Potty Training: 13 Things the How To Guides Forget to Mention

Morning all! We spent this weekend, helping our 3 year old learn how to use the potty. In the highs and lows that come with it, I turned to writing to cope.

Potty training bootcamp is a simple concept. Stay inside all weekend endlessly watching cartoons or movies. The one time as a mother I do not feel guilty about my children’s screen time.

Most How To’s bill potty training bootcamp as a pant-free, M&M raining weekend of couch potato bliss. All you have to do is find a small portable potty, place it in front of the TV, remove the pants and the coveted diaper, turn on their favorite cartoon, promise a reward if they do it and have them try every 15 minutes. At the end of the weekend, you will have a potty-proficient little person.

Most of that is kind of accurate except they fail to mention that it’s emotionally and mentally exhausting. Here are some other rather important key details left out:

  1. Every 15 minutes, you have to ask for them to sit on the potty and try. Except, you’re not actually asking. You’re begging, bartering or pleading.
  2. Bribery is real and sometimes M&Ms are not enough. We have also resorted to fruit snacks, sticker boards, a light up toothbrush, custard donuts from Plehn’s, a trip to the aquarium and 2 one-on-one dates with mom (like we’re running a Bachelor franchise over here.)
    1. Helper, aka sibling, bribery is real too. They get M&Ms for “support.”
  3. Deprivation is also real. At a particularly low moment, I took my son’s sleep sack (his equivalent of a lovey or safety blanket. It was ruthless of me, I know.) Nothing else was motivating him and I was desperate to help him turn this corner. Throughout the day, I felt bad for taking such an important item. But it worked. When he got home from daycare, he marched straight up to me. He informed me that he pee peed on the potty at daycare. I offered him an enthusiastic: congrats – that’s awesome! His response? Give me back my sleep sack. If he knew the word, he would have dropped b!&ch on the end of that sentence. And I would have let him, because it would have been an appropriate use of the word. My tactic was low but effective. (Didn’t Tina Fey say something about bitches getting stuff done?)
  4. The pantless trainee will need a towel or a garbage bag to protect the couch, chairs or any surfaces on which he may try to sit.
  5. Related to #4: It’s awesome when they ask to sit on your lap (remember, the trainee is pantless).
  6. They may stop drinking water or milk to keep themselves from peeing. When our middle employed this tactic, we thought we’d outsmart him. My husband ran to Kroger for juice boxes, which is normally only reserved for parties. He took a few sips, realized what we were doing and put it down (not sure why I keep underestimating how smart kids are).
  7. They will scream and cry ask for their diaper or underwear back so they can poopy in comfort.
  8. They may be scared to do #2. After hearing this from my oldest a Google search told me that kids can be scared they are losing a part of their body then flushing it away. Somehow there is security in their diaper. One set of parents told me they literally cut a hole in their daughter’s diaper. Cut a hole. Brilliant – whatever it takes – solution! We all do crazy a&& $h^% to get them to…well you know.
  9. You will sit on the cold and hard bathroom floor for an hour reading to your child or entertaining them by showing them pictures of horses, cows and pigs on an iPad – if that’s what they want.
  10. All of this and there will still be accidents. If you’re still in the pant-less stage, it’s basically just cleaning up a puddle on the floor plus cleaning the legs and feet. If you’ve moved to Stage 2, where you think they’re good enough to put their pants back on, pee pee accidents mean all items of clothing from the waist down (including underwear, pants, socks and shoes) have to be removed. In addition to cleaning up the puddle, the articles of clothing have to be washed and replaced. But then there are the other kinds of accidents. No one talks about those accidents because we don’t want to relive them. It’s as terrible as you are likely imagining it (or remembering if you’ve been through this recently). Yet somehow, in the moment, you do what you’re supposed to do because you’re a mom and it’s your kid who’s trying his hardest to learn something big.
  11. Or if they hold it too long, it can upset their stomach and set-off other problems. Not pleasant.
  12. Younger siblings can add another layer to it. No one tells you they’re going to want to sit on the little portable potty too or put their hands in the mess on the floor. And when you try to prevent either of these, they will scream uncontrollably in a manner that suggests child abuse.
  13. You will watch your trainee meticulously, trying to learn their potty cues. When you see a potty cue, you will get mad at yourself for believing them when they tell you they don’t have to go. When they have an accident a few seconds later, you will feel like you failed them.

Maybe it’s better that the what really happens talk is limited. Maybe if we all knew what was coming – we might not do it. But then there is the sheer, immeasurable joy, elation and pride that comes with learning this required and necessary skill.


Smiling so hard it hurts because his bed stayed dry and he used the big boy potty as soon as he woke up.

On the parenting continuum, it’s an acute event. Once it’s done, the pain is forgotten. But while in it – it’s like the longest long weekend of life and pretty easy to lose sight of the diaper-free road that lies ahead. 2 (almost) down. 1 to go (so we’re still open to tips!).



4 thoughts on “Potty Training: 13 Things the How To Guides Forget to Mention

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s