When and How to Potty Train

Lately, I have heard so many people asking, “when is the right time to potty train?” and “what is the best method?” I’ve also heard just as many share their frustrations with the amount of time and money they’ve spent on potty training with no success.  

With so many articles promising to have your child potty trained in just “three days or less” and the like, it’s no wonder so many moms are just exhausted and feeling like a complete failure when they’ve been at it for weeks with little to no success for their little one.

We all dream of the day we can save $100 or more on diapers and wipes each month! So it’s no wonder we spend so much time reading all these books and articles, planning, setting up charts, and buying prizes and candy for every successful bathroom trip!

And then what happens when you’ve been at it for weeks and you’ve missed out on outings and get togethers all because you’re afraid to leave the house just in case they have an accident? 

Its exhausting!

But what if I told you all of that was completely unnecessary?

What if I told you, you didn’t need to buy all the prizes and treats and sticker charts?

Well, that’s what I’m telling you!

And I’ll tell you why…

But first, let me tell you my experience and how I learned by child number three how to easily and effectively potty train without all of that and the headaches that go with it.

So my first child, the poor first child, all the experimenting is on them!  His cousin is three weeks younger than he is and was potty trained well before him. That’s the first mistake by the way; comparison!

Comparison is the thief of joy! No two children are alike even with the same parents! DO NOT compare, my friends, so much easier said than done, but please for your child’s sake and your sanity, do not compare!

Anyway, I felt like a complete failure that she had been completely potty trained and we hadn’t even moved out of diapers yet! So I knew we had to start right away. I want to say he was a few months shy of three at the time.  

So we made a special trip to the store for brand new underwear with the perfect characters on them, and the candy for each successful trip to the potty, and the sticker chart. We had a ceremonial “done with the diapers” conversation. And we stayed home for what felt like forever until we had it down!

We even had a special prize for when diapers were gone! It was to be a car from a place that is kind of like Build-A-Bear but for cars. It was suppose to cost us about $40 so close to one box of diapers and we considered that a fair trade. A box of diapers for never having to buy them again!

We fought and fought to get this kid potty trained.  Stickers, candies, and special underwear only worked for a short time and then nothing! And when all of that failed, we tried taking things away or not doing “fun” activities.  Potty training quickly lost all of the excitement we had hyped it up to be for him. And in addition to the frustration for him, we grew just as stressed and impatient. Which was good for no one!  

It’s not that he wasn’t old enough or didn’t understand. He totally knew what to do. But he was unmotivated. It just wasn’t what he wanted to do. And I came to learn and understand, albeit a little too late, that was ok. It’s ok that he didn’t want to and didn’t feel motivated to be diaper free just yet.

We pushed and pushed and reminded him of the car and he got it just before his 3rd birthday. And let me tell you, that darn car was NOT $40 like we had planned.  It’s embarrassing to say we spent $125 on it!!! And I can look back and say, that was WAY too much and he was WAY too young! We never promised another toy for potty training for the other kids. He took up all the potty money!

And what’s worse? Within a week of having the new car, he went right back to accidents and not wanting to use the potty.  We just gave up and used pull-ups. We let it go! And looking back now, I can say, that’s what we should have done to begin with, but I was determined for him not to be “behind”.  

Oh that comparison again! He was about 3 1/2 by the time he was fully potty trained.

Our second son was a little easier. We didn’t promise anything for being diaper free.  We did make a special trip to the store for brand new underwear that he got to pick out.  

And we pushed pretty hard still and had lots of accidents.  But not as much as we did with our oldest. There were a lot more days if I needed to go out that we just used pull-ups. Especially because now I had two kids with me and I couldn’t possibly get them both to a bathroom in time if we were out.

But this time, I had a guideline from my oldest that if he was potty trained before his big brother, then I was doing better this time around. 

COMPARISON again! And it’s not about YOU! It’s about them! 

The age they are potty trained is not a reflection of your parenting! 

My second son was also almost 3 1/2 before he was completely potty trained!

Fast forward to baby number 3! And mind you, number 3 is a girl and I was use to boys. So I will address this topic here real quick; 

Girls are not necessarily easier than boys and vice versa!

Girls don’t like to be dirty, so they tend to be a little more motivated and have less accidents so they’re not dirty.  Boys on the other hand are so much easier to go out with or take a road trip with.  Seriously, you can go into a bathroom with a boy and literally not touch a single thing! Which is a huge plus for this germaphobe momma! 

But if you wait for boys to be ready, they are just as easy to train!

Anyway, back to baby girl! She was by far the easiest, and not because she’s a girl.  She basically potty trained herself.  I was actually the one holding her off! 

Our family was going through a really hard time and my husband and I were actually separated for a bit.  So the thought of having to take all three of my kids out with me at the same time I was potty training a two year old was just too much! 

She wanted to though and I knew she was ready. So we still went to the store to buy the special princess underwear. But she was only allowed to wear the underwear at home. And she did not like that at all! There were multiple fits thrown because she had to wear a diaper or pull-up if we had to go out.  But what I found is that her diaper was dry when we got home from outings.  She was potty training on her own. I wasn’t ready this time, but she was! 

She ended up being full potty trained by 2 1/2. And then night time potty training only took about a month.  For both boys, we spent almost another full year before they were night time potty trained as well.  

So do you guys see the difference between the three? Especially with the way I handled each one?

Here’s my advice on potty training, friends:

Don’t compare to anyone! It’s ok if they’re a little older than some of the other kids you know.

Wait for your child to be ready! How will you know they’re ready? You will just know, they make it very clear for you! I promise! 

Let them guide the process!

You don’t need to make them throw all the diapers away and quit cold turkey. You don’t need to stress over the sticker chart. Or even buy the candies or rewards!

It’s reward enough to them, that they get to feel like a big kid!

And remember when you’re stressing out about how old they are, I can promise, that they will not go to kindergarten still in diapers.  So relax. Choose your battles.  This is not worth making a battle out of. And let them tell you when they’re ready. It will be so much less stress for you and for them! And you will be able to enjoy parenting so much more!

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