Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Potty Training: I Quit.

Potty training is the worst. The WORST, I tell you. I thought she was ready; I really did. I read every "Potty Train Your Kid in Three Days" book/ blog/ article out there, and we followed every rule. I asked for advice from countless friends who have recently been through the potty training ordeal, and took their advice too. Went cold turkey-- no diapers, no Pull-Ups, just awesome Princess panties. We stayed home for five days straight and I took her potty on the clock every 20 minutes. Gave her stickers, jelly beans, myriad other potty prizes. This works beautifully for some kids; however, you just can't make a tiny person with an iron will sit on the potty and go. 

I think my daughter and I are fairly similar... a little controlling, a lot stubborn, and a penchant for always being "right." So, the same character traits that compelled me to extensively research and devise the "perfect" potty training plan are, quite simply, the same traits that drive her to buck my plan.  (We have good qualities too. These just happen to be the traits that terrify me as I look ahead to 2023-- the year she turns 13.)

I have a feeling that this struggle of wills is not limited to potty training. And, while I firmly believe that I, as the parent, must exert power over issues of discipline (for instance, when she wants to run in the parking lot, I will win that battle), I'm coming to realize that potty training is not a discipline issue. It's something she needs to figure out on her own. And, something she will figure out on her own sooner or later.

I never thought I would fall prey to the trap that is trophy parenting. But, there was something about Avery's hitting the two-and-a-half mark, and talking to other moms of two-and-a-half year olds who had successfully potty trained their kids months ago that made me feel like we were behind. I didn't necessarily need to be the one who potty trained her kid first; I guess I just didn't want to be the last. And, as Avery was showing some of the "signs" that I read about in all my books and articles, I bought a pack of Cinderella 2T panties, made a potty chart, planned to stay home for a few days, and started Official Potty Training. 

The first week was okay, with the exception of one or two days. She generally seemed to get it, and liked earning jelly beans and sitting on her princess potty. But as we transitioned back to normal life, potty training got harder. She wouldn't go at school or church with her teachers (whom she adores), and started crying "no potty, no potty" when I asked her if she needed to go. 

Finally, I decided to quit. We traded in our Cinderella panties for Ariel/ Minnie Mouse Pull-Ups, and it has been great. If she wants to use the potty, fantastic-- jelly beans are still awarded. If not, no big deal. 

You see, there were two key pieces of advice I initially neglected:
1) They won't go to college, or even Kindergarten, in diapers.
2) Don't sweat the accidents. She'll get it.

I was getting SO frustrated because, well, no one likes to clean up a poopie accident in a public restroom. What I needed was a little perspective-- when I started listening to wise older women who have successful, happy teenage and adult children, I realized that this (difficult) phase is a small one. And, while my baby is small, I need to enjoy her; the last thing we need is headache over something that she'll get in her own time. 

So, I'm giving up control. I love this toddler stage where she plays pretend and makes silly faces and thinks "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is very serious music. I am in no hurry for her to grow up, and I don't know why I tried to push her. There are a million things I'm sure she'll just need to figure out on her own... how to make friends, how to study effectively, how to put on eyeliner, how to ignore the bad boys, how not to care what the popular kids think, how to get a job and be a responsible human. 

In the meantime, I resolve to be on her team. I resolve to wait for her to really show me that she's ready for the next "big girl" step. It'll come in time. 

Question for my readers: What things have you learned to just let your kids figure out on their own?


  1. You made me cry. My 22 year old daughter potty trained at 3. And she made it to college in big girl panties! My first adventure into the real world, after I finally felt confident that she "got it," was to the circus. Ha! What was I thinking?!?!? I worried so much about her having an accident that I didn't enjoy the moment of my precious girl experiencing the circus for the first time. But, guess what? She didn't have an accident! Timing is everything. I am still working on it...mostly I hit the target, but there are times I miss it by a country mile. The hardest and yet most rewarding part of parenting is when your child (little or big) has that "a-ha!" moment. Those are the ones that stick. Hang in there...I promise she won't go to college with pull-ups!

  2. In 2023, when she turns 13, you'll have to delete this post :)
    Good advice, my dear!

  3. The poopy accident in a public restroom, that was me on Mother's Day! You're doing a great job. That same stubbornness that makes potty training difficult is the very stubbornness that will give her the strength to stand up to peer pressure.

  4. love it friend, and I understand! you're doing great. One of the best things we can teach them is to wait on God's timing...and even though she cant understand that right now....these little (well, big to us) things make a difference in learning to not push things before they are designed to happen. what a valuable lesson to teach. even through potty training! :)

  5. Can I please start tearing up! I love your article and how it made me smile. Avery is so innocent by heart and that's what we cherish about her the most. And you are right, just let her learn by herself. Eventually, she will grow out of all the stinky dipers and maybe then you will look 10 years from now and miss all the trouble. You are a great mother Shannon and you show it every time you bring her to school. Your effort is what counts! P.S. We get to have her another semester! Yeihhhhh! -Marlyne

  6. Yes, if raising a teenager alinside tiddlers has taught me anything it's that they WILL potty train...and it will always happen when they finally "get it" for themselves. Each of my kids are so different and so far each of the three have thrown me for a loop in just about every area of patenting haha! You're an awesome mom!