There are so many different methods on potty training out there.
Trust me, I read them all. When our first was just a couple months old, I had friends, and even strangers, tell me I should start potty training him at 4-5 months and I could have him potty trained by 8 months. What! Potty train a child who couldn’t walk or talk? I’m sure it is possible, but I thought it would be just as much work to get an 8 month old on the toilet as it would to just continue changing diapers, so I knew this was not the method for me.
Then I had others tell me that if I started too early he would have regressions until he was like a teenager. I should wait until he told me he wanted to go potty and basically taught himself. This sounded great (and easy), but what if this didn’t happen until he was 5 or if he decided at that point that he would just stick with diapers forever. I knew quickly that this method was not right for me either.
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So what is the best method to potty train?
I started reading books, articles, talking to friends and family, and doing as much research as I could find. And you know what I realized? I needed to think about what kind of potty training experience I wanted and what would be the best for my kid. I didn’t want to potty train for a year, or even a month. I wanted to potty train as quickly as possible. Once I started the process, we were going to be ALL IN. I also wanted it to be a positive process for my kid so I could not let it become so stressful for me that I put that stress on him.
So I waited a little bit, until he could walk and talk, before I started with the method I knew would work for us.
Of course, when he turned 8 months, the mom guilt set in. I wasn’t ready to start the process (and knew he wasn’t either) and I thought, “oh no, he is supposed to be in underwear by now.” (Do they even sell underwear small enough for an 8 month old or would I have to sew it myself?) I had to remind myself, that while that method might work for some, I wanted my process to be much easy on me and him, so it was okay for me to wait.
At about 17 months, he started following me in the bathroom every time I would go. (This is awkward at first, but let it happen. It will make potty training So. Much. Easier!) He was so curious and I could tell he was wondering why he didn’t do this too. I took a trip to the store and got a kid size potty. Nothing fancy. Just one that was simple, white and looked similar to ours. When he would follow me into the bathroom, he naturally started pretending he was going. I never even told him too, he just wanted to be like us. I also saw him take his stuffed animals in there every once in awhile so they could go potty. So cute!
We did this for about a month and I knew it was time for potty training.
I waited for a three day weekend and decided that he would be potty trained before it was over and my full attention would be given to him for the process.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of our process, I want to tell you a few things.
- I believe this process can work for any family, but the age you decide to start may differ based on your family. My son was 18 months, but two years later when we potty trained my daughter, using this exact method, she was 22 months.
- I also want to warn you, do not listen to anything any one tells you. In fact, it might be best not to tell anyone. They will want to tell you why your child is too old, or too young, or it is too fast, etc. Just do what you know is best for your kid and your family and you will find success.
- Potty training is much simpler (for most) than you think. You may have different circumstances and if you do, and it takes you longer than you hoped, do not feel bad. Do what is best for your child.
So here’s what we did. The exact steps you can take to have a potty trained kid in three days!
Friday night we had a night out, went out to eat, and talked to our little guy about how exciting it was to use the potty and wear underwear and that starting tomorrow he would get to wear his very own underwear. After dinner, we went to the store and let him pick out his very own underwear and he was stoked! We knew he was ready and excited to start the process. I also bought another small potty so I could have an extra one in whatever room we ended up hanging out in all weekend. I highly recommend this!
Let the potty training begin!
- In the morning, I took his diaper off and had him sit on his little potty. He didn’t do anything, but I told him that every time he felt like he needed to pee, he would come sit down on the potty and try to get it in the potty and not in his underwear.
- Then we put on his very first pair of underwear. (That’s all I put on him, no other clothes.) I know some people go ahead and do the naked thing, but I started with underwear because he was so excited to wear it. We did spend most of the day naked though. There is really nothing cuter than a little tiny bottom in a tiny pair of underwear.
- There was no looking back now. I didn’t want to go back and forth between diapers and underwear so once I put on that pair of underwear, it was no more diapers! (Except at night. I will talk about this more later.)
- I had set up our living room as the official potty training room. I covered it in layers of towels and blankets so clean up would be easier and had plenty more on hand. I also had cleaning supplies, extra underwear, and lots and lots of juice. I wanted him to need to pee as much as possible, so my plan was to load him up on juice. I wish I would have thought to have extra clothes for myself as well…hint, hint, you will get peed on!
- I brought out his favorite toys and had several movies ready to keep us busy and to try to keep him in this room.
- His little potty was the focal point of the room.
- I also set up baby gates on the doorways so he wouldn’t be able to escape into a non-toweled room.
And how did it go?
Well, let me just say…after day one, I thought there was no way I was going to be able to do this and he must not be ready. I wanted to throw in the towel and go with the potty training himself method when he was a teenager.
But stick with me because by day two, I was so happy I didn’t give up.
I had read that when potty training, as soon as you noticed your child starting to go, run him to the potty so he could see some pee in the potty and feel success. I don’t know if it was the juice or what, but when he would pee, it was for about two seconds. And this happened every 5-10 minutes. Usually right into a toy bucket. I never got him to the potty successfully! Not once. He literally peed every 5-10 minutes for 2-3 seconds ALL day! And he never once told me he was peeing. The great news is, he never pooped on the floor. The only success of the entire day was watching “Elmo’s Potty Time.” I may need to credit the potty training of both of my kids to Elmo. And I definitely plan to use this movie when my third is ready.
That night as we laid down for bed, I told my husband he must not be ready. And I was spent. I had piles of laundry, tons of toys that needed to be sanitized, and I was physically exhausted.
Hang in there, day two gets better!
I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to continue on day two. I thought it might be okay to wait a few months and pick a new weekend to start again. But when I went to get my little boy out of bed that morning, the first thing he said to me was, “Mommy, I need to go potty.” I took him to the bathroom, sat him on the potty, and he went! He actually got it in the toilet! I have no idea what happened, but I knew it had clicked and we were going to have another fun filled day of potty training.
- So, I set up the living room the same, pumped him full of juice, and said a prayer for patience and wisdom.
- He asked to watch Elmo’s Potty Time over and over again so by the end of the day I knew it by heart.
- We played and he was successful getting to his little potty about three quarters of the time.
- We celebrated every time with a marshmallow. Rewards, especially with sweets, may not be for your family, but it really worked for us. Even if he only got a drop of pee or poop in the toilet, he got a marshmallow and we danced and sang like he just graduated from college.
And I’ve got to tell you, he was so proud of himself! By the end of the day, he was not going every few minutes anymore. It is like his body had regulated a bit now that he started to understand the process. He was now peeing every couple hours and it was more predictable. I also started to notice his mannerisms just before he needed to go which helped me get him to the toilet in time.
(One thing that happened a bit different for my daughter was that she never had to go. I could give her buckets full of juice and water and she wouldn’t need to pee for hours. She just wasn’t getting enough practice and I was worried she wouldn’t get potty trained if she never had to go. So, I started setting a timer and having her try every 30 minutes just to practice getting on the potty. Sometimes, just from sitting there she would get some pee out and feel so proud.)
Day two was a success.
My son was starting to get the hang of it and he was excited! I wasn’t sure if one more day was going to be enough, but I knew that he would have it really soon if we kept going like this. So, I got the living room ready for day three. I also planned an outing for us to really test it out and see how far we had come.
- When we got up on day three, he went straight to the bathroom. Success number one.
- We then went out to breakfast. I was terrified. I brought along his little potty so I would be ready any time he said he needed to go. I found myself asking him constantly, “do you need to go?” “Do you need to go now?” When really, I just needed to relax. What’s the worst that could happen? He could have an accident and we could clean it up and move on. My husband helped me gain control of myself and my nagging behavior so we could enjoy our breakfast.
- In the middle of breakfast he told us he had to go. We went to his first public restroom, he tried, and nothing. But I was glad he asked. (This began his ever growing fascination with public restrooms which we would have to visit every time we went anywhere for the next year! Another perk of potty training.)
- We made it home without a single accident.
That day we were more relaxed. He was wearing clothes again, instead of just underwear, we played outside, and I didn’t have to worry so much about the towels. In fact, he only had one accident all day. I knew from here on out, he might have a few accidents here and there, but he got it!
Three days and he didn’t need diapers anymore!
I still had the tendency to nag him for the next few weeks, but realized quickly that the less I did, the better he did telling us when he had to go. I also brought a potty seat with us almost everywhere we went. This made those giant public toilets so much easier (and cleaner) for him to use. Here’s a great one that folds up and can easily fit in a purse or diaper bag.
This is the part that many people are not going to disagree with me on, but again, I did what I thought was best for my family and decided not to listen to anyone else. During this process, I did not focus on night time training at all. I read lots of articles about how a child will be confused if you put a diaper on when they sleep and this will cause regression during the day. I did not experience this at all. In fact, both my children were successfully potty trained in three days with very few accidents after that. They were out of nap time diapers within a couple months and night time diapers in about 6 months. I didn’t have to do anything for the night time or nap time training. I just waited until they were dry most mornings and told them it was time to wear underwear to bed too. They rarely had an accident at night after this point and even started waking up to go on their own if they needed. In my opinion, it is totally fine, and I think less stressful, to separate nighttime and daytime potty trying.
Recap of the process and steps to use the same process for your kids.
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Choose three days that you can devout completely to potty training. I recommend that one parent take the lead and be there all three days so there is consistency with everything.
The night before you start
- Take your child out to a special dinner where you can talk to them about moving from diapers to underwear and how exciting that is.
- Then go out and buy new underwear (let them pick it out!) and any supplies you might need; juice, another potty, cleaning supplies, extra towels or blankets, marshmallows, (chocolate for you), etc.
- Place your child on the toilet first thing and get them excited about the day.
- Either leave him/her bottomless or put on a new pair of underwear. Trust me, you won’t have enough underwear to make it through the whole day so no matter which method you decide on, your child will be naked at some point.
- Watch movies, play, read books, and drink a lot of liquids.
- Put your child on the little potty as quickly as possible when you notice them going to the bathroom.
- And celebrate any success, even a tiny one!
- Remember to encourage and not discourage, even when you are at your wits end.
- Watch Elmo’s Potty Time. I am certain this made a difference for each of my kids. The songs alone are worth it!
- Continue with the same strategy.
- Celebrate as much as possible and encourage constantly.
- If your child is not going very often or having a lot of accidents, set a timer for 30 minutes and have them try each time the timer goes off. This will help their body start to regulate and provide more opportunities for success.
- And again, watch Elmo’s Potty Time (if you can handle it!).
- Get out of the house! Put your child in regular clothes and try to go for an outing. Even if it is just a walk around your neighborhood. You will get a good feel for where your child is at in the process.
- Relax a little today and remember not to nag too much. Let your child be responsible and tell you when they have to go, rather than you telling them all the time. They will learn quicker if they have to do more work than you.
This method has successfully worked with two of my kids (and they are complete opposites). Both were potty trained before they were two. I plan to use the exact same method with my third when he is ready. Remember every child is different. If you start this method and after three days you do not see any progress, evaluate your child and decide if it might be too soon. You can always go back to diapers and try again in a couple months. There is nothing wrong with that!
The most important things to remember are:
- Be committed to the process.
- Encourage instead of discourage- Don’t make accidents a big deal. Say something like, “pee and poop go in the potty.” And move on without a fuss.
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