Potty training is a big step toward our babies becoming more independent and us accepting we are not in control of our babies.
We get to control our reactions to what happens, but not what happens. Reminding ourselves to choose love amidst the many emotions we will experience during potty training is the best way to stay calm. Here is what worked for me.
Notice the potty-ready signs
Somewhere between the ages of 2 and 3 you may start to notice signs that they are getting ready. I think 2 1/2 is a magic number. Here are some of the signs:
- Waking up dry in the morning or after nap
- Interest in potty when mom/dad or brother/sister is going
- Going to a special or quiet place to they fill their diaper
- Able to tell you right after or as they are going potty in their diaper
- Going at consistent times during the day
If you notice a couple of these signs, start bringing up the idea of potty with them. Ask them to sit on the potty at the times they typically go. Right before bath and in the morning when they wake up are times that worked for us. See if they are interested. When they are filling their diaper, say “you are going potty right now, aren’t you.” We have to bring consciousness to something that they have done unconsciously.
The signs are there and you are ready to start training
When you are ready to start, below are a few tips to consider. Remember the process is unique for every child. I set out to do the same things for my second as I did my first and it didn’t work. You may find some of these ideas helpful as you figure out the method that works for you and your child. I’m not an expert just a mom.
Potty Training Ingredients
- Little potty (Some people get by without one. I like one because I know they can comfortably get on it and go if I’m not around and it can be mobile if needed. I haven’t had trouble transitioning to big potty from the little one.)
- Cleaning supply and towels. (you’ll want these handy with the spray so you can quickly clean up accidents – especially when you have a little crawler around like we did).
- Multiple spare pants/shirts to have ready in the bathroom (you’ll go through many those first couple days).
- Fresh pairs of undies (preferably some pairs that they helped pick out that they are excited about).
- Bucket to put soiled clothes/cloths in (mentally prepare for extra loads of laundry).
- Positive attitude (you have to keep it light and fun. The moment it becomes negative, they shut down a bit and it gets harder for everyone. Stay as positive as you can even though you may get really frustrated at times. , they will feel your energy. If you need to vent, go into another room, away from your child and let out a scream. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Whatever you need to do. Just try not to let your anger out at your child. They are learning and they want to succeed but it’s hard for them).
- Persistence (Children thrive on routine and habits. Keep it consistent, and keep at it).
- Patience (This will be tested more than anything, you need patience for getting through many accidents and sitting with them in the bathroom as they are trying to go potty and learning about false and true signals that its time to go potty).
- Calm attitde. When you are calm, the children have a better shot of being calm too.
Set aside a few days when you are mostly at home.
Talk with her about it in advance so they know its ‘potty day’ tomorrow. Make it feel exciting. In the first couple days, it’s all about catching their signals and getting them on the potty right as they are about to go. So keep them contained and near you.]\\ Setting a timer and sitting them on the potty proactively every 20-30 minutes may work. It is a good reminder for you and them. But there will be times when they were just sitting on the potty forever, and literally seconds later they get off and go in their pants. Queue that “vent your frustration away from your child” note from above.
Be ready to rush them into the potty the moment there are signs
That is why you need to be at home and have them right by you as much as possible. It never fails, the moment you step away to make lunch, they will go. So keep them in the kitchen as you are preparing the meals. Upstairs with you when you are putting your baby down for a nap. You want them near you. If they start to go, you want to get them on the potty seat. They may or may not say ‘potty’ as its dripping down- that’s why you have to catch it. Getting even the last few seconds of pee into the potty is a win in those first couple days.
You may even want to keep the seat in the room with you. Bring it into the playroom so its closer than running them to the bathroom. Some families like to keep the children naked. I personally like keeping their clothes on. For two reasons, its possible when they are naked to just go and you don’t realize it until later when you see drops on the floor. Ick! Not fun especially when you have a little crawling baby who beelines for every disgusting thing that is in her reach. Secondly, when they are naked they don’t feel the discomfort of it in their pants. Try both ways and see what works for your child and for you.
There are many different internal blocks that can get in the way
For my son, our biggest obstacle was the fear of the potty itself. It was a struggle to get him to sit on the potty. We tried everything even giving him the iPad on there-but I would not recommend that technique. It just turned into a negative for us so we stopped that before it git bad. It took him a while to get that first pee on the potty. But once he did, it was smooth and that was when we turned the corner.
For Lucy, our biggest obstacle was getting her to stop play and go potty. She went on the potty right away but it took her a lot longer to get consistent. She was younger when she started but was showing the signs so we gave it a go. The process has taken longer but she is almost 2 1/2 and close to being trained. We made up a song that seemed to help her. “Listen to your body, when you feel potty, STOP play, and go right away.” Daniel Tiger has a catchy song too that uses that “stop and go right away” thing as well as a “flush and wash and be on your way” number that works well when you are at a point when they are actually going and you just have to work on the washing and flushing thing. Ahh, to get to that point is golden. Until then though…
A win is to have them go on the potty once or twice
Believe me, you will be even more excited than they are when they do that first pee in the potty. After a day full of accidents, hearing that tinkle tinkle in that little plastic potty will be the best sound you ever heard. Make it exciting for everyone. Do a Potty Dance, sing a song …“Peepee in the potty, peepee in the pot.” Give them a sticker or an M&M or a fruit snack. Whatever works. We did M&Ms as a reward. I thought we would be stuck giving him M&Ms after potty forever. But once he was trained after a few weeks, it was forgotten. But the little reward definitely helped him. You want to positively reinforce and make it special.
Head out for small outings
It wasn’t realistic for us to stay home for three straight days. So when we needed to get out, I put them in either a cloth diaper or pull-up. I’m not a huge fan of pull ups because to me they are like a diaper and they don’t really mind the feeling of a soiled pull-up. But they are convenient, so we’ll use them when we are out. Or if you want to do undies go for it. Just be prepared with change of clothes. I would ask them often if they need to go potty and proactively go to the potty wherever we went. To Grandma’s or a friend’s house might be more comfortable than a public potty. But just try it out and see. I will often say, “let’s go check out their potty. I wonder what color it is. What do you think…” Making it their choice verses forcing them in always works better – its just not always easy to get them to make that choice. A couple small trips our in those first few days is a good thing for them and you.
Keep at it for a few days
You have to keep at it, watching their signals and getting them into the potty proactively those first few days. It’s hard. After a few days, you may find you have turned a corner. Where they are actually going potty when you bring them in. Maybe they are even telling you they have to go. How long this takes will vary from child to child. And oftentimes going #2 take a lot longer. Try to be patient and keep at it.
If its still not working, take a break and try again in a month
If you have done this training with them, teaching them about the signs their body gives them and getting them on the potty at those critical times, and they are still having regular accidents or its a struggle to even get them on, then just take take a break and try again in a few weeks or a month. During our breaks, I leave the potties out and if they want to go, I certainly encourage it but I don’t force it. I put them in diapers and just let it go for a while. You may find they ask about it again and show an interest. Then you could try again. It won’t be time lost, they will remember what they learned.
They will turn the corner eventually
Suddenly its like a switch turns on and it just starts working. I do believe you can do all the training and if they haven’t made the choice to do it, they will continue to fight it. Another thing we did when they turn that corner and went a couple full days with no accidents, I reward them with something special. We walked to the toy store and I let him pick one thing. I told him we would have to put it away if we started having accidents again. That really worked. I never had to put it away because after those first few days, he learned and made the internal switch.
Try to remember its ultimately up to your child and they are trying a big new scary thing
Take comfort in knowing there will come a time when every child figures it out. It may not be the time you want it to happen. The worst thing we can do is feel anger or resentment. They will feel that negativity and it just prolongs the process. They do want to succeed and it hurts them to see us disappointed whether they show it or not. It’s better to feel sadness and disappointment than anger toward them.
We are learning as much as they are
As they are learning their new skill, we are learning to be more patient and loving and accepting. It is hard to choose love when you have seen more poop and pee in places other than the potty than you thought was possible. Try to remember that they feel what we are feeling whether we let it out or not. Try to choose love as best you can knowing that they are learning how to act and treat others by the way they are treated. If we want to raise happy kind people, that is who we have to be – in even the poopiest of times.