on potty training

05 September 2014

Did you know that if you Google, "potty training" immediately over one billion different methods will pop up and start shouting at you about their effectiveness and superiority? It's almost true. And you may have found a method that's worked for you beautifully. That's great.

Here's mine ...


It's very scientific, just wait.

I've promised several people with Sebastian and Julia aged toddlers having trouble jumping on the potty train that I would write a potty training post (although I know that Google would be so much more helpful to them) and the maker of these asked if I'd be interested in writing a sponsored potty training post and did I hear the stars aligning? Sort of. I know haters gonna hate the sponsored posts but I'm already sold on the product and have a grip of them sitting in the kids' closet so I feel comfortable and honest sounding the sponsored trumpet here today.

Anyway, I kind of used a hodge podge of different tactics with Julia based on hearing and reading what's worked for different kids. Sebastian is an entirely different personality to train because wet pants don't bother him and he takes great pride in marking any territory around the house. We're starting to figure it out and I'm not worried. Yet!

I remember blogging about potty training last year and someone commented something along the lines of, "start potty training a 2-year-old and you'll finish when they're three, start potty training a three-year-old and you'll get it done" ... or SOMETHING like that. I buckled down and got serious with Julia a few months before she turned three and by her third birthday she was good to go. We still have her wear these for most naps (not always, and she's usually fine) and at night just in case but we'll need to phase those out soon.

Okay. Here's what we did with Julia and are learning does not exactly work with Sebastian ....

1. bought the stupid underwear: Julia got VERY interested in ditching her diaper as soon as the Dora underwear arrived on the scene. Don't underestimate the power of the uglier the better. She would see new underwear at the store and I would use them as extra motivation for training, "if you go two weeks without an accident ... the Doc McStuffins are all yours" ... etc.

2. didn't force it: We talked and talked and talked about potty training like a big girl for a long time before she was sold on the idea. I don't think springing it on her would've gone over well, but that might just be her temperament. She really resisted tackling numero dos on the toilet and it was really frustrating but I eventually just let it go and put a diaper on her when she asked. I'm sure many people would disagree with this but it felt like a really pointless fight that would really upset her. We continued to offer treats if she decided to forgo the diaper and after a couple months she took the bait and hasn't looked back since.

3. no little potty: We tried it but ... gross. It was such a mess. So I bought a step stool and little toilet seat and she's since graduated from both but things clicked a lot faster when she got to use the grown up gear.

4. make them clean it up: One of Simon's sisters successfully potty trained an older child with special needs and gave us this helpful tip. If they have an accident on the floor  .... they have to clean it up. Julia won't throw Phoebe's wet diapers away (Julia also meticulously cleans under her fingernails multiple times a day ... OCD who?) so she REALLY hated this chore and I think it sped the process along. Sebastian does not care and gets giddy when he's tasked with cleaning up a mess. Good for him, at least it's fun.


unrelated but he's constantly telling her, "You're so cheeky!!" which he means literally. He's coached her through many a rollover but I think she might just be trying to escape his notcompliments. 

4. rewards: M&Ms, jelly beans, chocolate chips, king size Snickers, whatever ... they all work. Now that Sebastian is getting treats for his training success she thinks she's entitled to a treat and sometimes I give in but it's important for Sebastian-in-training to see that he's getting a special reward aside from still-in-diapers Theo and long-out-of-diapers Julia. I offer more for the second variety of toilet victories. And beyond the treats we always make a big deal with lots of clapping and praise which seems to please toddlers almost more than candy.

5. prepared to take them out in public: I put a towel down in Julia's car seat the first few times we went out in public and stashed an extra pair of underwear and bottoms in my bag just in case. I also took many trips into many not-kid friendly bathrooms because you just have to. It was so tempting to just throw her in a diaper for outings and especially on long road trips but she was great about telling us when she had to go. I've only done this once with Sebastian and it was a spectacular failure. We'll try again soon.

6. books in the bathroom: Although I know it would've been really nice to just throw Julia an iPad ... we don't have one and she was totally fine with taking books in to camp out. She still is. Sebastian pretends like he'll be engrossed but ... nope.

7. Pull-Ups for sleep: I know it's tempting (for me) to want to just get over the next hump, "when will they sleep through the night?!", "when will they start sitting/crawling/walking/making meals?" and asking, "when will they stay dry ALL night?!" is no exception. I know it will happen but I prefer to use a Pull-Up rather than play wet sheet roulette especially when Simon is working overnight. And when I'm getting all four of them down for (hopeful) naps it's so nice to be able to have Julia and sometimes Sebastian (if I'm feeling extra lazy or harried or Phoebe is extra fussy) put on a Pull-Up (and it helps that Doc McStuffins + Jake the Pirate adorn them these days) by themselves ...


... "big kid now!" territory.

I know a lot of people love the three day cold turkey method and starting extra early and that there are a lot of great books AND there are tons of great tips to be found here as well. I'm sure your fellow trainers would love to see what worked for you ... if you're willing to share! The beauty of parenting is that there are a million ways to go about virtually everything and usually the millionth method is the one that works, right? Or maybe I'm doing things all wrong.

Thanks for reading, clicking, and throwing any other potty tips my way.

I know this little piggy is going to be a real training treat ...


when the blessed time comes.

40 comments:

  1. I've potty trained 4 and the best thing I can say is just persevere and figure out what method works for what kid - they were ALL different. I heartily agree with the pullups at nap and bedtime until they are showing signs of being dry multiple nights in a row - it's not worth the extra work. My boys took a LONG time to be dry at night and I even had to resort to a potty alarm with all of them - very heavy sleepers, all. I'll give you that tip if you end up there with Sebastian. I inched every earlier on the age of training as I got further down the line, mostly because I think I was like a horse headed to the barn - I could SEE the land of "no more diapers" and I wanted in that place BADLY!! With the reluctance for #2 - definitely easing into it with a diaper is a good idea. I have a friend who used to make hers stand in the bathroom with it on and then graduate to sitting on the toilet with it on, etc. I didn't have the brains to think of that and I had real issues with my #4 son. I think this is the most talked about, agonized over parenting topic on the planet. Seriously.

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    1. my almost 4-year-old has started wetting the bed again every night this week after being dry for months and months and I'm really over the fitted sheet midnight tango with the hard-to-extract IKEA bed frame so...WHAT'S A POTTY ALARM?! (i'm sure I could google it)

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    2. It's a little alarm that attaches to their underwear in the front and emits a loud beep when it senses even the tiniest bit of wetness. It helps kids who are really deep sleepers to learn to either wake up when they need to go, or activate the part of the brain that suppresses the need to go during the night. We used the Malem Bedwetting Alarm and it was great. They send you a booklet that tells you exactly how to use it. 4 is a little young, though. I think it's more for 5-ish and up, if they are still struggling. But google it and see what it says.

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  2. G still wears her pull-ups through the night. She knows she has incentives for keeping them dry, but I'm not pushing it. I'm just thrilled that we finally got through daytime training! It took forever to get through, and no one method worked with her, either. I figure she'll probably be completely trained by the time she's ten, right?

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  3. Oh, man, we just started with my son who turned two yesterday. I know it's early, but we figured we'd give it a good try and daycare encourages it pretty early, too. I just went to the dollar store and bought $40 worth of stickers, candy and toys. Should be a fun couple of weeks. ;)

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    1. I'm sure he'll do great!! Stickers - so smart!!

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  4. For clarification, he turned two a couple of weeks ago but we started the potty training yesterday. Also, my kid is the strange one who very often wakes up dry after 12 hours at night.

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  5. plus nite training is a different brain mechanism thingy. its not related to day training - they have to rouse from deep sleep and you can't train that.

    hence my 6yr who still wets at nite. its totally normal and i dont stress it. daytime trained is the victory for me ;)

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    1. All four of my boys took a long time to stop wetting at night - and you are totally correct. Very normal and nothing to stress about. My pediatrician was GREAT in that area - talked me out of the tree on that issue!

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  6. We have been trying with our 2.5 year old, but I admit, I don't push. When he informs us he has to poop it is usually in "Privacy mode" which is hovering in a corner or behind a chair. If I go over to him he says, "Mama, go in kitchen". I then get excited and say, "Let's go on the potty" and receive an emphatic "NO". We did buy him "Cars" underwear to get him motivated. he loves them and carries them around everywhere. LOL
    I admit that this is one thing I am not thrilled about having to do and because of that I don't really force him to get on the toilet. With all the different methods out there it is almost paralyzing. He does love cookies though so maybe food rewards are the route to take.
    The other is I want him to be the one that wants to go on the toilet. I don't want him to hate going to the bathroom because I am pushing him hard to do this on my schedule. Thankfully most parents understand and tell me not to stress or as one person said, "It is not like he will be in diapers at 17 right?" LOL

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  7. It took me seven (seven!) weeks after putting my three year old son in underwear all day to get him to finally finally get him to go #2 in the potty.
    My grandmother potty trained me at age thirteen months and I am just baffled. Like, how?!? Teach me this witchcraft.

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    1. I laughed out loud for real at your last sentence. If you do find out what she did, please share with the rest of us.

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    2. My mom and I were both potty trained by 15 months, and I'm told the secret was old-fashioned cloth diapers with rubber covers!

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  8. My son is almost 3 and he understands the whole potty concept but he fights me and kicks and screams every time I bring him to the bathroom. This potty training thing is horrible!

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  9. So much of what you're saying resonates with me right now as I see potty training in the still far off future for my little man. Talking it up and up and up and not pushing it sounds way more my speed than doing the intense three day training business. More power to the folks that go that route buuuuuut I'll just watch. Now can you write a post about toddler tantrums because I am in that territory now and it is uncharted let me tell you what! Thanks again, Grace.

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  10. My Sebastian is 3.5 and special needs. It's tough! Maybe the king size snickers will help ;) you were talking his language there!

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  11. for those all day outings or non kid friendly bathrooms, we have an ikea potty in our car lined with a clean trash bag. put it on the floorboard of the van and tie it up and throw it out when they're done. no yucky bathroom visits and the other children are contained in the car while it's happening. we would go right before we went into a store and right when we came out. or at least made them try to go.

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  12. Great tip with having kids clean up their messes! Darn, I potty trained three kids and never figured that out. I would also suggest a spare change of clothes for the car. Yeah, learned that at a birthday party when Andrew soaked his pants. Drenched.

    Andrew was my toughest and I totally tried the no pants method. Usually they are too scared to go without pants, so no pants for the first few days/weeks in the house.

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  13. Oh gosh, I SO agree with the no little potty....we tried as well and just gross, seriously! Makes me sick thinking about it! We trained very similar to you and it worked but I have still not given up the night time pull ups cause I like my sleep and I don't want to be changing sheets in the middle of the night....kind of a mom fail as my daughter is 4...I know, not cool and I need to buckle up and take the darn plunge already!

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  14. We are trying to potty train our almost 3 year old and she refuses to wear her panties. Lives them and picked them out but does not want to put them on! We have been training for months But she is very head strong and I'm like you I don't wanna push her too much. This is very helpful though! Going to try the treats maybe bigger candy bars cause she looks at me like skittles this is it?! :/

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  15. I am also in the wait until age 3 camp!! So easy when they are truly ready:)

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  16. Every kid is different. I know I've said this before but my first child told us when he was exactly two years and eight months that he wanted to wear underwear. We bought it and he did and there was never an accident. The second child wasn't quite as adept but it wasn't a huge, huge deal. Child number three, I was certain, was going to go to kindergarten in pull ups. One thing that did help him was allowing him to pee outside, in the backyard, of course. Being able to "mark his territory" was a big thrill.

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  17. I was so bored at work today that I read every word of this post. I do not have any kids. I do not even baby-sit any potty training kids. I feel really really cool now.

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  18. My son is almost 3.5 and just recently potty trained, like 75% there. After months of encouragement and showing and buying underwear all to no avail, one day he looked up, said he had to pee, and I offered the potty. He said yes and that was that. He won't wear underwear despite purchasing several kinds, so he goes commando at home and always tells me when he has to go. He does wear a diaper at daycare; he seems to be too nervous about the school potty and having too much fun playing. I take it off as soon as I get him and he's fine the rest of the time. I use a diaper at nap and night only and most mornings he's dry.

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  19. Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks, Grace!

    SSG xxx

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  20. We have 'potty' down just fine, and rarely have an accident, but My kids SCREAM through the number two. They are absolutely terrified of it.. We were due for our first outing, to a store full of electronics and places for toddlers to poop in secret.. And Jolie did just that. She came to tell me she needed to 'go potty' and I PROUDLY trotted her to the bathroom and proceeded to help her drop her shorts.. Full finger coated of the lovely. I'm gonna need Julia's meticulous cleaning skillz to get this shiii out from under my nails.

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  21. I hate potty training. My first was more like Julia and my second like Bash. I would ask, "Did you pee your pants?" and he would reply, "Just a little bit" and not really care. Grrr! But like you said, they are all different and in the end, no matter which route you take, they will be trained (I hope!), just sometimes it seems like forever!

    Oh! And a small bottle of lysol in your diaper bag for those yucky public toilets doesn't hurt either!

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  22. As the parent of three teens, each always with their own unique personalities and time frames for things, I can promise you that your toddler will one day grow to both pee and poo in a toilet appropriately {or almost appropriately, as boys tend to get sidetracked while aiming}. You'll be wondering what to do with all that dough you save from buying diapers and pull-ups, but don't worry, there will be plenty more to spend it on! Hang in there, potty-trainers!! It will happen. :)

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  23. I also had 3 in diapers at once (3 kids in under 4 years). And I SWEAR by the "start at 3, end at 3" -- I think I may have left that comment earlier. :) My oldest mastered #1 and stalled. My 2nd was the kid who, when I told her she'd get one M&M for pee-pee and 2 for poop, looked up at me with a calculating squint and said "And...how many do I get for toots?" Hilarious, but she trained herself in about 3 days. Youngest...well, I was so sleep-deprived that I cannot even tell you how he finally made it. But one thing that he found fun was if I threw a cheerio in the potty to improve his aim. (This sounds like it would be up Sebastian's alley...)

    It was hard to have 3 in diapers at once mostly because getting out the door is nigh on impossible when serial blowouts seemed to be my personal fate... but you're right, personality is key in figuring out what your kid's currency is (as well as their disgust level). If they have a low gross-out level, you have to find a reward that works. Oh yes! That's what worked for #3, my son-- a Hot Wheels car reward. They're less than a buck and worth every flush. Good luck!
    -Melissa

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  24. I'm much more of a reader than a commenter, but I may have been the one to say start at 2, they'll be done at 3, start at 3 they'll be done ASAP because that is the kind of thing I often say. I give the same advice with teaching kids to read (but obviously with older ages). With most things parenting, waiting until they are ready makes it so much easier for everyone. While I'm here let me also say the whole number 2 in the diaper thing is totally ok, it will end when they're ready. My kids are 18, 16, and 11 so I've been there and we've overcome these (and many other) hurdles.

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  25. How about kids with a language delay? It seems like everything involved in potty training involves a lot of communication. My 2-year-old is just now getting verbal so I don't feel like we can really go anywhere with the whole PT business until we can really talk it out. Thoughts?

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    1. My oldest also has a language delay and we trained him at 2 years and 3 months. I just picked one week and decided to try it! People will joke and say I was the one who was trained, not him. I took him to the bathroom every 2 hours for a week, diapers for naps and overnight, and he was trained with number 1 in a week. Number 2 took about 3 more months for him. I used the same method with my second, also speech delayed, son and had just as much success. It also took him about 3 months longer to get number two, but we got there. For me it was worth the effort. I didn't want a three year old in diapers! It is wonderful to have a 2.5 year old who is potty trained :)

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    2. also neither one of my sons showed any signs of "readiness." I just decided to try it for a week. I was prepared for failure both times, and both times they proved me wrong. It just took some dedication and lots of praise :)

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  26. Ahh the potty training, this can definitely be a frustrating thing especially with twins. I have tried a lot of tips and tricks and it does take a LOT of patience. I have finally got them trained for now (I haven't seen or smell any messes around the house). I'd love to share what I did email me at billie.g.hines[at]gmail

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  27. Great tips and all so true - what works best for you is for you! We have just got our little girl (who is 2yrs5m) potty trained during the day and diapers at night - it didn't take much from our side so we've been lucky! x

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  28. That Pic of Phoebe and Bash is just beyond cute. Love her expressions!
    My Isaiah is like your Julia, potty trained around the same time, informing me on car trips "I have to go POTTY" (on our car trip, his greatest joy was the adventure of public restrooms), and reading on the potty. I'm pretty sure we had to pry him off the toilet many a time after 45 minutes of his time in his library, as others had to use the 'library'
    :)

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  29. I'm late to the comment party, so probably no one will see this, but anyway. When going out I usually put a pull-up over the regular underwear. That way, in case there is a mishap, it's not a total clothing loss, but you can still keep them on track potty-wise.

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  30. I LOVE that last comment about the pull up over undies. Brilliant! I *hope* to be one of the "cold turkey" trainers when it comes time. Right now, both my 14 month and 2 month old ha-a-a-t-eee when they have pee/nasty diapers so maybe there is hope that potty training won't be too much of hell on Earth? Love your insight and simplicity to PTing :)

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