It Feels Worse than Day 1! The Downside of Day 1 “Success”

potty training kid

“Today feels worse than day 1!” I have had so many clients express this sentiment, and believe me: I can relate.  It’s not like our first day of potty training was stellar overall, but the last thing my daughter did before bed was sit herself down on the potty and pee.  I was feeling good.  “We got pee in the potty AND she self-initiated!  Wow!  Just imagine how great tomorrow is going to be!”  Potty training was going to be a breeze.

The next morning started out good.  For a couple of hours.  And then, like clockwork, that “Day 2” resistance set in.  Refusing to sit.  Accident, accident, accident.  More pee on the floor than yesterday.  The WORST: an accident while I’m cleaning up the last one!!

One thing that I’ve found, and clients agree, is that early success makes later difficulties “feel” worse than they might otherwise.  I think there are a few reasons for this.

  1. We let this success change our expectations. Often this translates into expecting too much of our little ones.  As adults, we tend to learn in a more linear fashion than our toddler counterparts.  So the ebb and flow of toddler learning can be frustrating.  For most kids, even a few days in a row of solid potty use does not mean that they’ve “got this down”.  Most kids need significantly more time to solidify these skills once the learning is under way.
  2. Most of us have done a good job of having an “anything-goes” attitude on day 1. We’ve come to terms, in advance, with the fact that this is going to feel like a LONG day.  We know that we don’t know what potty training is going to look like until we jump in.  We know that there’s probably going to be some pee on the floor.  Once we’ve gotten through this day, though, it’s hard to keep up this same level of mental preparation for each coming day.  If potty training is wearing us out, this can accumulate from day to day.
  3. Resistance tends to feel worse than cluelessness. Usually, we can tell when our kids are still in the “clueless” phase.  Though we know that resistance tends to set in within the first week (not necessarily day 2), sometimes it can be hard to tell if it’s resistance or not.  When our kids have been doing great up to that point, it can feel like they’re “messing with us”, not that they’re still learning.  To make matters worse, because we feel like they’ve already “got it”, our reactions can help to fuel resistance – prompting more, trying too many approaches at once, getting upset, and so forth.

If you are feeling like today is “worse than day 1,” keep the above thoughts in mind.  There are a few additional things you can do to help.

  1. Do a self-check: Are you distracted, busy, stressed, or not fully present? If so, find ways to remove as many of these distractions as you can.
  2. Do you think what you’re seeing “resistance”? Try backing off, giving your child the space to “do it themselves.”
  3. Remember to take potty training 1 day at a time. Remember that it takes most kids 3-7 days to get the basics – just the basics – of potty training.  This does not mean they are masters.  There will be some bumps along the way.

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