Google "potty training" and you'll see a variety of warp-speed recommendations like "Ultimate 3-Day Potty Training," "The 2-Day Potty Training Method"
and even "Potty Train Your Child in Less Than 1 Day!" I guess your choice of program depends on how
many days you can get off from work.
But when it comes to potty training, I have never understood
this "race to underpants" mentality.
Potty training is not something to be imposed on a kid based
on adult's time table. Just like you can't
force a baby to crawl or walk, you can't make him use the potty if he's not
ready. Not with all the charts, stickers
and M&M's in the world. Push it and
you'll wind up with a frustrated kid, exhausted parents, and a shitload of
laundry (pun intended).
I know a mom—and she's a terrifically loving mom—who tried
out a 3-day program that had her two-year-old in tears. The kid was so terrified (i.e. NOT READY) to
use the potty that she held her pee all day and didn't know why her belly hurt
so badly. I felt terrible for both of them.
Where's the fire? What's the pressure to speed through potty
training like it's an Olympic event? Why
rush kids out of diapers before they're ready?
Diapers may be annoying sometimes, but they can also be such
a blessing, like when you're on a road trip, or at the public park with the
skeeviest bathroom ever (and you're secretly wishing that moms could wear diapers
too.) We go to a Halloween carnival every year that only offers Porta Potties, and it is so traumatizing to think of my preschooler near such nastiness that I literally don't let her drink anything while we're
there. Sometimes I miss diapers!
But every kid is different. And chances are, you have plenty of mom friends whose kids don't use the potty yet either—they just aren't as vocal about it.
I know that parents may be under pressure from daycare centers or preschools to make a
certain potty training deadline. This seems
irresponsible to me. Institutions that
are expert in child development should know better than to force the
issue. Best case, there will be tons of
accidents. Worse case, lingering
I also think parents fall prey to peer pressure. If a mom in your circle starts bragging that her kid is potty trained, you feel like you'd better catch up. But every kid is different. And chances are, you have plenty of mom friends whose kids don't use the potty yet either—they just aren't as vocal about it.
Ideally, potty learning (a phrase I prefer) happens over
time. It starts with letting your
toddler watch you do your business (as if you have a choice). You read fun
storybooks together about using the potty, and give your child her own potty to
test out when the mood strikes. You can
even shop for undies.
And then you wait until she's willing and able to try,
because starting any earlier is only going to drag the process out and make it
If you're a parent who swears by one of those high-speed
methods, great. Maybe you timed it right
and the reward system clicked perfectly with your child's personality. It's not for every kid. I had to wait mine out, but once she was
ready, it was obvious to both of us. At
that point, the transition was incredibly quick and easy.
There are so many parenting rules and timetables we do have to follow. Potty training doesn't need to be one of them. Let's give our kids a break and save the M&M's for movie night.