My Lessons in Potty Training

As soon as you have a child your world becomes a lot more focused on bowel movements. DSC_4713More than you would have ever guessed. You will talk poo to anyone. What color is it supposed to be? Is it too runny? He’s constipated, so what should I do? And so on. It’s just one of the many joys of parenthood that no one tells you about in advance!

It’s all fine and dandy when your kid is in diapers and you can pontificate about their poo, but wait until your child starts approaching age 2 and all of the sudden you as a parent begin to feel this weight on your shoulders about potty training.  It’s not just the internal stress parents begin to feel (and put themselves under), but the stress of schools requiring potty training by a certain age, the chatter of family members chiding you on when you are going to get started, etc. etc. etc.  ”What? You haven’t even thought about it and your child is 2?! You have missed the window, you need to get moving NOW!” This is some of what you might hear from family and friends. IGNORE them! Seriously.

I am on a million online mom groups, go to a million mom meetups and have talked potty training with moms from India, the UK and all over the US. The overwhelming consensus from those who did it “right” (in their eyes) and who did it wrong (also in their eyes) is that you HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE READY!  Did you hear me screaming that at you? Seriously, WAIT until they are ready. If you do, you have a much greater chance of saving yourself a lot of heart ache, poopy pants and tears. But as we all know, nothing is certain in parenthood!

I have only one child, and as all parents believe about their kids, I think he’s extraordinarily special. Ha. No but really, we had a really great time with potty training. I was dreading it since I had heard so many horror stories, but we ended up being shocked at the fun we had. For posterity I thought I would write out what we did in case it could help anyone else along the way.

Getting Ready for Potty Training

  • Set the scene through books/videos. Our son’s favorite was “Diapers are not forever”. He seemed to connect with the fact that the children in the book also had pets like he did.
  • Wait until your child shows signs of awareness/readiness of their urination. Kids often show signs of when they are going poop, but when they begin to tell you that they are going pee or grabbing themselves or maybe even telling you that they have a wet diaper, then your child is probably showing signs of being ready. Our son began standing up in the bathtub to watch himself pee. We would try to catch him in the act and transfer him to the toilet..but you win some and lose some, ya know. Although, this was our sign that he was aware and could anticipate when he was going to pee.
  • Take your child to the shop and let them pick out their own potty and underpants. Cian played with every single potty, flushing them, making sounds and sitting on them until i finally asked him which one he wanted to take home. He then picked the most boring (and most expensive!) plain white Baby Bjorn potty.  He also got to choose his underpants. He didn’t even know who any of the characters were, but he sensed we were excited, so he was excited and took his decision seriously.
  • Read up on your resources. We used the Queen of Potty training‘s 3 day boot camp. I didn’t follow her directions specifically, but used it more as a guide. The booklet is definitely worth a read, but she says to potty train at 22 months which I don’t agree with a blanket age such as that. Like any parenting resource, take what works for you and ignore the rest!
  • Prepare and schedule 3 days in a row at home where you can provide 100% undivided attention to your child. Also be prepared that it may take longer than 3 days, so be patient and relaxed.  Prepare meals in advance, do all your errands, etc. Our son really relished this time. We did lots of fun arts and crafts, played games and did puzzles, read books and just had fun playing together.
  • If you are going to try to go completely diaper free, make sure to stock up on sheets and waterproof mattress covers – you will need them.

Potty Training Boot Camp

Methods we used

  • Lots of positive reinforcement after each potty – loudly clapping, cheering, and dancing.
  • Our big take away learning was to always say “remember to tell mommy/daddy when you need to go potty” instead of asking him if he needed to go, because otherwise the question always results in a NO!
  • Give 100% of your attention during the 3 days training. Our son was never left alone and he LOVED all of that attention.
  • If you see your child about to go pee or if they have already started, get them to the potty as quick as possible and even if they went a bit in their pants, cheer and clap just like they went in the potty. And do this EVERY TIME they go.
  • Let your child hear you bragging about them going potty to anyone and everyone. It makes them feel special.

Day to Day rundown

Day 1 of the boot camp will probably be the hardest, it was for us. I personally felt completely deflated by the end, thinking he was never going to get it. But I kept positive for him, there were never any tears, anxiety or any negative feelings around going to the potty or even accidents. We decided to forgo nap time diapers, at least for the training to see how he would do. He wet the bed during nap on the first day, but he didn’t seem to be upset about it and we changed the sheets without any fuss.

Day 2 for us started off much the same as the first day, but by lunch time we started to turn a corner. He asked for the potty for the first time himself and from that point on he has had almost no accidents. He even slept through his nap without an accident. We still used diapers at night during training and for a few weeks after, but quit  by our sons request.

Day 3 for us was not done the traditional way. We had already planned to take him to his normal drop off class, and thought we should try to stick to his routine a little bit. If he hadn’t had done well at the end of Day 2, I would have reconsidered. We loaded him up with extra pants and informed the teachers about what was happening. We were also prepared to stay if they felt we needed to. We were super nervous about how this would go. Would he wet his pants and be embarrassed in front of the other kids? Would that set us back?  I was a nervous wreck. But when I picked him up he was wearing the same clothes and didn’t have any accidents. YAY! But he also didn’t go potty when he was there. He said he wanted go at home.

Post potty Training

Now that you have your little one potty trained, you might feel a little nervous to leave the house for too long or too often. Depending on your success, you might stick close to home for a few days, but stock up on some of these great potty accessories to ease your mind and get back out there!

  • Potette Potty has been invaluable when we are out and about. It  can be used on top of toilets or as its own toilet if there are none available.
  • PRI potty which is smaller and easy to carry in your purse if you no longer carry a diaper bag.
  • Piddle pad for the car seat
  • A change of clothes and a towel and a wet bag for the car

Perhaps our potty training experience was just random good luck, but I really believe it was because he was ready. I wasn’t, but he was. He was ready much earlier than I anticipated and I have friends’ who’s kids are ready much later than they had hoped. But you just have to be patient and follow their lead.

Don’t be scared to try it out occasionally in a stress free way and see how they react. If their interest increases or their awareness increases, then try to move to the next step, but my opinion is not to push it on them on your schedule or some other external schedule.

Good luck!

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