Yes, we failed.
All the books and blogs we read made it sound so easy. “Just follow these steps and you, too, will have a fully potty-trained toddler in just three days. It’s easy!”
Well, that didn’t happen for us. Not even close.
Why would I write about failing at this? Because I wish I had read a blog about failing instead of succeeding. I wish I read about someone’s mental exhaustion, about how she almost gave up, about how it took months to get her kid potty trained and what she did about it. Then maybe I wouldn’t have had such high expectations. I wouldn’t have been so frustrated by Day 2. And I probably would’ve opened that bottle of Prosecco earlier.
Here’s the thing: Potty training could be the hardest thing you’ve ever done with your child. (It was for us.) Or it could just happen. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that their kids just one day decided to turn in their diapers and use the potty. No training, no books, no gummy bear bribes necessary.
I’m not gonna lie: I had high expectations for Landon. He’s pretty agreeable and does what he’s told. He never throws tantrums. And he generally picks up new things quickly.
That is, until we started potty training.
First, we ordered “Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-By-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers” by Brandi Brucks. It came highly recommended from a few successful friends. Then we hatched a plan: We would, as the book instructed, set aside three consecutive days to work with him. We had already introduced the potty to him—he was sitting on standalone ones since he was eight months old—and had been talking about this for months now. He knew it was going to happen. Though I should have taken his comment, “I looooooove diapers,” as cause for concern.
The plan was simply this: We would go cold turkey with the diapers, getting rid of every single one in the house on the first day of potty training. Then we would put him in underwear, set the expectation and follow him around like a hawk—a mama hawk trying to potty train her son—until he figured it out. Sounded pretty simple.
Well, it was a disaster.
He hated every single moment of potty training. He refused to go. He threw the kind of tantrums we had only heard about and feared. And nothing would entice him, not gummies, not French fries, not excavators or garbage trucks, not the iPad, nothing.
And when we could get him on the potty—usually by force—he would sit there and nothing. Then, as soon as he was back in undies, he would pee. What was happening?
I couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong. We bought the recommended potty, we stocked up on cute underwear, we ordered five pounds of mini gummy bears. I made reward charts, I bought new books for him, I got all of his favorite foods and treats. We didn’t yell, we stayed positive, we were encouraging.
By Day 2, I couldn’t take it anymore. I lost it. When he threw a tantrum, so did I. I couldn’t understand why my son, this smart, adorable, easy-going kid, was now a terror. What was I doing wrong?
Well, lots of things, apparently.
First off, he had just turned 2 1/2, which could be a little young to start potty training. But we had no choice: He was starting preschool in late August and he needed to be fully potty trained by then. The pressure was real.
Secondly, he just didn’t want to do it. And there was no convincing him. He was much more strong-willed than I had anticipated. (What? My son?) And bribes weren’t working.
And finally, we realized how much we had been catering to him. He never threw tantrums because he actually always got whatever he wanted. Not that we let him stay up all night and party with Blippi. But we rarely fought with him about anything. He’s the kind of kid who puts himself to sleep, who never complains about what you’re feeding him, who prefers water to all over beverages, who loves veggies, who loves to read, who brushes his own teeth. For all intents and purposes, there hasn’t really been a reason to scold him.
But that was the problem. We had allowed him to become the boss of the house. He ran this place and he probably viewed us as servants with driver’s licenses who were tall enough to reach the stuff he couldn’t.
It has been about a month since we started potty training and, finally, it has started to click for him. He knows “that funny feeling” and now asks to use the potty. By Week 2 he was able to hold his pee for long stretches. And by Week 3 he could pee in the potty, no problem. (Poop is a different story.) But we had to work with him on one very important concept: We were his parents, the adults, and he had to listen to us. He was no longer the boss. And that was a hard fact for him to accept.
The whole process has been exhausting—but at no point did we give up. (Oh, I wanted to. I actually saved his diapers, just in case.) I felt like a colossal failure most days, but then there were the small victories. Like the first time he peed in the potty or the first time he asked to go. It may have felt like an impossible task—and it may have taken a month instead of a weekend—but like anything that’s hard but necessary, it got easier the longer we did it.
Did we use pull-ups when we had to run errands to Coscto? Yes. Do we still use pull-ups at night? Of course. And does he still have accidents sometimes? Uh, yeah. But he’s getting better about it every day.
But it’s really more like we’re getting better about it every day.