Potty Training Stress Relief


The days of diapers, potty seats, and pull-ups in my family are long gone. But I still remember it like it was yesterday…

One of my children potty trained pretty quickly, while the other took longer. We consulted our pediatrician, asked advice of other parents, grandparents, and friends. There were candy rewards, Cheerios in the toilet, character-themed potty seats and pull-ups, reward charts, stickers, and temporary kid’s tattoos, but nothing worked.

I scrolled through Pinterest for hours on end, searching for a surefire potty training trick. While I never found that elusive tip, I did find some creative ideas and used them. Still, no long-term success.  

After ruling out any physical reasons for why our child was having difficulty potty training, we continued our efforts while balancing being as patient as we could; understanding it was completely normal. There were weeks without accidents, but they would suddenly reappear for no apparent reason.

The frustration and unsuccessful feelings were heavy, like a cloud hanging over our daily lives.

The accidents weren’t on purpose, and not for lack of effort. Although exasperated by the potty struggle, we diligently continued. We offered rewards and cheers, even happy dances on days without accidents. While well-meaning, we were a part of the problem. The day in and out emphasis placed on bathroom success created serious anxiety.  

One particular week stands out in my mind. It was a rotten, no-good week. There were bathroom accidents each day at school. We didn’t disparage or punish our child for accidents, but the emotional toll was taken. The end of the week rolled around and brought another accident. Our child was both embarrassed and felt absolutely defeated after trying incredibly hard with little success. Then there were tears. That was the turning point. 

Stress surrounding the potty created needless anxiety. We realized that sometimes kids just aren’t ready, or may have a development issue that causes a delay. So, we switched gears.

We no longer regularly spoke of the potty, and didn’t incessantly ask, “Do you have to go to the potty?” We left it up to our child to go when needed. If there was an accident, we changed clothes, cleaned sheets, and moved forward. We didn’t make a big deal. We stopped happy dances and banana cheering sessions when there were no accidents. This approach worked. With the stress gone, it was just another thing to do.

In time, there were no more accidents. Our pediatrician was pleased with the progress and confirmed using pull-ups at night was completely normal at that age. Everyone was relieved.  

We bought a plastic zippered mattress encasement, and it became the biggest time and stress saver! If accidents occurred, we didn’t have to worry about the mattress being ruined. We just had to wash the soiled fitted sheet, blanket, and clothes. All could be washed in a regular cycle, adding baking soda to eliminate the smell of urine. One and done without much ado, making the whole experience less stressful and worrisome.

Bye-bye potty stress!

A couple of months later, my child told me at bedtime, “Mom, I don’t need a pull-up anymore,” without being asked. That was the culmination of confidence and conquering the bathroom! No stress, no commentary, no big deal. Just another chore like brushing your teeth or putting on clothes.  

There were random nighttime accidents, but not with any regular frequency. Removing the emotional stress was the elusive surefire potty trick. Letting my child navigate the bathroom independently was exactly what was necessary. While some children thrive under praise, rewards charts, and stickers, mine did not. Ironically, not pushing the potty was exactly the solution to mastering the bathroom and stress. 

Don’t be tempted into feeling defeated or frustrated if potty training isn’t going well. Don’t let well-meaning family, friends, or strangers judge you or your child. Sometimes, the child simply isn’t ready or able. And if you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t be afraid to step back and stop pushing the potty. Remove the stress and your child will master that potty when they’re good and ready. 

What potty training tips do you have? Share them with us!


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Elizabeth is a forty something working, in and out of home, mom, of two littles named Vera (8) and Warren (6). She grew up traveling the world with her military family and has been referred to as the most extroverted introvert in the world. She worked in the denim textile industry for years and was called "Norma Rae," and a "Girl Linthead," by her textile family. She relocated to Columbia in 2000 and has been employed by an Electrical Wholesaler in various positions (Accounting, Customer Service, Sales), becoming a "Jill of all Trades," ever since. Eight years ago, she became a mom for the first time and again a year later. She often says becoming a mother is one of her greatest accomplishments and that her children are magic people who bring enthusiasm and joy and the everyday mom struggles into her life each day. While unpublished, Elizabeth is an aspiring author of children's picture books, a bringer of light, sage blessing and smudger, daydreamer, and magic maker of Happy Boxes of Smiles.


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