If you were to do a quick Google or Pinterest search on potty training, you’d get a pile of articles, opinions, and helpful hints on this monumental parenting hurdle. Yes, it’s a hurdle for the trainee as well, but so much less work for them. They get lots of praise, most likely treats or prizes, and new undies. Also, boatloads of attention focused solely and wonderfully on them. This is a dream for your toddler; don’t let anyone fool you into thinking you’re fashioning some traumatic experience.
Unless you’re being a crazy wild drill sergeant of a potty trainer, in which case…well you’ll need to evaluate that. My purposes lie elsewhere today.
In most cases, we parents are so eager to get our little cherub to empty themselves into a potty that we bribe, cajole, and in any manner conceivable coerce our toddlers into FIGURING THIS THING OUT.
It’s a less than delightful experience, right up there with scrubbing toilets. Oh, yes, it also involves scrubbing toilets, so let’s pile that on the manifesto of: Reasons Potty Training is the Pits. Coming soon to a blog near you. Maybe. No promises. I may be busy scrubbing toilets.
But we all have to tackle this mountain at some point. It’s inevitable. We finally rolled up our sleeves and slapped the skivvies on the boy a couple of weeks ago and it has been…not as horrific as I’d imagined. Scout’s honor—it really wasn’t too bad.
Rewind: leading up to the willy-nilly decision to stay within inches of my toddler for three days straight and wander no further than 50 yards from our house, I did some research. A lot of research. I have a certain fetish for reading up extensively on a venture before I take the leap. Mostly with child-rearing topics, because nothing in life is quite as terrifying. Terrific, but terrifying. Catchy; I like it.
So I read how-tos and what not to-dos and was awed by the mom who’s trained, like, all of her seven kids in just three days and was inspired by moms who’ve begun training their infants through elimination communication…or is it communication elimination? Regardless, these people were hard core.
I, my dear friends, am not hard core. I prefer simplicity, ease, and would like nothing more than to never, ever clean pee off of a floor. Or wall. Or O’s Little Tikes Harley Davidson bike with the seat that lifts up that somehow got filled with urine. Delightful.
This fanciful notion is crushed forever by a simple phrase: little boys and their wayward parts.
So, since motherhood is complicated and often filled with chaotic bliss, I’ve done you a favor and broken down potty training into two easy to follow courses of action. Because when we simplify it, most potty training advice falls somewhere in one or the other.
The Laissez Faire Approach
This is the simpler, yet more expensive approach (think: paying for diapers for longer or in our case, spending more time doing diaper laundry) often embraced by the gentle and crunchy parenting movement. Or the parents who just don’t have the time/energy to dedicate being chained to their toddler for three plus days on end.
These are the folks who wait for their tot to decide enough is enough and they just don’t feel like diapers anymore. The idea of filling their pants with their waste products has become less than appealing to them and they’re ripe with readiness to embrace the potty.
Some kids are ready to do this by three years. Most are linguistically advanced enough to have the capacity to effectively communicate their needs and have explanatory sessions of “pee goes in potty, not pants” and the like (read that five times fast). Some could care less about soggy, stinky drawers and would much rather run amuck smelling like a sewer. Kids are weird that way. Cleanliness does not equal godliness to them—it only means they have to stop playing.
This approach is admirable. Intelligent. Patient. I have great respect for parents who continue to change poopy toddler diapers because…ew. Baby poo is one thing, guys, but toddler poo? Way too reminiscent of adult poo to be coming that close to regularly. Yes, that tiny being is my flesh and blood and everything about him is sweet and I don’t mind the drool and boogers…but if I’ve got the option of abdicating poo duty? SIGN ME UP.
And so we venture on into approach number two.
The Get it Done and Hold onto Your Knickers Approach
The people who join this camp do vary in dedication and, er, discipline. Although I begrudgingly embrace this approach, it took me weeks to get my rear in gear and commit. The general idea here is to get rid of the dipes and let the accidents happen. As they do, you let your child know what’s happening and quickly get them to the potty. Eventually, the lightbulb goes on and they make the connection. Simple. Messy. Requires parental discipline.
Many weeks before our official start date, I put O in unders and pants. We went through three pairs of jeans in about four hours. It was a nice spring day that we spent outside, so collateral damage was minimal, but it was enough to make me forsake my goal.
That’s the discipline piece. When you start potty training, you must not stop. It just doesn’t work that way. You can’t expect your child whose age you’re still counting in months to just “get it” with no discipline and dedication on your part. I made this mistake. It was silly and unrealistic…and so when the stars aligned perfectly (we had a few days of sunny weather that we could dedicate to being home) I went all in.
Here’s a breakdown of how this went:
Day One ~
Oliver went through eight pairs of underwear on day one. Four during the day with me, and four with his daddy when I was coaching volleyball practice that evening. Daddy was disheartened. I knew day one would be rough, and I braced for a difficult day two.
Quick side note: O wears pull-ups, or “sleeping unders” as we call them, during the night. Until he begins waking up dry, that will be a battle for another day.
Day Two ~
Only four pairs of undies christened on day two—and Grandma’s shoes. Oops…but improvement was made! The end of day two was when he finally “got it.” Right before daddy got home from work, O and I were out playing on the deck and he stopped playing, looked at me, and said, “No, pee!” We proceed to run to the potty and I became absurdly excited. M&Ms were consumed, sing-song praise was lavished, kisses were planted, and great excitement abounded.
Why did he say, “No, pee!”? Because when he had accidents, I would in a panic say, “No! Stop! Let’s go to the potty!” So for those parents insistent on trading out the word “no,” I’d challenge them. Heartily. It’s a simple word, easy to learn and say for the linguistically challenged, and holds great meaning. *Steps off soapbox*
He had a couple more successes that evening (we consider a success one where Oliver recognizes that he has to go and either lets me know, or runs to the bathroom by himself) and also wet through another pair of underwear. Forward progress.
Day Three ~
One accident. Many successes. Also, many instances of forced trying to go potty. I have mostly given up on that (except when we’re leaving the house or before sleep times) because O gets incredibly upset when he’s forced to go potty. And I’ve never known a person who can go to the bathroom while hysterically crying.
Life Marches On
We choose our battles ’round here. And since he’s been doing a great job of letting us know when he has to go, I ask him if he has to go (when I think he likely needs to—mom sixth sense and all that superpower-y stuff) fairly regularly. He almost always answers with an emphatic, “Nope!”
But within a few minutes, the reminder does it’s work and he runs to the potty. Whatever works, man.
We have now ventured out to the grocery store, shopping in the cities, and the doctor’s office, all with 100% success. Here are a few tips for potty training a little one under two (take with a grain of salt and apply with wisdom to your needs and most importantly, your child—they’re all quite unique!):
- Once you start, don’t stop! Set aside some dedicated time to knock this out of the park. I needed that full week to get O really good at it.
- Trust your child. I know, this seems strange since O isn’t yet two, but they are far more intelligent than we give them credit for. With heavy doses of correction, direction, and encouragement, trust them to figure it out. It will happen!
- Be consistent. As with all things parenting, this is a golden rule.
- Let them feel in charge. This is important, particularly with a strong-willed little one. They have to feel like they’re the boss in some way, shape, or form. Get creative!
- Be patient. There will be accidents. We still have accidents, and I’d consider O potty trained at this point. First, I think he was testing his limits. Seeing what he could get away with, as children like to do. But now, he just holds it for too long and can’t make it to the potty. Hence, reminders.
- If you’re early training, realize that you’ll need to be present for each, um, event. O doesn’t yet have the motor skills to get his unders/pants up and down. You can see how that would cause issues if I let him to head to the bathroom by himself. I could likely spend some time each day working on this skill and he’d get it, but whatevs. I like to monitor the direction of urine output anyway because, like I said, I don’t like cleaning up pee.
You’re the parent, it’s your child, and you know when everyone is ready for this developmental feat. Don’t let yourself be discouraged by the noise around you: if you want to do it, DO IT! If you’re not ready, wait on it! Be yo’ bad self, and do your thing. Your child will eventually learn to potty in the correct location: pinky promise.
You’ve got this, momma!
What are your best tips for potty training? Which camp of potty training do you fall in?