Failures in Potty Training


Potty training can be a huge challenge and just when you think you've got it beat, along comes the next kid with a totally different approach. I am not good at potty training. This post will not tell you how to do it. However, if you have experienced an agonizing potty training period, I hope you will find something to relate to.

Potty training is one of those things that I was an expert on before I tried it. I felt free to shake my head, though only in private, over children that I felt were too old to be in diapers.

Is 4 years and 4 months old too old to be in diapers? That’s how old my son was before he was potty trained. I think he was about two and a half when we started working on it, which means we suffered through two torturous years. He had some of the readiness signs according to the books, but not all.  But for some reason, I was dead certain he was the proper age.

I bought a book that promised to tell me how to potty train him in a day. I’m not much of a sucker for books that promise the moon, but I thought it might help accelerate things–maybe it would take a week instead of a day, right?

The day of potty training boot camp started with promise. I had hyped it as a special occasion, sent his baby sister to Grandma’s, and wrapped up several presents: a book about the potty, which we read together; a potty; a boy doll that peed. I had a pocketful of M&M’s and stickers.

Suffice it to say, it was a long day of pee on the floor and crying. The boy doll was a joke; he peed on the floor, too. Also, I had thought that most dolls were “girls” out of prudishness, but I decided, early on, that it might instead be the vulnerability of their anatomically correct equipment. Scottie appeared to have suffered a gruesome accident. Not helpful.

Maybe my son learned a little something, but mostly it was an introduction to two years of tears and frustration. It was so bad. I’m still sure it scarred both of us forever, and I was just trying so hard to do my job.

What did it in the end? He was suddenly ready. I guess he wanted it. And we took a days long road trip with potty stops at regular intervals. I would have thought a road trip was the very worst time for potty training, and I was so over pushing the issue, but it ended up doing the trick. He never looked back.

Fast forward. My daughter is four and and three months. She does not use the potty ever. Fearful of the catastrophe that occurred with her brother, I did not push her. I put her on the potty, but there was no running, no timers, no pressure. All of this may have been a mistake with her, and certainly it was a mistake to tell her that “big girls” use the potty. I spent my whole life wanting to be a big girl. I didn’t know that kids came any other way. But every time I talk to her about the potty, she literally starts saying, “Goo goo ga ga, I’m your baby, Mumma.” I can’t say that I recommend the totally laid back method, either. She has all the readiness signs; she just doesn’t want to do it.

Conclusion: I guess there’s just no easy, one size fits all answer! Sounds a lot like every other area of parenting.

Did you have a slow potty learner? What approach did you take?

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