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What My Three Sons Have Taught Me About Potty Training

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Well good Friday morning to you all! It is a beautifully sunny day here in Louisiana, but we are projected to have storms rolling in around lunch time that last throughout the weekend. I can’t deny that I LOVE the rain, but this will be the fourth weekend in a row that we have rain, PLUS tomorrow is my birthday so I was hoping for a fun family outing to the zoo to celebrate, but I don’t think that’s going to happen now. BOO!


So for those of you who know me, you know that I have three adorable little boys, all full of life and personality, and each unique in his own way. [If you’re new here and don’t know me, I’d LOVE to connect with you! Check out my About Me page to learn a little about who I am, connect with me on social media using one of the hotlinks at the bottom of this page, and be sure to opt-in to my email list!] My boys, Elijah (5 years old), Asher (4 years old), and Callen (3 years old) have taught me a LOT in my 5 short years of being a mommy, and today I want to focus on potty training.

I am in a few mommy groups on Facebook, and I see AT LEAST 2 posts a day about a mom asking, sometimes begging, for help in potty training her [insert age here] child. I am by no means an expert in parenting, in potty training, or any of the other checklist items you can think of, but I have learned a few things from The School Of Experience. So if you are a mommy of a little one reading this, let me first tell you that this is truly just a season, and although it feels like it’s going to last forever, it will not. I promise!


The second thing I want to share with you is that potty training actually has more to do with brain development than anything else. I remember sitting in my college anatomy and physiology course when my professor walked to the front of the room and said, “Today, we’re talking about potty training.” Every one of us snickered because we were all thinking, “Seriously? We’re adults. We know how to use the bathroom…” but his lecture was on something more than just proper bathroom etiquette. We were actually in the middle of studying the brain, synapses, neurons, grey matter, and all the other fun stuff that goes into learning about the brain, and then dissecting it! His lecture focused on WHY a baby/toddler’s brain is not properly formed and ready to potty train until the age of 2 years old. He went on to say that any parent who tries to potty train their child before they turn 2 is basically training them to conform to a schedule, and not to follow the in-body signals from the bladder to the brain and back down to the bladder again. [You can read this article on The Brain-Bladder Connection and it explains it.] So plain and simple, science shows us that your child is not developmentally prepared to potty train before he/she is 2 because that’s just how God created us to progress in development. It’s also been researched that a child isn’t able to fully subconsciously control their bladder (which means while they’re sleeping) until around the age of 5.


In regards to that previous paragraph, there is a LOT of pressure to have our kids fully and completely potty trained by the time they turn 2. I’m not really sure where or when this started to become the norm, but I’ve noticed just as a society in whole we tend to push our children to grow and develop into little adults way before they’re ready. That’s a personal opinion, and one for another post! I know that I personally felt a lot of pressure from family members when Elijah was barely 14 months old to start potty training him. I had a 2 month old at home in diapers, and a 14 month old that was completely uninterested in using the cute Cars potty chair sitting in the bathroom. By 18 months, I was really getting hammered about Elijah’s potty habits, and I was so completely stressed out that my perfect angel of a boy still was not interested in using the potty, no matter how much I bribed him. In tears one day because Elijah and I were both so frustrated, I sat there asking God what in the world I could do, and my professor’s wisdom came flooding back to me… “they’re not physically capable to make those connections until around the age of 2.” It was like all this relief washed over me, and suddenly I didn’t care what others thought about my 18 month old running around in diapers blissfully unaware that he was going number one and number two on himself.


When Elijah turned 2, there wasn’t some magic switch that flipped and he was suddenly ready to use the potty. Sure, he started to actually show more signs that the synapses were starting to work, and his brain was getting signals that he needed to use the bathroom. He started hiding behind things when he had to use the bathroom, or he would freeze and spread his legs apart when he’d wet his diaper. FINALLY, everything my professor said would happen was actually happening! Around 26 months, I started noticing that when Elijah would get in the bath tub, he’d stand up whenever he had to pee… more connections being made! I would praise the snot out of him for this achievement! I’d say things like, “ELIJAH! YAY! You just pee peed in the water!” or “YAY ELIJAH! You’re pee-peeing like a big boy!” all accompanied with clapping and enthusiasm. His face would light up as he began to realize the connection he was making. We just transitioned this pee-peeing in the water/tub to peeing in the potty like a big boy, and wouldn’t you know, he started telling me when he had to potty and thrived off of the praise he received each time he did! I was very careful to never scold him or punish him when he had accidents, because hey, we all have accidents, whether we admit it or not. By the time Elijah was 2.5 years old, he was day-time potty trained. We still kept pull-ups on him at night, and encouraged him to potty before bed so he didn’t wet himself, however, he was 4, almost 5 before he could go the whole night without wetting the bed, and we still have accidents sometimes.


Asher was a whole different ball game to potty train. He took interest in peeing in the potty earlier than Elijah, but he had big-brother to look up to and mimic. By the time Asher was 26 months, he was peeing regularly and consistently in the potty, however, he refused to go number two in the potty. Side-note: Asher has had problems with constipation since he was a baby, so there is a fear associated with bowels that he has had to learn to overcome over the last two years, and he’s done so well. Asher has only within the last year been completely comfortable with peeing and pooping on the potty. He’s had to just learn in his own time without pressure from us, although there were days both Lance and I would get frustrated, but we’d check ourselves and just realize it’s only a season. Asher also has made the subconscious connection a lot quicker than Elijah has. The only time he started to have an accident, he woke up and came running into our room to the bathroom. He’s been sleeping without pull-ups since he was 3.5 and doing a fantastic job!


Now, Callen. Oh, sweet baby Callen! He has been my defiant one when it comes to potty training. I was ready to have him out of diapers when he was 2, because, well, I’ve been changing diapers since 2012 and quite frankly, I’m just ready for a break! [A break which is not coming anytime soon since baby 4 is on the way!] I realized very early on that no amount of coaxing or forcing Callen to be interested in the potty was going to work with him. He wasn’t interested, didn’t care, and quite honestly, he is my one that actually enjoys all things gross and disgusting, so I think it has been humorous to him to rebel against the potty! In his defense, it’s also taken him a LOT longer to start making the brain-bladder connection. I tried the whole pee-pee in the bathtub thing, and he never could figure it out. When he did start using the potty some over the holidays, it was very tedious. He’d start to pee, then stop, then start again, then stop. That told me he didn’t have full understanding of how to control what was going on. Callen turned 3 last month, and he is still running around in pull-ups. I’ve been asking him for about 4 months now if he’s ready to use the potty and he will confidently tell me, “No! My diapee.” Now I can say that anytime I change his pull-up, he will tell me, “Moma, I need to go pee-pee,” to which he’ll run into the bathroom, use the potty, and then come running back to me to tell of his feat! Then I’ll ask if he wants big boy undies, and he tells me that he just wants his diapee. He has had random moments throughout the day when he’ll go use the bathroom by himself, and then come tell me afterwards, but he’s not fully committed yet.


So what am I trying to tell you? Simply that when your baby is ready, they will know, and so will you. There’s absolutely no reason to give in to societal pressure, to family pressure, or to your own personal frustration to potty train them before they are ready. As a mom who has done this three times now, ALWAYS praise them for doing good, and never, ever, ever scold them or punish them for having accidents or not using the potty. You’re the only mommy they will ever have and your words of encouragement and praise are the most important gift you can give them!


I hope this helps someone out there breathe a little easier today, and enjoy their baby a little more! Until next time, I hope you have a spectacular weekend with your loved ones! Please feel free to share your own experiences with me; I always love hearing from others! For more parenting tips and tricks, join my mailing list below. Also, connect with me on social media using the hotlinks at the bottom of this page!