You Can’t Make Them Eat, Sleep or Potty


Alison Frenzel Photography

You hear all sort of stories as a mom. You compare notes, ask questions, read blogs or books or magazines. Everyone has an opinion or a potential solution to any problem we could possibly encounter. But what you don’t know as a mom is never more apparent than when you encounter the areas of eating, sleeping, and pottying. You can provide ample opportunity and the right circumstances, consequences, praises etc. but when push comes to shove, it’s completely up to them. You just cannot MAKE them do it.

Every child is oh so different, but nevertheless we still try to “train” our children. We set aside a long weekend to potty train. We sleep train when a certain book says it’s time or we want them to sleep through the night. Sometimes, we prepare freshly steamed, pureed veggies from a cookbook that swears it will make my child eat. We prepare a sticker chart, pick out rewards and bypass pullups. But despite our best laid plans, sometimes our kiddos–especially toddlers–have a different timeline.


Oh the battles over food. The stand offs. The strategic threats. Aren’t mealtimes are supposed to be a lovely family experience? But more often than not, my enjoyment of a meal completely hinges on my child’s behavior and his or her decision to eat. I’m sure you are aware that a toddler’s preference changes at whip lash speed. One day he will eat an entire container of blueberries and the next day he will scream and throw the container on the floor. So embrace the finicky, unpredictable eater by offering the food and then moving on. Bottom line: some toddlers are natural eaters and some are not. But eventually, they will eat something. 


So I’ll never forget my pediatrician saying, “Well….I think you just got that kid who doesn’t sleep well.” Whew. It was kind of a relief. I had been searching for an answer. This remark came after trying different strategies for months, having blood work done, testing for allergies and even getting tubes in her ears. Why doesn’t she sleep?? Why does she wake up 2-3 times every night? Do I need to change our routine? Or cut out dairy? Perhaps limit liquid intake after 5 pm? Or feed her before she goes to bed? We tried it all. Either way it’s just her and she doesn’t like to sleep. I keep thinking she’ll grow out of it, but now she’s 5 1/2 and still comes in our room at 2 am for a hug…or water…or to inform me that she is no longer tired. 


Let’s just say potty training is either relatively uneventful or the most maddening/humbling experience of your life. It’s a lot like teaching a child to read. Somewhere along the line, it has to click. You can work with them or provide incentives, but until their body and brain are communicating effectively, you have to be patient. And that’s really hard. So if the “three day” method doesn’t work, don’t give up. It might take 5 days or 5 weeks or 5 months. Hang in there till it clicks. 

Theoretically my children won’t go to college still in pull ups, or only eating mac and cheese, or gleefully starting their day at 5:30 am. Some strategies are valid and useful, and I definitely advocate for starting out with a well researched game plan. However, I repeat. You still cannot MAKE them eat, sleep or potty until they are ready. So buy yourself some blackout curtains or a kid friendly cookbook or a sticker chart and just do your best. I’ll salute you from the kid training trenches.


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Laura is originally from Houston, TX and graduated from Baylor with a B.A. in History. Although she never thought that Waco would be her permanent home, Laura has been surprised the blessing of living in Waco since 2009. Laura obtained her Master’s Degree in Education and has taught at both public schools as well as at McLennan Community College. Currently, she works full-time as an Academic Advisor in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. Laura and her husband Kary have three children ages nine and under. Laura’s favorite things in life are spending time with her kids, watching movies with her husband, planning ahead in her planner, reading most anything, journaling with Jesus and drinking coffee before the sun rises. You can find her on instagram @lauralalani


  1. My oldest daughters pediatrician would say – ‘never had a patient start college in diapers, without teeth, only eating one thing. You need to take it one day at a time, enjoy her at the stage, it will all go by too fast.’ He was right…

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