The 5 KNOWs of Potty Training

A couple of weeks ago I asked one of my besties, Mary, to write a post for us on potty training. Mary is an amazing friend, a fantastic Mom of three beautiful kiddos, and a loving and supportive wife. She has a BA from Weber State University in English with a minor in History. Our friendship began 13 years ago in Tennessee while serving as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am eternally grateful for our friendship.

One my favorite things about her parenting is that she is real. She loves her family, she loves her life, and she lives what she loves. With that said, I hope you enjoy her advice on potty training.

Meet Mary – (And her hubby).

Matt Mary sf pop

I was asked to write a post about potty training.  Because I am an expert in early childhood development?  Because I have potty trained hundreds if not thousands of toddlers?  Nope and nope.  I guess because I am a mom.  Not a super mom.  Not a perfect mom.  Just a regular, happy-to-be-a-mom, mom.  I have run the potty training gauntlet three times now and I am happy to report that we are all alive and well and we can potty successfully.

I have tried to write a post that gives encouragement and a few tips regarding potty  training.  I, by design, did not write a how-to post on the “absolute and only way to potty train without accidents and tears.”  News flash…no such thing exists.  I am a firm beliver that there are a million and one routes to successful potty training and you are the only one that can create your route.

With that said, let me openly acknowledge that I left out dads role in potty training in this post.  I love dads.  I love the authority and fun that they bring to any teaching moment in parenting.  I acknowledge their importance in all things family, even potty training.  If dad is going to play a large roll in training he needs to be 100% in line with the agreed upon program.  Mom and dad have to be in-synch every flush along the way.  In reference to this post, however, I just kept it simple and wrote from one mom to another.

1 – Know your child

Is your child physically, mentally, and emotionally ready for potty training?  It is a question only you can answer.  Thankfully there are plenty of parenting resources to help you make up your mind.  Go ahead.  Google or Bing (or whatever it is you do) the topic of “potty training readiness” and then sit back and enjoy the avalanche.  Take a minute or two and peruse the info.  Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns.  Ask for some advice from a tried and true confidant.  Then, at the end of the day, trust yourself to make a decision regarding your child’s readiness.  Moms are practically super human in their powers of discernment, especially when it comes to their tiny offspring.

2 – Know yourself

Are you physically, mentally, and emotionally ready for potty training?  Seriously.  Potty training is intense.  Even with the best intentions and the best preparation there is a lot to deal with…and it’s messy.  We are talking about a major life skill here people!  And did I mention it involves pee and poo?!  Things are about to get real.  With that in mind, try to choose a time when everyone is healthy and capable.  Try to commit 3-4 days of undivided attention to your child and this training.  Do everything in your power to get good sleep and simplify other aspects of your life to reduce stress. (There is no shame in eating pizza for 3 nights.  You do what you gotta do.)

3- Know your method

Like most things in motherhood, this one is deceptively complicated; right up there with childbirth and breastfeeding.  Sometimes a mom just needs some direction, or in my case step-by-step navigation.  So I started my quest for potty training wisdom with my mom but she informed me that my aunt actually trained me.  (Really?!  You can do that?!  If you have someone willing to do this for you and your child – STOP READING – and take advantage of your good fortune.)  My next stop was Amazon to find some highly rated books on potty training.

This is where it gets tricky…there are bajillions of options when it comes to potty training methods.  In order to narrow the playing field, start by asking another trusted mom for her recommendation.  Ask someone with a similar parenting style because you want a method that you are comfortable applying.  Also, buy two or three books that seem to fit the bill.  This will give you some options without being too overwhelming.  It is a real advantage to have the hard copy in your pretty little hands to refer to again and again and again and again.

Once you have your method (I heart Potty Train In Three Days by Lois Kleint.  Perfect match for my parenting style.) study, Study, STUDY!  Get your read on so that you are able to apply and adapt that chosen method for you and your child.

4 – Know some tricks

Here are a few of my faves…

  • Keep fun potty books in the bathroom.  Everyone Poops, Princess Potty Time, and Potty Animals are a few of our family favorites.  Read these to your potty pupil as they are “working” at sitting on the potty.  Sometimes they need a few minutes of distraction to relax those new muscles they are learning to use.
  • Use a bowl of warm water.  I have used this trick with all 3 of my kids, but it especially came in handy with my 3rd who had Hurculean bladder control.  (That kid could hold it until I thought her kidneys would explode!)  I would keep a mixing bowl in the tub and when needed, fill it with warm water and a few small toys.  Once she was comfy on the potty I let her hold the bowl and play with the toys in the water.  Homerun!  Even thinking about it makes me have to pee.
  • Cheerios in the toilet.  For little guys that are graduating to standing and peeing, throw a small handful of cheerios in the potty and let your boy do some target practice.
  • Tricks for public restrooms.  Now these places are scary when you’re an adult so try appreciate the sheer terror involved with loud flushes, huge toilets, and hearing strangers “go.”  It’s just too much for a little person to bear!  Here are two tricks for a better experience.
    • Carry a potty ring with you.  Grab one of those affordable contraptions that you can place on a big potty to make it well, more accommodating for a little derier.   Throw that bad boy in a grocery sack and tuck it in your purse when you are out and about.  For those first few weeks of potty training I had an extra big purse that I would use to house my potty ring.  Then, when we needed to use a public restroom I had a way for them to feel comfortable.  I am a clean person so I would also keep cleaning wipes in my extra big purse and while my mini was pulling up pants and panties, I would quickly wipe down the potty ring, put it back in the grocery sack (which I never let touch the floor.  Blech!) and then back into my extra big purse.  Saved. My. Life.
    • Mini sticky notes.  Those auto-flushers can surprise me sometimes and they are LOUD for little ears.  To keep your toilet from flushing every 5 seconds and scaring the Beetlejuice out of your toddler, stick a mini sticky note over the sensor.  Phew!  Crisis averted.

5 – Know that you will be successful

Whether you do it once or 19 times (potty training high 5 Michelle Duggar), know that you will succeed.   There may be highjinks and there may be tears but when it is all said and done you will have taught your mini to use the potty.  Know your child, know yourself, know your method, know a few tricks, and know that you will succeed.  Now get to it!  This world needs well potty trained people.


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