*This post is sponsored by Pull-Ups but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.*
Potty training has been a bag of mixed emotions for us with Karis. Matt and I both know how bright and capable she is, but with those amazing qualities, she is also very sensitive, aware, and particular. These are all things I love about her. The fire in her soul inspires me despite the frequent meltdowns and how frustrating it can be at the toddler-stage for us as her parents.
With how aware she is, she is also so in-tune with the energy we put off, I feel she’s probably been able to pick-up on our eagerness. It’s totally normal (and healthy!) for kids to resist what their parents want from them, so I fear our hidden agenda in the past has led to a resistance to potty training even though, when I look back, I’m thinking she may have actually been ready at age 2 had we set our agenda aside. The dumbest thing about it is, we’ve never had a good reason to be eager at all. We both work from home, so it’s not as if she has to be potty trained for daycare or something of the sort. My best guess as to why we ever wanted her to start potty training in the first place is due to societal pressure and comments about it from acquaintances.
The advice I’ve read online is completely disappointing with headlines and titles like: “Potty Train Your Child in 3 Days!”, “Potty Training Success in 1 Day!”, “Tips and Tricks for Potty Training Success,” etc. Don’t our children deserve a little more respect than this? Using the toilet is something a child wants to do when they are ready – for him or herself. Not for us. It’s a natural process that comes with patience and, I’ve learned, is best led by the child with our loving support.
So, even though she isn’t quite there yet, I wanted to write a dos and don’ts post with my advice on potty training, disregarding all the popular and manipulating methods we are taught to implement and instead, encouraging a more respectful approach from parents.
Don’t bribe your toddler with treats and rewards.
Bribing your child with treats and rewards has a huge effect on the intrinsic desire that children have to achieve. Learning how to use the toilet is one of the biggest first achievements that they can have. The accomplishment provides a great confidence in themselves, which is so awesome and important. If, however, they feel like they’re doing it for other reasons (to please their parents, to get a reward, etc.) it completely devalues the accomplishment. Many children see through those manipulation tricks and instead feel coerced and pressured. In my experience with Karis, it doesn’t work with children who are especially tuned in. Instead, it’s better to simply trust your child’s readiness and allow them to own this accomplishment in their lives versus parents taking it away from them.
Don’t display eagerness or have an agenda.
This relates to the first don’t of my post, but it’s an important one. I find, a huge problem lies in the word ‘training.’ It gives us the impression that we should be taking part in a process that is best accomplished when it happens naturally. When children are ready, they train themselves. Readiness is the key. Children must be ready physically (with bladder/bowel capacity and muscle control), cognitively (with awareness of what they are supposed to do), and emotionally (by letting go of a routine they are comfortable with – releasing in diapers.) For some children, especially bright and aware ones who can easily see through a parent’s agenda, the subtlest nudge toward the potty or being pushed in this area can cause reactions like holding in feces for days which can lead to a vicious cycle of constipation, delay toilet learning for months (or even years!), cause bedwetting accidents, and make children feel ashamed.
Don’t force or coax a child into using the potty.
Instead, set clear behavioral boundaries so that your child isn’t tempted to use toilet learning as a testing ground. This complex area of development needs to remain free of power struggles.
Don’t punish a child for having an accident.
First of all, if a child is having accidents at all, that is a clear sign they aren’t ready for toilet learning yet. The parents in this instance should dial back and try again later. Punishing a child for having an accident is degrading, ineffective, and can cause a child to feel ashamed.
Do make a potty available and have diapers or Pull-Ups on hand.
Some kids will like a small potty that allows their feet to touch the floor, while others prefer one that fits into the regular toilet. Having whichever works best for your family available combined with your good modeling of toilet use (since kids tend to naturally want to model their parents/siblings), is a great start! Having a child-sized potty available for experimentation, while letting go of any agendas surrounding its use is a positive step forward. With all the different ones they have available now, it can also be fun. Karis loves her Paw Patrol and Minnie Mouse potties.
Do offer the choice of diapers or underwear/Pull-Ups.
Giving children a choice between the two gives them a sense of control in a toddler world where the parents are in control of everything. We resisted Pull-Ups at first because we thought it was just another way our culture can convince parents to spend more money, but they can be a great alternative to underwear when your child isn’t quite ready yet allowing them to still feel like they are progressing forward without using diapers. If you use Amazon, you can always sign up for their Subscribe & Save program to save up to 20% on bulk orders of Pull-Ups or diapers and get free shipping. For toilet learning, always fully accept a child’s choice to stay in diapers/Pull-Ups if they choose at the moment.
Set your phone down and become a practiced observer. When your child seems to be showing signs of an urge to eliminate, ask matter-of-factly and nonchalantly if they would like to use the potty. Calmly accept no for an answer.
Do understand that this process is different for every child.
It can take a year or more for a child to complete the toilet learning process. It might happen in waves (so keep diapers or Pull-Ups around long after you think you’ll need them!), but giving children the freedom to develop this lifelong skill on their own timeframe leads to self-confidence. Remember, too, that a stressful situation that causes a disruption to their lives (a new sibling, moving, traveling a lot) can delay toilet learning for a child or even cause them to backtrack after they might have already been fully trained, and that is totally fine.
People will have their opinions and their comments can be disheartening, but disassociate your child from their stories as a comparison with confidence knowing you are more aware of what’s best for your own child. Most of all, stay positive knowing that your child will accomplish this achievement no matter how long it takes! Be patient – your child deserves to own this accomplishment without your interference.
How has potty learning been for you and your child? Do you use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program? I would love to hear your stories!
Thank you SO MUCH for this article! I have felt pressure from others who’s kids ‘were potty trained at xyz age’ and it’s so frustrating. Every child is different and their own developmental timelines will be different. I’ve never understood why people don’t apply that same line of thinking to potty training. My little guy is 2.5 and is showing no interest in the potty and I have no desire to rush him towards it. He’ll be ready when he’s ready. After all, kids don’t go to college in diapers. ? Thank you again for this loving perspective of potty training!
Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, it’s so weird how some parents have to make every single milestone into a competition. And you’re right – they won’t be in diapers forever. Everyone, at some point, grows out of it. Something to always remind ourselves haha.