Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Potty Training - What Worked For Us

Well. Potty training was much easier than I thought it would be, so I thought I would share what is working for us. We're only a month or so in, so I wouldn't say we've arrived, but I have to believe that the hardest part is over.

When my daughter, now 2 years old (26 months) was 18 months old, I thought she might be ready to start. I was concerned about confusing her, concerned about missing my "window of opportunity", and more than anything horrified at the thought of potty training. Soon after deciding I would try it, I hurt my back and scrapped the whole idea.

Looking back, she very well may have been ready - but I'm still glad we waited.

Shortly after she turned 2, she was really showing signs of readiness. Honestly, almost all of them. The only one she wasn't showing was an ability to tell me that she had to go, before wetting her pants. Kind of frustrating, but I decided it wasn't that much harder to wash multiple pairs of underpants than it was to wash cloth diapers. I also had this feeling that she wasn't going to figure out how to hold it or understand the sensations without just jumping in head first.

So that's what we did. Within a day or two, I was really questioning if the time was right. She didn't seem to be getting that she had to tell me before she went. She would wet her pants, then tell me, "poopy?" Everything is poopy to Chloe, which makes things a little confusing, and embarrassing. Especially when we're in a public restroom and Chloe yells, "Mommy poopy too?"

The joys of motherhood are endless, are they not?

Every time she would wet her pants, I would say "that's what I want you to do in the toilet!" All of this whilst sitting on the toilet doing nothing, because of course the deed had already been done...

Here is my advice to you and myself, if I ever have to do this again.

1. Do some research. Before you start. I made the mistake of winging it and then out of frustration, doing research. Mind you, I took bits of this and pieces of that and didn't use one technique exclusively, but for consistency's sake - I should have thought ahead.

2. Try what sounds good and forget the rest. Everyone has an opinion. About everything. Potty training is no different. One of my ABSOLUTE pet peeves is when people try to force their experiences onto you. I understand that you believe wholeheartedly in what worked wonders for you. However. That does not mean that what worked for you is going to work for me. Anyway.... I appreciate input, and value knowing what might work, but ultimately - every child (or person, for that matter) is different. Do your blood pressure a favor and just smile and nod.

3. Be consistent. This is one thing that you can't get around. Inconsistency will confuse and confusion will result in frustration and set backs. Ask me how I know.

4. Don't give up too easily. I am completely and utterly blown away by my daughter's ability to learn. And quickly! One day I was thinking she might not be ready and totally baffled about how to teach her something like how to know when it's time to go potty and what to do physically to make it come out, and the next day she just figured it out. Honestly, about the only thing I did was direct traffic.

5. Decide what terms you will use. Think it through. Another mistake I made. We use poop and potty. Unfortunately, I also started out calling the toilet "the potty". So I would say you have to put your poop in the potty, or you have to put your potty in the potty. Wait, what? Confusing. I know. When I realized that I had fumbled yet again, I started calling the toilet, the toilet. I think it helped and would have made a big difference if I had thought this all through from the beginning.

6. One of the best tips I received was when a friend told me that she would make her child sit on the potty for 5 minutes, and if they sat there they got a treat (I used chocolate chips, because it's what we had and again - I hadn't planned ahead.) if they sat there the full time and put something in the potty, er... toilet, then they got two treats. This made a world of difference for us.

7. Pooping. Okay, I know many would disagree with this - but the first time that she had to poop and got upset/scared, I made her stay on the toilet. I didn't know if it was the right decision, but I felt like it was. In my opinion, if we were to give in to the fear the first time, it would set the stage for a long battle. If we went through the difficult time once, then hopefully it wouldn't be extended into the next time and the next time. It worked. She was literally spitting mad, but once she finally went - she was very excited and then next couple of days, it got easier and easier. I also offered a bigger reward for pooping on the toilet. A big, delicious homemade chocolate chip cookie. Which is a huge treat, as she doesn't get stuff like that terribly often. Especially not for breakfast, but that didn't stop us one morning when she pooped bright and early! :)

8. The single best piece of advice I got was when someone told me to pray about it and ask what would work for my child. If you're the praying type, I would strongly suggest you start here. Especially where #7 was concerned, I just felt it was the right thing to do. When I did read through a couple different techniques, there were certain things I liked, and certain things I didn't like. Some of the things that were already working for me were FORBIDDEN in some techniques. Again, there is no perfect thing that works for everyone, and if you try to force your child into the wrong box, I'd be willing to bet the result will be epic failure. Ask God and then trust Him. Or if that's not your thing, skip to #9. ;)

9. Be positive. I won't lie and say I never lost my cool. A couple times it got a little ugly, but by and large, I only made a big deal of her successes.

10. I wasn't in a rush. Now obviously, I wanted it to work as fast as it could, but I think I'm most proud of myself for managing my expectations. Some techniques guarantee a time frame. That just sounded like too much to expect for me. And I'm the queen of high expectations.

11. Be prepared for accidents. Literally, and mentally. We are about a month and a half into it and Chloe has occasional accidents. I have friends who have 8 to 10 year olds that still wear pull ups at night. This is not a quick, cut and dried process.

12. Night time. Because I love sleeping, I wasn't planning on worrying about night time potty training for awhile. I didn't know if she was ready for it or not, and in the spirit of keeping my expectations low, I opted to wait on night time training. But Chloe didn't want to wait. Once she really got it, she woke up on her own and asked me to go potty. Now, I usually wake her up before I go to bed, and she is able to make it through the rest of the night. About 7 -9 hours. She does have accidents some days, but this comes in really handy for that. Chloe was always happy to lay in bed for awhile after waking up (she is still in a crib), and that is something that I have had to let go of, since potty training. She doesn't always call me to come get her when she wakes up in the morning, and leaving her in there when I hear her stirring is just asking for an extra load of laundry...

13. I could go on and on, but I'll finish up with this one. Don't feel like you HAVE to stay home until it's done. Especially in light of #11. There will be accidents, so just make sure you're prepared. Some techniques recommend that you THROW AWAY your diapers when you're serious about potty training. I get that some people might need that extra push in order to follow through, but all I needed to do was post it on facebook to make me stick with it. I have hundreds of dollars worth of cloth diapers that I'm not getting rid of, so that wasn't an option for me anyway. We worked on potty training when we were home, but since I didn't plan ahead, we had some commitments that we had to keep, so until she was ready, I put her in a diaper if we had to go out. I didn't want to wash the car seat cover, so I waited awhile before taking her out in underdrawers (I hate the word panties, so I go with underdrawers.) For the first few weeks this worked really well for us, and I was confident by the time we started taking the show on the road. Lest there be a #14 after all, let me just say this: Don't forget to take the potty seat or chair or whatever you use with you. We went to a park one day and forgot the little seat that goes on top of the regular seat, and we had to come home early. Chloe is very used to that little seat, and we seriously don't leave home with out it. I feel super cool walking into the mall with a toilet seat in my bag. I mean, SUPER cool.

I really hope you find this novel helpful... It truly was much easier than I thought, though like I said here, there are plenty of things about now that make me wonder what the rush was.... If you are about to dive into potty land, I hope you have a great experience. May the force be with you!

For more helpful tips, visit We Are That Family for Works for Me Wednesday.


  1. I agree with these. I've only trained one daughter and it was exhausting but totally worth it.

  2. Okay, I've had my 2 1/2 year old son in Pull Ups since Feb, and he sits and sits and I'm lucky if he goes. Only lately is he telling me (on rare occasion) that he needs to go and we make it. I thought it would be quicker than this. I tried putting him in underwear one weekend and he just peed in them, and told me, and kept playing. Is that normal and do you keep them in underwear still? My son also calls pee "poop". "Mommy, poop!" Only he peed. Any suggestions? onereddaisy@gmail.com Thanks!

  3. great post Rachel... wish you would have done that last week... I guess I didn't really plan ahead either, Ella just kind of decided she was into it so I went with it. :) You need to write a book!

    To one Red Daisy- my Ella is 27 months and we started all of this a week ago. I used cloth diapers, so I didn't think pull ups would be a good idea since she wouldn't feel the wetness. I will say, if she does have an accident, she really doesn't seem to mind that she's wet either. I just tell her: "if you pee in your underwear/pee on Elmo (or whatever she's wearing) then we'll have to stop playing and change clothes. I don't get upset either.. I just keep repeating: "pee pee goes in the potty". Don't know if that helps or not... good luck!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I'm starting to think about beginning potty training and I'm looking for all of the helps and tips I can get.

  5. Congratulations!! You have some pretty good insights here.

    For #13, have you considered using the covers from your cloth diapers over her underwear when you go out? That worked for me! But if you've been using all-in-one or pocket diapers, you don't have separate covers. The Dappi pull-on type that we used are only 2/$6, though, so if she's still having frequent accidents they might be worth buying.

    Here are my toilet-training tips in case anyone finds them useful!