The time has come for our little one to take a rite of passage. He and or she were once an infant, then a baby, and now a toddler. The time of being a toddler is exciting with crawling, walking, and climbing on the horizon to learning to use a potty and becoming a young child.

I had my son completely toilet trained by the age of four, which means we mastered both of nature’s exits. My husband and I went on a long weekend trip leaving our son with his grandmother and thought all would be well and explained his routine. But when we got back, we had to start from scratch where he refused to go to the bathroom at all! I was devastated, all my hard work of reinforcing positive feelings and encouragement were destroyed in my boy. He would hide behind a couch when defecating, he would stand still and wet himself.

I was infuriated and devastated, how could this happen. What went wrong and how were my rules broken? But really what are the rules for potty training, where and or when does a parent begin potty training? What is a parent to do about potty training? Here are the parent’s rules (not for your child, just you the parent) to potty training.

Rule #1

Parents do not set the rules for potty training. Hard to believe I know, but as a parent we cannot determine the right time for our child to use the toilet accordingly, our child will tell us and so will his or her little body and mind. We so badly want to tell our friends and family about how we cheered like the varsity pep squad when our little one planted his or her derriere on the toilet to take care of nature’s business. We so badly want to brag to our play-date group about how little Jimmy or Jenny went tinkle. We also want to say how early they accomplished this feat. Alas, we have no control, so surrender now to the potty God’s.

Rule #2

No child is ever COMPLETELY potty trained. Plenty of parents are shouting and shaking their heads stammering “Blasphemy,” but this is a fact each parent should accept. Why should you accept this, let me explain. Children will tell you when they are ready, children then will have mishaps, accidents, slip-ups, whatever you may call the situation, this means that they have learned to use the potty, but his and or her body and brain has not learned the signals. Not knowing the signals and having accidents is okay, children all develop and learn at different times, all part of the process. Bed wetting can happen up to and past the age of five (National Institute of Health & U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009), so do not fret; bed wetting is because of the development of signals between the body and mind. Your child will learn those signals and feelings in time.

Rule #3

Wetting or defecating in a diaper, Pull-Up type training pants, and or in big boy and or big girl pants is not wrong or bad. By telling your child that his and or her action is bad is suggesting to them that using the bathroom is bad. The comments about your child going in his or her pants being bad could suggest to them that he or she is bad, do not associate potty training with something that is bad. The comments also suggest shame, that doing nature’s business is shameful and should be hidden. Granted, we do use the bathroom with the door shut, but not out of shame, out of privacy. Yes, this is frustrating to once again change a soiled diaper, training pants, and or pair of underwear, but doing so where you as a parent are not displaying your disdain will enforce to your child that going to the bathroom is normal and not something shameful, irritating, and or wrong.

Rule #4

STOP ASKING! As a parent I thought I needed to ask my son who was three, almost four, at the time of his potty training if he needed to go, in order to support his growing independence as a little person. Do not ask your child this, ever! If you are asking now, even if they are 10, 12, 15, stop asking, just tell them. If you give your child an option they will take the option of saying NO. By telling your child to go to the bathroom in an affirmative manner will enforce that going to the bathroom is a bodily necessity and nothing to hide or be ashamed about. If you ask, you are giving them an option, and options do not exist in using the toilet…you either go or you don’t.

Rule #5

Help your child. I am sure you are telling me, “I am helping them, what do you think is all this hard work, a vacation?” Yes, you are helping them learn the routine; I am speaking of helping them with the accidents, with the victories, the signals, and the encouragement. Remaining positive, in spite of the piles of soiled underwear, the public messes, and or worse, will help your child emotionally, psychologically and physically to learn the fine art of the lavatory. Help them by letting them know that everyone goes to the bathroom in the toilet as they get older and that going in a toilet is ok…and leave it at that. If you embellish about “big boys” or “big girls” feelings of inadequacy, or “good boys” and or “good girls” as this too will instill negative feelings of self in your child. Plus not all boys and girls use the bathroom all the time, like camping in the woods? Avoid confusing them by using this verbiage, let them know all boys and girls learn to use the toilet and drop it, surrender to the potty God’s.

Rule #6

Do not compare your child. If you compare your child to another child or another sibling a feeling of inadequacy, frustration, determination, unknowing, failure, to name a few, may arise resulting in taking these feelings out on your child or your child may begin to also have these feelings. Some children learn to use the potty as early as 18 months while others can take until right before they begin school, no rule or law has been written stating that you MUST have your child potty trained at any specific age. Because your child may learn earlier or later than another child does not mean that your skills as a parent lack or luster merit, this means your child is and was created just as they were meant to be, different.

Rule #7

No one has the answer, the correct answer, and or the incorrect answer to potty training. The only one person who has the answer to potty training is your child. By surrendering to the potty God’s you might be surprised and rewarded. Children are phenomenal little people and if you let them they will learn in his or her own time and way. So just because your mother-in-law or your sister or your friend tell you when, how, and what to use to potty train your child, this does not mean that their word is to be taken as the gospel. Politely listen, thank them for the ideas, maybe lie and state that you may “Give it a whirl,” but suggestions are not the answer. Your child is his or her own answer to the potty debate. If you try to control the potty situation with your child they may retaliate leaving you feeling like a jerk and going back to Rule #1 and actually surrendering to the potty God’s.

Rule #8

Do not believe another parent’s story of early potty victory; the story is short of a fable! How awful I must be to call out all those parents who bragged, “I had Jimmy potty trained when he was a year old (or less),” those parents are literally full of minutiae. My son didn’t walk until he was 13 months old, and potty training came just as slow, which was fine. My daughter, she was walking at one year while her twin, well he is still crawling, but scaling furniture like Spiderman. Whatever story you hear is generally a parent feeling inadequate about his or her child and his or her accomplishments, so they embellish, or maybe they tell the truth, only to enhance his or her own image of being a parent. Parenting is not easy, but definitely not a contest, we all do what we can with the tools we have been provided. The same can be said for your child during this learning process, so do not buy into these tall tales.

Rule #9

Do not make vows on the potty training. “I vow to have you potty trained if it’s the last thing I do!” Vow to potty train, but do not vow to make the ordeal the last thing you do or some challenge to trounce. Take your time to work with your child. If you work full time and you do not have the entire day to devote to hourly visits to the bathroom, then let your care provider know what you are doing and how you have been working with your child. Most care providers will do as you do with your child so as not to disrupt his or her routine or instill feelings that would set your child back. If you have the time during the day at home, make little strides, you can’t build Rome in a day.

Rule #10

Remember to breathe. Potty training is really not a big deal; children are highly intelligent, hearty people who will grow through the transition of toddler to child. Remember that this new experience is tough for them too just as much as the ordeal is for you. Remember that everyone who has ever had children in the history of the world has had to potty his or her child at some point in time. This too shall pass and remember to breathe.

Karie Herring is a mother to a 6-year-old singleton and 15-month-old boy-girl twins. She writes and blogs about her musings, antics, and sanity techniques as a mom and mother of multiples on her blog One Fish, Two Fish, Three, Four, Five Fish.