The “Experienced Mom’s” guide to Potty Training

Disclaimer: The title only says, “experienced” because I have “experienced” potty training with three children so far.
They are all potty trained now at ages 10, 10, and 5.
I honestly have no idea how it happened. I must have blocked those dark days out of my memory.

Right now I am potty training my 4th child. Eli is almost 3 and we’ve been potty training for a little more than 2 weeks.

You would think that after 4 kids, I’d be a potty training expert. But no. Every time I have potty trained, I am gripped with anxiety and a terrible case of amnesia: “How does this go again?”

I have always rolled my eyes at potty training “How-to” manuals (though I probably shouldn’t since every time I potty train I have no idea what I am doing) because anything that promises to “Potty train in 3 days” just earns a snort of derision from me.

I could probably write the manual, “Potty train in 100 days!”

Or even “365 days of Potty Training” because that is how long it took to potty train my twins. (That’s right. My house smelled like urine for a year. I almost lost my mind. I most definitely have some sort of Potty Training PTSD).

But, as I started potty training my last child, a few vague “lessons” came back to me, like the ghost of Potty Training Past coming to visit me in the middle of the night.

So here it goes: A few “guidelines” for Potty Training

1. Wait until you’re ready
People talk about “being ready” for potty training but (for the love of God!) WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???
To make it easier, here are some signs that you or your child are NOT ready:
Your child cannot say “potty” “pee” or “wet”
Your child cannot pull down his or her pants
You child pees like a cherub fountain, oblivious to fluids coming out of his or her body
Your child loves diapers, like really, really loves diapers
Underwear freaks the living daylights of your child
You don’t own 4 dozen towels (yet)
You have a newborn
You don’t want to potty train yet

That last one is huge. If you, mama or daddy, do not want to potty train yet DO NOT POTTY TRAIN. Just wait. There is no timetable—seriously—even if everybody and their cousin’s son’s best friend’s hair dresser is potty training right now. When you and your child are ready, you’ll know.

2. Don’t be afraid to quit if it’s not working.

With my twins, I read “all the articles” and several of them said, “Once you start you MUST STICK WITH IT or else your child will NEVER LEARN TO USE THE POTTY! Because….REGRESSION!!!!!!”

So, armed with this knowledge (aka giant falsehood) I girded my loins, gritted my teeth and stuck it out, damn it.

It was horrible.

That is why it took a year to potty train my twins, because they were not ready and I, like a fool, persisted in moving forward when I should have just quit and waited until they were ready.
Think “Reverse Nike”: Just quit—if it isn’t working.

You may need a definition of “not working”:
If you child has more accidents than successes in the course of 48 hours.
If you find yourself getting angry/yelling when he has an accident
If you completely run out of towels and underwear in less than a day

 3. Train yo’self

You would think that potty training is about training your child to do their business in the toilet. But no.

Potty training is remembering that your child is in underwear and is currently sitting on the couch (or your bed. Or the carpet. Or…)

For the first 100 days or so, you are training yourself to remind your child that he or she needs to pee every 20 minutes or so. You think that timer is for the kids? lol! No…It’s for you. Let’s just be honest here…

4. Find what motivates your child

Some parents have success in motivating their child with sticker charts, small toys, “stay dry all day” rewards, or candy.

Right now my son is highly motivate by chocolate chips.
Won’t put on underwear? You want some chocolate chips?
Won’t go potty before we have to leave? You want some chocolate chips?
Pushes out a dribble to get chocolate chips? Sure, why not? You want some chocolate chips?

It works. We’re going with it. #AllTheChocolateChips

5. Give it time

I really have no idea what those manuals mean when they say “Potty train your child in 3 days.” I mean, seriously—what does that mean??

My 10 year olds are completely potty trained now, meaning they wipe their own butts and everything.
My 5 year old still needs help in that department (short arms—what can you do?).

Your kids are going to need help going to the bathroom for SEVERAL YEARS, whether that is pulling down pants, lifting them on the potty, wiping, pulling up pants, snapping jeans, washing hand, whatever.

This is not a short process.

Pull on your big girl panties, mama. We are in it for the long haul.

So there ya go—Five guidelines from an “experienced” mom.

We’ve been at potty training for 2 weeks with Eli and it’s going pretty well. We’re doing diapers at nap and bedtime and underwear the rest of the time. He generally only has one accident a day (or so).

This morning kind of sucked and we’ve gone through a lot of towels, pants and underwear but it was because I forgot guideline #3 (see above) and pushed the 20 minute rule a bit too far. Sigh…live and learn, huh?

Hopefully in the next 100-365 days we’ll both be fully trained.

I'd love to hear your story!