Adventures in Potty Training

So we started potty training our almost-three-year-old and I wanted to share a few things that worked and didn't work for us, just in case you or someone you know are in the same boat. If you have a tried and true book, strategy or system that worked GREAT for you, please share the link in the comments below. I'm all about spreading the good word, and of course, no single method works for everyone!

We did our own version of the "3 day potty training" method. I have no idea why, but for the first time since becoming a parent (including my entire pregnancy), for whatever reason, I did not run out and buy a book on this topic. I know, weird, right? I always turn to the experts for all phases and stages.

This time, I went to the real experts: other moms, and Google. 

What worked for us? Actually setting aside 3 full days of non-stop potty focus. We hardly left the house and he hardly ever wore pants. Done. The first day didn't go so well. He was pissed. We knew he was ready and capable because he had been going on the potty here and there for months and months, but we never pressed the issue. Once the decision was made that we were ready, we just assumed he would be too.

He avoided the potty, threw the potty, deliberately relieved himself on the floor next to the potty (eye contact and all), and had a few full blown tantrums for absolutely no reason other than simply crying...about the potty's existence.

How we got lucky? He had no issue going #2 on the potty, and that did the trick. He knew he had to go, and with no diapers around and not many other options, it only took 1-2 times of actually making it to the potty, with rewards waiting on the sidelines, for him to realize, "ok, this isn't so bad." It took a lot of reminders about prizes and a lot of calm, loving encouragement (and absolutely no bribing or guilt, can I suggest?) to get him to relax and make the choice to jump on board.

Our rewards system was a box of small toys (little figures and cars and such) and he was able to pick out one toy every time he went (yes, every time) until the toys were gone (by the end of day 2). We also created a sticker chart, which quickly turned into a sticker collage, and we are still using the stickers as rewards for every success.

We chose to focus on things like making it to the potty, being really excited about wins but sort of brushing it off when he didn't make it in time, and really paying attention to his every move. We also tried to give him a little space during the act. 

A few tips that I read that resonated with our family:

  • not reading on the potty, nonstop, all day, or letting him read while on the potty
  • not making him sit on the potty until he went (for more than a min or so) becuase the goal is to have your little one listen to their body to learn cues, not to wait and wait and wait until it just happens...
  • rewarding with treats, stickers and toys (if your child can understand it, it would also be a good idea to add up the stickers and once they get to 5 or 10 stickers, they get a prize, but I wasn't sure he would get the adding up the stickers part)
  • keeping our schedule relatively clear so our main focus was this (not running errands, spending a lot of time in the car, or spending much time out of the house
  • not using the word "try" and not focusing on being good or bad, just excitement for his accomplishments and lots of encouragement
  • encouraging to keep the pants/big pants dry (so there are a few goals, and a few things to remind him of: keeping his pants dry, making it in the potty, and listening to his body...the goal is not to make us proud, be to good, etc).

What didn't resonate (and maybe I'm breaking the rules):

  • night time training...for us, waking him in the middle of the night was not an option. He's actually still in a crib and we are ok with that for now. So a diaper at night is going to be his transition until next steps. It has not been confusing, but I can see how it might be for some kids. 
  • sitting next to my child 100% of the time, nonstop, with no time for cooking, working, or tv watching for 3 days...I cleared my schedule, trust me, but my laundry and our eating did not stop because of this. Life does continue, folks.
  • throwing out all of our diapers. We talked a lot about how he was big now, and would no longer be using them, and that they weren't an option. But he can't reach them and doesn't consider them anymore. When I put it on at night before bed, he uses the potty right before and I put it on with minimal to no discussion. I can also see how this can be a benefit, but we will use them for a bit at night for now unless it backfires.
  • keeping the potty in the bathroom. I like the idea of training his little brain to associate the bathroom with this process. For now, proximity is key. As long as the potty isn't being abused or misused (which has not been a problem), we are keeping it in the main living space for about a week. Then move it to the bathroom, and work on that routine. Then eventually, the bigger potty, etc. Gradual and consistent seems to be the name of the game. 

Again, these are just ideas. Please feel free to share non-judgey comments and suggestions for other readers if you are called to do so.