You’ve gotten so used to the ease and peace of mind of diapers for quite some time, but you’ve now reached the unavoidable stage in your toddler’s life…Potty Training.
Potty training is the season of toddler life that is probably the most dreaded by all parents. It can literally turn into a battle between you and a small human who can seem like a military-trained black Ops mind-controlling ninja whose only objective is to wear you down. Phew! Yes, this is actual truth, and I speak from experience after potty training my five children (with just one more left).
The bright side is that you and your child win in the end. But the battle is certainly not for the faint at heart.
When I first enlisted in potty training “camp,” I read a few potty training books to get motivated. After memorizing the instructions and tips, I just knew wholeheartedly that I could conquer this challenge. I. Was. Ready.
Or so I thought. My expectations were high and a bit unrealistic for both my son and myself. And I quickly frustrated us both after the first two days. He wasn’t ready, and I wasn’t as ready as I thought. So we decided to wait and try again when he was more ready and I was more willing to be patient.
Once we gave it another go, the end result was a success, and he and I both came through smiling. The mistakes I made in potty training in the beginning forced me to take a few steps back, recalculate my goals and expectations, and then start again.
Here are some common mistakes parents make during potty training and what to do instead to make this milestone a better experience.
Mistake 1: Starting Too Early
You may think your child is ready to be big because they can do a few things on their own, but each milestone achieved is not necessarily a green light to push your child into another milestone. The normal age to start of potty training is usually around two to years old. So starting before that age may mean that your child has difficulty understanding the how-tos of potty training. “Children will use the toilet when they can feel their body signals,” says Dr. Ann Corwin, “The Parenting Doctor.”
Tip: Children normally show signs that they are ready for the next milestone in their lives, which helps parents to know when they have the green light to introduce something new. Some of these signs are grabbing their genital area, jumping up and down, or watching you pee in the potty.
Mistake 2: Expressing Anger, Yelling, and Arguing
“Toilet training can be one of the most difficult developmental phases that both children and parents experience together,” say doctors Stadtler, Gorski, and Brazelton of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Don’t make it more difficult with anger or arguing.
Tip: Encourage your child, applaud their efforts, smile, and laugh when mistakes happen. Lighten the atmosphere of potty training and take the pressure off you and your child.
Mistake 3: Not Considering the Cost
Before you enlist in potty training “camp,” you must first weigh all of your options and count the cost. And that includes financial, mental, and emotional cost. Potty training is messy, time-consuming, and tiring.
Are you prepared to endure the 3:00 a.m. wake-ups to urine-soaked sheets, bathing a toddler who has wet themselves through their pajamas, or the puddles of urine (and sometimes poop) that you will inevitably find on your carpet? Not to mention the never-ending extra loads of laundry each day. If you’re not ready, you will revert back to diapers in a heartbeat.
Tip: In order to not become frustrated, do your best to choose a time to potty train when your life is not too complicated. This should be a time where you can set aside hours in the day to patiently take your child to and from the bathroom to pee on the potty, calmly wash sheets and clothes when accidents happen—because they will—and give your child and potty training as much undivided attention as possible.
Mistake 4: Comparison Trap
No two children are the same, not even in the same family. So don’t get caught in the comparison trap of expecting your child’s potty training experience and results to be the same as their sibling’s or your best friend’s son.
Tip: See your child as a unique individual where, as their parent, you have top-secret information into their heart and personality. Their potty training journey will be shaped by your ability to not set unlikely expectations for them.
Mistake 5: Relying on Prizes for Pee
Gummy bears or M&Ms at potty time may seem like a quick way to get your kids to do what you want them to do. But it may quickly backfire and turn into manipulation once your child learns that’s how they can get a reward. Your child may decide to go to the potty every five minutes just for candy. Or when you are suddenly out of candy, they have a meltdown and won’t pee on the potty.
Tip: Dr. Corwin calls the potty experience a “private accomplishment” for any child, and they want to receive praise for it. So, instead of tangible prizes, use encouraging phrases like, “Great job!” or “That’s exciting!”
Mistake 6: Real Underwear
Training is preparation for the real thing, but you don’t want to get too real too soon. Real underwear during potty training only results in constantly wet clothes.
Tip: Training underwear is the best way to go!
Mistake 7: Expecting Perfection
Lots of accidents will happen during potty training, so you have to be prepared for them and not shame your child when they do happen. Yelling when potty accidents happen only makes your child fear you and the potty, which defeats the purpose.
Tip: Keep calm! Potty accidents can always be cleaned up.
Remember, although you enter the potty training “battle” prepared to be strong and endure to the end against a worthy opponent, your intent is not to be a fierce competitor but a compassionate comrade in arms. You’ve got this!
Which potty training tips have helped you the most? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more excellent potty training tips? Read this article for potty training tips from the trenches!
About the Author
Georgina is an island girl turned Floridian who loves books, classic movies, and all things chocolate. Above all, the things she treasures most are her Christian faith and her husband and children.