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4 Ways to Keep Your Sanity During Potty Training

Photograph by Twenty20

Tired of changing all the diapers? Teaching my kids to use the "Big Kid Potty" sounded like the next best thing in parenting—at first. But OMG, potty training wound up being the hardest thing I tackled as a parent, by far! The kids have all the power, and they know it.

You really can't influence the process as much as you would like to, and that's a blow to any parenting ego. The trick is to keep your sanity. Here's how.

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1. Use treats (not for the kids, for you)

Emergency trips to the outhouse at the baseball field or the sketchy gas station bathroom earn extra treats, of course.

Using some sort of treat as a reward for using the potty seems reasonable at first. But when your kid quickly realizes that she can hold her pee and let it out a teaspoon at a time—thereby racking up as many M&Ms as possible—you are headed for trouble. The problem with using treats is that they are for the trainee, not the trainer.

Stock your own treat stash before you start potty training your wee one and reward yourself frequently. Whether your treat of choice is a piece of dark chocolate or a glass of wine, it doesn't matter. It's all about you. Emergency trips to the outhouse at the baseball field or the sketchy gas station bathroom earn extra treats, of course. Mom 1, trainee kid 0.

2. Skip the books

There are so many books on potty training tips and tricks there's an entire section for them at the bookstore: "Potty Train in Three Days!" "Quickest Potty Training Ever!" "Be a Potty Training Master!" On top of all the how-to manuals there is an assortment of picture books for kids. Do we really need picture books about using the potty? Save your sanity ahead of time and skip the books. Trust me, nobody wants to read and re-read "Everyone Poops," "The Potty Train" or "Where's the Poop?" over and over while sitting on the edge of the bathtub. Nobody.

3. Don't tell anyone

Once you share you can't take it back.

With Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all up in our daily lives it's hard to do anything without sharing. And we love your tidbits about your kids—really, we do. But please don't overshare about potty training.

Those pictures of kids with their feet dangling sweetly from the too-tall toilet seat are endearing, yes. But once you share you can't take it back. Your friends, co-workers, siblings, neighbors and family dentist all know what's happening in your house. And if it isn't going well, you are stuck answering a billion questions about how not-well it's going. The advice you will receive from everyone in your immediate circle of 1,200 Facebook friends will not be worth it. So keep it on a need-to-know basis until you can confidently proclaim potty victory.

4. Ditch the potty seat

Wait, what? You heard me—skip the stupid little potty seat thing. No kid has ever been seriously wounded or emotionally scarred from using a big-kid potty. The diehard moms buy the cutest, most colorful potty seat they can find early on, and it becomes a fixture in the house. See, little Sally is sitting on the potty seat while she eats her snack! She loves her potty seat! Soon the potty seat becomes a must-have accessory in the car, in case of emergencies. Sure, it's great to have something toddler-sized. But who has to clean it? You. There is something to be said for indoor flush toilets. End of story.

RELATED: Who Says You Have to Potty Train?

In the end (pun intended) how you choose to potty train your kid is as individual a decision as bottle or breastfeeding, disposable or cloth, organic or not. And when you're in the trenches things can get real dicey really quickly. Hang tough, moms and dads. I promise your kid won't go off to middle school wearing a Pull-up.

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