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Surrender & Adventures in Potty Training

Well, I’m sorry for the use of the word “potty” in the title, but when you have a 2 1/2 year old in the house, “potty talk” is all the rage. My little girl, Annabella, just graduated to the big leagues: she’s out of diapers and into her brand-new “big girl” underwear and I cannot tell you the sheer relief I feel.

This process ranks right up there as one of the most challenging scenarios I’ve faced as a parent. My hubbie, Rob (the most talented and cutest man I know), and I spent many late nights lying in bed talking, trying to fend off total panic as to how to do this process “right.”

And I learned so much about myself, about my Inner Mean Girl and her Big Fat Lies, and about surrender.

Let me elaborate…

We have no control over anyone else. Really. Let me repeat with feeling: we don’t get to control anyone else. And for me, becoming a parent has been SO humbling – I kept thinking I could somehow control Annabella’s sleeping through the night, eating all her vegetables, and yes, doing #1 and #2 in the potty. My Inner Mean Girl kept saying things to me like:

If you just read the right book, said the right thing, used the right philosophy, all this would be sooo easy.

You’re doing it wrong.

You’re going to really screw her up this time.

You’re a horrible mom.

Ouch. The good news is that I keep using my Three Step Process to get out of the spin and tap into my Inner Wisdom’s Truth:

You’re doing the best you can.

This too shall pass.

Annabella is happy and thriving. (See picture for proof!)

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My proud, happy daughter showing off a recent drawing!

My proud, happy daughter showing off a recent drawing!

Ahhhhh…that’s better.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe we influence, inspire and persuade people all the time. Throw in a good dose of leadership and we have some amazing power to help people “see the light.” But when it comes to potty training, I finally realized that the BEST thing I could do was surrender.  Surrendering the illusion of control meant that I could still teach, support, take advantage of “teachable moments” and set a good example, but it also meant handing over the ultimate control of the process to my smart, capable, amazing daughter (and The Universe) and telling her to go for it.

In other words, I had to get my own resistance to change, my own fears and anxieties and even my hopes out of the way and let go.

I literally said to Annabella, “Sweetie, I love you and am so proud of you. I know you’re going to get through this and use the potty every time. I trust you.”So there you have it. Surrender = potty trained 2 year old smiling and owning her accomplishment.

Now I keep investigating: where else can I surrender?

How can I simply release and let go of it all?

I can think of three projects I’m working on right now that could use a little surrender.

How about YOU?

( Please leave me your thoughts in the comments below!)



  1. Jen says:

    I can sooo relate to the potty training thing. Alison ran through Target, mad dash to the bathroom…I gotta go poooop momma. MOMMA! I have to pooop. She was singing and dancing about it. She, too is now potty trained.
    I agree…so many opinions on what to do, how to do it. Not too early in life, not too late in life.
    Release and let go…she made many people laugh that day. So instead of “sushing” her, I let her continue on.
    Thanks for the inspiration…your articles make me go, Hmmm…what can I do to better myself, my life?
    Hugs to you

  2. Jan Carley says:

    Love this post Amy! It is so clear that we, as parents, need to learn to consistently release, surrender and trust. Believe me though, it is hard to do that even when your child reaches 22!
    What on earth ever made us believe that we know what the answers are for others? It’s easy, as a coach, to believe that my clients are brilliant and know their best answers for themselves. For some reason though, when there is something in it for me in terms of how a loved one acts (for you, clean diapers and no messes), I often have a very difficult time remaining agenda-free.
    Its an excellent reminder to myself and I am going to put a post-it saying “Trust and surrender” on my computer right now!

  3. Cathy says:

    Hi Amy:

    What a great article and lesson in humility and surrendering. You always write such inspiration and a chance for us to take time to smell the roses.

    I do not have children of my own and honor what it takes to be a great parent! Thank you for sharing you and allowing us to share in your joys and triumphs over the inner mean girl. When she takes hold her grip can feel hard to penetrate. If we could each take a moment daily to honor ourselves as the precious men and women that we are, doing the best we can, life can be that much sweeter each day!

    Cheers to you and toasting all the men and women in the world who are making a difference each day to bring greater peace and understanding of each other!

  4. Luanne says:

    One of the best tools that helped us with the potty training was the magic hand trick. Sit them on the potty, dunk their hand in warm water and voila! – they pee! Kids love it! 🙂 The biggest problem with potty training is parents getting all uptight about it, comparing their kid to other kids or some sort of timeline. It’s much better to realize that all kids are different, they will all get it eventually, to not make a big deal with mess ups, and like you said – encourage them and then surrender it to them and trust that they will catch on when the time is right!

  5. Amy Ahlers says:

    Thank you so much for your amazing comments.

    May we all surrender and trust that the universe is conspiring in our favor.


  6. Pamm says:

    It’s amazing how “easy” potty training gets with subsesquent siblings. One has to wonder who, in fact, needs the training, yes? 😉

  7. diane says:

    I need to use that same idea of surrender while driving with my 15 year old. This too shall pass, right?

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