Do-Nothing Potty Training


Do-Nothing Potty TrainingMy three-year-old son is NOT potty trained. Some of you are probably raising your eyebrows and silently judging me. Others probably have suggestions, helpful tips and even a potty-training book recommendation. I’m not worried about the judgment. I’ll pass on all that advice, too. I have my own strategy. It’s to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Am I worried? Nope. Not a bit. My husband and I didn’t naively reach this do-nothing strategy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Our experience potty training our daughter completely changed our outlook.

That’s how we reached this organic approach.

When we were expecting our son Bennett, we decided our number one priority was potty training our two-year-old daughter Madeline before little brother arrived. I read endless articles, talked with mom friends and we landed on our strategy. A long weekend in nothing but a diaper. M&M’s as incentive. My iPhone timer to make sure Madeline was sitting on the potty in regular intervals. There was great success! Then we switched to underwear. While there was an occasional accident, we felt good about the outcome of our potty training. We did it! I look back with mixed feelings about that moment. I know now what followed.

Potty training Madeline is still a struggle YEARS later.

The first round of regression was in the days and months following Bennett’s birth. That’s not unusual. All those changes at home can be tough for a big brother or big sister. When we weathered that storm, I thought it would be smooth sailing. Once again, I was so wrong. Every few months we were dealing with another round of regression. We tried sticker charts and other incentives which worked for a time. Then more regression. Against all those online articles we briefly tried punishments. That only added to the feelings of frustration on both sides. What were we doing wrong? We were out of ideas. Perhaps it was the emotional and mental fatigue. We were just too tired to do anything. In a way, that’s how our “do-nothing potty training” was born. We cleaned up any messes and moved on. Miraculously, the time between accidents became longer and longer until there were none at all.

Instead of rejoicing we were cautiously optimistic.

The start of kindergarten arrived and it was an exciting and nerve-racking time. I cried those first-day mom tears and Madeline loved school! Her teacher gave us regular reports and all was good. Or so we thought. I picked her up from school one day and when I saw her something didn’t seem quite right. I quickly realized she had a potty accident at some point during the school day and didn’t tell anyone. I felt a range of emotions. I was so sad for her and brokenhearted. Then the feelings of total failure as a parent set in. Later I cried in private. My husband and I considered the possibility we were dealing with a medical issue. We consulted Madeline’s teacher who offered an apology along with wonderful advice and guidance. It turns out potty accidents are completely common in kindergarten especially in those first few weeks. We gathered more information and realized Madeline was only trying to follow the rules. She thought you weren’t allowed to go to the bathroom if you were on the playground. Once we clarified, we thought we were in the clear. However, a second and third potty accident followed. That was soul crushing. Madeline’s encouraging teacher said she wasn’t the only kindergartener having accidents. Finally, it was a sweet and special one-on-one talk with Madeline and her teacher that was the real turning point.

I’d like to tell you that’s the end of her potty-training story, but it’s not. The first week of school after the Christmas holiday was tough. Madeline had several potty accidents, not at school, but at home. I lamented to a friend with older children. She told me her eight-year-old went through a tough potty time. Her eight-year-old. Her pediatrician said that’s normal as children start to become more aware of bodily functions and public bathrooms. When I told my friend how we’re taking a very different approach with Bennett she reminded me of what I’ve been telling myself. My children will go to college potty trained.

As it turns out, we’re starting to see the results of our “do-nothing potty training.” Bennett has been going on the potty. A lot. Number one and number two. Even at preschool. He gets a little reward at home and at school for his efforts, but that’s it. Bennett’s teacher suggested we get pull-ups which are controversial in the potty-training world. He picked out Mickey Mouse. I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I’m not writing this to give you a full-proof potty-training method for your child. Every kid is different. Comparing them isn’t fair to them or to you. You’ll figure it out. They’ll figure it out. Just know, you’re not alone!

       Has your family struggled with potty training? Please share your story!

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Beth Wilkin-Waldmann
I’m a former TV news producer turned stay-at-home mom to my preschooler Madeline and baby Bennett. While I may stay at home, Madeline, Bennett and I are always on the go exploring Knoxville and making new friends. I'm a coffee addict, book lover, fashion-phile, occasional cook and bargain hunter. My guilty pleasures include Pinterest and bad reality TV. I believe a sense of humor is an essential survival skill. And--lucky me--my funny husband Andy always keeps me laughing. Follow me on Knoxville Moms Blog as I chronicle this challenging and rewarding adventure we call motherhood!


  1. my son wasn’t trained until right after his 4th birthday, and that was after I had tried everything. I was embarrassed and implicitly shamed by others during that time; my son is a challenge in other areas so this was just one more stressful thing to deal with. but essentially in the end it was his decision and his alone no matter how I tried to helpfully interfere. so with my second one, I had decided I wasn’t doing a thing. not. one. thing. thanks for the article, it reinforced my decision.


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