Ah, potty training. The one developmental milestone that parents wish they could just skip in favor of something less gross, less frustrating and less “why is this happening to me?” inducing. One day your child sits nicely to use her potty numerous times, and the next she runs screaming from the room at the mere suggestion of sitting on it. I’m in the midst of potty training my youngest child and all of the reasons it is so tough are coming flooding back (no pun intended). Potty training for parents is hard — and here’s why:
Potty Training for Parents is Tough
Old habits die hard. After 2+ years of diaper duty, what’s a little more time? We can change diapers quickly, and on the go. Potty training for parents is tough when you are away from home for too long, particularly if your child has not moved up to the big toilet yet. It’s easier to just slap an overnight dipotaper on her butt and plan to change it in another 4 or 5 hours than to step away from socialization to try to get her to potty (please just potty!) in an unfamiliar place. Diapers are easier, and quicker. Switching from the diapering mentality to the longsuffering parent who is able to camp out for an hour at a time at any bathroom location takes some doing on the part of mom and dad. Which brings me to my next point…
We don’t like to sit still. If you are a parent of a child who is potty-training age, when was the last time you really ever sat down (when your child was awake)? Potty training requires long periods of time of just sitting. Sitting on bathroom floors, staring at the stains on your cabinets and wondering why you don’t clean those more often, knowing that if you were to leave the room for just 30 seconds to get a cleaning rag your child would inevitably stand up and pee on the bathroom rug. Sitting in living rooms, little potties positioned in front of the TV while you watch half hour after half hour of bad children’s programming, hoping that your child will forget to contract his or her “hold it” muscles because of the lively distractions on the screens. Potty training for parents, is a time commitment, for many days, weeks or even months at a time and it takes patience — from child and parents.
We hate messes. Toddlers certainly have their own brand of messiness, but the newborn days of constantly streaming bodily fluids from both ends are in the past. Well, at least until you start potty training. In order for toddlers to actually realize the discomfort of peeing on themselves, a few accidents are necessary (there are some schools of thought that say you can potty train completely accident-free… I disagree). So they need to walk around with no bottoms on, and then pee on their feet on the kitchen floor to understand that to avoid that, they need to get to their potty next time. When they start wearing underwear, and have a pee or poop accident in their favorite Frozen or Spider-man pair, they shed a few tears and determine to keep their best characters clean next time. As parents, it is difficult to let that happen — to let messes happen. We spend A LOT of energy avoiding such messes but they are a necessity of potty training. We need to let go, and let our kids do the same in order to learn.
Potty training is not linear. Most of our babies’ milestones up to the potty training point have had distinct benchmarks. Smiling. Rolling over. Crawling. Taking first steps. Saying first words. Starting on solid foods. Sleeping through the night. Once our kids have done most of these things once, they are quickly pros at them. Potty training for parents is different. One successful attempt in the potty chair does not mean that your child is now toilet trained. It just means that your child used the potty chair one time successfully. For each two steps forward, there seems to be a step backward. This can be especially frustrating for parents who just want to mark this milestone off the list and stop spending out-to-eat money on Pampers. Even a child who seems to be completely potty trained may have a week of accidents (happened with my oldest when she was three) or regression. We want a start date and an end point and potty training doesn’t afford either.
In the end, our kids will all learn to use the toilet on their own and it won’t take three cups of juice, five stories and the promise of jelly beans after a successful tinkle to get them to do it. In the meantime, hang in there parents. Potty training is not for the faint of heart.
What was your biggest frustration with potty training? What eventually worked with your child?
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