Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Inside: To help potty training click, here's an important way to look at the potty training process.
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Do you know the Zany Zoo toy? It’s that interactive wooden box topped with beads that slide around on wires, and below, colorful animals play peek-a-boo behind closed doors.
My daughter loved her Zany Zoo.
Once she was crawling around, she started to hide little toys in the top of her Zany Zoo. It became a running joke. We would sometimes even hide a different toy in there, and see if she’d notice. She always did! And would promptly toss it out of her Zoo.
When you’re in that phase of life when your little ones are infants or just starting to toddle around, you know these weird and quirky details about what they love to do when they play.
Then somewhere along the way, things shift.
And you’re not observing and watching your toddler in the same intense way you were when they were so wee.
You’re not staring at their every move. That is, until potty training comes around..
The first couple days of potty training will feel a lot different than your usual days with your toddler. And that's not just because your toddler will be hanging around bottomless or because you won't be changing poopy diapers.
It's because you'll be observing your child in a way you probably haven't since your child was really little, back when you spent so much time staring at their every move.
With potty training, you're spending a window of time teaching your child a big new skill.
A skill that will greatly impact your child's inner confidence. Your toddler will feel so big!
And the main key to success is time.
Consistency always wins with toddlers and it will take a while for the sequence of using the potty and the process to *click* in your child's head, much like the toddler shape-sorter toy.
Time is also what can trip up the process.
Related: Let me tell you about this book that has nothing to do with potty training. And has everything to do with potty training. The book is Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner (I'm not being paid for a review though there is an affiliate link). This book is wrapped up in all the contradictions we face as parents.
It's a good read that really helps you jump into potty training with the right mindset.
You don't have to be a minimalist, or live somewhere seemingly slow to relate to this book. It's a rare book that applies to everyone, especially all mamas.
Because most of us feel like we're chasing our days for more time.
And that really relates to the early days of potty training.
Here's one of my favorite passages that Erin shares in Chasing Slow:
I used to think the opposite of control was chaos. But it's not. The opposite of control is surrender.
Surrender is harder than control for most of us. We're great at following our Google Calendar alerts and timing our guacamole to be ready to top the fish tacos.
It's not so easy to surrender expectations.
To be off schedule.
To be open to what may happen when you take away the diapers and see how your child picks up this big new skill.
And oh wait, does your child hold their stress in their bellies and looks to have a hard time with poop?
And oh wait, what to do you when you venture out of the house?
Most of the time after reading Oh Crap Potty Training, moms have heard the clear message that Jamie makes in the book about how to schedule potty training.
To start potty training when you have a little time off of work, like over a long weekend. So it goes on the calendar for winter break, for example, and then the potty training begins. You take the diapers away and start the process of trying to catch pees in the potty with your toddler for block one in Oh Crap Potty Training.
And it feels like it's been 6 hours. And it's only 8:40 am.
While your child may not be independently using the potty at the moment, your toddler probably does many things independent of your watchful eye.
And now suddenly you're tasked with watching your child.
Trying to sleuth out that *pee signal*.
Trying to team up with your fiesty toddler to make this potty thing work.
And you've turned off your Facebook.
And you're not putting hearts on a reel of Instagram snaps of mamas and their flower-crowned babes.
And you're not saving recipes on Pinterest to make meal plans for the future.
You're simply at home with your bottomless child. It feels REALLY slow.
And you know you're not supposed to have expectations that this will fly through in 3 days. You've read the chapter in Oh Crap Potty Training where it's all laid out — that children are all different.
That with no other milestone do we expect our kids to master it in a random neat-and-tidy timeline.
Walk in 14 days. Sing ABCs in 10 days, etc. But somehow potty training gets boxed in a 3-day timeframe.
You know this. But it's not so easy to surrender.
It's 10:28 am and you're wondering how this is going to work.
I mean, your toddler needs to get their wiggles out!
You need coffee with a shot of espresso (extra caffeine, please).
There's a level of panic in your mind thinking of how you'll get through this tomorrow..
Can I step in to quell the panic? Because anxiety and potty training just don't mix.
And also, mama, you can do this.
Slowing down is what's key with those early days of potty training. What does that even mean? We hear a lot about slowing down, turning off the iPhone, and how screen time affects us all. With potty training, when it feels like you can hear the clock ticking, you haven't gotten there.
What you need to do is let go.
Let go of expecting it will go super smoothly and happen fast because you did everything right and by the book.
You may hit that magic window in potty training and it can go fast! Or it may take a few days longer.
That doesn't mean you've done anything wrong.
It doesn't reflect on your child, who is still awesome, sweet, and smart.
It's just that every child learns differently.
I was a classic over-prompter when I potty trained my first kiddo. Not surprisingly, because I'm a type A perfectionist/workaholic/read Oh Crap Potty Training with a highlighter kind of be-prepared mama.
And then we hit resistance.
And then I wondered why and how and oh-my-goodness what if she just gives up from so many accidents?
I found my turnaround. It took a little while. I mentally took my expectations and let them go.
It wasn't about me anymore. I'd let my ego in to the process and it was filling up our space with a sense of pressure that was throwing a wrench in potty training.
So I just started to step back and observe.
I reminded myself that misses are a part of the process and a place for learning.
I started to notice all these sweet little nuances of how my daughter plays that I hadn't seen before, because it'd been a long time since I'd watch her with such focus. As the days went by in that early stretch one thing became clear.
It was kind of awesome having an excuse to turn it all off.
We were slow for those few days in a way our family never had been before. No commitments. No social media. No prepping for dinner. (I'm a big fan of doing paper plates and make-ahead food for those first couple days of potty training to make it easy on you.)
We played lots of music.
We discovered my two-year-old loves Bjork.
We played games that normally get overlooked in the pileup of toys.
We had dance parties.
We raced to small potties.
We had high five moments.
The mood lightened. The pressure lifted. And the pees started going in the potty.
My kiddo noticed it. That I was really in the moment. She loved the extra attention. And we started to team up.
By the way, I never did find that pee signal.
And the perfectionist in me who wanted to *do it just right* almost derailed the process. But when I quieted my mind so I wasn't thinking about *what's next* and just let myself be in *what's here now*, it started to click.
Don't let the race of getting it right with potty training throw you for a loop.
Your child will be potty trained.
But I promise the process of getting there can be rewarding for you both.
For your child, learning this big new skill and doing it all by themselves — that inner pride can't be replaced with a sticker or lollipop.
For you, that moment in time when you turned it all off and slowed down with your child will be a connection you get to keep. Especially helpful as the days start to whiz by even faster with your growing toddler.
Potty training will give you a front-row seat to seeing how your child learns a big new challenge. It's okay if your child doesn't dive right in.
The turtle always gets to the finish line, after all.
And as Erin so wisely notes in Chasing Slow:
Points, tallies, scores — these matter only in Scrabble.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs