Every few months I get the proverbial “Hey girl — I’m about to potty train. I figure you’re an expert by now so I was wondering if you have any tips?” At that point I sit there, giggle and respond with “Definitely not friend! I wish I was and still wonder how there are any experts on this topic. But here is what I’ve learned…” With endless advice that ranges from one extreme to the other, it is hard to navigate decisions that help our child through this life transition.
I am about to potty train our 5th child. “About” is relative — I haven’t decided when I actually will. He is turning 3 in early November which makes him 20 months or something like that. My neighbor keeps better tracks of my kids ages than I do, but that’s neither here nor there. If he was our first I would have started right when he turned 2. But here I am, 24 weeks+ pregnant with our 7th baby and I have learned a lot about myself and training these little behinds over the years.
With my first child, I was dead set on potty training the “right way.” He was going to be dry, all the time, with a proper sticker chart, reward system and rate of progression. I expected him to be dry through the night by 3. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m embarrassed at the amount of pressure I put on myself and my first boy. I self-induced so much unnecessary stress. I wish someone would have told me a little advice. Not from like a distant book who doesn’t know my child or know me — but someone who was watching me. Well, my Mom might have, but I probably still didn’t listen or know what else to do.
The second child was another boy. This time I waited a little longer — maybe a few months. But as soon as he saw the big boy underwear…he wanted in! I did some of the same things — bare bottom, stay home for 2-3 days and set a timer for every 20 minutes. He caught on pretty quick, but my nighttime expectations hadn’t changed and I was back to feeling defeated.
The third was a girl and I have to admit that I think girls are a little easier to potty train. Of course, don’t quote me — that’s just my experience. With her though, I was finally realizing not to rush my kids. I don’t even remember what I did differently, it just happened more naturally.
By the 4th boy I was letting the first child potty train him. I think I had 4 kids under 5 years old at the time and a few accidents every now and then didn’t phase us in the midst of daily, organized chaos. I didn’t use a fancy chart. I might have used a few stickers on a random piece of paper, but the expectations of myself and my child were pretty much gone.
Here I am about to potty train our 5th child and half the time he is running around naked, the other half I have a diaper on him. I have tried underwear a few times, but I have quickly realized after soiling 3 pair that he may need a few more months. Quite honestly, I might need a few more months. And that is perfectly ok! My general goal is to only have 2 kids in daytime diapers and I know he will have caught on before the newest baby arrives.
I may be more on the relaxed side of the spectrum with potty training, but that wasn’t where I started. I was uptight, stressed and compared my child to every other boy who was supposedly “dry through the night” at 2. That hasn’t been the case in our home. Our oldest boys use a bedtime timer while sleeping and nearly all of the younger ones wet at night so we keep them in a diaper for bed. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but after the numerous books I’ve read about circumcision, diet, bedwetting, countless stories I’ve listened to and washing SO MANY sheets every morning I was nearly insane — we are doing what is best for our family and I have FINALLY learned to rest in that.
No one else can put a timeline on your child. Ask for advice about potty training, feel free to read all the books and have a general plan in mind — but when things start to fail, remember that you are the right Mama for your child. You are not “late” and if you’re feeling that way — consider other factors that affect your child and the season you are in. I am so thankful I listened to my husband when I was in a confusion of tears over wet sheets and endless advice. “Our kids will not always wet the bed. We will figure this out with each child as we go.”