Sometimes It Doesn’t Just Click :: Potty-Training Probs

“It’ll just click {snaps fingers} one day!” They said.

On the enneagram scale, I am a 3. I am a very driven person who loves to achieve her goals. I’ve been that way my entire life and motherhood has only reinforced this ambitious behavior. Give me a birthday party, I’ll plan my butt off; put a to-do list in front of me, I’ll check off each activity one by one. This is who I am; it’s my mommy design. So, when it came time to potty-train my first-born, I had an ambitious goal, with a hardcore plan, and was ready to tackle it head-on as early as possible. But, Mother Nature had a different plan, one that we were not prepared for and battled for years. As I miserably realized after a year of potty-training, sometimes the switch doesn’t get flipped. The light bulb doesn’t just turn on. There’s no sudden A-Ha moment when all of the pieces fit together. Sometimes, when it comes to potty-training, it doesn’t “just click” as they say.

The week before my oldest moved up to the 2yo class at his daycare, I decided to start potty-training him. This was the year he would have to learn how to do so anyway, so, in my head, I was getting ahead of the game – getting this “over with” I guess you could say. Nothing about this process sounded fun, and I certainly didn’t want to drag it out. I researched a great plan and potty-training method and covered all of my bases for a successful (and speedy) outcome. I wasn’t prepared for the days to turn into years of tears, pressure, anxiety, and fear. My husband and I were waiting for that “click” on the edge of our seats. But it never happened.

“Boys just take a little longer,” they said.

When the regimented 3-day program I implemented didn’t work, I didn’t panic at first. I sent him to daycare with back-up clothes and continued to follow through with everything I was already doing. Neither his teachers nor I were worried because according to literature and practically everyone I sought out advice from, boys just took a little longer to figure this thing out. I accepted that and moved on. But, before I knew it, we continued to rely on this “logic” and use it as an excuse. Research might very well show us that boys typically figure this behavior out a little slower than girls do, but the mistake we (and everyone else) continued to make here was that the reason my son wasn’t figuring this out was simply because he was a boy. This wasn’t the case at all. Fast forward several years later, and there’s more at play in the GI department than just an X and Y chromosome. He was taking longer to figure this out for so many other reasons. Some of those reasons had no explanation. But, not simply because he was a boy.

“He’ll get it when he’s ready,” they said.

I’m going to stop right here and explain that there is NO one way or method that will suit every child. There are tips and tricks that work for some and dos and don’ts that work for others. You can do all the research in the world and have all the plans laid out, and you still might not be successful right away. Because potty-training is a natural, biological cue that might not come on its own in a matter of days or months or even in a year, trying to rush the process can only do more harm than good – and we found that out the hard way.

It was hard to remain positive and optimistic throughout all of this when there were so many barriers and setbacks. We found ourselves subconsciously going down this rabbit hole of bad parenting that was a result of desperation. Forcing my son to figure this out on MY schedule or on a school’s schedule was wrong. Going back and forth from underwear to pull-ups multiple times over the years was a bad move. Scolding him, blaming him, and, most regrettably, comparing him to others was not right. We certainly learned the hard way that this poor baby just needed time, but the more time we spent on this road, the more we found ourselves unintentionally making these mistakes. He soaked up so much of our own anxiety with potty-training it pained us. Seeing him so sad and disappointed in himself killed us.

So many people kept repeating to us, “He’ll get it when he’s ready,” but what took us a while to realize is that “ready” wasn’t going to be on our time. Even though we wanted (and his school needed) him to learn this natural practice, there is just absolutely no forcing mother nature. His body would have to come into it on his body’s time – whenever that would be.

We still don’t know exactly what did it or how it happened, but this process never just went from black to white. He didn’t just wake up and start using the potty. It was a very slow and gradual process that took multiple methods, many different rewards, several patient adults at his daycare, a couple trips to the GI doctor (just to make sure there wasn’t a health issue at play) and a couple of years. I mean, Google, itself, had nothing left to offer me on this drawn out journey. There was never a “click”. Now, I’m not here to scare you. I realize that my son was definitely not in the 50th percentile ranking here when it came to potty-training, but if you take anything away from my experience, it’s this:

Patience is key.

Failing to grip this life-changing concept at such a young age is NEVER the child’s fault. Patience, kindness, understanding, and plenty of candy treats are key to success here. Even though other toddlers are able to pick this up in a matter of days (like my 4th), others need much more time (like my 1st). It will not always click – it may never click – but your child will grow and develop and learn as long as he has loving and patient adults in his life to guide him through it.

Parenthood is hard. And, I’ve always said that right next to birthing them, potty training my children was/is the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a parent (so far). But, next to the patience (and a few bottles of wine), what helped get my husband and I through it, was knowing that one day, in the future, we’re going to wish our biggest problem was poop. Right?! Before we know it, these kids will be driving, they’ll be dating, they’ll be faced with making life decisions without Mommy and Daddy, and we’re going to look back and wish all we had to do was clean some poop here and there. This kept us grounded through these potty trenches. And, I hope it can do the same for you! But remember, it just might not click, and that’s ok!

Please share with us what your potty-training experience was like.

Jennifer Gonzales
Wife to my high school sweetheart, Ross, and mother to 5 children: Trip, Conner, McKenzie, Piper, and Sutton, I am a born and raised Southern Louisiana Lady. I am a graduate of Mt. Carmel Academy, received my Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in Secondary Ed. from LSU followed by my Master’s of Education from UNO, and for the past 15 years, I have been outwitting high school boys as an English teacher at Holy Cross School. When I’m not grading papers, driving to baseball practices, or making grocery runs, I can be found cheering on my LSU Tigers, cutting up with my girlfriends, and attempting DIY projects around the home. I’m all about sippin’ some wine during the sunset while the kiddos play in the yard and the hubby works the grill. I’m living my best mommy life these days and am always happy to share the journey with others!


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