As my wife and I started to think about potty training, almost every online resource gave the same advice: wait for the child to tell you they are ready. This could be the child saying they no longer want to wear diapers, or a desire to use the toilet like mom and dad.
While I have no doubt this is the best advice, my wife and I found ourselves in a slightly different situation. We signed our daughter up for her first year of preschool and had a preschool preparation deadline.
She would start a few months after her third birthday, and the preschool potty training policy was that all children must be potty trained to start the semester. Any child that had regular problems could be expelled from the program.
My wife feared that a single accident could end up with my daughter kicked out of the school. I’m not sure the preschool potty training policy was that strict – she was three after all – but there was a pressure to get her to use the bathroom before that date hit.
My wife and I started potty training about six months before school was to begin. We did that, in part, because we had another baby on the way, and the penny-pinching dad did not want to buy two sets of diapers. Diapers, as you know, can get expensive.
As with other childhood milestones, potty training took time to fully learn. At first, my daughter had an accident seemingly every hour. Through repetition, patience (so much patience), and a positive attitude, we were able to get her trained within a few weeks. I do not remember when we felt like we were fully ready, but just kind of realized it has been awhile since anything went wrong.
Our biggest advantage in preschool preparation was time. We tried to plan as far out as possible, and give ourselves as much time to learn as we could. Eventually, the day came for her to start school. While we were confident she had been potty trained, there were still some nerves. Would the teacher call with an accident? Would she be kicked out of school? Would we be failures as parents?
Once School Began
In the end, everything went fine. As I hoped, the preschool potty training policy was not as strict as my wife feared. We left the second set of clothes at the school – as did every parent. One day, though, the inevitable came. My daughter had an accident and had to put on a new outfit. We were mortified, but apparently, we were not alone. Not only did other kids have accidents, but our daughter was also one of the better ones when it came to potty training. The school tried to be lenient, especially with the youngest students that were likely not to be as far along.
At our midyear meeting with our daughter’s teacher, she did mention that our daughter sometimes smelled like she had an accident. There was a slight fear that my daughter occasionally had small accidents on the car on the way to school. Or, we as parents, were just bad at doing laundry.
Honestly, we never figured out what the problem was. We made a concerted effort to make sure my daughter went to the bathroom before she left for her school and that the clothes she picked were fresh out of the dryer. The teacher never mentioned it again, and we were relieved.
The pre-school potty training policy served as great motivation for us to get our daughter started on potty training. Every child learns potty training on their own schedule but having a deadline actually worked well for us.