Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Inside: How to potty train without that feeling of pressure when you start potty training.
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Hello, my name is Jen and I’m a perfectionist. And that made potty training pretty tough for me the first time around.
Because motherhood pushes you to embrace the messy, the unpredictable, or recognize the pressure building in your Brooklyn apartment while trying to *do everything right* in potty training your 22-month-old daughter.
There’s no scorecard for potty training. But here’s the easiest way to see the process stall out, even when you have a plan and feel prepared.
The problems come when you let the pressure vibe escalate.
The pressure that you feel, that your spouse or partner feels, and that your child most definitely feels.
Pressure is the easiest way to sink potty training efforts. So what can you do, especially if you’ve read Oh Crap Potty Training, scheduled your potty training weekend, feel prepped and ready and then it looks quite messy..
What should us perfectionists do then?
Sometimes you don't see a neat stack of success. Sometimes it's all over the place day to day — how many catches, how many misses, and so the parents understandably think they need to stay home as they're stuck in the block one stage of Oh Crap Potty Training.
And this goes on for days.
And in the meantime, you and your toddler are stuck inside waiting on pees. Not fun, right? Your toddler is missing the normal routine, their body is missing getting the wiggles out (which is never so easy when you're stuck indoors), you're channeling all your patience and drinking through reserves of coffee at home, but still you're at a place where you're just
DONE with potty training. And your toddler is DONE with this process.
First off, it's not easy to be stuck at home all day with a toddler. Adventures outside are what keep things light and the days moving along. I see it all the time as a potty training consultant...potty training can sink or go swimmingly well in part because of the vibe.
Related: Here's my favorite album to turn on when we're stuck indoors (to shake off the grumps!).
Once that intense feeling of pressure comes in, once every pee seems to be a mark of success or failure, that's when things often go south.
Here's a simple potty training tip to help when you start potty training...
Get some sunshine on your face. Get those wiggles out with your toddler outdoors.
What if you're seeing very little success at home with your child bare-bummed?
But what if there's an accident while you're out?
Don't you need to wait to add in the pants?
There may be an accident. But learning is messy, pee is sterile, and it's likely way worse in your head than in reality what an accident would look like. Keep in mind, by going outside, I don't mean stay outside for 3 hours when you're still in a rocky place in Block One.
It should be a short outing and something easy-peezy (like a diaper-free visit to the playground, a walk around the block, a trip to a favorite coffeeshop, a whiz around the farmer's market.)
Related: Here are travel tips for getting back out and about with your potty training toddler, including the go-to essentials to bring with you on any outing.
What you don't want to do: bring your just-starting-out-potty-training toddler to the grocery store to shop for your week's worth of groceries. That's not the outing you want to do.
That's likely to look like a disaster.
But something low-pressure, not long, where you can leave whenever you want...that's a perfect short outing in the first few days of potty training.
While accidents happen and we know learning is messy, you still want to be prepared — so you don't get stuck when you leave the house.
Bring your travel potty (my all-time favorite is this fold-down potty with this silicone liner to go inside, since it's soft to sit on and easily fits in any bag.) I would put mine in a large wet/dry pouch, along with a spare set of clothes and you're off and ready!
Bring something to distract your toddler if you're seeing release issues (like a potty book, a glittery wand or calming jar, or bubbles are another great way to help toddlers who seem tense around the potty).
Bring a sense of humor and team attitude — you're working with your toddler to catch the pee.
Here's an important potty training tip to remember when you start potty training.
What can go wrong is waiting TOO LONG to get outside.
You know your kiddo better than anyone. If you know your toddler is not going to do well with being at home for even a couple days, don't wait 3 days to get outside. Start doing some short outings.
If it keeps everyone in good spirits, it likely will HELP bring some magic into your potty training process.
Your toddler is more likely to step up and team up with you if there's not this feeling of here's another day stuck at home with mom acting nutso talking about the potty all the time. Right?
Know that if you're feeling like potty training is not lining up and you're not seeing any successes, you want to first check in with what does it FEEL like in the house.
And if you feel like you've been cooped up for far too long, then it may be time to GET OUT.
Your toddler will feel oh-so-big being out and about diaper-free and that can also help to shift the vibe (you'd want to have your kiddo in pants commando, or block two of Oh Crap Potty Training, for the outing). Often, these short outings are easy to stay dry because they're short and everyone is so happy to be out.
Related: Is this the only thing that can go wrong in the early days of potty training? Nope. There are many others. I do share the big and small things I see trip up parents at the start of potty training, with solutions to move through it in my e-course Potty Training Solutions.
And to my fellow perfectionist parents, remember to focus less on the catches and more on the vibe.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs