We embarked on the potty training journey about three weeks ago now, and we’re surviving. Actually, it went rather well. I think it was time, she was ready, and the bulk of potty-training is over. But as anybody who has been there remembers, it’s never as simple as you’d think. And it’s not a three-day affair even if the main learning portion does happen then.
Here’s what we did, some advice from friends, family members, acquaintances, and some good online articles, plus a genius tip from a good friend of mine! Oh, and a little encouragement to get through the tough days.
What we did
Day one: post nap, put her in panties, let what may come, come. We went through at least five pairs of panties the first day. More the next. (We started off just doing a few hours in the afternoon to keep ourselves from going crazy) There were a lot of puddles. I started to despair that she just wasn’t making the connection.
Then, day three, it clicked, and there were only one or two accidents. We did two M&Ms for every pipi in the potty, and lots of reminders. She was really defensive about not wanting to get on it — still is frequently — but after those first few days with lots of accidents she started just going by herself when she was ready. We also kept her pumped full of as many juice boxes as I could give her to keep things going (I bought CapriSun juice packs and plied her with them all afternoon long. Yes it’s a lot of sugar, but this is temporary). A lot of thoughts went through my head that first week:
I am so sick of wiping urine off the floor!
The M&Ms aren’t actually for the kid — they’re to reward mothers for not cannibalizing their children.
YAAAAY! (I can’t believe I’m getting so excited about this…)
Anyway, we survived. We stuck around the house for almost a week — or close to it — so we could stick with the program. For now I still use pull-ups for leaving the house (and naps and night-time, although honestly she doesn’t really need them for naps, I have a potty in her room and she uses it just fine by herself)
We are still using Pull-ups when we leave the house, but the first few days was pretty much the nuclear option, all panties. I think it really helped to get a feel for things. Another little thing I picked up — which I think will come in especially handy once we’re only in panties — is this “piddle pad” to protect the car seat.
We have two little plastic potties (I love the IKEA one) — I’ve found she generally prefers having a seat of her own, although I hear some kids want to do it “just like a big person!” — as well as this comfy toilet-seat insert and stool for the bathroom. One potty in her bedroom, one in the living room (whatever, it’s how we live right now, ha) and then I keep the toilet seat insert on in the main bathroom.
I also put together a little potty basket full of the necessities: Clorox wipes, regular wipes, hand sanitizer, plenty of panties, and of course TP. I’m not much for trademarked character clothing, but in this case, Frozen panties were helpful in getting her really excited about wearing them!
Number two was a different story, by the way, but after a few weeks and some despairing conversations with friends, we’ve made some progress. Thank goodness for people who have gone before! It was also helpful when my in-laws came to visit the next week and brought some of their own special treats and lots of enthusiasm and encouragement. She was definitely surrounded by positive reinforcement!
And there’s this too: Everybody talks about how awful potty training is. We’ve been in the thick of it lately, and it certainly isn’t super duper fun time. But what you don’t often hear is how proud you’ll be when they start to figure it out — and how much pride you’ll see in their face too. The shyness or defensiveness turning to pure joy when they figure it out and see how excited you are for them. It is the sweetest!
Here are some of the insights I’ve gleaned from other mothers:
It might take a while for the child to get used to how it feels when they need to go before they can give you advance warning. I was frustrated the first two days because she would just go and then realize immediately she was wet and wanted to be changed. I kept thinking “why isn’t she telling me, I literally asked her if she needed to go two minutes ago!” But I asked around thinking maybe it was too soon, and friends told me it takes some time for them to recognize that feeling and have the presence of mind to warn you. So in the meantime I just kept asking, a lot. And looking for warning signs (squeezing legs, dancing around… so funny). And by day three, it clicked.
There are still plenty of setbacks and accidents. Like when they are way too engrossed in an activity. I try to keep an eye out for warning signs and encourage early action, but there are still some accidents here or there.
Things that were recommended to us:
- Do it in blocks of time so you don’t completely lose your mind. It’s a lot of work to be so hypervigilant and watching their every twinge, so it’s been nice to start by just doing those hours after naptime until bedtime. I go get her from her room, put her on the potty, and change into panties for the afternoon where I try to keep her on the hard-surface portion of the home. Or outdoors on the deck.
- Elmo’s Potty Time. I would have her watch it while sitting on the throne and she really liked it, I think it helped her relate to the concepts a little better. (Also the Daniel Tiger episode on potty use!)
- I liked some of the tips over here from The Pinning Mama
- For #2, constipation and pain or discomfort might be an issue too. A few friends of mine said they used fiber gummies or even metamucil for a while to keep things nice and smooth so it’s not scary or painful. I’m definitely going to get those fiber gummies started now!
- “One of my kids: I had to put a bucket of warm water in front of them with bath toys in it. They played in the water with their hands while they sat on the little potty seat. This helped stimulate them to pee. This child had issues connecting how to go. This really helped.”
- “With our oldest 2 once they were in real underwear anytime they went in their pants we made them walk from every room in the house to the bathroom before changing them. We would go to each room & say, “if you’re in here & need to go potty where do you go?” Apparently it isn’t comfortable walking around that much in gross undies. Took 3 days tops for both of them.”
Another thing I’ve learned: the potty becomes a new excuse in the toddler’s arsenal of stalling techniques (for us, it’s typically bedtime)… it’s absolutely maddening. One friend has the same issue with leaving the house: “Things are going really well, but our biggest hiccup is that he’s a boy who cried pee every time we try to leave the house! Any time we go to a store he’s insisting he needs to pee every 10 mins, which is a blast when you have a cart of groceries and are 27 weeks pregnant.” Yup. Little stinkers!
Actually, for me, this is the aspect that is the most frustrating about potty training. It’s not the cleaning up of messes or excessive laundry, but the fact that it creates one more power struggle with an already-willful child. I’ve had to arm myself with a lot of patience, and I haven’t always been successful. You never know if they actually need to use the bathroom or are just using it to avoid going to sleep, and sometimes it’s just an additional opportunity for metldowns! Gah.
A note about Amazon Prime: I had a lot of friends recommend the Subscribe and Save feature for diapers/pull-ups, but at first I was frustrated that you didn’t get Prime shipping. You have to set up shipments that can’t be any sooner than a full week out, and sometimes that wasn’t fast enough for me. But now that we live in a very rural area, it’s become a necessity and I’ve learned to just plan ahead. You definitely save quite a bit that way.
OK, here’s the last tip, and this is the one that I’m pretty sure helped us with that final breakthrough! It’s goofy, but I swear it worked.
One friend’s genius secret to making #2 happen in the potty: “I told her if she does it in her diaper/panties, it has to go in the trash, poor caca! But if she does it in the toilet, the caca gets to go on an adventure!” I thought this one was hilarious, but anyone who has been around toddlers knows it just might work. I tried it. We talked up the adventures of the caca, how it would go down the pipes — like a slide! — and into the ocean, and go swimming with Dory! (Finding Dory has been a favorite around here the last month or two) Yes, I know, this is an absurd conversation. I also talked up the lollipop she’d get for a caca in the potty… and would you know, somebody earned a lollipop that very day!
So don’t knock it until you try it. Sometimes, it’s all about the psychological manipulation!
I kid, I kid. Anyway, there it is. These are a few things that have worked for us, and I’m sure there will be plenty more insights as more kids with different personalities come along. It’s definitely more of a long-term learning curve than I expected — the whole “potty train in three days” thing is misleading — but it is encouraging to finally be on the way. And if you’re in the thick of it: courage!
Share any and all of your tips, tricks and insights below in the comments!