Don’t Rush Potty Training

My poor first born child. She bore the brunt of all our parenting naivety and experimenting. I feel kinda bad, looking back. So much of what I did was the result of me trying to please others. Me trying to look like I knew what I was doing.

As a young mother, it is good to listen to the advice of more experienced parents, but it’s best to take advice from somebody who has had multiple children… recently.

When you take lessons from someone who has only had one child, you may be repeating some of the same mistakes they never had a chance to learn from.

And if your adviser hasn’t had young ones at home for a while, it may be easy for them to forget how much compassion and patience goes into training a child daily.

I definitely think new parents should seek out advice, but be sure that you avoid rigidly following what somebody tells you to do. Each child is different and requires different approaches.

This has been my experience, anyways.

Because I felt pressured to do what I thought everyone around me expected, potty training my firstborn was a horrendous ordeal. At 14 months old, I had that child sitting on a potty. Several people told me that their children were potty trained before they were two, so felt compelled to keep up with their game.

She cried at first and hated sitting there, but I made her. She had to get used to it. Every now and then she would pee-pee, and I’d be ecstatic. But it was hit-and-miss.

My days became dedicated to potty training. Every hour I would take that child to sit on the potty. After many months of this, she did start going in the potty more often.

But only if I took her. She would never tell me she had to go. Granted, she was advanced for her age, but looking back, she totally wasn’t ready yet.

When she turned 2, I fully committed her to “big girl undies”. I was not going to have a two-year-old in diapers. What would the other moms on the playground think?

I bought potty books, a potty “buddy” that she could take with her to the bathroom, we did potty charts and stickers and rewards. I brought her with me to the potty to show her how great it was to go. “Look at me baby, I went potty! Yay for mommy!” I even had a silly song and dance I did when she went.

She enjoyed all of the fun stuff, and she did start telling me she had to go more often, but she was still somewhat unpredictable. And she wasn’t staying dry overnight yet, either.

As a result of my pushing, there were many accidents to clean up. In the car. In the grocery store. At the mall. I shake my head at myself as I type this. Forcing her into undies before she was ready caused a lot of stress for us all.

Finally, when she was three, she just got it. All of a sudden, she was going to the potty all by herself, she wasn’t having accidents anymore, and she was staying dry through the night. No rewards, or bribes. She just got it! It wasn’t up to me to tell her she was ready, she had to decide that on her own.

When our son was born, I took a much more laid-back approach. I was in no hurry to get him to the toilet. Yes, we encouraged him to try.

And we let him watch us go so he understood the concept. But there was no potty chart, stickers, or undies before he was ready. And at 2 yrs. old he started going all on his own.

For a while there, he only did it if he didn’t have a diaper on. So I let him run around the house all day bare bottom for about a week. If I put pants on him, he’d wet them. But as long as he could feel that nothing was there to absorb the pee, he’d run to the potty every time.

After several days of getting into the habit of going to the potty when he felt it coming, he was ready for undies. Then pants over his undies. And he never looked back. (Although I do need to add that on a rare occasion he did wet the bed at night up until he was five.)

Our third born, Xia, is now 3 1/2 years old. It was about four months after her third birthday that she decided she was done with diapers and was ready to move into big girl undies.

She’d been pottying for a while, but I never forced her to go, and I definitely never took her out in public in undies. When she started taking herself to the potty regularly, I allowed her to run bare bottom around the house for a while, like I had with Ty.

Then we moved up to wearing undies all day around the house. When she consistently kept them dry, we put pants over her undies. Once she was accident-free around the house, we went completely diaper free. So far, she has never had an accident away from home, and she has never had an accident overnight.

For a while there, she would wake up at about 3 am and go potty, but now she can sleep from 7 pm to 7 am without getting up anymore.

After potty training two girls and one boy, this is what I have learned. There is no point in rushing the inevitable. It will only stress everyone involved out.

Your child will learn how to use the potty. I promise. Almost all kids are completely potty trained before they are four years old. Have patience with your child, and gently encourage them along.

Don’t worry about what other people will think. Everyone will have an opinion of everything you do, but they are not the ones you need to be focusing on. Be attentive to the needs and maturity of your individual child, and do what is best for him/her.

When the time comes for introducing your child to the potty, when he or she expresses interest or desire in going, then be sure to make it an exciting achievement you are proud of.

I’d love to know your experience or advice. Did you wait to potty train, or did you feel pressured to rush your child?

29 thoughts on “Don’t Rush Potty Training”

  1. Thanks for the encouragement Kendra- Wow! I am a mom of twins (one boy and one girl) and they are almost 2 and a half…with very little interest in going on the potty. They are my firsts so I am inexperienced with this. I knew other moms who had their children potty trained at 18-months…so honestly, I thought…hey! I can make mine be potty-trained at that time. Uh..yeah. Not so much. It is hard to see other mommies who “look like” they have it together with potty-training but I have a feeling that if I actually talked to them about it, they’d sound more like you. :~) Thanks again as I am journeying on this road of motherhood!

  2. Great reading all your stories! Maybe it’s because I’m an older first-time mom, but I haven’t given much thought to actively potty training. I usually take my DD to the bathroom with me, and she has shown great interest in using the toilet from a very young age. We bought her a potty at 12 months. She loves sitting on it. She loves me lifting her up to the big potty. She really loves getting a square of toilet paper to “wipe” with. 🙂 She’s 20 months now, and has never actually peed in the potty yet. She’ll sit on the big potty, pushing and farting with a big proud grin on her face. I never push the issue, and she usually runs happily to the bathroom when I ask her if she wants to potty. I figure one of these days this spring or summer when it’s warmer out, we’ll have a bare bottom day. I feel pretty sure that once she actually pees in the potty, she’ll be all about it. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! I have a an 18 month old and we researching so many options and trying to decide if we want to start potty training soon.

  4. I am a mother of three boys, and I also work at a childcare center. And here is a bit of info that most parents need to take to heart: When your child is ready for the potty, he or she will go to the potty. I never once “potty trained” my kids, and we take a wait-til-the-child-is-ready approach where i work, and that eliminates a huge amount of stress on both adult and child.

  5. So very very thankful that my husband is a completely laid back let them do things when they are type of guy! Without his support, I very well would have been pressured into forcing the toilet issue. Our oldest daughter (now 6) wanted to use the potty at a young age, but we let her use it only when she wanted. When she finally potty trained, we had a handful of accidents, which were at night after drinking something too late (bad mommy!) and cases of being too busy playing 🙂 With our second (a boy) we heard all the horror stories of how long it takes boys. He was trained before our oldest because he watched her do it. Our youngest daughter (just two) has occasionally expressed interest in using the potty, but like the other two, we are letting her take her time. I know that it is SO easy to feel pressured into potty training them, especially when you hear stories from other parents about how they trained at 18 months and you are DYING to be done with diapers or you have a new baby on the way (June!). But, it is always best to let them decide when they are done, not something that is always easy to do in our culture. I firmly believe that children walk when ready, talk when ready, potty train when ready, etc. etc.:)

  6. I agree that you shouldn’t force older kids, but what about starting at birth? That’s how people in Asian and African countries do it, and it saves a ton of money, energy and time in the long run. My son was out of diapers at 5 months and my daughter at 3 months. The drawback is that it takes time and effort upfront, and you have to pay attention to their signals until they’re old enough to physically go to their potty chair on their own.
    I’ll admit, before I went abroad, I would have never thought of this as an option, but now I wouldn’t do it any other way. And don’t worry, I’m not judging anyone who doesn’t do it this way as none of my friends do, just presenting it as another option since we’re trying to live healthier, more self-sufficient lives.

  7. Yup, I totally went the lazy route even from my first with potty training. Just wasn’t worth it until they were ready. I saw friends who tried to force it on their 18-24mo children, and the ensuing 9-10 month power struggle. I figured I’d save my power struggles more for buckling up in the carseats properly and not running off into traffic at the grocery store parking lot. 😉

    Oh, not to mention, I didn’t potty train until I was 4 years old, way back in the day of prefolds, pins and plastic pants. I was too busy doing other stuff to be bothered with that pesky going-to-the-toilet-every-few-hours thing. Hah. So I didn’t really expect a ton different from my kids, which I’m sure helped.

    EC is a great option for some folks. I’ve known some people that do that, and I have to say the 9-12mo underwear is super cute and adorable. But to be honest, I was too lazy (if I were in the middle of making dinner, I didn’t want to have to stop and turn everything off and go hold a babe over a toilet or sink), I’ll admit it. Changing the child as soon as they were wet or tell me they need a diaper worked for our family.

  8. I agree, every child is ready at their own time. Potty training was easy for us. Our pressure came in the form of feeding ours the wrong foods too early. But back to the potty, our daughter was very young when she began showing signs of being ready. She would hide behind the curtains to “take care of business” then tell us she was stinky. So I took her to pick out her big girl potty & panties. Once we had those, I explained that on days she wore big girl panties she had to “take care of business” on the potty, then we put the potty behind the curtains, where she was all ready comfortable. After that, each morning I asked her if she wanted to wear diapers or panties. If she chose panties she knew what to do & diapers were okay too, the choice was ALL hers. Some days she chose diapers, but to our surprise most days she chose panties. We put down mattress protectors at nap time & gradually introduced night time, but in the same manner. By 18 months diapers were all gone, day & night! & better yet we had only 1 accident during the whole process & she was sick at the time. I believe our success came from her pride of choice. She chose when & where to use the potty & her success turned to pride, which made her want to strive in accomplishing the whole process.

  9. My daughter potty trained shortly after turning two. She had seen bigger kids at the sitter’s using the potty and those pull-ups only confused her. So in the summer I took a week off from work. I put DD into panties, took her to the potty every hour. She had 1 accident, which she didn’t like b/c she didn’t like being messy. Then she went pee on the potty and I remember she said, “Somethings coming out of me mommy!” And then she looked down and watched herself pee. LOL After that we didn’t have too many issues. She wore a diaper while she slept but a month later she was consistently staying dry. In my case I just followed my gut. I *knew* DD was ready and I think that’s why it seemed easy. Our biggest issue didn’t come for a few months when one of those auto-flushing toilets freaked her out. It was a long five years of covering sensors….

  10. It is so hard not to feel intimidated by other moms, however, I have learned that many moms, from toddlers on up, that they embellish A LOT! I had a friend who has a boy born on the same day as my son. I remember her telling me that her son was already sleeping through the night at 4 weeks old. After trying to figure out what I was doing “wrong”, I found out sleeping through the night was from 1am to 6am. Not really my idea of sleeping through the night.

    But back to the subject, take other people’s comments with a grain of salt. You know your child better than anyone, and there is no point is trying to potty train a child if they are not ready. Also, find those mommas who can really be honest with you – that was so much harder than I thought.

  11. I do wonder if we do things differently than it was done a few generations back. My grandma had seven children and potty trained them all by the time they were 1- 1 1/2 years old. Maybe they were more anxious to get out of their cloth diapers. Or maybe it was the combination of habit and giving a cue… I just don’t know, but it used to be done at that age.

  12. It seems like a lot of people get their child raising philosophies from some military training manual. At least they’re the ones most willing to dispense with the advice. My 2 year old isn’t peeing himself to be naughty or spite me. Going potty is a developmental issue. Should I also get mad at my 5 year old for refusing to grow a beard? lol Our pediatrician says she appreciates our laid back approach to things. Here’s my advice to any new parents: They won’t be wearing diapers and still be sleeping in your bed when they’re 20. Just relax. They’ll get it on their own time and you’ll never have to worry about it again. Enjoy your babies while they’re babies.

  13. Thank you SO much for this post!! As a first time mom, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to push it with my daughter. But I’ve been getting pressure from everyone in my family and it’s driving me crazy! My Sister-in-law potty trained their first child (the oldest grandchild) by 2 and now that I’m pregnant with my second child, my mom is pressuring me to potty train my 15-month-old, saying I could have her potty trained by the time the baby comes around her 2nd birthday. My daughter is a very determined and strong-willed girl and I don’t think I could ever be successful trying to force the issue with her 🙂 Also, I’ve read some articles by pediatric urologists saying they hate it when parents potty train too early because it can actually cause DAMAGE to their little bodies because they hold it and hold it and hold it before their body is ready.

  14. EXCELLENT post! I agree completely! Fortunately, I had some older women in my life who shared many of the same thoughts prior to potty training our first. My mom always says ‘You can start too early and spend months and months potty training or wait til they are ready and do it in about a week.’ SO TRUE! Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and wisdom.

  15. Right on the money! I had two girls that were very different and six years apart. My oldest was a breeze to train, she loved to go potty and the feeling of a wet diaper or training undies really upset her. We lived in the country and around the time she decided she was ready for the potty it was ok to let her run around with out the rubber pants, she learned to recognize when she had to go and what it felt like after. I would say it took about two months for her to get it.
    Six years later my youngest was at the same age, it was summer, I thought it was time-she did not. The diaper companies had come out with pull-ups which are not conducive to potty training, they’re just very expensive disposable diapers. Crying, stress, and unhappiness on both our parts. I decided, no pull-ups, no pushing, and I had her run around outside without clothes so she could realize what the bodily functions were. It was very hard to find the thick cotton training undies but I did. I realized too, she was scared of the big potty, so we got a little one. Then, as we were going into fall-she got it, and it was awesome, she was three years old.
    Don’t listen to people who say, ‘she’s not trained yet? hmmmmm’. They don’t know your child, you do.

  16. My first born daughter turned two last month, and she has been fascinated with her little potty chair for a couple of months. She likes to play with it and take it apart and push the sensor buttons that make it sing to her for going potty… She has peed in it three times total over the last couple of months, and I was just getting ready to start pushing the issue with her. Now, thanks to your post, I’ll just wait and let her continue on her own pace! Perfect timing! Thank you!

  17. Kendra, you are right on with this one! We did the same with our oldest, and what a mistake! All that fighting, persuading, pleading was a waste of time! With our second we waited till she was 2 and half to bring it up, and she trained herself. With our third, she was 2 and a half and we started forcing the issue, to no avail. Once we backed off at just under 3, she too trained herself in no time. With number 4 we had finally learned our lesson, and let him be. He too, took charge and was potty trained at 2 and three quarters. Very wise parenting advice, my friend. Thanks for the great post!

  18. I so agree with not forcing the issue like it’s a race, but there is another extreme, also.

    When my daughter was 2-3, I babysit for a little girl who was 3-4. She was not potty-trained, and she was a big girl. It was a struggle to get diapers around here. I didn’t want to push the issue, tho, primarily because she wasn’t my daughter. The mother was not as forceful as I, and I didn’t want to run over her.

    The parents had her spend the summer with a favorite cousin, and they brought her back to me in the fall – still not potty-trained at 4 1/2. I decided I was going to have to say something to the parents – there is a limit – when the mother asked me if I would mind trying to potty-train her. I said very enthusiastically, “No problem.” When they picked her up that night, she was potty-trained.

    How did I accomplish this feat in just one day? I took off her diaper and pants, gave her glass after glass of juice, and told her she was a big girl and she needed to use the potty. After her eyes started floating, she went to the potty and that was the end of it. 🙂

  19. My oldest is now 35, and he was 3 before he was potty trained. His sister, started taking her diaper off and going to the potty when she was about 10 months old, potty trained on her own. Youngest child was 4. She had medical issues, and had to have surgery. In the hospital, she announced she was done with diapers and that was it. Since I was the one washing and changing the diapers, I didn’t think it was anyones business but mine. I never pushed, forced, and never followed my MIL’s advice to sit them on a potty till they went.

    Our grandson has been with us since birth. We made a potty available, but didn’t push. He decided when he would go, and was staying dry all day within a week, at 3.

    Too many parents turn this into a control issue. No one gets a gold star for having the first potty trained child in play group. Relax, let them be babies. They will grow up soon enough.

  20. This is absolute truth! I try to encourage mommas to wait. I did the same thing with my first baby girl. Poor thing! But my others have been no drama almost 3 or past 3. Easy as pie. My boys struggled for a few weeks with poop but eventually gave in. 🙂 It was so much better than the stress we went through with my first. Thanks for passing on the wisdom!


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