A little boy sitting on a potty in the bathroom, excitedly reading a storybook

Potty Training 101: Tips from a First-Time Dad

When it comes to first milestones and the uncharted waters of child rearing, parents often find themselves asking, “Am I qualified to do this?” The question is usually asked with a smile, or maybe even a nervous laugh, but it isn’t always a simple rhetorical question. I know for me, there have been numerous instances since becoming a dad where it’s been a very real question of aptitude and experience, and my answer has often been “no.” No, I don’t know how to hold a newborn baby. No, I have never changed a diaper! Yet the nurse still handed my infant son right over and waved hopefully as we pulled out of the hospital parking lot.

Now the question is, “Am I qualified to potty train my son?” Potty training a child is one of the areas that I had little-to-no experience with before taking it on. At first, I worried about my ability to teach my son this very important skill. Then it occurred to me that, if someone who has 30+ years of experience going potty isn’t qualified to teach potty skills, who is? 

Despite this empowering realization, it is one thing to be a subject matter expert and quite another to teach another person, much less a toddler. But taking on new challenges is what parenthood is all about. I’m growing every day, learning intellectually that, yes, a plan might be good to have, but not having one doesn’t mean I’m not up for the job. It just means I have to improvise.

I keep reminding myself to just go with it, to simply feel my way through as I hoist Bennett up on the big-person potty. And if Bennett chooses to go in his little plastic potty instead, I just hold my breath and think about how great it will feel when he is finally potty trained and the only thing I have to worry about is finding the nearest bathroom.

I realize this won’t be tomorrow or even six months from now. It’s important to have realistic expectations when it comes to the time and effort it will take to potty train your child. Potty training, like parenthood itself, is about mindset. For the father who’s teaching his son to use the potty at home and the world over, it’s about patience. For the son who’s learning how to navigate through the world without lugging a spare change of clothes with him, it’s about self-awareness.

For you readers who prefer the practical to the philosophical, my advice is this: get the timing and placement down and the rest will take care of itself. We’ve found Daniel Tiger (of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood fame) and his catchy little ditty about potty time helpful: “When you have to go potty, STOP… and go right away. Flush, wash… and be on your way!” Click on the video to hear the song performed in its entirety; you’ll be singing your way in and out of the washroom in no time!

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About the Author

Brad Miller majored in English and religious studies at the University of Richmond, where he developed a penchant for books, ideas and a love of learning. He leads online account management initiatives in the e-commerce division of a Fortune 100 company. When he's not otherwise occupied being a Primrose dad to Bennett and Campbell, he enjoys going to concerts with his wife Kim, visiting out-of-the-way barbecue joints, investigating the best deals online and obsessing over Tennessee football.