Potty Training: From Failure to Success


Generally speaking, I am a pretty put together mom. I love to research things, am usually on time to activities, and, therefore, stay pretty calm, cool, and collected. However, potty training ROCKED MY WORLD on the first attempt. It was an epic failure on all fronts and left me feeling totally out of control. After a week of complete exhaustion, we threw in the towel. That was six months ago, and now I can say we are officially potty trained! I am not here to give a step-by-step guide to potty training. There are far too many of those available. But here are some nuggets of wisdom that I learned from failure to success.

First Attempt Failures

  • He wasn’t ready. No matter what philosophy you read, you will hear readiness mentioned. Some methods say readiness is key, and others will say it doesn’t matter. In my experience, readiness was HUGE for us. My son just didn’t care. It was a fight. Every. Single. Time! I struggled with whether this was a discipline issue, but in the end, I think it was readiness. Another struggle was he physically could not get his pants down and up. That created an issue of independence that he desperately wanted but had not yet developed.
  • I only read one method. This goes against everything in my gut! I am a researcher, and for some reason, I just read one book and thought I was an expert on the subject. Granted, this book was extremely convicting and made me feel like I had lost my window. So I started feeling like I was already behind. Not a good combo!
  • I had no back up. I started potty training on a Monday, thinking an empty house would make things easier. WRONG! By day three, I was so exhausted.
  • The potty followed us everywhere. By the end of seven days, not only did my son hate that thing, I hated it too. We never wanted to see it again!
  • I would not quit. By day five, I was so emotionally tired I couldn’t even think straight. I was so scared to “quit” and put a diaper back on my son. On day seven, I was on the phone with my best friend. I was in tears, my son was in tears, and she said, “Elisa, you are not a failure if you put a diaper back on.” For some reason, that was all I needed. Permission from another mom to throw in the towel. The diaper went back on, and my son never asked about potty training again.

During the Six Month Hiatus

  • I read about more methods. Duh! After I read a few different ones, I quickly figured out which one was going to be best for us. Give yourself some time to do this, because at first they all seem a bit overwhelming. You can weed out what works and doesn’t work for your child and your lifestyle.
  • I never brought up potty training until we were two weeks from trying again. So for 5.5 months, the subject was never brought up. I think I did this because I didn’t want him to feel like he had failed. So we just acted as if we had never attempted in the first place.
  • We practiced pulling pants up and pushing them down. Simple task, but something a lot of toddlers just don’t have the fine motor skills for yet. Our son is SUPER verbal, but gross and fine motor skills are not his thing. I used the six months to really focus on this skill and build his confidence.
  • When we were two weeks from starting again, I made a countdown sticker chart, and we started talking about it like crazy. We tapped into our sons strength of words and allowed him to ask anything and everything. We answered the best we could and started teaching him all the words and phrases he would need when it was go time.
  • The night before, we went to the store and let him pick out underwear and five toys to reward poops on the potty. We came up with this plan just by knowing our son. He is motivated by big toys, and we knew poops would be harder for him. We talked about how the rewards would work the night before and answered all his questions (and he had LOADS of them)!

Second Attempt Successes

  • After my six months of research, I knew what method to go with and what rewards would work for my kiddo. Every single child is different; keep that in mind when you begin. What works for one may not work for another. For example: Being all naked to learn did not work for us. My son needed underwear from the beginning.
  • Dad was present for the first two days. This helped me tremendously to have two sets of eyes watching instead of one. It also helped our son see that both of us could help him to the bathroom.
  • The potty stayed in the bathroom. I did NOT want that thing following us around everywhere this time. The potty moved only if we went outside. Then I allowed it to be right inside the door for easy access.
  • As he got the hang of it, when he needed to go, he could do it all by himself because he knew how to get his pants down. THIS WAS HUGE FOR US! I cannot reiterate that enough. He would say he needed to go, or start doing his dance. I would remind him where the potty was, and he could go in the bathroom all by himself. He didn’t need me hovering over him every single time.

We have now been potty trained for a month. I am actually so thankful for our first attempt being a failure. That experience led me to a great success story. Do you have any failure to success stories? Or any great potty training tips?


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