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The Laid Back Mom's Guide to Potty Training

Potty training can be stressful. But it doesn't have to be. Here is how I hosted a "Pee Pee Peace Treaty" in our home and ensured that our potty training experience was as relaxed and peaceful as possible.


By Kate Gallagher Leong, Parenting

I'd like to tell you a little story about a time that I hosted a "Pee Pee Peace Treaty" in our home. I'm talking about that stress-inducing, pressure-driven milestone called "potty training." Except it wasn't overwhelming at all. As a busy mom, the last thing I wanted to do was add extra stress and pressure to our days. I decided to take a laid back approach to potty training, and it made my life so much easier. More importantly, my son came through the process with no tears and lots of pride!

Our oldest son was born with developmental delays. We had to wait until he was developmentally ready to reach his milestones—even if they weren't on the "typical" timetable. It was nothing we could force. Believe it or not, it was actually him that taught me everything I needed to know about potty training, even though he never mastered the skill. As we added another boy to our family, I realized a universal truth for all children, and that is: you can't force any child to reach a milestone they're just not ready for developmentally. And that is true for potty training.

When it came time to potty train our second son, I gave it a go when he had just turned 3. I told myself I would test his interest, and if he wasn't ready, that would be fine. I read every book. Okay, I read one book. Fine, I read the first chapter. I also did lots of research. Okay, I consulted my Facebook friends. The consensus was: buy lots of towels, let him run around naked and buy stickers in bulk.

After the first accident on the kitchen floor, I patiently wiped it up. After the second accident on the way down the hall to the bathroom, I proclaimed progress! After the third accident in the family room, I hung up my towels (the dry ones), gave myself a sticker for effort, and decided to wait. What was the hurry, anyway? I didn't need him to be potty trained for any reason, and there was no need to make his life miserable by rushing.

When he was 3 years and 8 months old, I knew it was time. Is that "old" by some people's standards? Maybe. But I'll tell you this: he was potty trained in a day. No rewards were necessary. He was old enough to understand that this is just what you do as a big boy. I wanted him to feel as independent as possible, so I made sure he was set up for success. I bought a great potty training product called the Kiddyloo, which allowed him to climb up and sit down by himself. I didn't need to lift him onto the seat every time, unless we were out of the house, which was great. Most importantly, the poor kid didn't have to hang on for dear life so his bum wouldn't fall into the water!

I also let him pick out his new underwear and his own stool, so he could reach the sink to wash his hands by himself. I know what you're thinking. "What about the Cheerios for floating targets?" Remember, this is the "laid back" potty training method. Floating targets were too high tech for me. He didn't attempt standing until he was taller, had better aim and had a better memory for putting the seat down. I was not interested in wiping up urine from nooks and crannies of my bathroom I never knew existed or sitting on a seat only to fall into the bowl myself. And we all know that bathroom smell that screams "a little boy with bad aim lives here!" So he learned to use the bathroom by sitting on his own little seat and in one day felt like a rock star. No gimmicks, no rewards, no fuss, no tears. The first few weeks were filled with our "peace talks," including encouragement, constant reminders to go to the bathroom, wipe up any of his drips and wash his hands. There were a few close calls, but all in all, it was hugely successful. I am sure that it had a lot to do with his maturity. It really was worth it to wait.

The Pee Pee Peace Treaty was effective in our home. Now I am hoping to bring the peace talks to every public restroom and rest stop in the country. Aim well and seat down, friends! Peace.


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