Potty Training: Accidents Happen (No, But Seriously)

Welcome to the second article in the Potty Training Series. First of all, let me say I am really excited by the enthusiasm surrounding this series, and we are only on the second post! Thank you to everyone who has recommended this series to your potty training friends. I am humbled, and honored to share this experience with you and your little ones. If you missed the first post in this series, you can check it out here.

Today I wanted to discuss the most frustrating part of potty training, a total and complete lack of control. As a parent, you can control many things about your children’s lives and behavior such as what they eat, where they go to school, what they watch on TV, and how they behave (to a point). However, you simply cannot control when they go pee or poop. They are in total control of that area, and they know it!  So let us do our best to fight the urge to control their bowel movements, and we will get through this, I promise!

"Keep moving forward." - Walt Disney

Something you have to acknowledge right away when you are potty training is that accidents will happen. In fact, I guarantee it. So before you even start thinking about potty training, say this with me out loud,

“I expect my child to have multiple accidents while learning how to go potty on the toilet. I will not get frustrated or yell at my child, even if it makes me feel momentarily better because it is counter productive to the potty training process.”

You might be asking me, “Well Kristin, if I can’t yell at them or punish them when they have an accident… what can I do? I don’t want them peeing and pooping on the floor forever!” We’ve already admitted that we cannot control where or when our children go to the bathroom, so punishment or negative reinforcement will not work to produce a favorable behavior in this circumstance. So what other choice do you have? Positive reinforcement!! If you encourage your child’s good behavior in this area, you are definitely going to be more successful in your potty training adventures. Here is my short list of do’s and dont’s for potty training. Yes, this list has been personally tested by me, twice (Katienne is doing very well in the Potty Training area, by the way).

You should wait to potty train your child until:

1. They wake up in the morning with a dry diaper (this can be helped along if their liquids are limited starting 2 hours before their bed time).

2. They can communicate effectively enough to tell you they have to go to the bathroom. I’m not saying that their syntax and grammar have to be impeccable, but they should be able to say something like, “Mommy, I need go pee pee.”

3. You or someone else can stay home with them for two weeks straight and work on potty training without having to leave for long chunks of time or go on a trip.

4. You are in a place mentally and emotionally where you expect accidents to happen, and can offer positive reinforcement whenever they don’t.

Things you should do when potty training your child:

– Set up a reasonable rewards system to encourage learning how to go on the potty. I used gummis as a reward for both girls, they are small treats that don’t ruin their appetite. When they go several times on the potty without having an accident, you can reward them with special big girl or big boy underwear that have their favorite character on them. If they have another accident, switch them back to their trainers until they can go 3 consecutive times on the potty without an accident. Of course, these are only two ideas. I’m sure you can think of other creative ways to encourage your child as they are learning the new and exciting process of using a toilet.

-Be excited! When your child manages to make anything into the toilet (even if some got on the floor, in their trainer… wherever) make sure to cheer and reward them. The more excited you are, the more excited they will be!

-Be prepared! Make sure you have a few mattress pads for the bed and another one for the “special” place on a chair or couch where you child is going to be sitting during potty training time. If there is an expensive persian rug you don’t want to see ruined, roll it up and put it away. For those of you with carpet, have a good cleaner and scrubbing brush ready at a moment’s notice. You should also have plenty of pairs of trainers and underwear ready… and get ready to do quite a bit of laundry.

-If you need to have a 5 minute mental break down, do it alone! Go into the other room, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself that potty training is a process, not an overnight event.

Things you should not do when potty training your child:

-Lose your temper. This is the quickest way to go backwards. When an accident does happen, remind your child that it’s ok, and to tell mommy or daddy next time. Give them a hug and tell them you love them and are proud of them for trying.

-Punish your child. This is also counterproductive and will turn them off of potty training all together.

-Be afraid to give up and try another time. If you have spent 2 whole weeks (and not a day less) potty training and things are still not going well, it’s ok to take a break if your child is willing. However, you should never, never force your child to put a diaper back on as long as they willing to continue trying in order to avoid wearing one. For most children it is extremely embarrassing to put a diaper back on if they have successfully been able to wear underwear or trainers for any amount of time. If they don’t care about wearing a diaper, maybe give them and yourself a break for a couple of weeks and then try again.

So there you have it, a quick list of potty training wisdom graciously passed down to me by other awesome mommies and applied to my own little sprouts. And remember, “Mistakes mean you are trying!”

Next week I’ll be writing about going out of the house while potty training, and sharing one potty training story that still haunts me 10 years later. If you have any tips to pass on about potty training, please leave a comment below!

Happy Travels!


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