Potty Training Failure

I am a first time parent, but I am sure that potty training for 36 hours should not result in panic attacks for myself and near panic attacks for my three year old.

My daughter is three years and five months old. I and my husband are more than ready to be finished with changing diapers. My daughter had been showing interest in her potty chair. We’ve had it around since before she turned two.

Because she was showing some interest, when it was time to order new pull-ups, we decided to try her on underwear. She was terrified at first, but with some coaxing (and bribery) from grandma she kept them on for a while. She was very excited and telling everyone that she was wearing pretty undies with a bow on them. That lasted until the first time she wet herself a couple of hours in.

The whole ordeal was about 36 hours. She never once made it to the potty. She had a full blown freak out every time she wet herself and the floor and we were all done cleaning up the puddles after the first three or four accidents. We didn’t make a big deal out of it. We gave her lots of cuddles. The only advice I had ever heard on potty training was from people that love my daughter and the advice was to put her in underwear and not let her back out. She’ll figure it out and in a week or so we’ll all be better off for it.

So every time she would have an accident we would change her underwear, get her cleaned up, and calmed down and we would wait for it to happen again.

I did all the ‘right’ things according to the advice I received. I didn’t make a big deal about accidents, but did make a big deal about any effort to sit on our use the potty, I sat her on the potty every half hour or so, I gave her a sticker chart and fun posters by the potty, I read her books while she sat on the potty, I didn’t let her go back to pull ups. It just didn’t work.

That night at bedtime she hid herself in the big comforter on my bed and wouldn’t let me take the blankets off even though she was sweating like crazy. She couldn’t really tell us what she was doing, but our guess was that she was hiding her undies or trying to feel more safe. She would have another freak out every time we tried to take the blanket off. It was scaring me. I finally got the blanket off and she cried until she wet the bed. We got her cleaned up and one of us gave her cuddles while the other one changed the bedding. We discussed it quietly and decided to give her back a pull up for bedtime under the condition that she have undies back when she woke up. She agreed. We agreed. Everyone slept.

The next morning when she woke up she sat on the potty and then got her underwear back on. She immediately peed on the floor after she made it to the livingroom. Another giant freak out and I was done. I cried and squished her and asked if she wanted her diaper back. And she cried and squished me and said yes.

She’s been back in pull-ups ever since. During the underwear incident she stopped allowing herself to poop and we ended up having to get her a stool softener after about 4 days.  It took several days for her tummy to get back to normal.

It’s been a couple of weeks and she is still slightly traumatized by the experience. She still confirms that she is allowed to pee and poop in her pull-up and that she doesn’t have to use the potty yet.

The momma guilt is strong. It feels like I tortured my poor baby. But all of the advice I received I followed. All of the checklists say she’s ready. I did all the ‘right’ things. But they were only the right things according to someone else and according to the lists online. They were not the right things for my sweet, stubborn, and sensitive little girl. My daughter may be well past the ‘normal’ age of potty training readiness, but she is not ready to be potty trained yet.


For now, the potty has been put away, we’re letting her look at books about the potty, but only when she wants to, she’s watching dvds about potty training (and loving them). And we’re not pushing. We’re reassuring her that she can use her pull-ups as long as she wants to or needs to. And I’m working on better trusting my mommy instincts and believing that I know my daughter better than anyone else.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for those 36 hours, but I do know that from this point forward, first time mommy or not, I will not use any potty training advice that doesn’t feel right for MY daughter.


Currently I am reading this book. Potty Training Girls The Easy Way by Caroline Fertleman, MD & Simone Cave. The advice givers scoffed at this book when I mentioned that I thought this approach would work the best for my daughter. It advocates potty training sessions, an hour at a time where she is in underwear and playing one on one with an adult. And that hour slowly gets elongated until she in underwear at all times while at home. Then we tackle outside of the house and then at night. It is all about following her lead and not pushing her farther than she is ready to go. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but it feels like the approach my family needs to take.

I let the pressure get to me before. I gave in when people told me that my daughter was too old to be in diapers still and that there was only one right way to potty train her and I let my daughter down. And I’m sorry my sweet girl. I’m just doing my best and I’m sorry when that’s not quite good enough.

I’ll be over here giving my girlie squishes and letting her be little as long as she’ll let me.

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