Learning How to Hold It

If you’re expecting a post with potty stats (Day 1: 21 accidents BEFORE nap, 2 exhausted parents, 1 soggy toddler), then be prepared to be either disappointed or relieved. Stats are for posts that report glowing potty training success. This is more about parenting revelations. 

If the whole title didn’t tip you off, The 2015 Peters Potty Torture Training was not successful in the traditional “My kid doesn’t wear diapers anymore” sort of way. It was a win in a deeper, more fulfilling (ok, yes, I’m laying it on a little thick) “I know my kid and myself better and learned a few parenting lessons” way.

3 Lessons From 3-Day Potty Training

Lesson 1: Mute The Voices

Let me start this lesson by saying that no one in my life pressured me to start the potty training process with Elliott at the ripe old age of 24 months. That was all me. But, in the course of parenting decisions, I sometimes feel pushed by imaginary, judgy voices. 

That’s because there are as many parenting theories and methods out there as there are parents. From epidurals to sleep training, I can find opposing opinions almost daily in casual conversation or a quick Google search. And one, unfortunately, is often portrayed as the “higher ground.” 

The longest struggle I’ve had yet was deciding to stay home. Again, no one ever judged me or questioned my decision, but I constantly felt plagued by insecurities. The identity I had worked so hard for (“eCommerce Copywriter”) was suddenly stripped to simply “mom.” I was proud, but also afraid of that judgy person who thinks full-time moms are wasting their education and their time and possibly harming their child with lack of cohort interaction. 

Whether people like this exist or not, it took me about a year to feel comfortable in my new mom skin. I think things finally clicked because I’m much more comfortable being a mom, and I’ve built up my business with a collection of dependable repeat clients that keeps me busy, but not too busy. It turns out being a mom is like any other job, there’s an adjustment period.  

I’m happy to report that Elliott has matured into a smart, affectionate 2-year old. He just started school 2 days a week with glowing success. Bottom Line: He and I have not been ruined by my decision! I also firmly believe that me going back to work full-time would have been completely ok, too. There is no universal right, just right for each mom.

Even though I’ve worked through this revelation over the past 2 years, I still sometimes hit child-rearing subjects and that old judgy voice returns. 

Potty training, I guess, was one of them. I felt like I needed to get it done and early so Elliott won’t be the only diaper kid in his 3-year old class. Where am I getting this fear? Why did I let it lead me to try potty training a kid who just isn’t quite ready? 

The poor guy cannot even pull down his own pants, let alone find a bathroom and climb on a toilet without an accident. He didn’t even make it to the bathroom in time with me scooping him up and running him there. And let me tell you, scooping and running are two things pregnant ladies shouldn’t do (unless this whole scenario somehow involves ice cream). The scooping and running (and cleaning) had to stop. 

I’m sure I’ll fall victim to that voice again someday, but I hope to remember to put it on mute next time I try to push my kid into a milestone or skill that I know in my mom’s heart that he’s not ready to take on.

Lesson 2: Throw Out the Clock

There are lots of kinds of moms out there. I’m a schedule mom. And really, being a schedule mom works out well sometimes. He’s on a great eating and sleeping schedule, like a little toddler clock, and it gives me the stability I need for my days and nights. 

But sometimes being a schedule mom leads me to ignore Elliott’s natural signs. In the early days I would overfeed him (causing fabulous spit up consequences) or, in this case, try to potty train him before he was showing all the developmental cues or interest. 

Being a schedule mom also has created many tense moments, most of them centered around rushing home for a feeding or nap time. I’ve slowly learned that structure and schedules are great to a certain point, but I need to loosen up and be ok when things don’t go according to plan. 

With potty training, I need to throw out the clock. There is no schedule. There is no pressure. And certainly, in this house, there is no 3-day potty training.

Lesson 3: Watch & Learn

I know that 3-day potty training has worked wonderfully for some parents, but the version we had just didn’t really suit Elliott or me as a trainer. The constant praise I was supposed to give turned shrill and scary. The mandate to have them tell you when they need to go, would end with yet another soggy mad dash to the potty. And the suggestion to not let your child linger on the potty, put my transition-adverse toddler in constant tension.  

The pressure to follow the rules exactly (again) clouded my natural parenting radar. 

Even though Elliott isn’t potty-trained, I feel so much pressure lifted by the end of the 3 days. I had dreams of potty training him before Ira was born, but I also had accompanying nightmares of him having a crazy accident in a Target shopping cart. After the first day, I missed the simplicity and ease of diapers. Our family may not be ready to make the switch, but (as I’ve assured myself), he will be potty trained someday. Nothing bad will happen if that takes him 6 more months to a year to figure it out.


During the potty training intensive, Elliott did start telling us when he needed to go (or just went?) potty. That is an invaluable skill! I’m really proud of him. Just this morning he told me he needed to go and he actually did. 

I think an approach with a less-praise-more-natural-exploration would work better. So now, if he wants to sit on the potty, I let him. Even if he just does a puzzle or (if he’s lucky) looks at pictures on my phone. Even if he takes advantage from time to time, this is a big step up from him death-gripping the doorframe to the bathroom. Nobody has time for that. 

A few moms who didn’t have luck with 3-day potty training told me that when their kid was ready, it was so EASY. It just clicked and the desire came from the child (not a judge-fearing, clock-wielding mom). In fact, my own mother confided that I (the oldest of 3) was the toughest to potty train. She thinks it’s probably because she tried to force the potty training instead of let me take the lead. With the other two, she has no memory of a struggle, because she learned how NOT to potty train with me. 

I need to remember that Elliott is a person, not a program. If he starts showing more interest and initiative, then I plan to ditch diapers. But until then, I’m going to release the pressure and expectations and let the pee puddle where it may.*

*Too gross? Sorry, I really did keep the potty imagery to a minimum, so you can’t blame me. You can thank me, however, for this genius post.