Well-considered potty training plans can lull parents into a false sense of security. Despite the implicit message sent by cute sticker charts, candy bribes, “No-Pants Method” hype, and upbeat DVDs, the process of potty training is never easy and is almost inevitably gross. The reality of potty training turns out to be fairly far removed from the sanitized descriptions in parenting books that traffic in adorable euphemisms. In short, things get shitty. And it’s best that parents prepare for that inevitability.
Facing the harsh truths about potty training early allows parents to prepare for disgusting contingencies and talk to each other honestly about their concerns. It also level-sets and keeps parents from thinking they’re doing something wrong. In all likelihood, they’re not. It’s simply a difficult process.
Harsh Truth #1: Parents Don’t Decide When to Start Potty Training
Parents may be desperate to stop changing diapers. They might even be faced with demands from daycare or deadlines from preschool. But if a child isn’t ready to start potty training, the process will break down. It is often in everyone’s best interest to wait.
In order for potty training to be successful and relatively painless, a child needs to show interest in using the bathroom. And those signs are often subtle (so to speak), like hiding behind a couch to poop in their pull-ups, or barging in on parents while they’re sitting on the toilet. Less likely is a child asking to start using the toilet, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
When parents push a kid into potty training, however, kids can get pretty freaked out. They may be frightened by the process, they may become defiant and ultimately draw the potty training process out. This can cause a parent to show frustration, causing the kid guilt. It’s an ugly downward spiral.
Harsh Truth #2: Kids Learn to Use the Potty by Watching Their Parents
Some parents may already understand that their privacy was destroyed the second their kid could toddle to the bathroom door. And while it’s a bummer to have a kid peeking in on private poop time, it’s actually hugely beneficial in helping them understand the process of toileting. Sorry.
The fact is that children learn to interact with the world by watching what their parents do. If what happens in the bathroom is a robustly guarded secret, kids approaching potty training age may be deeply suspicious about using the potty. After all, if a parent goes to the bathroom behind a locked door, then it must be a really big, intimidating process.
On the other hand, when parents have an open door policy, kids can check out how the process works. This helps them figure out that going poop or pee is no big deal. Big People do it. Little People do it. And there’s no particular magic or mystery to the fact that people flush away material that congealed inside of them.
Harsh Truth #3: Potty Training Children Will Poop and Pee on the Floor
Accidents happen. Sometimes a kid just can’t get to the seat in time. Sometimes they stand up prematurely. Either way, there will be excrement and urine outside of the toilet. Parents should get used to it.
This truth is particularly harsh for parents who are using the “No-Pants Method,” where kids just spend a few days bottomless. This can work, but it’s a good idea to have a couple extra rolls of paper towels and floor cleaner handy because a mess is practically guaranteed.
Harsh Truth #4: Potty Training Regressions Are Relatively Normal
Sometimes, just when parents think that their kid has the whole potty training situation down, their child begins to wet their pants again. This turn of events isn’t particularly uncommon and can happen for reason that range from simple distraction to diet, to a lapse in routine.
The important thing for parents to remember is to stay calm. The more uptight a parent gets, the more a child could become resistant to potty training. The trick is to stay positive, stick with the plan, and keep the kid in underwear.
If a parent is truly worried about the regression. They should talk to a pediatrician. A medical professional will help determine what the issue is so the parent can avoid making wild guesses and throwing any plans into chaos.
Harsh Truth #5: Teaching Children How to Wipe Is Tough
Potty training kids may simply not have the dexterity required to wipe themselves correctly. It takes practice. But not just self-guided practice. Wiping is part of the potty training process where parents may need to be most involved because it’s not quite as intuitive as pooping or peeing in a hole.
Given that wiping can be difficult to learn, parents may want to perform a safety wipe of their own. They should also expect to see some dirty underwear until their kid gets used to the process of wiping. That’s just the way it goes.
This article was originally published on