Potty Training Fail – A Parenting Win

What I learned from trying to potty train Grace

I attempted to potty train Grace this weekend. Spoiler Alert: She’s not potty trained.

At her 18th month appointment, our pediatrician told me to potty train her. I dragged my feet for the last 6 months because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to commit an entire weekend to staying home, being on house arrest and, honestly, the inconveniences of no diapers.  I’ve only potty trained a boy and when he has to pee at the park, he finds a tree. I wasn’t ready to have a potty seat in the trunk of my car to potty train a girl.

The popular potty training book Oh Crap! says 20-30 months; the pediatrician said 18. I thought just shy of 24. Grace thought otherwise.

This weekend was a great reminder for me in many ways.

Listen to your kids and follow their lead

A friend recently sent our mom’s group an article by Janet Lansbury and the theme of the article is to wait. The article lists 10 ways that waiting may help you in your parenting and the first one rung loudly in my ears this weekend: “Notice children’s satisfaction, comfort and self-pride when they are able to show you what they are ready to do, rather than the other way around. As Magda Gerber often said, “readiness is when they do it.” Ready babies do it better (Hmmm… a bumper sticker?), and they own their achievement completely, relish it, and build self-confidence to last a lifetime.”

My typically happy, confident little girl was not having it. There wasn’t enough praise, fruit snacks, or calls to grandparents in the world that was going to convince her that pee pee goes in the potty. After two full days of torturing her, I went to bed Saturday night knowing this wasn’t the right time.

Don’t compare your kids

I potty trained Keener at 2 so I should potty train Grace at 2, right? Wrong. She was giving me many signs that she was ready but lo and behold, she wasn’t. It’s hard to not compare our kids to their siblings and their peers but virtually nothing is gained by doing so. Further, we run the risk of throwing off our own priorities by focusing on things that aren’t relevant or appropraite for our own kids.

I am hopeful that my focus on emotional development continues to be a priority as my kids get older. However, admittedly, I have never experienced the worlds of soccer tryouts or school play auditions as a parent. I hope the future me remembers to prioritize character and kindness above all else, no matter what their peers may be doing.

I love the story my mom tells about my sister. She didn’t learn to read until 1st grade and my mom was convinced she was doomed to fail, since most of the other kids in her class had learned to read in Kindergarten. Having attended a top 10 law school, many would argue she’s done just fine. 😊 She learned on her time, not the timing of her Kindergarten classmates.

Learn from your kids

Grace had an accident on the floor Saturday evening and inevitably, I was frustrated. While trying to mask my agony, Keener read me like a book and instantly said, “It’s OK mommy. We can clean it up. Gracie, you’ll get your pee pee in the potty soon.” I instantly turned my scowl into a smile. He was absolutely right. What took 3 minutes to clean up (FYI, buy lots of Clorox Wipes when you potty train!!) was simply that — 3 minutes to clean up. I didn’t need to let that get me down. A good reminder that my kids can teach me just as much, if not more, than I can teach them.

In striving to keep with my mindfulness/growth mindset mentality, Grace and I had a talk on Sunday when I accepted potty training wasn’t happening…yet. She asked for her diapers and I willingly gave them to her. I said, You want to pee in your diapers, and that’s OK. Mommy, Keener and Daddy all pee in the potty and Gracie will too. You’re just not ready, yet. Let’s try again soon and you tell Mommy if you want to start going pee pee in the potty. (If you haven’t read my post from May about the power of the word yet check it out here).


  1. I AGREE! I might add that all children (unless they have a disability) eventually learn that it is more convenient and pleasant to use the toilet. One of our grandkids, long after he learned to urinate in the toilet would not poop in the potty. He would ask for a diaper, and then go to a “private place” to complete the transaction. He eventually, on his own timetable, taught himself what was more acceptable. Now, we all laugh about it.

  2. So well said and Gracie looks so much like 2-year old Jenny though I don’t remember if you were potty trained then!!

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