Confessions: My Potty Training Mistakes

I thought about titling this post, How I F’ed Up Potty Training, but then I realized that once I fixed the mistakes I made early on, everything worked itself out and the successes started rolling in. So if you’re like me and made (or are making) some mistakes, understand that no matter what, your kiddo will not be wearing diapers in high school. It’s going to be ok.

It goes without saying then that I do not claim to be an expert on potty training. I made some pretty big mistakes, which I confess below. Now that I’ve fixed them, and we’re finally having success, I still don’t claim to be an expert, but I hope that reading about my blunders will help you with your own potty training struggles.

  1. Pull ups.

    No, it doesn’t make sense.
    I’ve been a firm believer in cloth diapers from day one, I mean, you’re reading the cloth diaper website I created right now, and yet I still bought Pull-Ups. It was the “cool and learn” ones that sucked me in. When my little first showed interest in the potty, I didn’t want to let that enthusiasm die, but she wasn’t understanding her body’s signals quite yet. In a moment of panic I thought, “Oh, maybe if her junk turns cold every time she pees, she’ll get the message.” At the same time, she’s not a petite child and was growing out of her cloth diapers. Soon enough the whole thing turned into buying boxes of Pull-Ups at Costco. What in the #$** was I, the cloth diaper pusher doing buying Pull-Ups at Costco? Seriously!

    Why it was a mistake:
    Aside from the hypocrisy, it didn’t work, at all! In fact, it set us back so far it was ridiculous. Soon, her early interest in the potty (likely helped along by the cloth diapers) turned into power struggles and waiting for more opportunities. She would happily sit in a dirty Pull-Up forever, cold or not. Eventually, even just changing her out of the Pull-Up was a struggle. It was horrible and I wondered if we’d ever get the potty figured out. Bribes, charts, everything I could think of failed, and a big part of it was because the Pull-Ups made the potty a problem (I have to stop playing and sit down and be bored) instead of a solution (to a wet bum). I had no problem telling others how cloth is supposed to help babies with potty training but then I completely didn’t listen to myself.

    How I fixed it: 
     Once I put her in proper (cloth) training pants, guess what happened; she felt wet when she peed that’s what finally helped her work out her body’s signals. Hallelujah!

    My daughter never, ever, said a word when she peed in one of the cooling sensation Pull-Ups, but sure enough, every time she has an accident in training underwear she’s off to the potty. Why didn’t I listen to my own advice? I feel so stupid every time I think of the hundreds of dollars we burned on Pull-Ups that now sit in a landfill somewhere polluting the ground water all so we could have an even harder time potty training. I knew better.

  2. Pressure

    Sure, Pull-Ups made going to the potty a chore for my daughter, but there were a few times where I made it a nightmare. I love my daughter more than, well, anything, and I work hard to help her assert her own needs where appropriate, and make sure I validate her feelings even when I have to stop her acting on them. Despite all of that, I still let potty training become a power struggle more times than I’d like to admit.

    Some of it I blame on Google and helpful friends who suggested I try to make her sit on the potty every 20 minutes, that I offer her a toy every time she goes (or even tries to go at first), that I should give her the iPad on the potty, and so on. Horrible advice; for me and my daughter at least.

    With every wonderful new technique, aid, or bribe, came a new fight. Asking her to sit down every 20 minutes turned it into torture and she would run every time I mentioned the potty. Taking the iPad away so that it wouldn’t give her hemorrhoids turned into a tantrum. Rewards turned into expensive runs to the dollar store every two days just to have her freak out every time she didn’t get something for just sitting down on the potty. Reward charts were forgotten in minutes, and listening to me drone on about cool stickers became difficult for her.

    I don’t know why I kept pressing on with these methods for far too long, it didn’t work in the least. There were a lot of hurt feelings and lost effort on both sides. It was too much pressure for both of us.

    Why it was a mistake: Not only did it not work, but it put strain on our relationship. I don’t want to be the mom who nags, and I don’t want to be the mom who is constantly punishing my kid for being a kid. To me, giving a reward for doing something is just punishing her for not doing it through withholding the reward. Forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to, and maybe doesn’t need to (sitting on the potty at timed intervals), is just setting her up for failure because 9 times out of 10, there was no need to sit on the potty.  It might work for some, but it didn’t match our style.

    How I fixed it:  I know how biased this sounds coming from me, but quite honestly the answer here is that I let the cloth training pants do all the work for me. All I had to do was make a big deal about how cool her new “big girl underwear” was and maybe told a white lie about how there were no more Pull-Ups.

    Once she was on board, and she was right from the start, after all her new underwear were cool looking and comfortable,  I just had to live with her having accidents for a bit. The training pants held most messes (some better than others), and unlike Pull-Ups, she wouldn’t sit in them. In cloth training underwear she’d actually try to sit on the potty after having an accident to finish her business.

    Finally! By just going with the flow this way,  never shaming her for having an accident, and just not trying so dang hard, the potty became a positive thing once again, and in no time we were back on track.

  3. Didn’t Have Enough Training Underwear Ready

    When your little one is learning her body’s signals through error, there are a lot of accidents. My daughter is like her mama in that she always has a drink nearby and as is always needing to let that water out. While many training pant brands recommend about six training pants at the ready, my girl needed about eight per day. This totally made sense when thinking about her cloth diaper days, but I guess after our time using Pull-Ups, where small pees were probably undetected, I completely forgot how many times she actually used the washroom.

    In my amnesia, I tried to start the whole process when the first three potty pants arrived, so of course I ran out in about ten seconds. This was a problem.

    Why it was a mistake: Nothing halts potty training progress faster than running out of training pants. When I first ran out, I pulled out those @*&$ Pull-Ups and that’s when I really knew that as long as one of those was on the bum no progress would be made. Vowing to never put one of those on her again, I dug out some hand-me-down undies from her cousin. These were the thin-like-rice-paper kind you get at Walmart. While they did save the day, as she still felt wet and would stop and hop on the potty, they did not save my carpet. Oh the mess!

    How I fixed it: 
     Fixing this was thankfully easy, I just got on the computer and ordered a ton more. Since I write this blog I ordered as many brands as I could get my hands on so that I could review them for you. This meant they dribbled in through the mail slowly, but as each new package arrived with one or two new ones to try, things got easier and much less messy.

  4. Didn’t Plan Properly for Naps and Car Trips

    In the thick of training, my daughter was at that oh-so-amazing stage where one nap is too much sleep, and no nap is too little. This meant she would not nap some days, and nap for a really long time on others. We also live about 30 minutes out of town and have to strap into the car for semi-long trips sometimes several times a week.

    Naps and long car rides are no time for light training underwear. While a daytime diaper is a daytime diaper; it will hold for a few hours no matter where you are, more planning is needed when using training pants, especially in those first few weeks.

    Once I had a few more trainers arrive and became determined to never use another Pull-Up I tried to pad and use what I had before any waterproof ones arrived. I knew it was likely to fail as I was doing it, but I was determined no matter what common sense said.

    Why it was a mistake: This was not a mistake in the sense that it disrupted progress, accidents happen, but it was messy and took a lot of clean up, which sucks.

    How I fixed it: Thankfully, as mentioned I ordered a ton of different kinds of training pants so that I could review them all here. A few of those trainers were heavy-duty with a waterproof layer.  As it turns out, training underwear with a waterproof layer and some padding is essential for car rides, and when naps might happen.

    Why not stick exclusively to waterproof and padded training pants? You could, but there’s also something to be said for training underwear that’s meant to feel light and as close to regular underwear as possible.  For me and my daughter, a healthy mix of both types of training pants (and some nighttime ones, but I’ll get to that later) was needed. If I had started out with a few different kinds, and knowing which ones were good for what, I could have saved a lot of loads of laundry washing bed sheets and car seat covers.

  5. Didn’t Plan for Nighttime

    Are you getting the sense yet that I didn’t plan any of this out at all? If so, you’re right. When I was pregnant I spent months researching diapers and planning every aspect of diapering, but for some reason I flew by the seat of my training pants when it came to potty training. If you’re reading this post, you’re doing more planning than I did, and I give you a virtual high-five you for that!

    The worst is, I can’t even say I didn’t see nighttime as a challenge before I went and did it wrong. Nighttime was always difficult in terms of diapering for us. Heck, even while I was in the midst of the Pull-Ups fiasco, my daughter was soaking through them probably half of the time, while the other half she would wake up dry (one of the things I waited for before beginning to potty train). But sure enough, once I got a pair of training pants with a waterproof layer, I gave it a go at night without even testing it’s limits first.

    Why it was a mistake: Waterproof training pants are not created equal; and if you have a heavy nighttime wetter, it’s most likely they are not adequate. There are a few great night time options out there, but they are usually marketed as nighttime. If a training pant says it’s for daytime training, believe it, otherwise you’ll be changing sheets and putting on a Pull-Up at 2:30 a.m. like I did… twice.

    How I fixed it: This was another problem solved through shopping with an actual plan. After some research (finally) and some testing things out, I found a few nighttime solutions that worked for those nights where it’s like a dam exploded in her pants. We’re still working on night time potty training, heck we’re still working on daytime training away from home, but we at least now have the right tools for all of our daily situations now.

What I’d Do If I Had a Do-Over

If I could go back to when my daughter first showed the signs she was ready to potty train, which coincidentally was also when she was less opinionated, I’d of course do it differently.

First off, NO PULL-UPS, EVER! Instead, I would ditch the cloth diapers get training pants ASAP, because part of the whole process was her learning how to pull up and down her underwear on her own several times a day. I’d do my research and think about her habits before I went shopping. That way, I would have considered just how tough it would be during naps, car trips, and at night, and bought trainers that were appropriate.

Once we were set, I would think of it all less like potty training and more like potty learning. That means no Pull-Ups, no timed potty trips, and no fake punishments or rewards. I would just gently help her as she figures it all out on her own, with the right tools of course: lots of potty’s around he house, lots of training pants at the ready, and lots of patience.

Recent Posts