The One Piece of Potty Training Advice I Wish I Would’ve Listened To

It took us seven months to potty train Kennedy.

SEVEN FREAKING MONTHS.

When we started potty training, I was 34 weeks pregnant, thinking I would just “get this out of the way” before Caroline arrived. Rookie mistake, people. I thought Kennedy was ready. She showed all the signs, and was interested in it. She’s a smart girl, and learns quickly, so why not potty train?

Needless to say, we’ve done it all.

3 day potty training in 12 days with no success. Sticker charts. M&Ms. Incentives. Running around bare-bottomed. Timers every fifteen/ten/five/twenty minutes. Having a stuffed animal wear underwear and practice with the animal. Pull-ups. No Pull-ups. Diapers at night. No diapers at night. Getting her to throw away said diapers. Bringing back the diapers from the store because “we can go buy more.”

We potty trained with a small potty chair, a potty seat, and straight up on the potty itself. I read all the books. The 3 day potty training book, the potty training in less than a day book. We downloaded all the apps –  Potty Time with Elmo, Once Upon a Potty. We watched ridiculous YouTube videos (she hated that one). I Googled all the dang time –

“potty training 2.5 year old”

“how to be consistent during potty training”

“3 day potty training isn’t working”

“what to do when your toddler pees on you”

“wine delivery” – scratch that, I was pregnant.

“does Sonic sell their ice?” (YES. Yes they do.)

We have begged. Pleaded. Bribed. I have cried more than I should over excrement. I kept my cool and lost my cool, over and over.

Potty training still took seven months.

I posted on Facebook and Instagram about how we were potty training, and everyone had their bragging stories of how, “Billy Bob was trained at 2 months old in one day! You’ve got this, mama!”

LIES. THESE ARE ALL LIES.

But through some of these pieces of advice, there was one that really stuck out to me once we got through the trenches.

The ONE Piece of Potty Training Advice I Wish I Would've Listened To

“She’ll do it when she’s ready.”

Seems like the simplest and DUH thing ever. But hear me out.

When you’re potty training a toddler, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re seven months in and she still is using this as a power struggle, it never seems like she’ll be ready. You’re questioning your ability to parent and your sanity. Hearing others say, “She’ll do it when she’s ready,” doesn’t help at that moment.

Let me tell you something.  One day at the beginning of February, Kennedy decided she would use the potty and be in total control of her body. We haven’t looked back to diapers or Pull-ups – not even at night. This happened because we stopped urging her or telling her to go. We stopped “training” her. Greg and I focused on giving her praise for other things that she did and spending quality time together without talking about the potty.

I recommend you don’t get to that point in your potty training adventures – where you’ve trained so long that you have to “untrain.” Please, don’t be like me. That advice up there? It applies to you, too. I clearly wasn’t ready. Give yourself a break. Focus on other things. That doesn’t mean you have to forget it completely – just don’t let it consume you.

Listen to that one piece of advice that I wish I would’ve listened to. They’ll do it when they’re ready.

30 Comments

  • Reply
    Caitlin
    April 1, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Thanks so much for this advice! Because of yours and Katie’s experiences, I have been in no rush to potty train, and I especially don’t want to start until we move. However…little man is starting to show interest. I might need to call you later to get your take. I’m at least thinking about buying a little potty chair so that we plant the idea and take potty training at a snail’s pace.

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      April 1, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Definitely don’t start until after you move! However, I think buying a potty chair is a great idea and just letting him think it’s his idea.

  • Reply
    Corinne
    April 1, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Oh dear! This is so where we are right now – 4 months into training my daughter who will be three in a month…. and I’m 36 weeks pregnant. She’s 95% there on pees, but just WILL NOT poop on the potty. So, we aren’t stressing it. We aren’t yelling. We just arent worrying about it. Yes, I felt a lot of pressure to be 100% potty trained by age 3. But she’s not ready, and a new baby is about to rock her world. So… we are doing things are her pace. No one still poops in their pants daily forever. (And thankfully, now she asks for a pull-up when she needs to poo. Baby steps.) She’s got her own agenda, and when she’s ready, she’s ready. The potty will still be there.

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      April 1, 2015 at 9:47 am

      You seem like in much better shape than where we were when I was 36 weeks pregnant!! Lol! You have a great attitude about it. Lord knows you definitely don’t want to be stressing about potty training while trying to care for a newborn. I hate the pressure that moms bring to potty train early. It’s not necessary. We don’t even do pull ups at night. I don’t even care that this happened after she turned 3.

  • Reply
    Sarah E.
    April 1, 2015 at 7:47 am

    I wish our “society” wasn’t so pressuring with potty training – and by that, I mean pressuring the parents to potty train their kids! It’s not something that can be forced. I remember stressing so much when my first hit 2 yr and it was going to be training time. And then I googled around and discovered that the average age boys potty train is 38 months – that’s PAST age 3. Not at all what you hear from everyone – your child HAS TO BE trained at 2, regardless of gender. Once I read that, I just stopped worrying. He always loved sitting on his kid potty when he followed me into the bathroom, so I just encouraged that and tried to teach him what it was for. Once he got closer to 3, he started hiding to poop and that’s when I kind of figured he’d be close to using the toilet instead of a diaper/pull-up. One day I was making lunch and he hollered that he went “pee pee in the potty” and sure enough, he had 🙂 It’s the one really big parenting tip that I try and spew to anyone that will listen – they have to learn their body’s cues, and unfortunately, as a parent, you can’t teach them that. So the one thing you can do is encourage potty time, praise them when they use it (I was like jumping up and down and cheering him on – he probably thought I was crazy LOL), and relax and not stress it 🙂 My daughter did train earlier than my son, but I did the same thing…just watched for signs of being ready and encouraged her to use the potty when she wanted to.

    *phew* That was long and I used potty way more than I’m comfortable with! haha 🙂 Definitely going to pin this and hope that other parents get to read it before having to stress about potty training!

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      April 1, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Amen, girl! I hate the pressure!! Kennedy was trained at 38 months! Lol. But no pull ups. Nothing. We are good. We do have accidents but it’s nothing huge. Thank you so much for your sweet comment!

  • Reply
    Kerri
    April 1, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Sooooo true, yet so hard! My son was just shy of FOUR. We even tried so hard that he ended up in the hospital severely constipated. They more we tried the more he held it. We finally took the advice of a preschool teacher “don’t worry, he won’t go to kindergarten in diapers” it sounded ridiculous, but one day on his own he just started going. He’s almost 7 and has never once had an accident. But man, that was a rough road!

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      April 1, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Eek. That’s terrible he ended up in the hospital! But yeah, it’s a rough road when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Great advice! My mom told me the same thing, lol

  • Reply
    Colleen
    April 1, 2015 at 8:55 am

    This is just what I needed to hear! I keep beating myself up over why (why!? why! WHY?) Owen refuses to go with the potty training thing. I know he “gets it” and is smart enough, blahblahblah, etc. But obviously it is just not time yet! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Stephanie
      April 1, 2015 at 9:42 am

      I think we as mom beat ourselves up a lot over things. Hugs to you mama.

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      April 1, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Yep, sounds exactly like what Kennedy went through. She knew what she needed to do. She just didn’t want to. Why did I put myself through that much torment?!?! Lol

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    April 1, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Meg my dear you are an angel! I have been going through this and googled the same. I have had people straight up tell me that I need to train me! What? Then question my mothering because my 2yr old isn’t trained yet. He can’t even communicate that we’ll yet and doesn’t care if he is wet. I tried everything too and had to hear the stories of my kid did it at this age so why can’t you..blah blah blah. Oh and my fave, I raised more kids than you so come on..those hurt the worst. I have cried and one day my sister said, he isn’t ready, let it go. He will let you know when he is ready. So I followed her advice and made like Elsa and let it go. He isn’t ready, and I had been telling people that from the start.

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      April 1, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Elsa has some great advice!! We all need to let it go, including those people that think they know everything! Lol!

  • Reply
    Shannon
    April 1, 2015 at 10:17 am

    That’s what happened with us, my son would use the potty at school starting around age 2 but refused to go at home no matter what we did, finally around 2 1/2 one day he decided to sit on the potty before bathtime and peed when I was out of the room. From that moment on he did great and had very few accidents. We knew he could do it and just had to get over the hurdle of going that first time and we were right. He just wanted to go on his own timeline.

  • Reply
    Alycia
    April 1, 2015 at 10:24 am

    This is great advice. We did the 3 day thing in 7 days, and it worked, but we are still in diapers at naps and bed. We will get there, one day, when she’s ready!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ Trial By Sapphire
    April 1, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    NOTED! 🙂

  • Reply
    mandy @ a sorta fairytale
    April 1, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    THIS IS SO TRUE!!!! And actually, I’m in the process of writing a very similar post, it’s like you read my mind!! lol

  • Reply
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
    April 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Awesome post and awesome advice Meg.

    I worked in child care for over 20 years and this was the one thing we struggled with… we would have families clamoring to potty train their 18 month old when we know that it’s best not to force or rush it. Children do get it in their own time – they will eventually consistently pee and poo on the toilet. It’s not a race.

    Thanks so much for sharing… and for your honesty on this. It’s so refreshing.
    xoxo

  • Reply
    Tawnya Faust
    April 1, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Although I have yet to potty train my 2.5 year old, I whole heartedly agree with this advice. Sometimes I feel a little bit of pressure when people are constantly asking me if Scarlett is potty trained or saying things like “She must be getting close now”. But what if she’s not? It that really the worst thing in the world? I mean she’s only TWO. I’m honestly in no rush and have a strong feeling that she will wake up one day and tell me she’s ready to wear panties and use the potty, until then I will continue to plant the seed and talk about it… but I’m not pushing it.

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    My son was 3 1/2. He played soccer with diapers! It became a control issue…so I gave up. The kids were staying with my parents while we were out of the country. There was a dead bird in my parents backyard. My son wanted to go see the bird. My dad said, ” Use the potty and I will take you out to see the bird.” Boys! So…the boy went in the potty! No accidents even at bedtime. I told my dad, if I knew all it took was a dead bird….

    It was all about control. Glad you are on the other side of this adventure.

  • Reply
    Jessica DImas
    April 6, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Yes!!! I wrote a blog post like this last summer which I titled “How to Potty Train a Boy in ONE DAY”…the day he’s ready. It makes all the difference in the world to wait until THEY decide for themselves that they want to do it. My son was almost 3.5 when he finally decided he no longer liked feeling a wet diaper and only wanted to go on the potty. My midwife who has 6 kids advised me to do this and I’m so thankful! Potty training doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Great post and such true advice!

  • Reply
    Cristina
    April 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Potty training makes me sad! specially my boy wjo turned 4 on march, he just doesn’t want to do it! Oncr he lasted 3 days without pooping i even had to take him to the doctor because i was so concerned! And my gi. Who will be 3 next we (04-18) she likes it and is 50% there with peeing in the toilet but it all gets spoiled as soon as her brother starts playing in his little poddles of pee! I honestly given up! I feel that they outsmart me! They’ll b. Staring school this upcoming fall and they are not potty ready! :'( 🙁

    • Reply
      Cristina
      April 11, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Sorry about all the spelling errors my phone can’t seem to handle being bilingual lol

  • Reply
    Kamari
    April 14, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Wow my sister is going through this now with my nephew hendrix! Who knew it was such an ordeal. I have the utmost respect for moms

  • Reply
    Kristen
    April 16, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    LOVE this post! Every one keeps telling me to potty train Ellie because she has all the signs (pats diaper when it’s ready to be changed, loves to sit on the potty, etc), but I honestly don’t think that she’s ready. I think she’s interested in it, but not ready because she’s only ever gone 3 times on the potty, but sits on it almost every day. I don’t think the connection is there yet for her completely. Sometimes I doubt myself and think maybe I should push her more because of what other people tell me (unsolicited mind you), but this really just solidified my gut feeling that she’s not really ready yet and to wait until she is.
    BTW only one person told me not to potty train yet bc “it sucks to have a new baby that you’re trying to adjust to and then be asking your toddler if they have to go every 5-10 minutes. just wait til after”.
    Kudos to finding what works and taking on the task head on! you’re a great mom!!

  • Reply
    I Survived 1 Year with 2 Kids
    September 3, 2015 at 7:00 am

    […] thinking that would be done before Caroline arrived. She did it… you know, eventually. Potty training will mess up, and a new baby will mess that ish up. You are not the number one parent ever. Give yourself some […]

  • Reply
    Alicia Williams
    February 3, 2016 at 12:48 am

    Love this! I had to take a step back from potty training my almost 2.5 year old as well, and am choosing the “she’ll do it when she’s ready” mind set, because it was just getting too tough on us both. It really is the best advice! And ps. Sonic sells their ice?! Say what!! That is the best news I’ve heard all day!

  • Reply
    Brandy
    March 2, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    We have tried training my almost 3 year old with no success either, it’s definitely her that just won’t do it until she is ready but man it is FRUSTRATING for all of us. She keeps talking about potty and how her friends do it but for some reason she’s just not ready. They only concern I have is pre-school and other programs that require a potty trained child, that’s the tricky bit to overcome and it adds stress to the situation.

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      March 9, 2016 at 11:54 pm

      Oh Brandy, I know exactly how you feel. You cannot see the light at the end of that darn potty training tunnel. My daughter’s teachers were putting on the pressure for her to train, and I could tell they were getting frustrated, too. But it just magically clicked one day. You’ll get there! I promise!!!

  • Reply
    Laura Barr
    March 16, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Yes! So true! While I was pregnant, we tried the 3 day method and it was a complete failure. So we stopped until after I had the baby. At that point she was about 6 months older and loved having the extra attention of working on something with Mommy. I also read somewhere to talk to the baby- Hold on baby, I have to help sister go potty- and that helped a lot too. It was the perfect storm, she was ready, liked the extra attention, and it became our thing. I was shocked at how easily she trained. The only rough day was when I stopped reminding her to use the potty before she was ready to be completely independent, but once I figured out that was the problem, everything went smoothly again. Her being ready was truly the key.

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