Chances are if you’re reading this post, you’re dying a little bit inside thinking about potty training. No fear! Someone with advice is here! Haha. Isn’t that just the pits? Everyone has advice on how YOU should parent YOUR child. Well let me add this disclaimer: while I do have experience working with kids this age professionally, I’m in no way THE expert, and more specifically, I’m not an expert on YOUR child. If you feel like you have a thing that works- do that! But chances are if you clicked on this link- you’re probably looking for a little input… So here’s mine!
First, read this post called 7 tips for the potty training parent. It’s all of the mental stuff to get you in the right frame of mind. If you want the abbreviated version: no discipline, no rewards, no failure. But read it cuz it’s got some good stuff!
Next, set aside at least 3 days that you know you won’t have to go anywhere. These first few days are about having accidents and learning what it feels like and that’s really unfair to ask that of them when you have to tote them around town in a car with no access to a potty.
Day 1: they have no idea what they are doing or what you are doing, and that’s okay! Days 1-3 are about being naked at home and drinking lots of water and watching Netflix shows because you’re stuck in the house. You will want to start with a 30 minute timer. Timer goes off you clap and get excited, they sit on the potty. If your child is mine they will start looking forward to the “beep beep beep” and run to the potty themselves. Here’s the thing though- they probably aren’t going to pee on it first try. If they don’t, set the timer for every 15 minutes until they do go or until the have an accident (more likely).
When they have an accident, do not yell or stress. Calmly explain to them pee goes on the potty and walk them over to the toilet to “try”. You obviously can’t make your child go potty but this is all about reinforcing the idea that when you pee, even if it’s an accident, you still have to go to the potty. Some kids may decide they’d rather just pee in front of the TV, have mom change them right there, and they never missed a beat of princess Sofia. That’s not what you want! Go thru the process every time. Try to make them a part of the process as well. We had Charlotte clean up her pee that got on the floor. Not as punishment but to show how much easier it is to just put it on the potty instead of having to stop, change clothes, clean the floor and wash hands.
*A note about timers: I would only recommend using them for the first day- maybe even just the first half of the day. If you’re just telling them to go potty every 30 minutes, they aren’t actually learning the signs for themselves, they are just constantly unloading their bladder because you told them too.
I can’t stress this enough- don’t freak out! There were a couple poo-splosions that I think I scared her with my surprised reaction. I would notice what was happening midpush, and freak out yelling for Dad to come help- fast! I did that twice and then the next day, she didn’t poop at all. This is so weird for her because since she was born she has been the most regular child I have ever known. So not wanting to poop for her was really worrisome! I focused on treating the “poo surprise” the same as the pee accidents and voila! She was back on track.
They did it!! This is when you celebrate!! Clap, sing, jump for joy! Just don’t give them a physical object… I can’t tell you how quickly this can turn potty training into a hostage negotiation (where poop is the hostage I guess) and we don’t negotiate with terrorists! Just keep up with the verbal praise and high fives and let them build that intrinsic motivation! It will go a long way.
Days 3-5: they should get it at this point. That doesn’t mean they are accident free (never expect them to be accident free) it just means they can pee on command. It’s not just an involuntary action anymore.
Time to get dressed! We waited to use underwear for the first two weeks. They have a tendency to feel like a diaper. So she went commando for that first little bit but it helped so much!
Try going out of the house! We packed her potty in the car the first few days when we were leaving the house. I wasn’t sure how she would feel about public bathrooms. Have her go potty when you leave, when you arrive, and when you leave again. They may not have enough to go every time, but Practice makes perfect! Make sure you pack extra pants as well. I always carry two pairs of pants in my purse now. This maybe controversial, but we also let her pee in the grass if she was outside at a park or on a trail. I mean, boys do it, why can’t she?
Day 5-7: if your child is like mine, you maybe wondering if you made a terrible mistake. She went from having 1-2 accidents a day to 5 or 6! I seriously considered going back to diapers but I remembered that when kids are learning any new life skill, regressions will happen, especially in the first week. So we stuck with it. I removed going back to diapers from the list of options in my head. If we had to wash 8 changes of clothes in a day, so be it.
Week 2: you are on the other side! At this point, she was using public potties, and telling me when she needed to go potty. She still has accidents every now and then, but we have far more accident free days than days with accidents.
What if your kid doesn’t want to sit long enough to poo? We had this issue around days 5-8. She would ask to go potty 5 times in 5 minutes, sir for 1 second, not do anything, and demand to get down. When she asked the 6th time it was too late… We realized she was just too impatient to answer natures call when we were right there with her. So we experimented with wandering out of the bathroom nonchalantly acting like we were putting something away. We heard a “grunt grunt plop plop” and the rest was history! We also leave some books within her reach on the counter because who doesn’t like to have a good distraction?
What about pull ups? No. Don’t do it. It’s a conspiracy to get you to pay more money for something you not only don’t need, but will make it take so much longer. It’s good for kids to feel uncomfortable. It helps them develop the desire to not want to have accidents. Pull ups make not being potty trained way too easy.
What about nap time and bedtime? We still use diapers for these times. As soon as she’s gone a week with waking up dry for either nap or night, we will stop. It just takes longer and there’s really not much control they have over it whether they want to our not.
The number one absolute most important thing- no moving backward. They WILL regress Everytime their little life gets flipped upside down- that does not mean they failed! They just need help navigating this new part of life and they deserve the chance to do that. Potty training doesn’t need to be a stressful scary thing- in fact it shouldn’t be! It’s just a new part of life and a skill that needs to be developed.