Q&A: Potty training almost 3-year-old girl

S writes:

"My daughter who is abt 2 months shy  of  being 3 yrs was able to indicate that she wanted to poop when she was 1.5 yrs old. I didnt push  it then to train her to pee as well. We started potty traing when she was 2.5 yrs old . She started  showing some positive results i.e there would be accidents  but sometimes she would say she wanted to pee. Suddenly she had accidents all day and  wouldnt tell as well.

It could be my fault when I did get a bit angry when she was peaking at her accident rate. Now she is 2 months shy of 3 and she is still not trained. These days she doesnt even tell when she wets her pants.

However she never poops in pants, always does it in potty. Im really confused if I should go back to diapers or should I continue training.

From a confused , guilty feeling MOM"

You know how potty training in the 1940s seemed to be about making the kids feel guilty? I think potty training in the 2000s and 2010s is about making the parents feel guilty.

Seriously. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. At least in the '40s they knew they were supposed to start at a year, and if the kid wasn't trained before the age of 2 it meant Something Was Wrong With The Child. Clear (if damaging) target. Now there's conflicting advice everywhere: wait until after 2, wait until after 3, do elimination communication, use cloth diapers, use disposible diapers, use pull-ups, don't use any diapers, use rewards, never bribe, boys should stand up, boys should sit down, girls are easier, boys are easier, it's all genetic, train daytime and nighttime together, train daytime before 3 but wait to train at night until after 5.

Holy crap. (Ahem.) How does anyone potty train a kid ever with all the conflicting advice? (And I say that as someone with no dog in the hunt whatsoever, because remember that my kids each potty trained themselves, pretty much.)

A few months ago, one of my friends, whose daughter had dug in her heels and refused to poop on the potty, told me that she felt like a failure because as a SAHM it was Her Job to potty-train her kid, and since she hadn't done it it meant that she failed. When she said that it felt like she grabbed my heart and squeezed it and crushed it. I mean, one thing, one tiny, blip-on-the-radar-of-parenting thing, and she'd decided that meant she'd failed. Despite the fact that her daughter is brilliant and funny and connected and polite and curious and makes friends easily.

Those of you who have for-pay jobs with performance metrics are probably thinking this is as unreasonable as I do. If I hadn't finished a project with a client because the client didn't want to work with me or wasn't ready for some reason, I'd formulate a plan to try to get it done the next quarter, but I wouldn't let that one project make me think I was failing at my job (assuming everything else was still working). And my boss wouldn't evaluate me solely on one project that wasn't even pegged to a specific time schedule, either.

So please, please, please don't take potty training as a reflection on yourself. Especially if you have the kind of kid who won't learn from you specifically. It doesn't mean they don't love you and that you're not the most important person in their life. It just means you should let someone else work on potty training with them, and when the time comes you should let someone else teach them to drive.

What the heck does any of this have to do with poor S and her daughter? Three things:

1) Stop feeling guilty, S. Maybe someday you'll do something to your daughter that you actually should feel guilty about, like showing a baby picture of her to her prom date, or picking her up at school wearing an ugly shirt. Loving her enough to try a bunch of different things to potty train her is a good thing, not something you should feel guilt for.

2) From anecdotal evidence of the kids I've known, not being potty-trained completely by the age of 3 (and she's not even 3 yet!) is pretty normal. There's plenty of time.

3) How to decide whether to keep going or stop? I think that if you're writing me an email, it means it's stressing you out. So you might want to just take a break for a week, and catch your breath, and then go back to it.

(Now, how did it make you feel to read #3? Did you feel relieved? Then take a break. Or did reading the suggestion to take a break make you feel defeated? If so, keep going and don't take a break. You know she'll get it eventually, whether you take a break or not. There is no Right Answer, just the answer that doesn't break you.)

Who was traumatized by potty training? Conversely, who has largely forgotten potty training?