If you’re like me, when starting to think about potty training your first baby, you’ll read tons of blogs, look through so many parenting forums, and scope out pinterest for all the tips and tricks you can find hoping that some of them might make the experience easier. I’ve come to realize now on the “other side” of this little adventure that this, like many things when it comes to parenting, just has to be approached with a positive attitude, willingness to learn and change as you go, and lots of grace – both for your little one and for yourself.
The first time I tried to potty train Landon, it was a giant flop. First of all, he wasn’t ready and if your babe isn’t ready, you might as well not even attempt it. Ah, the things we see in retrospect, am I right? And secondly, our whole family came down with a terrible stomach bug on day three and you can not potty train when you’re throwing up and feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck. Just take my word for it, y’all.
So, I waited until I felt sure that he was ready and that made all the difference in the world. Now, take all of this with a grain of salt because what worked for us might not work for you and please, know that this is intended to encourage and inform, nothing more.
The first time I attempted to potty train Landon, I made a lot of mistakes that I was able to learn from when we tried again a few months later. First of all, I was trying to stick to a rigid routine and I should have known that Landon wouldn’t respond well to that (but like I said, your child might). I let him run around naked all day which I hoped would make him more aware and help him “listen to his body,” but it really just resulted in lots of yellow puddles in my floor. I also set a timer that sounded like a duck quacking every 15 minutes, which we called the “potty duck.” The plan was for him to have to go sit on the potty and “try” to go every time the timer went off, and I was going to increase it by five minutes every day. Instead of getting excited about the duck noise, he started screaming and crying every time he heard it saying, “turn it off mommy! I don’t want to go potty!”
By the end of the first day, we had both shed too many tears and I was beginning to realize that if it’s that hard and they’re resisting it that much, they aren’t ready.
The second go round, which was right at his third birthday, I just started telling him (about a week or two before) that three year olds don’t wear diapers during the day – only at bedtime, and getting him used to the idea that turning three was going to bring about some big boy changes. He seemed to understand the idea and kind of develop and acceptance of it, so I was hopeful that our next attempt would be successful.
The first time, I didn’t know whether to have him sit or stand to go pee pee, and if he did sit, I didn’t know whether to have him face forward or backwards. We got a potty seat that fits onto the toilet seat, which he didn’t end up loving. He tried every way you can think of, and ultimately, he was most comfortable standing- which I think is the best way to teach boys so that you don’t have to re-teach later.
Landon is fully potty trained (both pee pee and number two) now (after three full months). He does currently still wear a pull up to sleep. It took him about three weeks after we started on his third birthday to be fully pee pee trained and the number two success happened about two months later. We both had to learn and be willing to change and give lots of grace, and I’ve put together this list of things that I hope will be helpful for you as you begin thinking about potty training your own kiddo:
- Talk it up big time beforehand, read books, and watch videos, Daniel Tiger episodes, etc.
- Do it in the summer
- Have low expectations at first and give lots of grace
- Don’t make them feel pressure but make it clear that a change is expected
- Focus more on the successes than the accidents
- Reward successes with a small treat; praise verbally the “tries”
- Remember that you know your child and what will work best for him/her (sticker charts are great for some folks, not so much for others)
- Stay consistent
- Don’t get discouraged if you slack off for a few days (vacation, busy schedule, etc)- just talk about it with your child and explain that you’re going to “get back to it”
- Keep at least one if not several changes of clothes with you
- Once they start wearing underwear, they wear underwear all the time – so even if they still wear diapers or a pull up at bedtime and naps, they still wear a pair of underwear over top – this way they are constantly reminded of it
- Ask frequently if they need to use the potty
- Make it a rule that they have to sit on the potty before leaving the house
For Landon, going number two in the potty was really scary. He had lots of accidents and our rule was that if he went in his underwear, they got thrown away. That made him really sad because he loved his Spiderman and Toy Story underwear, so it was a good incentive for him to be more careful. He started going in his diaper after nap and we just kept talking to him about it, and every time he had a pee pee or a number two accident, we always asked, “where should pee pee (or number two) go?” to which he’d say, “in the potty!”
When he finally did go number two in the potty, it was like it just clicked with him. It was like he thought he couldn’t do it and then when he realized he could, he was so excited and not scared any more. We gave him a prize the first time he went (Woody and Buzz pez candy dispensers) and then he got another prize (a fun new electric toothbrush) when he went an entire week with no number two accidents. Small, obtainable goals work really well with toddlers and when they know that a prize awaits them if they continue good behavior, it often gives them that extra push they need towards the goal.
It can be really hard to start something and have to quit because you realize it’s not the right time. It can be really frustrating when it feels like you’ve tried everything and it’s just not working. It can be easy to lose your cool and get mad and forget that they’re just babies and it can be tempting to feel like a failure when it seems like they’re just never going to catch on. But, take my word for it – they’ll get it eventually. They aren’t going to go to college in diapers. And there’s no textbook answer for when it’s the right time and there’s no amount of advice from other moms that can give you the perfect formula for how to potty train your child. So, don’t get sucked into the “how I potty trained my child in three days” articles – just do what’s best for your baby because there’s no one exactly like them and no one knows them better than you.