Why I Finally Gave Up On Potty Training

When I decided to potty train my first son, the decision was easy. He was becoming verbal and interested in using the potty, so we started letting him use the potty whenever he asked to. He wasn’t quite two yet, but he was doing fairly well and staying dry during naps and sometimes even overnight. I was worried that maybe I wasn’t pushing potty training hard enough. That perhaps by being too lax about it, I was ruining his chances of getting this right on the first shot. I read up on three-day potty training miracles, and decided to up the ante.

We tried giving up the diapers in one fell swoop. I started putting him in underwear and trying to give him my undivided attention (though as soon as something distracted me, he would poop on the floor). It seemed like my increased effort was making potty training worse, not better. We reverted back to pull ups after the cleanup became too much to handle. After a couple frustrating weeks of not quite getting it right, he started peeing in his pull ups regularly, no longer wanting to tell me when he had to go potty. His interest had seemingly disappeared, and my spirits were crushed.

It wasn’t until he was nearing three that his interest in potty training peaked again. This time we did it at his pace. There was no going commando around the house or putting him on the potty every five minutes “just in case.” I trusted by this point that if he was ready, he would do it. I still helped him, of course. I lent support and asked at regular intervals if he felt like he needed to use the potty. But I no longer wanted to be his “trainer,” rigorously demanding that he use the potty no matter what.

It wasn’t a three-day miracle. It was about a month before we were all in and ready to go into the world sans pull ups, but the process was so much easier the second time around because I finally trusted him to take the lead. I didn’t need to make my life so difficult to ensure his success. Becoming wrapped up in doing potty training the “right” way had actually made it harder.

Now, with my second son, I have fully given up on the idea of potty training. He is a little over two and shows no sign of wanting to potty train yet. Will it be disappointing if he waits until after three to start potty training? I guess so. But it beats the heck out of forcing a kid who isn’t ready into potty training too early.

I don’t want to create a battle between us over such a trivial issue. Of course he will learn to use the potty someday. Of course he won’t be going to kindergarten in diapers. His natural desire to be big like his brother will kick in before too long. He’ll feel the pressure to conform to potty training with or without my constant oversight.

It’s so easy to become absorbed in hitting certain milestones that it sucks the joy out of parenting. I remember endlessly cajoling my son to walk when he was steady on his feet by nine months, but he wouldn’t take his first steps until 15 months. I could have better used that time simply enjoying the stage he was in without rushing him forward to the next best thing.

Potty training is not so different. Certainly it comes with some benefits, but I’m happy to let it happen in it’s own time. There’s no reason to place stress on my relationship with my baby because a few of his peers are out of diapers. I’d rather trust his pace and timing, and enjoy him exactly how he is.