I started to feel the pressure to potty train my son when he was 2.5-years-old. It was the morning one of his classmate’s mothers announced, “We said goodbye to diapers!” The little girl was the first child in the preschool class to be potty trained. As the rest of us parents looked on, the mom put a few changes of clothing in her daughter’s cubby and left for the day. The class was filled with first-time parents and the thought of potty training our children seemed overwhelming. And yet, here was this one child’s mom who acted like it was no big deal.
The class, which consisted of about 5 girls and 15 boys, seemed to follow suit with a handful of other kids saying goodbye to diapers and hello to underwear within a few weeks of the first little girl. All the while our preschool director kept saying, “The first time your child goes to the bathroom on the toilet, you get rid of the diapers. There’s no going back. Your child is telling you he or she is ready. Don’t miss the window or you’ll never get it back!”
Hearing that, I was terrified I’d missed this mysterious potty training window. But, in fact, my son seemed about as interested in saying goodbye to diapers as I was in toy trucks. Still, I’d ask if he wanted to try going in the potty every day and every day, he’d say no. I wondered if I’d already missed his toilet training window.
By the time my son turned 3, he still showed no interest in the toilet. Despite other mom friends saying, “No kid goes to college in diapers,” I worried mine would be the first. So when I finally got him to pee on the toilet once before he was 3, I figured this was the miraculous potty training window I’d been waiting for. I threw out every diaper in the house, bought character themed underwear, and threw a potty party for my son.
The next day, he had three accidents during our 10-minute drive to school. Four days later, I had re-stocked the diapers and temporarily shut the door on my son’s toilet training window. It wasn’t until my kid was actually toilet trained a few months later that I realized I’d been doing this potty training thing all wrong. Here are the biggest mistakes I made:
1. I obsessed about potty training. Instead of waiting for it to happen naturally, I thought about my son using the toilet constantly. He didn’t!
2. I felt like I was failing as a mom when other kids were potty trained before mine. But, the truth is that every kid is on his or her own timeframe. And no, none of them will go to college in diapers.
3. I thought potty training happened overnight. Instead, it’s a long process, complete with setbacks. Some kids do learn to use the toilet the first time they show interest, others take a while. But, what’s important is that every child eventually learns.
4. I saw my son’s accidents as a sign of failure — on both our parts. Truthfully, I’d get angry and resentful when he regressed. Turns out, he regressed when he had growth spurts or was under stress. That’s nothing to be resentful about.
5. In my mind, potty training was a BIG deal. It’s not.
6. I assumed every kid was dying to get out diapers. Not true! My son is a high-energy kid who’d rather do anything than stop playing. So to him, wearing underwear was actually an inconvenience.
7. I felt embarrassed that my son wasn’t interested in underwear. I secretly envied those moms who marched into preschool with their underwear-wearing kid, even though most of the kids started wearing underwear at about the age my son did.
At just over 3-years-old, my son was finally potty trained. It took a lot of coaxing, rewards, and changes of clothing, but we did it. And by we, I mean me. I had to accept that there’s no magical toilet training window that I missed. My kid just wasn’t ready. Turns out, I was the only one who needed training. Now, if I could just get him to tie his own shoes! Or maybe I missed that window, too?
More Potty Training Tips:
- Kristin Cavallari: 5 Potty Training Tips That Work for Us
- Humor Makes Potty Training Easier, Says Science
- 5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Potty Training