5 Tips For Working With A 'Late Potty Trainer', From A Mom Who's Been There

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and SolStockGetty

My daughter was a late potty-trainer. And I was so embarrassed. I thought that the world was judging me because my soon-to-be-four-year-old little girl was still in full-time Pull-Ups. We weren’t just finishing things up at that point, like only accidents at night; we hadn’t even gotten started. She positively refused to go anywhere near a bathroom. I couldn’t get her to sit on the real toilet or the cute little waste-of-$20 penguin thing parked in front of my TV. It was a battle of wills, and she wasn’t letting up.

We had bought every type of underwear you can imagine. The kind with the characters from her favorite shows. We had cute pink ones with little rainbows and unicorns on them. I even bought microfiber thinking maybe it was sensory. These underpants came with a promise, albeit empty, of sitting on the potty when we got home. It never happened.

It got to the point where I was so frustrated that I couldn’t take it anymore. I had read all the books, Googled all the tips, and asked the mom groups for their advice. We were at a complete standstill. Until one day my husband sat her on the potty, gave her an iPad and a giant pair of headphones and told her to try to tinkle. I laughed. I had done this hundreds of times for two years and got nothing. She cried, she screamed, she stood up. All of her standard moves. But somehow he got her to sit back down. And suddenly I could hear little drops in the toilet. She was going. And she was crying. And she was so filled with emotion that she didn’t know what to do. But we cheered and she smiled and said. “That wasn’t scary at all.”

Fear. It was fear of the unknown that had kept her from just letting it go.

This single incident wasn’t magic. This went on for a couple of days. She would go for my husband and she would go for my mom, but not for me. I finally asked why and she said, “They’re nice to me.” It felt like a dagger through my heart. I had been so frustrated with the process that she felt that I was being mean to her. At that moment my tone changed completely. The next time she had to go I took her in and it was a success. I cried cheerful tears and squeezed her tight. We had rounded the corner.

It took a couple of more days for her to master it, but she did! She has never had a Pull-Up at night and has never wet the bed. She is amazing and I am so proud of her. I learned a few things along that way that I wished that I had realized going through. Here are five tips that might save you a few tears — and 100 trips to the washing machine.

Don’t Try To Force It

Design Pics/Misty Bedwell/GEtty

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It is frustrating, and everyone will tell you, your child really isn’t going to go unless they are ready. Trying to force someone to release something from their body that they are so securely holding onto isn’t going to work. You are on their time. And that may mean that your child won’t be like their brother who was in underwear at just under two. It may take until three, four, even five before they are comfortable enough. And that is OK. As hard as it may be, you have to let them be the boss.

Be Patient

It may be tough, but if you want faster results, you’re best not to give up too quickly. That may mean blocking out an entire weekend because you will be sitting on the bathroom floor for hours at a time while your child does nothing. Be ready to read books, sing songs, and have lots of one-on-one time. If you can be patient and not so easily frustrated, potty-training will be a much more positive experience. Just remind yourself that you’re going to be in it for the long haul.

Don’t Get Angry Or Threaten

If you’ve had too much and are at a tipping point, just excuse yourself and take a deep breath. Yelling or scolding a child is not going to make them want to do anything for you. They are likely to build up resentment for you and the potty. Additionally, taking away privileges from a child who can’t tinkle on the potty is unfair. Not to mention, your child is going to equate the potty with something negative. Instead of taking away, your child may react better to something like picking out a cool new pair of underwear or deciding on a movie to watch later. This can make the potty something to look forward to and not to dread.

The Naked Method Doesn’t Always Work

Many people will tell you that the tried and true way to potty train a child is to just let them be naked. They will feel the sensation when they have to go and get into the potty quickly. Yeah … no. It’s not a miracle worker. Some kids will be just fine standing in a puddle of urine. But, it is worth a try. If you strip your child down and they soak the couch, you’re not a failure. Try some underpants next time. They may be less likely to tinkle on their favorite cartoon. Every child’s motivation is different. Just keep trying.

Praise Is The Name Of The Game

Kids love positive reinforcement. We all know that. The best thing you can do is keep the praise coming and maybe even offer incentives. A child may be motivated by a sticker or some M&Ms. Have them handy at all times. But more than anything, offer a hug and a giant smile. When your child knows that you are proud of them, that makes them happier than anything. They will likely keep going the more affirmation they receive from you.

Potty training is tough, no doubt about it. I’ve never met anyone who said that they enjoyed it. But, it doesn’t have to be totally miserable. Just remember that you are asking your child to do something totally foreign. They are going to sit on this giant thing and release everything from inside of them. That’s freaking scary. The more calm and happy you are, the better the experience will be for both of you. Keep in mind that accidents happen, tears will flow, and it’s probably not going to take on the first try.

If your child is an older potty-trainer, it’s not a big deal. You are not a failure as a parent, and there is nothing wrong with your child. Some kids are just a little bit slower to change. That is OK. Give yourself a break. You’ll get there. You’ve got plenty of time!

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