So you think you’re ready to start potty training your toddler? Congrats! Potty training is a huge step in child development. I remember when my husband and I decided to potty train. It was indeed a roller coaster ride, but looking back it was an educational experience for me too. I learned a lot about trusting my son to know his body, and to not listen to lies and potty training myths.
My biggest lesson: don’t pressure them. In fact, don’t even bring potty training up. Dr. Laura Markham suggests, “Wait till you have some time when you can be relaxed and attentive to your child,” she says. “Many preschools demand that children are toilet trained. That kind of pressure can only be bad for you and your child.”
I had no idea what I was getting into when I started potty training, but I learned a lot during the process.
For moms who want to master potty training, here are 5 lies I believed:
1. That two is the perfect age to start
I have a friend with an 11-month-old boy and he goes to the potty better than my 4-year-old. It’s truly insane how quickly some kids pick up on it, while others take a much longer time to master it. Wherever your child falls on the potty training spectrum, it’s OK. you might start to feel like your little one is lagging behind if they are nearing 3 years old and aren’t remotely interested in going to the bathroom. But relax—everyone learns at their own pace. There isn’t a magic number for potty training and it’s important to remember that they will get it when they are ready. Not you.
Also, always remember that pressuring your toddler to go to the potty is never a good idea. It will backfire and make them hesitant and even afraid to go to the potty on their own.
2. That my life on-the-go will be easier
When my son was 18 months old, I couldn’t go anywhere without diapers and wipes in tow (by the way, I’m a huge fan of Happy Little Camper diapers). It slowly became annoying to always have a diaper bag within arm’s reach, and I thought for sure once he was potty trained I’d be able to wear cute tiny bags again. Yes, that was true. I returned to rocking my favorite small handbags, but I’m still a slave to having his snacks and water with me. Add in his favorite toys and an occasional tablet and I’m left wishing I had my big bag again. While I’m no longer thinking about diapers, those thoughts have been replaced with other items he needs, and that hasn’t made my life much easier.
3. That potty training (or lack thereof) was a reflection of my parenting
For some reason, moms think the successes and failures of their children are a direct reflection of how they parent. This holds true in a few instances, but not when it comes to potty training. Again, children will learn to go to the potty when they want to, not when we want them to. And, even when they regress and bedwetting becomes an issue, that doesn’t mean you aren’t an awesome mom.
4. That putting underwear on my kid will encourage them to go to the potty
Ha! I wish this were true. When I placed underwear on my son he was bewildered. It was as if he was saying, “mom, what is this soft garment hugging my butt?” He loved the “Sesame Street” characters and was excited to wear them all the time, but that’s where it began and ended for him. Wearing “big boy pants” didn’t make him want to go to the potty anymore than wearing diapers or pull-ups. Lesson learned: only place them in underwear if they are truly ready. If not, you’re creating more of a mess for yourself.
5. That once they got it, it was over. My job was done
This was by far the biggest potty training myth. I thought for sure once he nailed potty training, I would never have to revisit it. There wouldn’t be any regressing and he was completely good. This was such a lie. Not only did he regress for a small period, but teaching him to not wet the bed was a different beast to tackle. If I’m being honest, he still has a few accidents at night, and I’ve learned that that’s okay.
A version of this post was published October 17, 2021. It has been updated.