Long before I had any children of my own, one of my dearest friends – a mother I really admire and look up to – told me that potty training was the worst part of parenting.
For years, I heard that line ringing in my ears and dreaded the day I’d have to potty-train a child of my own.
Now, a decade later, I’ve potty-trained two of my children and am planning to start with the third this summer or fall.
And it turns out it wasn’t so bad!
It may have helped that my expectations were rock-bottom, but I was surprised by how not terrible it was.
Here are some things I wish I’d known going into that adventure:
1. Wait until they’re actually ready. This is so hard when other children your child’s age are potty-training, or grandparents are putting pressure on you, or you need your child potty-trained to attend preschool, but the best advice I have is to wait until your child is really ready. Then, instead of a frustrating months-long process, you can have your child pretty much completely trained in a week or two.
2. Wait until YOU’RE actually ready. I’ve found that both times, I had to be ready to commit to potty training. When my second child showed signs of being ready, I needed a few more weeks to mentally be ready to be all-in for potty training and muster the patience I knew I’d need for those frustrating first couple of days.
2. Go cold turkey. Once you’re (both) ready to make the jump, go all in. Put those diapers away and don’t get them back out again. Know that you’ll deal with a few accidents and be prepared to deal with those.
3. Day- and night-train at the same time. With our first child, we let her keep wearing diapers at night because I didn’t want to deal with bedwetting. She woke up dry every morning for a week, but then started going to the bathroom in the night again once she realized she still had on a diaper, which meant that six months later, we had to potty-train her at night too. With our second, we put her into undies at night as well, and aside from one or two accidents, when we were already in training mode, it was a one-time process instead of two separate events.
4. Expect some backsliding. Although my children had been potty-trained within a week, there was still the occasional accident when friends were over and they were having too much fun to remember to go to the bathroom or when we were traveling and they were out of their comfort zone. I feel like, for both of my girls, it took a full year before there was absolutely no accidents or bedwetting or partial accidents when it took too long to get to the restroom.
5. Recognize that it will be more of a hassle than diapers for quite a while. When you’re changing poopy diapers, the idea of a potty-trained child seems wildly magical, but then you’re at the back of the grocery store and your child alerts you that they have approximately four seconds before they have an accident and you have to abandon your cart and race for the front of the store to use a not-that-clean public restroom. Diapers are definitely more convenient than being on your child’s small-bladder schedule.
And then, one day, you look up and realize that you’ve arrived at the magical point when they can take themselves to the bathroom, take care of their business, and wash their hands afterward without needing any help from you. And all that hard work will have been worth it.