Flushing Away My Fears: Post Traumatic Potty Training Stress


Flushing Away My FearsIt’s that time. Actually, it’s been that time for awhile…

Potty Training

I hear those two words and my entire body tenses. To say that my oldest was difficult in the potty training department is an understatement. She flat out refused to do it. We tried all of the suggestions, the tips, the techniques, all without any success. Then one day while she was home from daycare with the flu, she decided to potty train herself and used the toilet independently for two weeks. Strange, my husband and I thought, but we went with it and thought we were in the clear. It was a good thing I had saved her pull ups because two weeks later she came home from daycare saying that she no longer wanted to be potty trained and was going back to diapers. We had to start all over again and the power struggle was even worse than before. I quickly learned that this was an issue of control. It made no difference whether I tried to sweeten the deal with rewards or stood firm with set toilet times, I was powerless against my stubborn child.

She eventually re-potty trained, but the experience was emotionally draining and left me with what I call Post Traumatic Potty Training Stress, or PTPTS.

Now it’s time to do it all over again with my youngest.

The signs are there. Staying dry for long periods of time then suddenly having a full diaper, knowing exactly what to do on the toilet, and the fact that she’ll be going to preschool in the fall and will need to use the bathroom independently there. My Post Traumatic Potty Training Stress is essentially crippling me and keeping me from getting kid number 2 to do number 1 and number 2.  I ignored the first “window” of interest that she showed when she was around 20 months. I would casually mention using the toilet, but never made it a priority to do it regularly. I moved her from diapers into disposable pull ups in hopes that she’d magically potty train herself. Santa gave her Frozen underwear as an incentive to learn to use the bathroom, but I’ve just been hoping she’ll learn through osmosis by watching her older sister. She’s even gone in the toilet a couple of times, but all I’ve done is continue to procrastinate.

Why am I so traumatized? After all, both of my children have completely different personalities. My oldest is the classic “spirited child”, while my youngest is happy-go-lucky. I know that as the parent I’m supposed to be in charge, but ultimately children are in charge of their own bodies and I just don’t think I can handle another experience like I had with my oldest child. My fear is that there’s a recessed “stubborn” gene that my youngest possesses that will come out during potty training. I’m afraid that I’m going to project my Post Traumatic Potty Training Stress on my daughter during the process and my anxiety will hinder her progress, not help it. Yes it’s irrational, but I feel like I had failed with my oldest and I’m terrified I will fail again. 

So here I am trying to move past my PTPTS and gather my confidence to enter into potty training 2.0. As I learned with my oldest, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We’ll try it all and see what works. If nothing does, I know from experience that it will happen eventually when my daughter wants it to happen. It’s not a race nor a contest and my kids won’t be asked when they were potty trained on their college applications.  I must remind myself of that and keep my eyes on the prize—a diaper-free household. (Deep breath) I can do this. I’ve got this. 


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