Whenever the topic of potty training comes up (and it does when you hang out with other parents of young children), I joke that our dog toilet-trained my oldest son. And I say it only half in jest. One night when I was cooking dinner, my son – at age 2.5 – came in and announced, “I peed outside, just like Mazel[-dog].” He declared that he wanted to wear underwear, and he was going to pee outside like the dog all the time. From that moment on, he was finished with diapers. There were no accidents. There were no battles. He was done, and so were we.
As a side note, while our dog provided the final impetus that transitioned my son out of diapers, my husband and I did a few things to lay the foundation for his readiness. We had a small toilet sitting on the floor of our bathroom, which we encouraged him to use while we were going to the bathroom. When he expressed curiosity about underwear, we let him pick out a few pairs; this allowed us to have them on hand when he wanted them. We allowed him to wander in and out of the bathroom while we were using the toilet, allowing him to see that this is how other people care for their bodies. (The fact that we used cloth diapers may have contributed to his body awareness, but that’s hard to determine.)
We didn’t ever pressure him, we simply trusted he would use the toilet when he was ready. And since he transitioned to underwear relatively early, he made it easy. We never felt the need to urge him along.
Fast forward to my second child. We provided him with the same sort of modeling and resources that we made available to his older brother. And this time, with his beloved big brother modeling toilet skills too, I assumed that my second child would also be out of diapers quickly. I was wrong.
At the age of two, my second child had little interest in using the toilet. He did periodically enjoy wearing underwear, but that didn’t seem to correspond with toilet usage (and was a messy time for all of us).
Around the age of three, he started using the toilet regularly at home, but adamantly refused to use public restrooms. Self-flushing toilets, with their loud and forceful flushes, were rather frightening for him.
As time passed, I began to wonder if I should push the issue. I thought about telling him we were simply going to be done with diapers. I knew he could make the transition if he really wanted to. And I was definitely finished with diapers. I found myself routinely joking about borrowing a dog.
Then, before I took control and announced we were moving on to underwear, which likely would have caused some form of power struggle – after all, it is his body – my little one announced that he was done with diapers. One day he simply proclaimed, “I’m done with diapers. Give the diapers to [our neighbor]!” (Whenever my youngest child outgrows something, we pass the item along to our neighbor.)
And he moved on. It was as easy as that.
While I now have a spare pair of his pants and underwear in my bag, I’m guessing we won’t need them. My son made the transition on his own terms when he was ready. He’s got the whole thing under control. And while I was beginning to grow impatient, I am thankful I didn’t push him.
Over and over again my boys remind me that they will reach milestones in their own time if I simply give them the space and trust that they will accomplish it when they’re ready. Most of the time, I’m good at trusting their process. But at times I feel pressure, whether it’s from friends, family, society at large, or simply my own experiences and socialization. It’s times like that I need to remind myself that the dog was simply the catalyst for my eldest’s toilet training. The real learning and readiness came from inside.
I know that as they grow, this pattern will continue. My sons will do whatever it is whenever they are ready. I simply need to provide them with the needed resources, to love, and to trust.
Did you actively toilet train your kids? Do you also, at times, struggle with trusting your child’s learning process?