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What Potty Training Taught Me About Parenting

potty training

I remember when it was time to start potty training our oldest daughter. She had been showing a lot of the “signs” that she was ready for months and I was more than ready to not have two kids in diapers.

I spent hours researching the best methods and came up with the perfect potty training plan. After a few days of my “perfect” plan, the entire household was ready to throw in the towel. We started thinking maybe she wasn’t ready and we thought we might want to hold off for a few more months, when all of a sudden something clicked…. on a play date, in a public restroom.

Toddlers always keep you on your toes! Once our daughter had that light bulb moment, we never looked back. Although we were teaching our daughter a new skill, I think I learned the most during this season of life. Potty training taught me how to be a better mom and gave me a new perspective on parenting.

Here are the top 5 things potty training taught me about parenting:

1. Ignore other people’s advice.

Like I said before, I did tons of research. I read about the “3 day method” and the pull-ups vs. underwear debate. I sought out advice from all the parents who came before us. I thought having information and advice would be helpful, but instead I just ended up confused.

And even worse than that, I didn’t listen to my own kid. I had spent the last two years getting to know every inch of my daughter, but instead, I decided to listen to an article on the Internet. I have learned now that when it comes to parenting, you can find research and advice to back up pretty much any method you choose for any aspect of parenting. The important thing is to choose to do what works best for your child and your family.
2. A little bribery goes a long way.

It turns out that potty training really isn’t all that fun for anyone involved. I can’t think of a single toddler that would want to be regularly interrupted while they are playing to try and go to the bathroom, but if there is a treat involved it’s a different story. I am not talking about anything crazy, but a little something special to reward them for learning a new skill.

Sometimes bribery gets a bad rap, but if you think about it, we still use bribery in adulthood. If you work hard at your job, you can be rewarded with a promotion. I don’t know about you, but I regularly tell myself that I can go out for frozen yogurt if I spend the morning exercising. I think sometimes we think that going to the bathroom is so easy because we have been doing it for as long as we can remember. We forget that to our little ones, growing up is hard, confusing and very overwhelming.
3. Being unprepared is the biggest mistake you can make.

I have learned that kids can smell when you are unprepared.

Forget the diaper bag? Get ready for the biggest blowout you’ve ever seen.

Forget to pack some extra snacks? The line at the store will be twice as long.

It’s like some secret pact all children made before they entered our lives. When we started potty training I was so excited to have less kid things to drag around, that was until I realized that I just had different things to bring now. We had to bring extra clothes and underwear in case she had an accident. I had to start carrying a portable potty in the bottom of our stroller because our favorite park didn’t have bathrooms. And wouldn’t you know it, the one time I forgot to bring it, we found ourselves squatting down behind some trees. Don’t judge me!
4. Just when you think you have it all figured out, think again.

I really thought we would get to a point where we never had to think about potty training again. I thought we would reach a point where it would just happen automatically with no accidents and no prompting. Now I realize that while that day may come, in the very distant future, when it does, it will bring along something else to figure out. Usually when I start to feel like I have this whole mom thing figured out, I spend the next day feeling a little like I am taming wild beasts. Potty training and parenting is not something that can be conquered. It is a life-long commitment to learning and growing and striving to be the best that you can be.
5. The smallest things can bring the greatest joy.

I can still feel the joy we all experienced the first few times we had a successful bathroom visit. Our family cheered and danced and I may have even teared up a bit. One of my favorite parts of being a mom is discovering that pure, innocent joy that the smallest things can bring to a child. Watching your child grow up is very bittersweet. It is so hard to see time slip away but it is so rewarding to watch your child reach a new milestone. No matter how hard some ages or phases may be, try to find the joy in every one because before you know it you will be on to the next.


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