Stress Free Potty Training- Why You Shouldn’t Force it

September 9

toddler sitting on potty seat with teddy bear sitting on toy potty seat next to him

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Do you want potty training to be stress free? Do you want your toddler to be able to learn to potty train without experiencing anxiety or harboring negative feelings towards using the toilet? Of course you do! All moms want this!

Potty training is naturally stressful and can be somewhat chaotic (depending on your approach). But a peaceful household is what we are striving for here. A calm, nurturing, safe, and comfortable place for your child to be. Especially during such a crucial time as potty training.

I know, I know, you are so sick of diapers but you can positively or negatively affect your child’s psychological development with this. So let’s get into why you shouldn’t FORCE potty training on your kid.

Forcing Potty Training When Your Child is not Ready May Make Training Take Longer

Yup.

If you potty train too soon before your child is ready, it will take MUCH longer than if you started at a later time when they are more ready physically and emotionally.

Rather than start them off too soon, wait a bit. Go ahead and try it once. Then wait at least another week or two and then try it again (I actually waited a month at a time).

Give your kid time in between tries. Praise them for trying and keep potty training positive. Your toddler is a tiny version of a human, with real human feelings.

This is a HUGE milestone for them!

The more pleasant their experience is during this time, the better coping mechanisms and positive reinforcement they will gain. They will be able to conquer all the other challenges that push them to grow in the future.

Just wait until they are ready, potty training will be SO MUCH easier!

A smooth, easy, fast transition out of diapers! That sounds amazing!

Every kid is different

toddler on potty seat learning how to potty train on the toilet

They are ready when they are ready, not when you want them to be ready.

This doesn’t mean to completely give up until they are 7 years old!

It means to let them come to the bathroom with you and see what is supposed to happen.

Say, “Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t we try pretending to be a big boy and sit on your potty for a while?”

It means to praise them when they are standing in their bathwater, peeing.

“Yay! Good job! Look at what a big boy you are! Yes, you know how to pee without a diaper! Now you just have to get it in the potty next time! Such a good boy!”

Then of course, immediately drain the bath (because gross) and start again.

When my toddler turned 3 and showed ZERO signs of wanting to potty train, my anxiety kicked into overdrive.

But I told myself over and over again, “Relax Jen. He will learn when he learns. You don’t see teenagers who aren’t potty trained!”

I also did my 4 step method for learning how to respond to a given situation, not knee-jerk react. It did WONDERS for my mindset:


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The last thing I wanted to do was to stress my kid out with potty training and have him look at something so natural with anxiety and/or trauma (see next section).

It’s hard to predict what kind of kid yours is going to be. Even then there is no guarantee that the method you will use will work out smoothly.

“And that’s OKAY. . . ” (on of my favorite mantras, by the way)

Don’t push. Try again later. They will eventually get it.

Pro Tip:

You can try placing them facing backwards on the toilet if you don’t like the feeling of sitting forward or the idea of using a potty seat. It helps them feel more secure and in control and gives something to hold onto. My kid didn’t love it, but I know lots of kids it worked on, so give it a try!

My son really liked this potty seat. He used it every time with this foldable step-stool. They made him feel secure and confident. He quickly learned how to put the potty seat on and open the step-stool himself too!

Stress Free Potty Training= Less Trauma to your child

Child looking at toilet, anxious about potty training

I am a recovering yeller.

And unfortunately, my oldest son was on the receiving end of some of it until I learned how to relax and take control of my actions.

If you need to learn this too you can start with my easy 4 step method:


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Because of the reactionary yelling that would happen when something would go wrong (spilled milk, something breaking, etc. . .) he now has trouble sometimes coping (gets overly upset) when things don’t go exactly as he expects.

But as we work on it together, my amazing boy is getting better and better every day at managing his emotions in spite of his past experiences.

I didn’t want him to have the same feelings towards something as important as potty training. I wasn’t going to do that to him too.

This is a very important milestone for your little one.

Traumatic feelings associated with using the toilet may cause more accidents in the future, especially when your child begins to experience other life stresses.

The LAST thing I wanted was for him to have an accident when he is out and about whenever something stresses him out.

Luckily I was able to learn how to take control of myself and my reactions before he learned how to potty train. And I can HAPPILY report that he has unbelievably good bladder (and bowel) control. Even better than me, actually.

Stress on Your Child

Here comes some nurse talk (can’t help it, been one for the last 14 years). Stick with me, it’s good stuff:

In Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development (our go to theorist for psychosocial development), potty training falls under the ‘Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt’ section.

If the child does not pass through this stage with autonomy (sense of independence and accomplishment), shame and doubt will overtake their psychosocial development potentially leading to:

  1. Lack of confidence in self/low self-esteem
  2. Insecurity in self and doubting their abilities
  3. Intense dependency issues on others

And some more nurse talk:

When you experience any sort of stress, your body goes into fight/flight mode (survival mode) where adrenaline starts coursing through your bloodstream.

In this state, your brain is unable to comprehend anything except for how to make the stressors stop and how to survive.

Our brains do not learn or retain information well under stress. We as humans learn better when we are not in a stressful state of mind.

The SAME thing goes for our little ones! Very small humans, remember?

So keep that in mind when your child is ready to try potty training, keep it as light and fun as possible. This will really help you and your toddler get through his time quickly and easily.

Stress free potty training means less stress for Mom too!

Let’s be real here, okay. . .

Who on earth wants to be chasing around a naked toddler with a microfiber rag and some spray cleaner to potty train them, hoping that there aren’t too many accidents to clean up around the house?

We have enough on our plates as it is, am I right?

And seriously. They give subtle cues that they need to go, but they are just that. SUPER SUBTLE!

If you have all the time in the world and are able to stare at them constantly all day long to check for any cues, then by all means. You do you.

But if you are anything like me, and you have to cook, do dishes, do laundry, fold laundry (Ugh! This one is my nemesis!), work (from home or out of the home), it’s gonna be impossible to give your child that kind of attention.

You could just clean up all the messes. . . Yes. . . But no thank you.

When your child is READY to potty train, it will happen so fast.

Learning to gain control of bowels and bladder is a natural human experience, so it will happen organically.

Let it.

So you’re not running yourself ragged trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Wait for the square edges to round off.

Check out my post: How I Stay Happy Without Self Care as Mommy to find out more about lowering stress levels as a mom!

A Gentle Potty Training Approach

Stress free potty training is the way to go! This is what worked for me and my son.

It was (mostly) a happy time for us, full of ‘hurrays’ and ‘what a good boys’ and a little bit of chocolate M&Ms.

Go ahead and give them the tablet to watch on the potty while they wait for their bowels to figure things out.

They are learning to get in tune with their bodies and sometimes need to wait it out a bit on the potty while the poop makes its way down and out.

And before you say they shouldn’t learn to get used to the tablet when they have to go to the restroom, which one of you doesn’t take your phone with you to the bathroom?

It is practically my only time to watch some semi-uninterrupted TikTok.

Let them watch some Daniel Tiger potty training videos on YouTube to help them along. It’s technically the perfect time for them to watch it.

Be gentle, not strict. It will go a long ways with making potty training easier.

Potty training should be a positive experience

toddler having fun potty training, sitting on potty seat with clean diaper in his hand

It should be a celebration of the child’s growth and development. A milestone that is looked back on with delight and with pride, not stress and anxiety (for you and your child).

It is up to YOU as the mom what sort of tone you will set. Whether it will be a positive or a negative toilet training experience.

And if you try and it is definitely not working out, stop and take a break from it for a bit. Your child is probably just not ready yet.

We had to come back to it a couple of times because I could feel the tension bubbling up inside of me from his lack of enthusiasm.

But boy oh boy, when he was ready, he was a rock star! Trained in just a couple of days for #2 and less than a week for #1 (with minimal, minimal accidents). All with NO STRESS!

It was a great experience with lots of fun and praise sprinkled throughout for him and a very positive and accomplished experience for me as his proud mama.

Final Thoughts on Slow and Gentle Potty Training

Slow and gentle potty training = stress free potty training = easy and fast potty training.

It doesn’t mean it will take months and months. Slow means a slow start (when they are ready). And it works!

When all is said and done, everyone is happy and because it was a stress free time, they will learn faster and it will be more effective than if it was rushed and pushed.

Learning to respond to your child, and not react negatively is one of the most important parts of parenting.

If you can learn to relax in a stressful situation, your child will feel your calm and positive energy. On the other side of things, they also feel when you are super tense. Then they get tense.

A stressful environment is not conducive to learning effectively.

This is ESPECIALLY true for children since they have not acquired the skills yet to cope with stress in a productive way.

You have to be the solid foundation they can lean on for support.

You can do this by learning to be in the current moment.

Not in the past recalling all those other times you had to yell at them for the exact same thing.

Not in the future, crushed by a sense of anxiety because of what MIGHT happen if you don’t get things right.

The PRESENT MOMENT ONLY. This will help you become the rock your child needs to not only potty train easily and stress free, but to be able to overcome any other obstacle that comes up in life.

And isn’t that all we want as mothers?

All the love,

-Jen

Comment below your thoughts. I’d love to hear them!


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