What I Learned from Potty Training 11 Kids

By Cynthia Noell

I am  the mother of 11 children. I gave birth to them all – about two years apart- which would mean I have spent about all of my adult life potty training a child. I’ve got ten down, with one sweet little boy left… and he’s finding his own adventure and testing my patience in his own way!

When I think of all the things we can learn from potty training, the most important is patience. As parents, what we are really doing while potty training a child is testing our own patience. In addition, we are gaining an appreciation of our child’s unique personality. When potty training, you really get to know your child. Is she patient, neat, orderly, or a little more on the carefree side? Does she follow your routine well, or does she have a mind of her own?

One of my oldest daughters decided she wanted to use the potty before she was even two, so she did. A potty training experience we all dream of! One day she woke up and decided she could use the potty. You would think this would put her in the category of a neat and orderly child, and for a while it did, but those teenage years hit she surprised me all over again.

Years later, another one of the girls decided she would not use the potty until she got her big girl underwear. I usually let them pick a pack of underwear they like after they can use the potty. But she saw things differently, and we were having some misunderstanding as to when you receive underwear. Of course I am thinking, “When you can use the potty.” This was not what she was thinking, naturally. One day when I just didn’t think I could stand her not using the potty any more, I decided to just give her the underwear and said, “Fine, take the underwear and try not to have an accident in them.” She took them, put them on, and never had an accident in them. If only I had known that is what she really wanted, life at that moment would have been a whole lot easier!

What I learned from these different experiences is that each child is really different, even when they come from the same family! Some kids really want to use the potty, like my older daughter, and that is great and requires a little less patience. Others however, miss the potty because of aim (like my boys), or fall asleep, or just won’t stop playing with that wonderful toy and we really have to encourage them, usually after quite a few accidents. Or they might surprise you with what they are capable if you just give in and give them some underwear after you finally figure out that is all it would take. Patience is a virtue, as they always say, and nothing will test that like potty training a child!

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