I’m currently in potty training mode with my littlest one, who is 23 months old, and it’s occurred to me that with all the time we are spending at home together, there could not be a more ideal situation for the endeavor. If you’ve got a kid who is around the same age and have been wondering if you should go for it, my advice is YES.
That said, I’m not a true authority on the subject. There are more than 1,000 results for potty training books on Amazon. The only ones I’ve read are under 100 words each and feature Elmo or cartoon babies as the “expert.”
But still I’ve had really positive and quick results with potty training both of my kids, and I thought I had might as well share my tips here in case it might make things easier for someone else.
When my first baby began demanding, in full sentences, that I change her diaper each time she squeezed out a drop of pee into a diaper (at around two years old), I deduced that she was ready to use the potty. So I Googled “potty training” and I ran across a one-sheeter on a two-day potty training method. Prior to this, I had assumed that potty training was a stage that lasted several months at least. For my personality, a fast-tracked approach sounded ideal. So I took all of five minutes to read the blog.
The gist was that, with this method, you are done with diapers on day one. (You’ll keep them for naps and bedtime, but metaphorically, diapers are over.) That idea made me suck in my breath — it seemed radical and maybe even a little sad — but still very interesting. So I read on.
The other thing I understood right away is that if you want it to stick, you have to fully commit a couple of days to helping your kid practice this new way of going to the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but for our family that’s not as hard to do in the coronavirus era as it was in our old lives, where outings were a lot more frequent. Again, if you’re staying home with your kids a lot these days (as many are), it’s an ideal time for this quick potty training method.
If you’re considering potty training now but are feeling guilty about “forcing” your kid to change a behavior they have known since birth, I get it. I offer you this quote from Meg Collins, a writer on the Lucie’s List parenting website, which helped me if ever I was in doubt:
“After reading the literature and doing my research, I am convinced that earlier(ish) is better (i.e., before 2.5 or 3), that waiting for your child to volunteer for the task might not even happen, and that potty training is, in fact, a great gift to your child.”
This quote, along with the fact that I’d save our family $568 and spare the planet 2,184 diapers that will each take 500 years to decompose if I potty trained at 2 rather than 3 years old, were enough to convince me to help my babies power through this exciting transformation with enthusiasm.
The essential items for this quick potty training method are 1) a potty and 2) cute underwear. Read the original post for the details and other optional items to consider.
Tip 1: Strike While the Iron is Hot
With my daughter, we brought home a potty when she was 16 months old and she was thrilled. She immediately sat on it and used it properly several times a day. I was jazzed, but figured she was too young to train. We kept the potty out but didn’t put any real effort into potty training until she was two. By that time, she was already bored of the potty much more resistant to it than she was when we first introduced it.
I’m not saying we should have gone whole hog at 16 months, but many sources say you can start as young as 18 months, and maybe we would have had an easier go if we had gone that route, while the idea was still novel and exciting to her.
Recently, my son started asking to read his potty books over and over. He began climbing out of the pool to pee in the grass, showing control over his bodily functions. And he happily sat on the pot to make pee pee numerous times. This time I decided to act fast and start helping him learn right away, while his enthusiasm was high, and I’m really glad I did because it’s been a very smooth ride so far.
Tip 2: Don’t Rush the Undies
As dictated by the two day potty training method, we had our babies go naked from the waist down for the first day, putting them on the potty every 20 minutes or so and encouraging them to squeeze something out.
In both cases, the first day went so well that I got carried away by the success and rushed straight to rewarding them with adorable character underwear on day two. Although the undies were very exciting (more to me than to my kids, I’m pretty sure), putting them on immediately prompted my kids to poop and pee in them. Why? They felt too much like diapers.
The feeling of a naked hiney was so different, my kids found it much easier to remember that they were going pee pee and poopy in a new place. So keeping the undies in their dresser drawer for longer and going commando for a few more days helped them get more used to the new procedure before introducing the new variable of underwear. As the two-day method suggests, it is easier for your kid to wear pants with no underwear while he or she is potty training because the feeling will be less similar to diapers than underwear is. So, if you can delay the gratification (for yourself) of introducing those fun new undies until your child has been successfully going in the potty for a few days, you will have less confusion (and less dirty laundry).
Tip 3: Don’t Ask if He Needs to Go
It’s so tempting to ask your child if he or she has to go potty. It can feel kind of rude to just sit him or her down on the seat. But I’ve tried it both ways, and it is certainly better to simply guide the child over to the chair and sit him down. If you ask, the answer will be “no,” almost every time. So to avoid being annoying and ending up in arguments about whether or not to try the potty, don’t talk about it and just make sitting him or her down on the potty part of the new routine.
Tying into the last tip, going naked longer will also allow your little one to eventually go to the potty seat on his own, without requiring him to pull his pants down on his own, which he may or may not be physically capable of doing yet. The fewer barriers, the better.
Tip 4: Try a Different Reward
For my kids, rewards were a really effective way to encourage them to keep going with their new behavior. As suggested in the 2-day potty plan, I went straight to M&Ms with my daughter. I’m a huge advocate for healthy eating, so it wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but praise and stickers were not cutting it, since, as I mentioned earlier, she’d already tired of the potty before we began.
It totally worked, but we had a heck of a time weaning her off the sweet treats, even months after she had mastered her “movements” and shed both nap and nighttime diapers.
So with my son, I tried something different. As inspired by a blog on toddler toothbrushing by Rachel Coley, pediatric occupational therapist and creator of CanDo Kiddo, I came up with a goofy song and dance to perform after every successful potty.
“You did it, you did it, you did it today! You did it, you did it, in a very special way! You did it, you did it, you did it TODAY!”
We sing this loudly while jumping and parading across the house, and yes it sometimes gives me and my husband a headache, but my son absolutely loves it and it’s sugar-free.
Like I said, treats work for some, stickers are also often effective, but if you can get away with a reward that’s free and non-cavity-forming, I suggest giving it a try.
Tip 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Leave the House
I have known parents who put a pull-up on their kid to go on a walk, out to the library, etc., even when the child has been consistently using the potty at home. I know the idea that he could poop his pants by the Eric Carle shelf may be mortifying, but I really believe that putting a diaper on a kid who is doing well with potty training is confusing and can undermine his or her blooming confidence.
I suggest instead having him/her use the potty right before leaving the house and soon after arriving at the destination, assuming there is a potty there. If it’s an outdoor destination, I wouldn’t hesitate to have her go in the grass or in a portable potty. If any onlooker has a problem with that, I say tell ’em where they can shove it, because guess what? You and your kid are doing an amazing job, and this sh*t ain’t easy.
A co-worker once said to me she thought delaying potty training as long as possible was the best way to go. That way, she wouldn’t have to pull over to the side of the road every time her kid had to piddle.
That’s not my outlook, and maybe my kids are just odd-balls with huge bladders, but this problem has really not arisen for me at all. Potty training on the early side has been beneficial to my kids (they’ve become more self-sufficient, self-confident and self-aware), to our family (less money spent on diapers; no more dealing with yucky public changing tables) and to the planet (less waste).
That said, there are all sorts of outlooks on potty training, and it’s a personal decision that has to fit your lifestyle. If you’re already juggling a million things in this taxing time period, you may not want to add another ball to the rotation, and that’s totally understandable.
As numerous wise people have reminded me on both our potty training journeys, all kids eventually get there, one way or another.