Our Potty Training Rollercoaster-And Tips on How to Improve the Ride

Potty training. I hear some kids are so easy, that girls are easier/earlier than boys, that when they get it they just get it and its obvious that they are ready, etc. I hear do daytime training first–no, do them at the same time, do it in a week–in 3 days, pull ups, panties, bare bum.

My reality–it’s a total war zone, and all you can do is try to survive with your sanity. I think I started “potty training” my oldest, Addie, a few weeks ago, but it feels like its been ages. It sent us on a rollercoaster of emotions, and I’m still not off the ride yet. 

So, here’s the thing–Addie is smart (maybe a genius, probably…), she is a girl, and she is almost 3. So, I naturally thought that she would obviously be easy to potty train. And she was…for like a minute. 

I find that hearing about other people’s parenting experiences helps me a lot, not so much because I want to learn from what they did (although sometimes that helps), but really just so that I don’t feel like the only one who doesn’t know what I’m doing sometimes. So, here is my experience with potty training so far:

A couple months leading up to it:

Addie got a little potty for her 2nd birthday from her Grammy and Paw Paw. After having it be in her toy room for a few months as furniture in her play kitchen, I moved it to the bathroom next to the big potty. She started going potty in it occasionally for fun, but I never pushed it or asked her about it. She just did it if she wanted when she wanted. 

Day 1: I decided that we would get serious about using the potty starting on a Monday morning. She went potty as soon as she got up, then I set a timer to try going potty every 15 minutes. She also got jelly beans as potty treats. She did really well as long as I didn’t forget to take her every 15 minutes.

Day 2: The intention was to repeat day 1, but I missed a couple timers, and Addie started going earlier than 15 minutes occasionally, which resulted in several accidents.

Day 3: I started to believe Addie was not ready because she not once told me that she needed to go potty, and she would wet herself if not prompted by me to go potty. I put diapers back on about half-way through the day I think.

We took a several day-long hiatus from potty training.



Reset Day 1: I changed the potty treat to one m&m for each tinkle, and two for poop. I set timers again, but also stressed the importance to tell mommy if she needed to go. Remarkably, she did great and even told me when she needed to go potty a couple of times without me asking.

Reset Day 2: Another great day, maybe one accident with pooping (she liked to hide instead of tell me), but a solid effort.

Reset Day 3: Starting to get the potty pooping down finally too.

Reset Day 4: I stop timing altogether and let her tell me. I would ask if she needed to go frequently. She did great, and I’m thinking she’s got it…pack it up we’re done.

Reset Day 5: Lots of accidents, and in an attempt to discourage them, I think I over-reacted to them.

Reset Day 6: Worse than day 5, and more of me getting overly upset over each accident….possibly giving Addie anxiety about potty-training. (In the moment my reactions were well-intentioned and meant to discourage future accidents, but hindsight–bad idea)

Reset Day 7: She tells me that it’s fun to go tinkle in her diaper, and I start to lose it. A large portion of my house it pee-soaked, and I’ve cleaned too many poopie panties. I put her back in diapers (secretly hoping she will hate it). She doesn’t hate it though…probably because it freed her from the anxiety potty training was causing her.


**Ok, so before I forget. As her potty training deteriorated, her behavior also took a turn for the worse. She started throwing fits, acting crazy, being unreasonable, talking nonsense, and don’t even get me started on bedtime. I didn’t immediately realize the probably connection between potty training and behavior, but now it seems undeniable connected. 


Reset Day 8: I get a new potty treat since m&m’s seem like they aren’t getting it done. Marshmallows get Addie temporarily excited, and she does better today.

Reset Day 9: Not great again, she seems to be to busy to bother going potty.

Reset Day 10: Bad. I decide that we are going back to diapers because potty training is causing too much contention.

We take a break for like a day or so.



Reboot Day 1: I decide that we shouldn’t give up, but that I need to be better about not shaming. I also decide to mix in a long-term prize in addition to the potty treat she gets each time she goes. Addie loves happy-meals at McDonalds, so if she can do 2-3 days without accidents then we will go for dinner. I later amend this to 2-3 days of doing a really good job going potty (a much better goal for a toddler). The no accidents thing was giving her hard-core anxiety. She even would get up in the night and at nap time and strip all her clothes and pull-up off to hide that she peed in her sleep. It was never my intention for her to go through the night without peeing, but I think she got confused because she wore a pull-up at night and we had told her not to use the pull up like a diaper before. She does a much better job

Reboot Day 2: She does really well again–McDonalds for the win.

Reboot Day 3: Great and McDonalds for Dinner

Reboot Day 4: We keep it going and say that we’ll do McDonalds again this week if she does a good job again. She does well again.

Reboot Day 5: She does well

Reboot Day 6: Good again and her behavior seems to be improving

Reboot Day 7: Today…She has done great, and is getting back to her normal mostly-sweet self.


Things learned:

  • Long term and short term rewards combined work well for Addie
  • Don’t be dramatic about accidents because it will give your kid a complex (I knew this, but it’s sometimes easier said than done…especially when she hides to pee or poop right after she told you she didn’t need to go)
  • Mix it up if your kid is losing interest (stickers, candy, prizes, IDK be creative)
  • For us-diapers at night so she isn’t confused about pull-ups and whether or not she can pee in them.
  • Praise, praise, praise–She has started telling me exactly how she wants me to say her name in an excited voice when she poops in the potty.


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