as a parent.

Here are a few disclaimers before I give you my 3 beliefs on potty training:

  • These points are what worked for me and my children.  There are several methods of potty training that work.
  • All children are different.  Allow for those individualities.  What worked for one child might not work for another.
  • These potty training beliefs are relevant up until age 4 1/2.  After that, do whatever the heck works.   Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • My kids did not have any special needs, developmental disorders, or physical handicaps, etc. That is a whole other ball game that I have no experience with.  God bless those moms that are in this situation.

Now that I have all the disclaimers on the table, here are my three beliefs on potty training.   These aren’t necessarily tips or practical how to-s as much as they are philosophical beliefs I have about potty training.

1. Wait until the child is ready.  This might mean you have to put aside your ego and your timeline and your plan.   Your child might be the last one in the play group to potty train or the first.  It doesn’t matter. You can force potty training earlier, but you will be met with more resistance.  The process may take longer and it may be more grueling for you and the child.   And it has been my experience that those who were forced to potty train before they were ready have more accidents than those children that were ready.

Crew taught me this lesson loud and clear.  I attempted to potty train him when he was about 2 1/2.  That was when Elle did it and that was when his cousins were doing it.  So Crew should too, right?  But he put me in my place.  He said over and over to me, “When I am three, mom.  I will go potty when I am three.”  He was so adamant about it and so clear that I listened to him and didn’t push him at all … until the morning of his third birthday.  We woke up and I said, “You are three now bud.”  He put on his dinosaur undies that morning and we never looked back.  Normally, you don’t leave the house for a few days (or weeks) when you are potty training. But we went to  the dinosaur museum that day with a few of his friends for his birthday party.  No accidents.  He literally potty trained in an instant when he was ready.

I gave Locke some Cars underwear at Christmas time in his stocking.  He pulled them out and screamed, “These are Crew’s!” Not mine!”   Then he chucked them across the living room. I knew Locke wasn’t quite ready to give it a go at that time.  We waited a few months with daily talk about going potty on the toilet and the next thing I knew he was yelling from the bathroom, “I went potty mom!”  I ran in the bathroom expecting to find a big mess on the floor, but instead he was on the toilet smiling.  I hadn’t helped him at all.

In short, the time to potty train is when they are ready, not when you are ready.  There is a difference.

2.  You don’ t have to use candy to potty train.  You can use candy, but you don’t HAVE to. And according to many experts, it is in your child’s best interest NOT to. I didn’t use treats or candy or bribery with any of my children.  Again this goes back to my philosophy on the overrewarding of children.  For most children, after a certain age, pooping your pants is not fun.  Peeing your pants is embarrassing.   Most humans prefer the feel of clean underwear to dirty ones.  The desire to potty train is an intrinsic motivation that doesn’t need to be covered up with a piece of candy.  A few M&Ms might taste good, but they are nothing compared to the reward of controlling your own bowels.

Luckily, I learned this ‘no candy’ technique before I potty trained my oldest.  (I got this idea from Dr. Phil years ago.) After Elle would go in the toilet, we would call family or fictional characters to brag.   She got to talk on the phone, brag about her accomplishment and then hear praise from someone she loved and respected — whether it was Dora the Explorer or Grandma.  When Croft was potty training, she would call different princesses like Ariel or Jasmine (aka different aunts that did their best impressions).  Locke just wanted to call his grandmas and grandpas.  He was so proud to tell them he pooped or peed on the potty.  They cheered and congratulated and that was all he needed.  After a few calls, he was satisfied and didn’t feel a need to keep calling them.  I just put the family on alert that these calls were coming so be prepared.

In short, it is possible and beneficial to potty train a child without ever using candy.

3.  Be wary of  Pull-Ups.  I think I have used Pull-Ups maybe 3 times with all of my children combined. I felt like they were confusing to the child.  Are these diapers or underwear? Can I go or not?  Am I a baby or a big boy?  If you use Pull-Ups you may send your kid the message that you don’t trust him; he’s not quite ready; don’t worry, mom’s got a back up for you. And think about how many generations before us got along just fine without them.  They are a modern gimmick for diaper companies to extend their market and to make more money.

A few times I wanted to take Locke to a babysitter  but was not confident he was ready for the real world.   Once I tried to put a Pull-Up on him, but he wouldn’t let me.  It were as if he were saying, do you trust me or not mom?  To suggest Pull-Ups or a Diaper was insulting to him.  Locke’s refusal reinforced what I already knew about Pull-Ups.  You may have a few more accidents this way, but I believe you will have less in the long run.

In short, go directly from diapers to underwear and skip the confusing middle ground.

So there you have it, my 3 core beliefs about potty training.  It’s not a fun job but somebody’s got to do it.  Good luck to all you present and future potty training moms!


2 thoughts on “My 3 Beliefs on Potty Training”

  1. I think I just might have set myself up for Locke to have an accident today. 🙂 I call it ‘the curse of the blog post’.

  2. haha Tiffany, I hope you avoid the curse and don’t have any accidents!

    Every time I read your blog I feel so inspired. You really seem to have the gift of discernment, and you are so encouraging! Thank you for all of your great words and thoughts

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