The Truth About Potty Training and Why It’s Hard

The truth about potty training might hurt, or maybe it’s exactly what you were expecting to hear.

I was fortunate enough to have some friends pave the way and share their honest take on the experience – “It’s the hardest thing I’ve done as a parent”- one mom told me.

To say I wasn’t looking forward to the milestone would be an understatement, but I was at least confidently armed with straight facts and clear expectations – this might really suck and in some ways it did.

I’m not sharing my experience to scare you, I am sharing it because I think it’s really helpful to know what to expect, what’s normal and frankly, to commiserate together – when you set forth on this journey, you can rest assured you are not alone.

This post includes the method I used, why I started, the hard moments, and everything in between. I am in no way an expert, in fact I have only potty trained one child, but I can share all the information I’ve learned along the way and the truth about potty training from a parent’s perspective.

The Truth About Potty Training

Why Did I Start the Process of Potty Training?

The biggest questions regarding potty training seem to be when to start and how to know if your child is really ready to ditch the diapers.

I made the decision to start potty training my daughter when she began asking to have her diaper changed immediately following a pee or poop – like instantly (she’s currently 27 months). For the period of a month or so, I was actually changing her diaper MORE than I had in a very long time. She was clearly uncomfortable walking around with a dirty diaper and I couldn’t exactly blame her. Additionally, she was consistently finding a “private” location to go, another tell tale sign a child is beginning to understand the process.

Which Method Did I Follow?

At the suggestion of friends, I chose to read and follow the “Oh Crap!” process of potty training (genius name, by the way). Over the course of several weeks, I forced myself to read a few pages before bed – it was easy to digest and pretty entertaining for a potty training book. The “Oh Crap!” method recommends removing all diapers (minus the nap and bedtime in the beginning) and blocking off seven days to commit to the process. Author and potty training expert, Jamie Glowacki, has a very honest and relatable approach to potty training – which I, of course, appreciated.

Why is potty training so hard?

Potty training a child is hard for many reasons, but not necessarily for the reasons you might expect.

Truthfully, I wasn’t ready to ditch the diapers. Before potty training, I could venture through the city for hours with my daughter and not give one thought to the location of a restroom (aside from the occasional diaper change). The realization that she no longer needed diapers was kind of depressing; diapers to me meant freedom.

Once the process starts, it can feel like your child is messing with you at times – you prompt, wait, and the minute she walks away from the toilet proclaiming with absolute certainty she’s all set, she pees on the floor. Huh?

Teaching a child to use the toilet is challenging because it’s such a natural process for adults who just go to the bathroom, but it’s hard to “unlearn” what we already do so naturally and then translate the process for a child without losing patience. 

The last reason is a big one and it’s all about letting go. As much as you would like, controlling someone’s bladder is impossible. Learning to use the toilet is an important and life changing milestone, baby is growing up.

The Truth About Potty Training

…That Time I Lost It.

I had one really difficult day throughout the week-long process.

Days one and two went smoothly and I felt optimistic that she was really starting to understand the process. Day three, however, felt like a complete disaster. From the moment I crawled out of bed my patience level was hovering around zero and I was already so tired of watching my daughter’s bum all day.

It felt like we had been playing tug of war over the toilet and the moment she peed all over the floor (after sitting on the toilet just moments earlier), I had to turn my back for a moment, catch my breath and compose myself before I reacted to her.

As a rational adult, I knew she would eventually get the hang of peeing on the toilet, but in those few moments of despair, I was really convinced it might not happen (it actually happened the very next day).

The Silver Lining

This will probably sound really cheesy, but the look on her face and the pride she felt after using the toilet was truthfully worth a few difficult days. After spending almost two and a half years in diapers, peeing on the toilet is a BIG DEAL and she absolutely understood that.

The Truth About Potty Training

The most important pieces of advice I can offer are to stay consistent, truly clear your calendar of any important “can’t miss” events (I waited about a month for the magic timeframe to appear) and recognize that the entire process is about learning a new skill – be prepared for an exercise in patience.

Let me know of any questions in the comments, I will do a follow-up post shortly with a list of all my favorite potty training products soon!


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2 Responses to The Truth About Potty Training and Why It’s Hard

  1. Kristin June 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    We just started potty training our son who is 2.5 years old. He’s been at it for less than two weeks and has done both pee and poo on the potty but mostly when prompted by us, not on his own. However, it seems like as things start progressing nicely, he shuts down. We use iPad time as a reward (timed at 10 minutes) and he LOVES it! In fact, it works better than just a treat. He will also get extra iPad time when he comes and tell us he has to go instead of going in his pull up. That worked yesterday about 1/2 the day but he got tired of it after nap time. It worked before bedtime (he figured out he could stay up longer). However, he’s back to his resistance today. I’m not sure what to do. I know it’s early but I feel like he’s got the hang of it and is being stubborn or maybe just shutting down under pressure? I’m wondering if because he didn’t get the instant reward at daycare yesterday (had to keep telling him he’d get it after school) if he just thought “this stinks” and gave up? I don’t want to push him if he’s not ready but I don’t want to just give up either.

  2. Anna Julien June 9, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    Hi Kristen, first and foremost, I feel your pain. Without knowing a ton about how you initially potty trained your son (meaning the specific method), I would say keep trying. I always notice a huge difference in my daughter when I am calm and relaxed about the situation, instead of constantly prompting/nervous she is going to have a mishap. A month in, I am still prompting my daughter daily (the book I read said that is totally normal, may take several months of prompting) and some of the time she is going herself. Last week she had two accidents in a row and I got concerned that we were headed backwards, so I woke up the next day and right from the start I made it my mission to only focus on getting her to the toilet – kind of how I was the first few days and she was right back to being consistent and hasn’t had an accident since. I think it’s completely normal to meet resistance, but at this point you know he can do it, so keep supporting, encouraging, and help him get there. Good Luck!

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