Tips on what NOT to do when potty training your toddler

Toddler Thursday: How Not to Potty Train

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Categories Parenting, Potty Training, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers

What I did wrong when potty training my twin daughters.I did potty training all wrong.

I tried to potty train my twin daughters for 19 months to abject failure. I remember thinking, “People keep saying, ‘No kid goes to college in diapers’ but maybe college kids are just really good at hiding it.”

My husband, home for 2 weeks during an Army tour in South Korea, ended up accomplishing it with a few words: “You’re going to the 3-year-old class. That’s for big kids and big kids wear panties!”

“I want to wear panties,” said M. And she did. She went to bed in panties that night and never wore a diaper again. I only remember a couple of accidents, and they happened weeks later. When her sister J saw what a fuss we were making over M, she too demanded panties. I was left with 3 boxes of size 4 diapers I ended up giving away a few months later.

What I Did Wrong

I skipped the research

I remembered potty training my (much) younger sister. Although I carefully researched almost every other area of parenting and child development, I decided to rely on my experience for potty training. I remember my sister being on the potty at under a year old, so I starting trying to potty train my daughters as soon as they expressed an interest in my own bathroom habits.

I thought very early potty training was possible. I was only when I was months into the effort with my daughters that I realized that the adults were the ones who had been trained in my sister’s case. She was far too young to be able to use the potty, but between the nannies and maids we had in Bangladesh, there was always someone there to read her signs and rush her to the potty when she was about to go. That just wasn’t reasonable as a functionally single working parent with twins in a daycare program.

I didn’t understand potty training readiness

I completely misunderstood my kids’ readiness. I thought their interest in the potty, paired with an ability to communicate verbally, was enough. Physical developmental readiness to give up diapers actually has four parts, which may well develop at different times:

  • Awareness of the need to go.
  • Ability to hold the urge to go.
  • Ability to release on demand.
  • Ability to hold the urge to go during sleep.

My daughters’ interest in my use of the bathroom was all well and good, but until they developed their own awareness and muscle control, it was all theoretical to them. I took their waking with dry diapers every morning as a sign that they were able to control their bladders, but they just happened to develop that control out of typical order. They were clean and dry through the night for months before they were could identify potty time during the day.

I took it personally

I got into something of a battle with the children’s daycare teacher. (We only lasted at that center for the 2-year-old class and then went running home to the one my daughters had attended in infancy.) She insisted on treating my daughters as a set. The teacher and I agreed that M was ready to potty train and J was not. She wasn’t willing to work with them until they were both ready. I insisted that M was her own person and should be potty trained, regardless of her twin’s readiness. The girls were getting inconsistent messages about potty training at home and at school.

I took ownership

I didn’t put onus of owning potty training on the children. Sure, I got them all excited about Disney-themed panties, but I saw potty training as my personal accomplishment rather than theirs. Their father did it right. Instead of making potty training a favour they were doing him, he put all ownership of their success on them. And the toddlers rose to the challenge!

What potty training mistakes would you encourage other parents to avoid?

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

4 thoughts on “Toddler Thursday: How Not to Potty Train”

  1. I’m probably doing it wrong too. The other day, my son went poop 3 times in close succession to get his chocolate chip reward. Hah, smart enough to game the system should mean that he is ready!

  2. Parents should avoid starting training before the kid is ready. This is responsible for many potty training failure. I have never seen five or four years old use diaper (Except in rare medical condition), so what’s the point in hurrying when they can learn at their pace?

    So I believe parent should work at kids pace, not the other way round.
    Augustus O recently posted Best Diaper Pail For Disposing Stinking DiapersMy Profile

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