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Potty Training – Making It Better For Everyone

If you have more than one child, you have had more than one type of potty training experience.  Some kids like to dawdle along, getting used to the whole idea for a long time before they do something.  Others realize what’s at stake when they can do it all the time and speed up their time table.  And then there are others who seem to have trouble getting past the hurdle altogether.  No matter what your child’s experience with potty training, it is a definite test of your parental skills and patience.

I have had the above three experiences as a parent.  Each one of them was somewhat unique and I had to adjust my thinking and approach sometimes.  The third category is by far the toughest.  When a strong willed personality, a lack of physical sensitivity or maturity, and impatience mix together, you can have a real tangle going on between mother and child.  Here are my enlightened thoughts on this entire experience.

1.  Your emotions play a big part in this. When I have gotten mad about potty issues, it usually does not make things any better.  Even though I may have justification to be upset or disappointed, I know it has often triggered an equally disruptive emotion in my kids.  It’s OK to say that you are surprised, disappointed, or whatever, but if you stay fairly cool about it you can quickly move on to the problem-solving part of the situation.

Tip: Get them to help with any clean-up.  Make their efforts part of the process before you rejoin your activity.  You aren’t going to be perfect at this.  You are going to blow up once in a while or complain or whatever.  Just bring yourself back down as quickly as you can and get more businesslike.

2.  Your child may not always be trying to go against you with potty habits, but sometimes they are. If potty training is the mode your child has chosen to express their sense of control and independence, then goodness help you both.  This can be challenging to say the least.

Tip: Avoid trying to win the battle of wills because you may lose.  Instead, go with the desire for control and give as many choices as possible (that all meet your standards).  This will reduce the friction at least somewhat until they can fully appreciate the pros and cons of staying dry.

3.  Your child may have a problem beyond their control.
Yes, you may be locked in an emotional battle, and they may want to do it all their way, but they may also have absolutely no clue they are about to have an accident until it’s happening.  I have had to pull away from the notion that it’s always a willfulness against me that drives the potty problems.  Sometimes your child’s body just doesn’t have all the cords and plugs connected yet.

Tip: I strongly recommend a child’s alarm watch with multiple timers that you can set.  This has helped me with two of my kids.  Instead of waiting for the body signal, you have them go frequently enough that an accident is less likely (or at least less voluminous).  This can be especially good for kids in grade school when they are learning so much more about being an independent worker and taking care of themselves.  It gives them the reminders without your emotional baggage – genius!

Share Your Ideas For Making Potty Training Go More Smoothly

Parents – you all have great ideas.  Please share your experiences and thoughts right here!

Creative Commons License photo credit: LoneGunMan

Potty Training – Making It Better For Everyone

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2010). Potty Training – Making It Better For Everyone. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 Oct 2010
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