A Pregnancy, a Snowstorm and Three Days of Failed Potty Training

The storm would later be named Snowzilla. Over two days in January 2016, the blizzard dropped nearly 20 inches of snow on the Washington, D.C. area, crippling the region for more than a week.

The storm caught my family and me at an imperfect time, to say the least. My wife was eight months pregnant with our second child, her due date just about a month away as the storm hit. While she carried our first child to term, it was hard not to fear her going into labor as our car sat underneath a mountain of snow.

While we both hoped to hold off labor for another month, we decided to use the inevitable time inside to begin potty training our then two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. We had wanted to start the project for a while, mainly to avoid buying two sets of diapers once our son arrived. My daughter also had to be fully potty trained by fall, a requirement for the preschool we enrolled her in for that year, so the storm provided us with an uninterrupted opportunity to start the process.

Getting Started

Like most first-time potty training parents, we knew nothing of how to start. We purchased a plastic child-sized potty for her to use and some padded underwear to assist in case of an accident. We read a few websites, my wife discussed the topic with friends in a Facebook group of local moms, and that was the extent of our outside preparation.

When we were ready to begin, we calmly told my daughter what to do. When she felt like she needed to go to the bathroom, she should walk over to the potty, which was in the middle of our living room where she was playing, take off her underwear, sit down, and use the bathroom. My daughter said she understood.

She peed on the floor three minutes later.

We cleaned up the floor. We got her a new pair of underwear. We explained the situation again. She went back to watching television.

She peed on the floor three minutes later.

This pattern continued until we went through six pairs of underwear. I think it took less than an hour. Our first attempt at potty training not only failed but failed quickly.

Making Changes

As we continued the rest of our weekend snowed in, we began to adapt our approach. We realized that at the beginning at least, it was possibly too much to ask our daughter to recognize she needed to use the bathroom, pull down underwear, and make it over to the toilet. This was especially true if she was doing something she really enjoyed doing, like watching her favorite television show.

Instead, we aimed to simplify the process as much as possible. We did away with the underwear, having her simply walk around naked from the waist down. We also had her spend as much time sitting on the toilet as possible, even if she said that she didn’t need to go.

More than anything, though, we tried to remain patient. Potty training did not happen that day or that snow-filled weekend. It didn’t take until after my son was born, but thankfully before school started. Similar to how children learn to talk, potty training does not happen immediately. They make small progress just like everything else, such as how babbling turns into letters and sounds, which turn into syllables, words, and finally into sentences.

The key for parents is to understand that nothing happens quickly. Figure out what works, stick to it and be patient. They will learn.


Additional Potty Training Resources:

  1. Potty Training Fails 
  2. After 4 Years of Failed Potty Training, We Learned One Very Important Lesson 
David Stegon

David Stegon is a writer, editor, and father of two based in Virginia. He has written for traditional and digital publications for the past 13 years. David holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Temple University and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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