Potty Training

pottyPotty training is probably one of the most stressful times of the toddler years. I couldn’t wait to get both of my kids out of diapers. They are expensive, they are stinky, they are tedious…. And let’s face it, when little Tommy in the playgroup is wearing big boy underwear, we want our toddler to be wearing big kid underwear too. It’s not like it’s a competition. But let’s face it. It totally is.

Speaking of potty training, one of my high school friends was able to potty train her infant. It’s called Elimination Communication. Have you ever heard of this? It’s when the parent helps the baby associate elimination by making a sound when they are over a toilet. And the baby learns to go when they hear that sound. It’s based on an ancient method of childcare that has been lost over the ages with the invented ease of diapers. It’s pretty incredible that a baby can pee in a potty at 8 months old, though I imagine it takes a lot of work to be able to teach your child how to do this. Anyone ever try this?

I started potty training my daughter, not at 8 months, but at 2 years old. My sister-in-law, also known as super mom, raised 4 boys (now 5), and had them all potty training as soon as they learned to walk. They were all out of diapers by 18 months, and never had a single accident. So I was pretty much a failure for having waited till 2 years. Only thing is, my daughter had no interest in potty training whatsoever. She was quite comfortable in her diapers. And when I tried to get her to sit on the potty chair, she pretty much refused. She really was a stubborn toddler (she’s now a stubborn 11 year old. Some things never change…). I let her run around naked, she peed on the floor. I put pretty panties on her, she peed those (though that was much more uncomfortable, and she insisted that I change her). I put her on the potty only to have her just sit there and do nothing. Yet as soon as I put a diaper on her, she’d pee. I tried sticker charts, rewards, pleading, begging, bribing…… And nothing seemed to work. She just couldn’t get it. Or rather, she just didn’t WANT to get it. I was in a rush to get her trained at this point. She was now 2 ½ years old, and I was a couple months pregnant with my 2nd child. I wanted her out of diapers by the time her brother was born so that I only had one butt to diaper, not two. Finally, the day came. She did start getting it. She began to pee in the potty.

The very first potty pee is somewhat reminiscent of what it feels like to win the presidency, score the winning touchdown in the Superbowl, win the lottery, or becoming Miss America. “You peed in the potty?! Honey! Come quick! Little Susie peed in the potty! Yes, that’s your peepee, Susie! You did it!” There might as well be music in the background for such an exhilarating event. You want to take pictures of it, it’s so beautiful. You have visions of a house that does not smell like one big diaper. You think of the cruise you will be able to take on the money you will now be saving. Even the toddler who is beaming on the toilet after making boom boom is not as excited as you are as you exclaim over her latest deed. Even my own parents did a diaper dance around the trash can when they threw away the very last soiled Pampers.

Thing is, just because a kid finally accepts that a toilet is where their pee goes, it does not mean that they will always use it. Once my daughter learned to use the potty at home, I began venturing out in public with her while she wore her pretty dresses and her big girl panties. But being out in public is a lot different than being safe at home where the potty never moves. We were at the doctor’s office for one of her check-ups when she looked at me with a “deer caught in the headlights” look. And then her face turned red. And then she got the grunty look on her face. And as her eyes looked like they were going to bulge out of their sockets I realized she was making boom boom in her pretty big girl panties! And like a dope, I had forgotten to bring an extra pair of clothes or diaper wipes (by the way, I don’t recommend forgetting either of those things with a newly underweared child). I had to clean her up as best as I could in the bathroom and let her air dry without her soiled panties on. But the doctor took one look at her bottom that really needed a full on bath or a fumigation, and left the room so that I could clean her even better. When he came back in, I asked him what I could do to help her to not have so many accidents. And his answer?

“Maybe she isn’t ready to potty train, and should be back in diapers.”

I was furious! How dare he? That was such a defeatist answer. I wanted tricks to help her! Maybe a different kind of sticker chart, a fail-safe bribe, a vaccine that cured potty accidents. But to put diapers back on her? No way! He was absolutely right, though at the time I swore he was a quack.

She managed to be potty trained completely by the time her brother was born. And totally textbook, she regressed and had accidents and wet beds during the next two years before she finally managed to keep a handle on her potty skills.

By the time my son was 2, I had read enough books, talked to enough parents, and remembered my potty training experiences with my daughter that I now knew that pressuring a child was no way to potty train. I got him a potty chair, and encouraged him to use it when I was going potty. I would let him run around naked and just clean up the accidents, yet I never pressured or bribed him to go potty like a big boy. And one day he told me he didn’t want to wear a diaper at night, and ever since he has been a champ at going in the potty. He was potty trained by 2 ½ without any effort on my part whatsoever, and never an accident. It was all him. And he was proud of himself. And we were dang proud of him too. And I might have even done a diaper dance around the trash can. But only mentally.

(warning, I am not a professional, but I play one in my own blog)
– Always carry a clean set of clothes, maybe even two pairs, just in case.
– Potty training toddlers are intimidated by huge potties they can fall in. I recommend buying one of those inflatable potties for them to go in. They even sell liners so that your child can go, and you can just tie it up and throw it away.
– Diaper wipes should be carried with you long after a diaper bag becomes obsolete. Not only are they good for unexpected accidents, they are great for wiping dirty hands and faces, and getting sudden stains off of clothing.
– Have your child “go” before you leave the house, when you get to your destination, before you leave the destination, and when you get back home. Check in with your child at least once an hour, and watch for telltale signs that they need to “go”.
– Treats are actually wonderful for training, but careful not to go too overboard. Your child might expect the moon every time they go in the potty. Give them extra treats when they wipe themselves (check their job, though….). You might even want to start giving your hubby treats every time he remembers to put the lid down too.
– Diapers easily mask the feel of pee. Definitely put your child in big kid underwear so that they become more aware that they have gone. The discomfort of their wet underwear will urge them to come to you for a change, and will encourage them to stop wetting themselves sooner. Basically, you are tricking them into wanting to potty train! You might want to cover your furniture, or even just put rubber pants over their underwear.
– Better than big kid underwear? Naked time! What kid doesn’t love running around naked? If it’s hot enough, naked is every kid’s favorite outfit! There will be less laundry for you to do, less clothing for your child to remove when potty time comes, and what’s cuter than a toddler tushie?
– Clothes like overalls or that have a lot of fuss in getting on and off are absolutely off limits. I was sad to box up the overalls when my daughter was potty training. But there really was no other way. Her success was weighted on how fast she could get on the toilet. Help your child’s success by making sure they are wearing clothes then can easily get on and off themselves.
– Let them flush their own potty. For many kids, that’s reward enough. There’s something exciting about hearing that loud “whoosh”, and watching their leavings circle down to the drain. Of course, for some kids this is traumatic. Follow their cues. They may not even want you to flush it at all, believing that their #2 is a part of themselves.
– The most important rule of all: Patience. Your child WILL use the potty exclusively. It WILL happen. They will not be the only kid in high school still wearing a diaper. Some kids get out of diapers early, others keep them on a little longer. The fact of the matter is, it really is NOT a competition. Every child is different. And if you are impatient with them? The process only takes longer. So keep the pressure off of yourself and your toddler, and let them go at their own pace.

Do you have potty training success/horror stories? Any tips to share? Let me know!


7 thoughts on “Potty Training

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  1. Oh my gosh, cute stuff! I am so glad that I read this too, because I have been thinking that patience was the best thing, but I just decided yesterday that I was going to make him go on the potty a lot, thinking that would be the way to go. He was a lot more excited about it at first when we bought Once Upon a Potty and he would watch it and go potty, and he loves flushing his too. And mine(:
    Bu he has started going into the other direction too. I know it takes time, I tell myself everybody goes through it, I guess I feel most frustrated because I know he can and he was doing it. Now, he just wants his diaper again. It is so cute too, we bought these boxer briefs that look exactly like his Daddy’s, which he loved until a few times of peeing and pooping into them, like you said how the diaper prevents the feel more. He really doesn’t like it.
    Anyways, always good to hear there is hope from other moms(:

    I hope you have a great day!

  2. I really enjoyed this article! Ive been going through the potty battle for FOUR years with my daughter. And just this weekend, 2 days, 2 pairs of panties and NO accidents!! Not even when she spent the day out with her father! I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel…..

  3. Yes, I’ve heard of it. In fact, I wrote the first book about it way back in 1991 and call it infant potty training or just infant pottying. I know many who use the term elimination communication too. They are the same thing.

    We used infant pottying with our third son, thoroughly enjoyed it (lots of fun!) and liked it much more than the traditional toilet training we had used with our first two. We were really happy to start and finish earlier with our third.

    Here are some links for further reading:

    Infant Potty Training books and Potty Whispering DVD

    Potty Whisperer site with a short overview of how it works

    Infant potty training fundamentals, translated into many languages

    The International Board for the Study, Research and Promotion of Assisted Infant Toilet Training. The site includes a list of medical journal articles, supportive pediatricians and more.

    I’m a part-time wine country lady, visit the area frequently since I have many relatives there and some friends with a winery 🙂

  4. Hi Wine Country Mom,

    I read through your whole article here, what a story! So many of your experiences are sooo common.

    You know, my take on the ‘kids do it when they are ready’ is that I think it is all to do with their self-confidence level. If they are feeling ‘in control’ of their life in general, feeling accepted and secure, everything goes smoothly. If there is something ‘off’ (like new baby, moving house, changes at home), they can’t focus well.

    I too love your description of the fanfare and celebration around that first pee in the pot! As we practice EC, I feel like we get that all the time, LOL.

    Every pee in the pot is a grounds for a cheer! So thrilling.


    I learnt about EC/IPT from an article by Laurie above, and I have her book and am in her DVD as well!

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