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toddler tuesdays: adventures in potty training

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Potty trained: having been taught to use the toilet. That is straight from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Seems simple enough, yes?


We were newly married when a lot of our friends and family started having babies. We were then newly pregnant when a lot of those babies grew into toddlers. We were rookie parents when those toddlers started potty training. Having a newborn in diapers while watching other parents struggle with toddler toilets and floor pooping was a double edged sword – we were thankful we were not there yet (because we would have had absolutely NO idea what to do) but we were also well aware that our turn would come soon enough.

I’m willing to risk some backlash here because, let’s face it, I’m a mom and I will ALWAYS get some sort of backlash for some decision I make having to do with child rearing. (Let’s also have a reminder here that the moment you get pregnant, EVERYONE knows what to do better than you for ANYTHING having to do with pregnancy, child birth and being a parent.) Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve heard it, I’ve dealt with it and at the end of the day I really don’t care. My child is healthy, happy, thriving and loved – that is ALL that truly matters.

Rant over. Back to potty training.

Whenever they (or you!) are ready. For some kids that’s 18 months, for some kids thats 2 years old and some are never ready without some parental intervention. Here’s where the potential backlash comes from: A LOT of parents are being told that you should not start potty training until the child wants to because it’s bad for them. That is a crock of crap.

How many kids do you that needed an extra push to do something? Homework? Swimming? Chores? Right now we’re in a stage of stalling for bed. But you know, “I don’t want to push my child into going to sleep when he’s not ready” even though it’s closing in on 9pm and he’s clearly exhausted. Pfft. Kids are MASTERS of trying to get out of things they just don’t want to do. And potty training is no different.

I was (as were the majority of kids born before 2000 – or so I’m told from multiple older generation parents) potty trained BY two years old. Not AT two years old, BY two years old. I don’t know what this seemingly recent bullshit about potty training early is bad for your kid because parents seem to have been doing it fine the old fashioned way long before there were “studies” about the ill effects of early potty training. Seems to me there are more “ill effects” of letting your child potty in their pants however long they want to. But I guess I’m just a monster that wants my child to use a toilet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I wouldn’t classify myself as an expert on anything child related – as far as I’m concerned, nobody is a parenting expert because parenting is 100% about YOU and YOUR child, not about Suzy Q Nobodys’ opinion or degree – but once you become a parent other parents want to reach out to your for advice, especially when your child is ahead of or doing something different than their child. So I’m just going to explain what we did with Elias. Mama to mama (or mama to dad or grandma or legal guardian…you get it, yeah?).

First, get yourself a toddler potty. We use this one because it looks like the big potty – I’m assuming that will make the transition to using the big potty when the time comes easier. There are also other great options available like fun themed potties like this one or versions that let your child use the big potty from day one like this. It is very likely that whatever option you choose, your child will take to just because that’s all they’ve ever been exposed to. So try not to fret over what’s best. ๐Ÿ™‚

Second, set up your potty in an easily accessible spot. We use our main floor half bathroom for this because we are on the main floor most often and having to run upstairs (through the carpeted house) did not seem like a good idea in case of accidents. And then just let the potty chill there for a month. Your child will get used to seeing it and may even ask to use it.

Next you’ll want to come up with a reward system. We use a sticker chart, prize box and candy bar combo. Any waste in the potty = pee or poo sticker on the chart and one item out of the prize box. Poo in the potty = sticker, prize box item AND a full size candy bar. Yes, a FULL SIZE candy bar. Why? Because going poo in the potty is scarier or harder or whatever than peeing. Especially so for boys. Why? No clue. I’m not a child psychiatrist, I’m just a mom who wants her son to WANT to poo in the potty. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Once you have your basics covered you now have to ask yourself this question:

What you should be asking yourself is “which method will work for us”. Again, parenting is for you and your child. Stop trying to do it like the Joneses and own your parenting style and choices. There are some methods that are more child led (but those can definitely take a long time to work – both in the actual potty training AND the waiting for potty training to start). My husband and I were 100% on board with getting Elias potty trained ASAP so we chose to do the “three day” method. But you do you.

We had had our toddler potty for MONTHS. Elias would get on it and talk about using the potty but he would not use it. A month or so before his second birthday I had just gotten him up and he peed in his new diaper within 10 minutes of me changing it. So I did what any normal mom who was tired of running up and down the stairs for diapers would do. I said “to Hell with it”, took his diaper off and set him free. I explained to him that he was not wearing a diaper and to not pee or poo on the couch or the floor, that he needed to use the potty instead. And that’s how potty training started.

Day one was full of accidents. Within 30 minutes of removing the diaper, he had peed on the shirt I had him in, he peed on the carpet, the couch, an Amazon box and the hardwood floor. But he did do better than I thought he would. I’d say it was about 50/50 in terms of accidents or in the potty. Not bad.

Day two was more impressive. He had one accident the entire day. One. I noticed that he had starting going to the potty less and there was more pee each time than there had been the previous day – he was starting to hold it. It’s also the first day he pooped in the potty.

Day three had a few more accidents and it was the first day he refused to poo in the potty. He would literally run and hide when he had to poop and I would hunt him down and tell him that he could not poop on the floor and guide him back to the potty. He would have NONE of it. He basically held it until we put him in a Pull Up for nap. But after nap, the Pull Up came off and we resumed normal potty functions.

Days four and on have been steady progress. Clearly, we did a modified three day method where we chose to put him in Pull Ups for bed and naps (traditionally the child is diaper and Pull Up less for the entirety of three days). We chose to do it this way because no one wants to have to change clothes and sheets with a cranky toddler at 3am, but mostly because he straight out REFUSED to poop in the potty. At some point, you just want him to go, in the potty or not.

We’re about two months into potty training and I’ll say I’m pleased with the results we’ve had and I regret nothing. No, he isn’t fully potty trained – he still has “accidents” in his Pull Ups around nap time, can’t get his clothes on and off yet and pooping in the potty is still a struggle – but he is getting there. He can tell us that he needs to go or he will just run to the potty and go by himself, he understands that he is not allowed to go on the floor or the couch (and he reminds us all the time ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and we are working on taking clothes off and putting them back on. He is still running around without Pull Ups or undies whenever he is home as we’ve found he seems to be more in tune with potty needs when his waste has nowhere to go except the potty. The other day during grocery pickup he took me by surprise when he told me that he had to go potty while he was still in his Pull Up – that is not typical of him so hopefully that means we are on the cusp of ditching Pull Ups too!

I’ve mentioned a couple things we use in some of the sections above but I figured I’d take a minute to round them all up in one space and add in a few extras!

Toddler potty: This is the one we use – it looks realistic, the handle moves and makes flushing sounds, the insert comes out for easy cleaning and it also comes with a removable pee guard for boys.

Travel potty: We use this when we visit family or leave the house. You can use it on a regular size potty or as a free standing potty with some disposable potty bags. Think road trips – when you just stopped to use the restroom and 15 minutes down the road your toddler has to go NOW. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sticker chart: I chose this one for the stickers! I wanted to be able to see how much of which function Elias was doing, but still make it fun for him to chart.

Prize box: Mine is from Hobby Lobby (but they’re all gone so here’s a link to some at Michael’s); I wanted something fun but not potty themed so it can grow with the kids into just a prize box for other things. Peek around a little, they’ve got a great variety!

Potty prizes: I have A LOT of items in my prize box – we figured out pretty soon that 4-5 different prizes do not entice as well as 15 different kids. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here are some of the things I have in my box: bead necklaces, mini flutes, yoyos, mini springs, paratroopers, shark finger puppets, a variety of stickers, poppers, pull back cars and, of course, bouncy balls!

Special big kid undies: I really go out of my way to find and buy things that Elias likes. I personally like everything to match and be cohesive but Elias doesn’t care about that. Haha. He specifically asked for Blippi, Baby Shark and dinosaur underwear so that’s what he got. However he flat out refuses to wear them when they are offered. XD

A lot of our friends and relatives are skeptical and vocal about our potty training approach (even my husband was a little apprehensive to ditching a diaper all day but he’s 100% on board now) but we’ve stuck to our guns. We know a lot of people with kids who were not potty trained until they were three, four OR until they no longer fit in diapers and almost all of them have made points of saying “the pediatrician says”…and that’s about when I tune out. Pediatricians are great but so is pooping in the potty. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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