My girls are almost 7 years apart in age. While I don’t mind the gap at all, potty training Doodlebug scared the jeepers out of me. It had been so long since I had to go through the stress and mess of potty training. (6 years and 8 months to be exact!) I was afraid that I would make a mess of it. I was afraid I wouldn’t know when Doodlebug was ready and needed to make the switch from diapers to big girl panties.
How the heck was I going to manage it?!
Guess what…it happened and I survived – unscathed – and so did the rest of the family.
And after successfully potty training two children I have learned a few things.
Now, I know I’m not the only parent who has ever had anxiety over the inevitable time of potty training. And to be honest, my first time around the block was probably a disaster. I mean, we got the job done. But looking back on it, there were lots of things I could and should have done differently.
Here are the 5 lessons I learned potty training #2:
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1.) It’s Not About You
Too many times you hear parents say, “I’m not ready for potty training”. And hey, I have said it, too! I even had that mind set when Doodlebug showed the first signs of being ready to transition out of diapers. The truth is, potty training is never about you as a parent. Stop saying that you have a vacation or travel coming up or you don’t want to have to deal with the unexpected nature of potty breaks. (Because honestly, diapering is unexpected too.) Train your child when THEY are ready. Do NOT hold them back.
2.) You Have To Always Be “Ready”
I know what I said before, but this part is about you….sorta. Since we aren’t going to say, “This isn’t a good time for me,” about potty training, you have to always be ready for potty breaks.
What does this mean? Well, this means always thinking about bathroom access when you are out at a store or restaurant. Knowing where the bathroom is before your child has to go is only going to set you both up for a successful outing.
And this is a must: always have a travel potty in the vehicle. There will always be an urgent have-to-go and toddlers don’t always understand how to “hold on”. Plus, you never know when a quick trip to the store will lead you around town or stuck in traffic. With a potty in the car, you can pull over (safely, please!) and have a make shift bathroom in the backseat.
I like to keep a travel potty and supplies in my vehicle at all times. And I make sure my bag is always stocked with the supplies needed. If I run out of an item, I try to purchase or transfer more supplies to the bag ASAP. Remember, I have to always be ready!
My travel potty bag includes:
- travel potty (we like this one)
- potty liners (like these)
- extra underwear
- a change of clothes
- hand cleaner
- flushable bathroom wipes or baby wipes
- a wet bag or a few plastic shopping bags for soiled clothing (I use the Grovia wet bags and can attest to the quality)
And it will happen that a potty break will come up at the most inopportune time. There will be full stalls, no bathroom, or right in the middle of trying to get home for nap. In all situations, you have to just be positive. Encourage them to quickly get to the bathroom or happily say that you will pull over and get the potty. (Which I normally leave set up, by the way. One less step when the time comes.)
Oh, and your child will always need to go when you have just settled into your favorite comfy spot of the couch. It’s like it’s Murphy’s Law or something.
3.) Give Them The Tools To Succeed
As adults, we have to always be in control…or at least think we are.
NEWSFLASH! The tiny humans we keep alive day in and day out run the world. So your idea of what potty they should use – because you think it’s cute or because it goes with your decor – is not going to cut it.
Let it go! Let it Go! (Elsa moment, sorry.)
But seriously though, let go and let your child choose the potty. Yes, you may stand in the potty aisle for 30 minutes looking at the same 2 styles in 5 different colors. But it’s okay…I promise. If your child does not like the potty he or she WILL NOT USE IT. End of story. So just save yourself the heartache and just let them choose.
Side note: There is no problem with encouraging one potty over another. But let the child have the ultimate say.
This same “let them choose“ philosophy holds true for trainers (training pants) and/or underwear. And yet again, you will be stuck in the store aisle looking at package after package of undies for what feels like an eternity.
But this can actually be an exciting experience for you and your child. So have fun!
I loved seeing Doodlebug get so excited about what panties she wanted to be a “BIG GIRL”. It was fun for her to inspect all the different packages and styles. She would call out colors, patterns, and characters that she recognized. Use this enthusiasm to propel the potty training efforts forward!
The last tool you can give your child to help him or her succeed with potty training is time. And by time I mean, your time. (Remember, it’s not about you. They run this show.) You need to give him or her time to go potty no matter what is going on.
Lots of people will tell you to ask your child or encourage them to go every 15 minutes.
My belief….if they aren’t strapped with a sippy cup all day long, they may not need to go. And you can stretch that 15 minutes a bit longer. BUT!!! If you go to the bathroom, ask them to go with you. Showing them that it’s okay to stop what you are doing to take a potty break helps.
Inevitably, though, there is no magic formula for when and how long between tries you child should go to the potty. Just use common sense and you will be good. For example, you more than likely try to go to the bathroom, yourself, before leaving the house…have your child do the same. The only difference here is that where you might not have to go potty as soon as you pull into Target…they will. So ask them to go again.
4.) Be Open About What Potty Training Means
One of the biggest disservices you can do for your child is to not be upfront and truthful about the process of transitioning from diapers to trainer/underwear; what it means to use the potty, what it feels like, and how long it takes to actually go potty.
I made this mistake with Little Bear. And I believe that because I never explained what it would be like to go pee pee in a pull-up or – if she had an accident – in panties, that this held her back from being successful for a long time.
There is a fear and feeling of embarrassment when a child goes to the bathroom on themselves without properly understanding what it happening. But accidents happen and we all have had to learn the signals of needing to take a potty break.
With Doodlebug, I was very open about the potty and accidents. I explained that pee pee would be wet: her clothes would be wet (when in underwear) and it might be warm at first but it would be cold because of being wet.
I also explained that touching her bottom to the potty and hopping up was not the same thing as actually going potty. And all kids go through this, they think if you sit, pee just comes out. Not that easy; children have to make a conscious effort to go.
And what’s even more difficult is pooping in the potty.
Yep. I went there.
This always seems to be the hold up for most children when potty training. It could be embarrassment, not understanding that is takes time, or just an uneasiness with the feeling of actually pooping in the potty. Every child will be different. But you have to explain all of this to them. And one of my favorite expressions is, “everyone does it.” I think there is even a few books about it.
(“Everyone Poops” and “Even Princesses Poop” are two that I have heard of.)
Doodlebug was in the school of “I no like it”. She did not like the feeling of going poopy in potty. But I just empathized with her; let her know I understood she didn’t like it and that it was okay to not like it, but that everybody has to go poo poo and they go in the potty. We have also talked about how messy it is to forget or not make time to sit on the potty to poop.
The dialogue between you and your child will be different. But do not be afraid to get the conversation going. Be truthful and don’t worry that he or she won’t understand. (They probably understand more than you think. 😉 )
5.) Be Positive
This is probably the single most important lesson in potty training. Be positive no matter what.
And let me say this:
If you show any negative feelings or reactions towards the process of potty training, your child will not be successful.
Tired of buying trainers? It’s okay, be encouraged that he or she is making steps towards using the potty.
Feel like you are washing laundry all day long because of accidents? You probably are but be positive and stay encouraged that he or she is trying.
Even showing frustrations with an accident can make your child feel ashamed and possibly even fearful of going to the bathroom. Pee and Poop are facts of life and it takes practice and time to transition to being a “big kid”.
By the way, the best thing you can do during an accident is encourage them to still go sit on the potty to see if they still need to go. And use this incident as a learning experience. Talk with him or her about what happened, how it felt, explain that going pee/poop on a potty means they don’t get messy, etc..
And act a fool when he or she does actually pee or poop in the potty.
We clap, yell “Yay!”…..and there’s lots of dancing and “Whoop! Whoop!”. (Even in a public restroom. haha)
This is an exciting time! They have made a big accomplishment! So show them that you are excited for them every. single. time!
Potty training really teaches you more about yourself as an adult and parent than you ever though possible. And it took me two kids before I learned how to survive the diaper to potty transition. But what can I say…I like to learn the hard way. I hope you don’t have to, though! Learn from my mistakes and take these 5 lessons and implement them into your families potty training routine.
And I would love to hear how it’s going for you! Leave me a comment with wins or questions.
**I am not a professional, but I can give you my experiences and what I have learned and found effective.*
—–> This post contains affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase through my link. This commission goes towards the expenses that it takes to provide my readers with high quality, valuable content. Thank you in in advance if you decide to purchase.