Episode Summary:

Today I want to chat about something that isn’t directly related to sleep, but is something that I often get asked about – potty training. However, I like to call it potty learning because it is possible to use a child led approach. I don’t like the term “training” whether we’re talking about sleep or using the bathroom because we shouldn’t have to train our kids to do anything. In my point of view, it’s cold and dehumanizing. Our children already know how to go to the bathroom, we just have to let them get comfortable with the new experience of using the toilet instead of a diaper. Just like with sleep, our kids will learn how to use the bathroom in their own unique timing (sans any developmental delays), but we have to give them the time and space to do so. Tune into this episode to learn how!


  • Knowing that motherhood doesn’t give us much time for ourselves so we have to prioritize moments for reflection
  • The beautiful reminder that everything in life, especially in motherhood, is seasonal
  • Brittni’s thoughts on the idea of “training” our kids to do something and what this means for potty training
  • The drawbacks of offering intrinsic rewards instead of letting our children do things on their own timeline or for their own wants/needs
  • What Brittni’s potty training journey looked like with Lilah and how you can infuse a gentle parenting approach
  • Potty learning on a timeline if you’re preparing for school or daycare


Read a raw, unedited transcript of this episode.

Brittni (00:02.422)

Welcome back to the Resting in Motherhood podcast. How are you today? How was your night last night? How are you feeling in motherhood? I think one of the things that’s hardest about motherhood is we don’t have time for ourselves, right? Which can lead us to kind of not tune into ourselves and see where we’re at until we’re totally burned out. So,

I hope that every time you come on and I ask you how you are, how life’s going, how motherhood is going, I wish I could hear your response, but really, I want it to just be some time for you to stop and reflect and just think about how are you doing? Are you feeling tired? Are you feeling burnt out? Is there something that you need help with? Is there something that, is there a ball that you need to drop?

So you can take some time to reflect on that either now or after the episode. And I am so sad because I have been coming on every week lately talking about how beautiful the spring weather is. And I’m looking outside at snow right now. It is 35 degrees out. I had just dropped Lila off at forest school and I was like, what the heck? Like this is not, this is not,

it. I am ready for spring all the time. I’m ready for the warm weather. But I guess that’s just a beautiful reminder of how everything is a season. Nothing’s permanent, same as motherhood. And as I was driving home from dropping her off, I always use that time to kind of like think about what I want to talk about, think about how I’m currently finding rest in motherhood. And

I asked myself, how am I finding rest in motherhood? And this week I found rest in motherhood because Lila had her first sleepover with her dad in over six months. And it was so funny because I feel like I was a fish out of water again. Like I had to like get used to it all over. Like I didn’t know what to do, right? And my parents are actually out of town. If you don’t know this Lila and I live with my parents. So it was like,

Brittni (02:22.166)

such a treat. I had the whole house to myself. And at first I was like, I don’t know, should I like go out to dinner with a friend? Should I go out to dinner with my sister? What should I do? And then I was like, this is a very rare opportunity that you’re going to have the whole house to yourself. So just like, sit on the couch and watch TV or watch a movie, go to bed early, read your book in bed. And so that’s what I did. And that really

filled my cup. But I will say I’m a perfectionist and something that I’m working on, obviously motherhood has been a really big trigger for that, a trigger for working on that. But I always have this idea of like the perfect, like every how everything should be perfectly in my ideal world. And so I was like sitting there watching TV and I was like, I feel like I should be doing this or maybe I should be doing this. And then I was like, just enjoy it. Like,

It’s perfect if you’re enjoying it. So that’s a little bit of reflection for myself of like just flowing and letting life happen. I don’t have to plan everything. It doesn’t have to be the perfect moment. Right. And I also know that my situation is unique. I know a lot of the members and my community are in a partnership. They have a spouse or a partner and you don’t just like get a night full night to yourself, but maybe you can.

Plan some time this weekend or this week to take two to three hours for yourself and go do something for yourself Highly recommend it So today I want to chat about potty learning or as mainstream society likes to call it potty training and specifically I’m going to talk about Kind of Lila’s journey and my view on potty training and all of that

because it’s something that I get asked a lot about and yeah, I just wanted to chat about it today. So first I wanna talk about this idea of training our children to do anything. We have sleep training, we have potty training, and I don’t like the term training. Obviously, if you followed along on the podcast, if you follow me on Instagram, you know how I feel about sleep training.

Brittni (04:46.838)

Don’t recommend it, I’m not a fan of it. But the same thing goes for potty training in the traditional sense. I don’t like that we’re talking about training our children to do anything. It just feels really cold and harsh, right? Like, we potty train dogs, right? Our children know how to go to the bathroom. We’re just…

helping them learn how to use the toilet instead of a diaper. But I don’t know, I just, the word training feels really harsh and almost dehumanizing. So I like the term potty learning, but I also in the traditional sense of potty training where there’s like reward charts or like you’re a big girl or you’re a big boy, you need to go in the potty or like shaming them or just making it a really stressful.

experience for them. I am not a fan. With potty, especially in our home, I see it much like sleep. It’s something that’s going to happen in a child’s own unique timing. It’s not something we have to force on them. It’s not something that we have to rush to do. It’s not something that we have to do because all the other kids their age are using the potty, right? It’s something that’s going to happen in a unique time for them.

And I truly am a firm believer that if we can give our children the time and space to do things in their own timing, it’s easier, it’s more empowering for them, and it’s just a much more beautiful experience because they did it when they were ready. And it takes a lot of the stress off of us. And I’ve seen it time and time again in other areas of Lila’s life and other areas of like friends’ kids’ lives.

Just the other day we were at school. Laila has a really close girlfriend from school and I’ve become close with the mom. And so we always like, since it’s a forest school, we’re like outside already. We’re not in like a parking lot. We’re on like a farm. So sometimes we’ll stay after school and she had her trunk open and I saw a bike in there. And I just to, for privacy purposes, I won’t say the little girl’s name. I’ll just use the first letter.

Brittni (07:10.006)

So I was like, oh, is that E’s bike? And she was like, yeah. And it didn’t have training wheels. And I was like, oh my gosh, like, is she riding without training wheels? She’s the same age as Lila, just a few months older. So she’ll be five next month, actually. And she was like, yeah, she’s been riding a bike without training wheels, like a regular bike since she was three and a half. And I was like, what? Like, how did you do that? And she’s like, I bought the bike and she wanted to try it out. And I like held onto her the first time.

And then I had to go help her brother. And all of a sudden here E comes driving towards me on her bike, no training wheels, just going on the bike. And it’s a perfect example, right? Little E was ready in that moment to do it. And she did it. And it’s funny because I’ve actually been feeling the pressure of like, gosh, Lila’s going to be five in August. Should she be riding a bike? Our little neighbor boys who are two years and a year older than Lila.

They’re riding bikes, right? And we can start to feel this pressure, but seeing little E on her bike, I was like, okay, I think we’ll get a bike and we’ll see how it goes, but I’m not gonna stress about it because Laila has proven to me time and time again that she will do things in her own time. I don’t need to rush it. Same thing with swimming. And I know I’m going on a bit of a tangent. We’re supposed to be talking about potty here, which I will get to, but I’m just, I wanna talk about the fact that…

Children truly will do things in their own time if we give them the time and space. With a caveat being if there is like a gross motor delay or something cognitive going on or a sensory need that we need to meet there, or maybe like we need to be working with an occupational therapist. If you’re seeing red flags, obviously I would seek the support of a specialist.

But in general terms, children will do things in their own time. And back to the swimming. So same thing with swimming. We did swim lessons with Lila when she was like 18 months. And I did not like how the instructor talked to Lila. It was a lot of like, good job, big girl.

Brittni (09:25.75)

kind of like some shaming going on, you know, like, oh, you can do that. I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t a good vibe for me. It wasn’t, so we stopped. So then everybody kept being like, well, are you gonna put her in swim lessons? Are you gonna put her in swim lessons? And I, it just didn’t feel right to me. So we lived in an apartment at the time last year that had a pool and we were there all the time. And then when she was with her dad, they would go. So she was at the pool a lot and we…

transitioned from like the, you know, like the swim vest that has like the life vest piece and then like the arms. So not just the floaties, but the, I don’t even know what they’re called, but I hope you know what I’m talking about. We transitioned from that to more of like just a life vest, a little Speedo life vest. And so then she transitioned from that. And then one day we were in the pool and all the other kids around her didn’t have life vests or floaties on. And she’s like, I want to take my life.

jacket off. And so I said, if you take your life jacket off, you have to swim. And that girl took the life jacket off and she swam to me, right? It wasn’t like beautiful. We still need to work on some like finessing the technique and all of that. And just a fun fact about me, I was a competitive swimmer for most of my adolescent life, actually up until my junior year of college when I hurt my junior year of high school, excuse me, when I hurt my back and I had to stop. So,

I am a swimmer at heart and it’s so funny because you’d think I would be like pushing, pushing her to swim, but I just trusted and she swims now beautifully, perfectly fine. Um, and I didn’t push it, right? It just happened in its own timing. And I promise you that’s what will happen with the potty. If you have that ability to take a child led approach. Now I do know that some schools, some daycares require that a child,

is not in diapers when they start. And sometimes you don’t have the luxury of waiting until they’re naturally ready for that to happen. And I will talk about that later on as we go through this, what to do in that situation. But if you have the time and the space to be able to take a totally child -led approach with the potty, I promise you it will happen in their own time.

Brittni (11:49.622)

And even with a deadline, we can help them use the potty in a gentle and loving way without fear or shaming or rewards. And we’ll talk about the rewards. So I don’t use good job or rewards with Lila for a few reasons. First, especially rewards is kind of…

manipulating our children, right? It’s getting them to do what we want based off of a reward. So we’re not treating them respectfully because we’re manipulating them. Think about like if your partner wanted you to do something, I guess this does kind of happen in adult relationships, but like if your partner wanted you to do something and, or you wanted your partner to do something and they were like,

I’m not gonna do it unless you do this, right? Like it just kind of puts a sour taste in your mouth. The other thing about like good job and rewards is it takes away the intrinsic drive, the intrinsic value, right? Like if you’re waiting for someone to tell you good job or you’re waiting for someone to give you a reward, you’re gonna do it for that reason instead of having this internal drive and desire to do something on your own. So then we end up with these praise junkies.

who are only doing something to get the good job or get the reward and get the praise. When really we want our children to know that they are worthy for who they are as they are, right? They don’t have to do anything special. We love them, they are inherently good because that’s who they are as a person.

The other thing it can do is create people pleasers, like I just said. So these little children are doing things just to make people happy instead of doing things because it’s actually something that they want to do. And I don’t know about you, but like, I want to raise a child, even though it’s really hard raising a spirited child. I want to raise a child who is confident in who she is, who is driven and wants to do things because she wants to do them, not because she’s being manipulated to do them. And lastly,

Brittni (14:00.502)

We often end up with kids who are like burnt out or lose their driver desire to do something just because they’re doing it to get the good job or the reward. Now, of course, like if Lila does like paints me a picture, I don’t say good job, but I’ll be like, oh my gosh, I love it. Tell me about the process. Did you have fun making it? Right. And I turn it back on her or a lot of times I’ll tell her like, how did that feel to do that yourself? You just.

went across the monkey bars by yourself. How did that feel? Instead of, good job, which I, and I just want to say, I have said it, right? It’s an, especially because a lot of us were raised being told good job. So it just slips out. But overall, if we can kind of focus on putting the attention on like, wow, you just did this. How did it feel? And I’ll tell you, it’s a really beautiful thing because then you’ll get a child who really takes.

and what they’re doing and knows what it feels like to be proud of themselves. I can’t remember specifically what Lila did the other day, but she did something and she was like, I’m proud of myself. It feels really good to be proud of myself. And what a beautiful, beautiful feeling, right? So as you’re going through the potty, if you haven’t already done potty, um…

Think about that, like, can you focus on like, wow, you just went potty, how did that feel? Was that exciting, right? Instead of like the rewards and the hyper praise, like the good jobs. Now, if you’re listening to this and this is triggering you because you did traditional potty, quote unquote training, I am not shaming you, I am not judging you. I guarantee you that if I had not fallen into the parenting world where I fell,

the gentle, respectful, attachment, responsive parenting world, I would have potty trained the traditional way. I was potty trained in the traditional way. My niece and nephew were potty trained the traditional way, right? I’m not shaming. We all do the best with the information we have at the time, right? So you did the best. If you did traditional potty training, you used what information and resources you had at the time. Same thing as somebody who’s sleep trained.

Brittni (16:17.75)

You used the information and resources that you had at the time. We’re humans, we can evolve, we can grow. So this is not to shame you if you have potty trained, it’s just to talk about our journey and an alternative to it. So I’ll dive in. I’ve taken a long time to get here today. I have a lot to say, I guess. So around 15 to 18 months, Lila started showing lots of interest in the potty.

So I ordered a potty off of Amazon and I kept it in the bathroom. And she would sit on it while I was on the toilet. And mostly she was fully clothed, but she just thought it was like really fun to sit on it while I sat on it. Some days she’d walk over to it just for fun and like sit on it and like make a game out of it. If we were gonna be around the house, I would just kind of leave her diaper off if she wanted it and see if she’d go on the potty, but she never really did. And then all of a sudden,

20 months she started wanting to actually use it so she’d sit on it and pee sometimes and Others she wouldn’t but like she would tell me I need to pee so I’d go sit her on it Like I said, sometimes she would pee sometimes she wouldn’t but I still kept her in diapers and then for about two weeks she started telling me every time she needed to go pee and Then all of a sudden she lost interest. She was over it. The novelty wore off and she had no interest in it

And I didn’t push it. I’d ask her if she wanted to go on the potty like when I was going to the potty, but I never forced it or made it a big deal.

Brittni (17:56.886)

Then at around two and a half years, so between 20 months to two and a half years of age, I never forced it. I don’t think she ever really went on the potty between that time I’d asked her, but she just had no interest. She wasn’t something that she wanted to do. And I, like I said, I didn’t push it. I just was like, okay, we’re gonna trust. It’s so funny. Cause my mom, my mom really potty trained my niece and my nephew because at the time my sister lived far away. And so…

my niece and nephew would come stay with us. Cause I still lived at home then I was in high school. My niece and nephew would come stay with us when we were like around the two year age. They’d come stay for like a week at a time. And so like each time when my niece was two and then when my nephew was two, they were like there right around that time. And my mom potty trained him right around two. So I love you mom, if you’re listening to this.

But my mom was kind of like, are you going to do it? Are you going to do it? And I just was like, I’m going to wait. She will do it when she’s ready. So then, like I said, at around two and a half years of age, she literally woke up one day and told me that she wanted to wear panties. I don’t know where, maybe she saw a little girl somewhere or something. I don’t know, but she said she wanted to wear panties. So I told her, okay, we can go buy some fun, exciting panties.

But I just want you to know that the expectation with panties is if you wear panties, you have to go potty in the potty and you need to tell me when you need to go potty in the potty. If you can’t go in the potty, then you’ll have to wear a diaper. So we went and got some really exciting panties. I think they were Minnie Mouse or Frozen panties. I can’t remember. And that was like it. She just started like, she would tell me, okay, I need to go pee.

And so we would go use the potty, but whenever it came to poop, she would tell me, I want to put a diaper on, I need to go poop. She did not want to go poop on the toilet. And so I was like, okay, fine. Again, I’m going to trust in the process. So I will help you go pee in the potty. And if you need to put a diaper on to go poop, I will put the diaper on you. And after about five days of using the panties, telling me she needed to go potty,

Brittni (20:17.91)

she never peed in a diaper again. And you know what’s crazy is she never even had an accident. The only time, and this is actually more recently, she started like tinkling a little bit in her panties and she’ll tell me, like, she’ll be busy playing and then she’ll come to me and she’ll be like, I just peed a little bit. And it’s because she gets so busy playing in her own little world that she’ll like ignore the fact that she needs to go. So then it’ll be too late, but.

That’s only recently, and like I said, I think it’s just because she’s so engrossed in her play. But like as soon as she started peeing in the potty, we never had accidents. She just always told me she needed to go pee in the potty. Now, if you have not gotten here, one key piece of advice that I can give you is keep a portable potty in your car. That way, like if you’re at a gross park or you just got out of the grocery store and they’re like, hey, I need to go potty.

You have it right in your car. You can just do it. It makes it really easy. Lila is four and a half, almost five. I guess she’s a little older than four and a half, but I still keep the potty in the back of our car because same thing, like if we’re at a girls park or like the toilets gross there, or she tells me at a really inopportune moment, like she needs to go potty. We have it in the back of the car. We drive to our cabin a lot. So like if we’re at a place where maybe there’s not somewhere to stop, I have it in the back. So that is like a

a pro parenting tip, keep the potty in the back of the car. So, started peeing in the potty, no diapers, except for every time she needed to poop, she would ask for the diaper. And again, there was a part of me that was like, she needs to go poop in the potty. And I think it really annoyed me because I’m like, of both, changing what diapers is easy. Do I really have to change a poopy diaper when you’re using the potty? But.

I trusted in the process, I let it go. And then I would say around 34 -ish months, she really started hating having the poopy diaper changed. Like she didn’t wanna lay down. So she would tell me that she wanted to poop in a diaper, I would put it on, and then she would like keep the diaper on because she didn’t want to sit still to have the diaper changed. So she told me like, I don’t wanna change my diaper. So I told her.

Brittni (22:39.51)

You have, we have to change a poopy diaper. You could get a rash. But I told her if you poop in the toilet, you won’t have to lay down for a diaper change. Wiping you will be a lot easier. It’ll make life easier. And she was still really hesitant. And I don’t know where this fear of pooping on the toilet came from. I don’t know if it just felt uncomfortable, if it felt weird, but she was really hesitant. And so I just kept telling her.

If you don’t like staying still for diaper changes, if you do the potty, it will take that problem away. So finally one day she comes to me and tells me she needs to go poop on the potty. And she went poop on the potty. And from that moment on, she was using the potty. And I would say that was around 34, 35 -ish months when we were like fully out of diapers, meaning I wasn’t putting a diaper back on to go poop. Now.

We kept the overnight diapers. And I think that this was more, I’m gonna be honest, this was probably more of like a lazy, me being lazy because I didn’t want to have to. And granted, let me say here, this is from a mom of a child who woke hourly for the first 12 to 15 months of her life, okay? And then stretches gradually started getting longer. If you haven’t listened to the episode and you are curious, I do have our sleep journey.

that I’ve talked about on the podcast, which will be linked below this episode if you want to check it out. But we finally, at two and a half years of age, she started sleeping through the night. So this is pretty new at that point still. And so I was like, I don’t want her to have to like wake up, go potty, then come, like then we have to get back in the bed and I have to help her get, help her back to sleep. So I just decided to opt for keeping the diapers at night.

And another part of that was we were like weaning. Actually, when we were weaning, it kind of coincided when she wanted to stop using diapers or wanted to pee in the potty. And that was another thing for me is like, I wasn’t going to take off overnight diapers until she was fully night weaned because I didn’t want to, I mean, that made no sense. If she’s gonna be drinking throughout the night, I wanted her to have a diaper on or else she would be getting up and going pee a lot.

Brittni (25:03.67)

And even after we night weaned, we kept the bedtime feed until she was about three. So right after this age as well. But I kept the overnight diapers just because I didn’t want her to have to wake up and tell me and do the whole thing. So how we transitioned out of overnight diapers was actually an accident. At the time we weren’t living with my parents, but we came over to stay the night. I can’t remember why we came over to stay the night because we live like.

15 minutes away, or we lived 15 minutes away. But we came over maybe just to have a sleepover. So we came to stay the night and I forgot to pack an overnight diaper. And I was like, okay, well, this is it. So I made sure we went potty before bed and she slept through the night fine without the diaper. And we never looked back. And again, it’s so interesting because we’ve only had…

two or three, I can’t remember specifically, but I know it’s not more than three, two or three accidents at night. And they’ve been because I have forgotten to prompt her to go potty before bed. So like, I don’t know on a night where we were like, we’re kind of rushing through the bedtime routine, I forgot to have her go potty, or I don’t remember, or one time when she was sick, it happened, but we’ve only had two or three accidents at night. Other than that, no accidents.

It was easy. I wasn’t forcing it. It didn’t feel like I was fighting her. I just trusted in the process.

So that is Lila’s potty journey. And if you’d like to take a completely child -led approach to potty, it really is quite simple. You can keep a potty around as well as start talking to your little one about panties or underwear, or you can even wait for them to show interest. But if you’re kind of like, I want to get this ball rolling, it’s okay to start bringing a potty around, talking about panties or underwear, asking them if they want to go choose some underwear that they like.

Brittni (27:07.35)

You can talk to your little one about the potty. Again, if they express interest, you can provide opportunities for them to sit on the potty, dressed or not dressed, and then just tell them, you can tell me if you need to go potty. We want these to be pressure -free interactions. So your child will move at their own pace. Some days they may want to use underwear or use the potty.

Other days they may prefer using diapers and that’s okay. You really wanna trust in the process. If they are using underwear but they don’t tell you they need to use the potty and then they keep having accidents, I would say something like, using underwear means that you need to tell me if you need to use the toilet. I’m going to put a diaper back on you but you can still tell me if you need to use the potty. So this just kind of creates the expectation that if we’re going to use underwear, we really do need to be using the potty.

If you can’t tell me that you’re ready to use the potty yet or that you need to use the potty, we’ll be using diapers. But again, if you’re wearing a diaper and you feel the need to go potty, please tell me and I will take it off. We will go sit on the potty and then we can put panties on again and try again or underwear. I’m saying panties, right? Because I’m a girl mom and so I say panties with her, but underwear or panties.

So this will again help them learn that the underwear does require them to tune into their body and communicate with you. Or as they get older, they can just go to the potty without telling you.

And if you’d like to choose a more gentle approach, but you are on a timeline for school or whatever the case may be, again, you can still do it without manipulation. So for example, we shouldn’t be saying things like, if you’re a big girl or boy, you’ll use the potty or rewards like, if you go potty, I’ll give you this. While rewards may seem like a good practice, again, they take that intrinsic value out of doing something.

Brittni (29:07.158)

So again, they’ll start doing it because we want them to do it, but not because they want to, which can then end up actually leading to them maybe starting to use the potty. But then once the novelty wears off, once we stop giving those rewards, then they’ll revert back to not wanting to use the potty. So instead of a reward chart or a sticker book, again, you can ask them how they felt going to the bathroom in the toilet. Like, oh my gosh, you listened to your body and told me that you needed to use the potty.

How did that feel? Or maybe talk about like, doesn’t it feel so nice to not have a wet diaper up against your skin or a poopy diaper? Again, you can include them in picking out their underwear so that they are excited about them. The most important part of this process will be making the potty feel like a safe space. And if you have been around for a while and you like follow me on Instagram, I talk about making sleep a safe space, right?

This is the same thing. We want the potty to feel safe. We don’t want it to feel like something we’re stressing them out about. We don’t want it to feel like something that is becoming a burden. We want it to feel very easy and light and exciting. So if you do have a timeline, I would say start having conversations with your little one about, okay, we’re going to start using the potty because you’re going to be going to…

school and you have to use the potty there because they don’t have time to change diapers. There’s too many kids, right? Get logical with them. Children are beautiful communicators, especially with our toddlers, right? We have that skill of communication that we can use with them. So start talking to them about it. Get some really fun and exciting underwear. You could even have like a post.

potty dance party, right? Again, that’s not a reward. It’s just like, woohoo, you did it. Did that feel great? Let’s go dance. Just making it exciting for them and then not shaming them when they did have an accident. So maybe you could say like, hey, you had an accident. Did you feel the need to go potty before that? And they might say, yes. Okay, well, next time you feel that you need to go, come to me before it happens and we can go on the potty. So not shaming them, making it a big deal.

Brittni (31:26.582)

Another thing that I will say that I know some families do is just kind of like staying around the house and going diaper free for like three to four days, which can be helpful. You have to be ready to clean up messes, but a lot of children don’t like the sensation of like pee running down their legs. So they’ll very quickly start telling you like, yes, I need to go potty. Another thing that you could do is just start putting a timer on your phone. So like maybe every hour.

checking in, hey, do you need to go use the potty? Maybe you even go like have a potty party where you sit on the potty for five minutes. So there are absolutely ways if you don’t have the time to kind of wait for your little one to do this in their own timing, there are ways that you can do this in a way that still honors them and respects them and does allow it to happen in a more gentle and natural way. So I hope this was helpful for you.

Again, if you did potty train, I am not shaming or judging you. We all do the best with the information that we have at the time. If you are in the thick of potty learning or using the potty, I am sending you lots of love. I hope you have a beautiful day and I will see you next week.

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