One aspect of parenting that you know will inevitably happen one day and you think you are prepared for but aren’t is potty training. At least that is my experience. I have educated myself on human behavior for more years than I can remember, but potty training took my parenting to a whole other level. I suppose I thought that one day my daughter would just wake up and be ready and I would start teaching her and practicing with her until she mastered the skill. My other thought was that it would just click one day like all the other milestones she conquered along the way so far like rolling over, crawling, and walking. In my experience, this hasn’t been the case.
Did you know that the average child takes 3 months to fully potty train and some children can take up to a year or more to be fully trained during the day and through the night?
My daughter hit all of her milestones early or right on target, so I expected her to learn how to use the potty successfully sometime around her second birthday or within months after her second birthday. And there have been many false alarms but nothing long term. Before she even turned two, her grandma gave her a potty as a gift one day. She was very excited! I also bought her some potty books like The Potty Book For Girls by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and P is for Potty (Elmo Lift and Flap Book) or Potty by Leslie Patricelli and finally her all time favorite Daniel Tiger Goes to the Potty by Maggie Testa where you can actually press a button on the book and it makes a flushing sound. She was even given a doll for her second birthday that came complete with its own pink potty for the doll to use. We were prepared, or so I thought. She even received a few sets of “big girl undies” for her second birthday from friends and family.
Soon before her birthday, she started becoming familiar with the potty and would use the potty once a day right before her bath in the evening. As time went on, she would ask to use the potty more and more throughout the day and I thought, “here we go!” She was using the potty for liquid and solid substances and was excited about each deposit she made. We would obviously make a ridiculously big deal out of it each time and we would clap, praise, and dance when she successfully used the potty correctly. Then about a month before her second birthday we moved out of our first home and moved into an apartment for two months until our new home was finished being built. But even in the interim, she still used the potty pretty regularly in the apartment. And about a month after her second birthday, we moved into our new home. That’s when everything changed. Even though the potty and the books sat nicely waiting for her in her new bathroom, she refused to even pretend it even existed and we went months without using it at all. I offered right before bath time everyday but she refused. So we waited. And waited. Some days she would humor me and sit on the potty for maybe a half of a second or maybe longer but nothing would come out. There was a time when I thought, “will she even be interested in the potty again?”
Then one day around 2 ½ she woke up and said, “I want to wear big girl undies today.” I was so excited but tried not to make a big scene about it and went into her closet and into her top drawer and pulled out the very first pair of big girl undies she would ever wear. We went 3 or 4 full days of successful potty training. Sure, we had a few accidents here and there but overall, she was using the potty again regularly throughout the day and would receive a treat each time she finished. For liquid deposits, she would receive hugs, claps, verbal praise, and a sticker on her potty chart. For solid deposits, she would receive a small cookie (since there were never more than 1-2 per day). We were well on our way again and we were both very excited. But it was also a lot of effort and work. I had to be very prepared and have the potty near us at all times throughout the house. I had to constantly ask her if she had to go or ask her if she could practice. It was exhausting to say the least for both of us. So on the 4th or 5th day she woke up and said, “Mom I want a diaper today.” I am very into building a child’s empowerment by offering and honoring choices as long as it isn’t a harmful decision, so I gave her a diaper. Looking back, I feel like I made a mistake and wish I hadn’t. I wish I would have tried a pull-up or some other alternative, but I didn’t. I kept hearing friends and authors of articles I had read in my head saying, “you have to wait until they are ready” and I took this as a sign that she wasn’t ready. She knew she could do it, but she didn’t want to make the effort to do it. So we went about a month or longer back to the diaper routine and maybe going once a day in the potty at night before bath. As the weeks went on, she would ask to go to the potty during every diaper change and slowly crept back into a routine that worked for her. I continued to ask each morning if she wanted a diaper, a pull up, or big girl undies. She mostly chose a diaper.
Then one day, she woke up and asked for big girl undies again and we haven’t looked back. She is excited and proud to go to the bathroom successfully. And one thing I am doing differently this time than last time is I’m being more consistent whether we are at home or not. Instead of putting her in a diaper when we go run errands, go to the park, or even to the museum for the day, I now keep her in her big girl undies and bring her portable folding potty with us so we can go to the public potty at a moment’s notice. She still wears pull-ups during naptime and a diaper at bedtime, but it’s only been a week or so. We are taking small steps so she feels successful and we work on one goal at a time. I just hope we can stay successful when her baby brother is born in a few months. I am prepared for another regression, and am hoping for the best.
I definitely believe in waiting until a child is ready and not being discouraged if they regress and slowly work their way up to it. Nothing good will come with forcing a child, considering it is probably just our schedule we are trying to make them fit into instead of looking at this as a mastery skill they have to developmentally, physically, emotionally, and mentally be ready for. Take your time, be consistent, and praise, praise, praise! Every child is different and even though you can read tips all day long, just do your best and don’t expect perfection right away. Also remember not to shame or embarrass them if they have an accident. And keep in mind, potty training is a process.
In fact, the average age for potty training is anywhere from 18-30 months and girls typically around 29 months and boys around 31 months. Regression is normal for a child during potty training. Once you think your job is done, it isn’t always the case. Any type of change to their life or daily routine and various stressors or disruption in their life can set them back to a pre-trained state. Moving homes or rooms, starting a new school or daycare, a new sibling, dietary changes, deployment, vacation or family members visiting, and even a parent that travels a lot for business. It may seem like they are having difficulty out of the blue, and sometimes that is the case, but is a normal part of the potty training process. Once your child is in a stable environment and is receptive to it, try again!