A watched pot

            “I just feel like people are staring at me because she’s still in diapers,” my friend told me.  “It feels like a reflection on my parenting skills.”

            “No,” I responded.  “It’s a reflection on your potty training skills.”

            It’s one of those things we are not supposed to judge in one another, but somehow always do.  Like using a pacifier or shyness, we wonder whether the child is not yet potty trained because the parents are doing something wrong.  Maybe the parent is.  This is always a possibility.  But, even if this little girl is still not daytime trained at three because her mother ranks among the world’s most abysmal potty trainers, it still says absolutely nothing about her parenting skills.

            And, as those of us who have been around for a little while can tell you, with most such situations, it has a hell of a lot more to do with the child than it does with the parent.  Zachary may be a pickier or a less picky eater because of me, but you can be pretty sure he’d be picky to some extent no matter which mother he got saddled with.  Kids are who they are, and we can only help ease these traits so much.

            That said, people often want to know the secret of our potty training success.  And it seems unkind to tell them to parent an early potty trainer.  So, here’s the only advice I can give: start early.

            Ignore all the experts who tell you to wait till the child shows potty readiness.  When the kid is 18 months old, have a potty in the bathroom.  Talk about going to the potty.  Read books about it.  Every now and then, especially IMMEDIATELY after waking up, put the child on the potty.  Then cheer vociferously when the child goes.

            No, your child probably won’t be fully daytime trained for months to come, maybe even a year.  But, when he or she IS ready, you won’t be contending with a child who is afraid of the potty because it is new and different.  You won’t have a kid who holds it in for hours, rather than go on the potty.  He’s been using the potty as long as he can remember; now it is just time to use it more frequently.

            That’s it.  That’s the sum of my potty training advice.  Take it or leave it.  And don’t ask me for nighttime training advice, because I suck at that.

            It’s a reflection on my potty training skills.

19 responses to “A watched pot

  1. I felt the weight of that judgment heavily. The Poo is tall for her age and very articulate, leading most people to believe I had a four year old in diapers.

    She is fully trained now – day and night – thanks to 10 days of tears and recriminations. It is hard. And your advice? SPOT ON.

  2. Little man trained himself when baby man was 2 weeks old – not fun for me dashing to the bathroom with an infant hanging off my breast but I didn’t want to stall little man’s initiative. I went with the “you can spend 6 months trying or wait 6 months and he’ll do it when he’s ready” advice a friend gave me. We did exactly what you advise, have a potty around, sit him on it when you think he wants to pee or poop, reward him when he does but no pressure & no reprimands for mistakes. We also got the Once Upon a Potty book, Alana somebody wrote, it’s a fantastic book. He’s still in pull ups at nighttime and they’re full in the morning so I too suck at nighttime training, I figure he’ll also do that when he’s ready.
    You sound like you’re feeling better, hope things are settling for you and life is starting to look more normal in your new surrounds.
    PS: Little man has 2 friends (twins) who are 4 1/2 and still in pull ups, no judgement from me, but I do see other parents looking and turning their mouths down. I want to ask them how their children became so perfect and if they eat all their vegetables every night?

  3. hee, hee. My friend trained her daughter at 18 months. Yep. And she wet her pants weekly till she was 3. Me, I trained my daughter before 3, my son at 3.5 (started at age 3…he’s a stubborn kid) and the last at age 3. Honestly, I trained them when I was mentally ready to win some (all) battles. That’s just me.

    I’ve surrendered to the dinner battle. He had a coo and won. (my littlest…I triumphed over the other 2!)

  4. I suck at night time training too . . .

    It would help if the Tractor didn’t go the bed with a full sippy of water . . .

    I know this logically . . .

    But just don’t want to fight the battle . . .

    He won’t wear a pull-up at night forever . . .


  5. No matter how many times other (kind) mommas assure you, “They won’t go to kindergarten in diapers” and you do know this logically— it is stressful. It just is.

    My older guys (twins) trained quite late but once they were trained, they were out of diapers/pull-ups day and night. The third guy was really getting into it, far younger than his bros, but now has gone into ‘strike mode.’ Oh, the potty is not new or different or even scary for him— he’s just asserting his independence & not having it right now. I can control bringing him to the potty & sitting him on it, but I can’t control his bladder/bowel movements. He’s the boss there!

    Once again–let’s spread the ‘don’t judge other mommas’ message. It needs to get out there.

  6. Eh. Mine all day trained painlessly and without fuss around age two. Can’t be more specific because with three kids in four years some things blur a little bit in memory! However I don’t see their training as a tribute to my mad training skillz. It was just one of those things that happened to go smoothly thanks to them. Night-time training? Don’t ask. Do. Not. Ask.

  7. Ha ha! That’s funny that this is the exact opposite advice from my post last week. We did have a potty chair sitting around (and tripping us) for six months or so before starting training, which E and Z would occassionally sit on, but there is no way I would spend a year “acquianting” a child with a miniature toilet. The friends I have who bragged about so-and-so using the potty at 18 months still were changing so-and-so’s diapers at three years. I stand by my advice: wait (and wait and wait) and then go cold-turkey (daytime) when he/she and YOU (most importantly) are ready. And no goofing around with pull-ups. What’s the difference between that and a diaper? You may do a lot of laundry and mopping and tooth-grinding, but it’ll be over in a month (and don’t screw around with a potty chair–boys can just stand-up pee over the rim of the big potty and they quickly figure out how to hold themselves up/not fall in sitting on the seat). As for what other people think about your three year old in diapers (or anything else), repeat after me: “I don’t give a f*ck.”

  8. The first one trained herself, and therefore considering her an expert, I let her train her younger sister.

    I highly advise that method.

    As far as what others do?

    It’s not my ass to wipe so not my concern.

    I pretty much do my best to think that way about all aspects of parenting, until it collides with my kid and then I feel free to let it rip, except on my blog.

    I need an anonymous blog.

  9. A lot of people advise what Andrea is saying, but I have several friends whose kids were terrified of the potty when it was introduced later because it was new. THis led to serious issues, and they all now wish they had introduced the thing earlier. Plus, now and then, it saves us a diaper change!

  10. I’m afraid of potty training. But unless I want to be changing diapers for a very long time, I guess I’ll have to tackle it in the next year or so. 🙂

  11. A friend of mine has used the Elimination Communication method with her daughter since she was born. Now, at 14 months she is diaper free 95% of the time and rarely has accidents.

    I applaud her for her efforts although I realize I’m too lazy to try that myself. It also involves holding your child over the toilet every 15-20 minutes of every day and I’m still not sure how you deal with that out in public.

    Me? I plan to do what you’ve suggested and in a few months introduce Monkey to the potty. I already know she’s not afraid of it though. If we forget and leave the seat up she just loves to pick the toilet paper out of the toilet bowl (if it’s yellow let it’s mellow, man) and fling it all over the bathroom before dropping her toys in it. Good fun.

  12. I was just talking to someone today who said a lot of people are now waiting to potty train their kids until they’re 3 or 4 years old because its easier for them to understand and they have less accidents. i’m not sure I’d want to wait to even TRY to potty train them until they’re that old, though!

  13. My older two boys were trained pretty easily when they turned two. When they were about 18 months we used to have them pee (“one last time”) standing up and aiming into their diapers right before bed. That seems to get them used to the peeing muscles, so transitioning to a potty was no problem. Pooping was another story. They were so scared of pooping in the toilet. We bribed them with Hot Wheels. One Hot Wheel every time they pooped. It worked like a charm.
    We didn’t do any nighttime training. We never even told them that they had to get up out of their beds to go potty. We would just have them wear a pull-up to bed and then when we started discovering the pull-up dry every morning for a month we just took it off and put on underwear at night. That was it. I think we just lucked out.

  14. I live in a country where potty-training starts in about 12 months (I know that my mum started with it when I was about 10 months old and couldn´t even walk yet) and when children are 2 years old they have to be potty-trained if parents want to put them in daycare (it is allowed to wear diapers during the nap). When mothers are at home with children, they probably wear diapers a little bit longer, but I haven´t seen a child older than 3 still wearing them (although some years ago when people started travelling more, there was lot of talk of England, where some children still wear diapers in age of 5). And I haven´t ever met a person who´s child has had problems with controlling bladder in that age (except one, but it was for medical reason, which lead to surgery), although accidents of course may happen now and then. My own brother didn´t like the potty, so he was trained on the newspaper at first (to get use with sitting position) and it worked pretty well.

    So I would probably be the one, who would misjudge these parents and feel sorry for 4 and a half year old in diapers – cause he is obviously underdeveloped physically and if parents feel that they can´t cope with that problem, they can always search help to avoid the chance that their child´s development will be above normal rate in other areas also (for instance – my niece was going to dance class when she was three – I can´t imagine, how she would have done that wearing diapers).

  15. Your advice sounds great. Wish I had done more of it when mine were little. I was awful at potty training.

  16. i’ll tell you this. all my workmates are single and i’ve never been happier. no one there judges me, they just stand in scary awe and are very afraid that one day this might be them. and i let them.

    i am really quite lucky like that.

  17. No subject gets us more worked up than our kids, huh? Interesting post. Thanks. We’re doing the potty training thing right now. I would venture to guess that no one way is the “right” way, but I agree that it can be very stressful!

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