Potty training. Yikes. I did not expect that I would be giving advice on potty training so soon in my motherhood journey. I thought I was going to be the parent with a 4 year old wearing pull-ups. Seriously, before I actually did it, I had no interest in saying “I successfully potty trained by son before he turned two“. Nope. No thanks. Maybe he'll just figure it out on his own one day, right? Well, now I'm the mom saying “I can't believe my son is done potty training before his second birthday!“. Mind blown.
I think I was mostly nervous to potty train because of the horror stories that I've heard from other mothers.
I'll tell you a story to help you put my fear into perspective.
The Potty Training Stigma
I used to be a part of a workout community for mothers. We would work out around the local park with our strollers, babies and toddlers in tow. Well, one day, during the workout, the instructor asked the group a very interesting question – “If you could have a baby that was born sleep trained or potty trained, which would you choose?” Whhhhaaat? That is so easy! Right? Everyone is going to choose sleep trained. It was a no-brainer for me. Newborn sleep almost drove me to madness. Potty training CAN NOT be as horrific as that. I can't be wrong.
I was wrong. The class was divided 50/50. Can you believe that? Literally half of all the moms (there was probably about 20 of us) chose potty trained over sleep trained. Could it really be that bad? I was scarred after that.
Are you about ready to say “forget it, I'm not going through that right now” and move on from the idea completely? Let me ease your worries. It was SO not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Maybe because I prepared myself for it to be the worst thing ever, I made a point to set myself up for success ahead of time. And you know what? I did it.
Why I Started Potty Training Early
I potty trained my son when he was 21 months old. Ok you guys, if you're wondering what possessed me to potty train a boy so early even when everyone told me how hard it was going to be, I'll let you in on a little secret…
I was forced.
It's ok, I'm fine. I survived. No, I wasn't being held captive by a psychopath insisting I potty train my 21 month old. Instead, I had surgery on my dominant hand and could not use it for ANYTHING for almost 8 weeks. Like, literally, I needed help putting my hair in a pony tail, buttoning my shorts, and pretty much everything you do on a daily basis. You should have seen me trying to eat. Anyway, you guessed it. I could not change a diaper.
Also, being pregnant with my second child kind of helped my decision making. I thought, well, at least now I won't have two kids in diapers. That was a bonus.
Anyway, lifting my son onto the potty and giving a high five was much easier to do with one hand than changing a diaper multiple times a day. So I just went with it.
How To Start Potty Training Your Young Toddler
Hallelujah! I am so glad I did it. It was a total success and I'm going to share with you all of my secrets step by step including every disgusting detail.
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Step 1: Prepare Ahead Of Time
I understand that many people want to “potty train in one weekend” but if you can, kind of lead up to the whole thing a week in advance or so. I don't suggest just waking up one day and telling your toddler “ok, now you're going to pee in the potty because I just decided that this weekend is it”. You know?
Start Announcing Your Business
Throughout the day whenever YOU get the urge, announce it. Stand up and say “Mommy has to go pee pee on the potty!” and quickly make your way to the bathroom. As you sit on the toilet, say out loud “Mommy is going pee pee on the potty! Yay!”.
When I started doing this, my son started to get excited and say “Yay!” and clap with me every time I went to the bathroom. When he started to get excited about ME going potty, I started to ask him “Does Logan want to go pee pee on the big boy potty too?” and I would put him on the toilet. I expected nothing from him. I just started putting him on the toilet to “pretend” that he was big enough to go potty and show him that it's fun.
Let Your Toddler Watch You Pee
To be honest, that's really not difficult to do if you're a mom. Do any of you really go pee by yourself anyway? I doubt it. So instead of just peeing and letting them stomp on your feet and play with the toilet paper, kind of call attention to what you're doing.
I started by telling him listen and put my hand up to my ear. “Do you hear that? Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. Mommy is going pee pee on the potty!” My son thought this was hilarious. He would say “So funny, mama!”.
Eventually, he knew it was coming and he would actually come over and look. And when I stood up, he would look in the toilet and say “pee pee!” or “bye, bye pee pee” when I flushed the toilet. He was learning that pee goes in the toilet.
Talk About What's In His Diaper
When you change your toddler's diaper, ask him “Did you go pee pee in your diaper? Yes you did! You should go pee pee in the potty like Mommy and Daddy.” This is just playful and silly. He should be laughing and smiling as you say this. By no means am I telling you to condemn him for going pee pee in his diaper!
When you change a dirty diaper, say something like “Ew! You went poo poo in your diaper! Stinky poo poo goes in the potty.” Again, you're just helping him realize what's in his diaper so that he notices it more. If you're lucky, he'll start to become more aware when he's going in his diaper. Logan started saying “pee pee” and “poo poo” when he went in his diaper pretty quickly after we introduced this method.
Step 2: Go Shopping
I don't think you actually need to physically go to a store with your toddler for him to pick out his own underwear or potty. If you want to shop online or go to the store by yourself, go for it. It doesn't need to be a big fiasco.
What I suggest is that you just get something that your toddler can be excited about when you bring it home. Bring it to them, let them hold it and touch it and play with it for a while before you use it. Tell them how exciting it is to get these cool gifts!
I suggest that you DON'T buy a potty that is a stand alone potty that sits on the floor.
- It's big, bulky, and takes up way too much space for my comfort
- Ew. The thought of cleaning it makes me want to gag
- I'm afraid that your toddler will need his potty every time he has to go. So, do you drag it around the house to different bathrooms each time? Do you buy multiple? Do you only go potty in one bathroom? What about public places? I'm just concerned.
Instead, I think there are two better options:
- A built in toddler seat for your toilet seat that lifts and lowers just like your own. Genius! I did not go with this option, mostly because I didn't know it existed at the time but also because it doesn't have a shield for boys. I'm thinking that would have been a major problem. But it sounds super convenient.
- A potty seat that hangs on the side of the toilet until you are ready to use it and then it fits snuggly in the toilet seat for use.
I obviously went with option two.
I bought this potty off of amazon on a whim and it was a fabulous decision. It has a hook that hangs on the side of my toilet so that the potty can be “put away” after use and not take up any extra room. That got it some extra points in my book. It comes with lots of different character options too. We chose the Elmo one because one of Logan's favorite books has Elmo in it and he was obsessed for a while.
It's really nice to have a potty with a favorite character on it because he gets more excited to sit on it. For a while we were actually saying “Let's go pee pee on the Elmo potty” instead of just “potty”. It helped him remember that potty time was fun and nothing to be afraid of.
Also, if your potty training a boy, you're going to need a seat with some kind of a shield or something that comes up to catch the pee. At first, we didn't realize how important this was and we left the shield off. Do I have to tell you that pee was everywhere? Well, it was. The potty that we chose has a shield that is easily clipped on for a boy or removed if you have a girl.
Since we have a boy, we call them undies. This was hard for me for a while because I swear the word “panties” has been drilled into my brain! Oh well. Undies it is.
Buy A LOT. I mean, like, maybe somewhere around 20 pairs? More? Yeah, maybe more. Just buy too many, ok? You'll be doing yourself a favor. Unless you like doing your toddler's laundry every day. If that's you, then just buy a couple packs. Plus, it's not like they are growing out of them very fast. They will be using these underwear for a while. The range I bought was 2T-3T.
Find underwear that have something that your toddler is interested in on them. We got a variety to keep it exciting. We ended up with Mickey Mouse, Trucks, Cars, Trains, and Superheroes. Now, my son asks for which underwear he wants to wear that day. It's adorable.
A Potty Book
I didn't realize how important a potty book was going to be until we started using it. You'll be surprised how much time a newly-potty-training-toddler sits on the toilet. They need some good reading material while they're in there. We didn't do any research what-so-ever when it came to which potty book to buy. I just bought the first potty book that showed up on Amazon went with it. It ended up being the simplest book ever but Logan absolutely loves it. He still “reads” it all of the time. It made it's way onto the bookshelf now instead of on the back of the toilet. #progress.
It really doesn't matter which potty book you choose. Just grab one that says the word “potty” or whatever word you're going to be using in your house, has pictures of a child sitting on a potty, and has some fun pictures that will interest your toddler while sitting in the bathroom.
Step 3: Start During Your Longest Stretch Of “Time Off”
If you have weekends off, then that's when you need to start. If you're a stay at home mom, I suggest starting when your fridge is already stocked, appointments have already been completed, and the next few days are completely free of plans or pre-arranged outings. I'm telling you, you don't need any distractions for at least three days.
The first three days are straight from hell and you're going to want to throw in the towel. DON'T throw in the towel. DO buy more towels. You'll find out why.
Step 4: Have A Good Attitude
I should mention that your attitude needs to be good and realistic. Potty training can be really difficult. It's not super fun. It's not always easy. And it can be really overwhelming for you and your toddler. I'll be real with you and tell you that the first day I started potty training my son, I was sure it was never going to work out, my son was never going to catch on, and by the end of the week I was going to be bald.
None of that happened. Toddlers just take time to get into a groove and change their whole routine. It's just like learning how to sleep or walk. It took time and practice. Consider every potty training accident like every time your toddler fell down when trying to learn how to walk. You accepted that it was going to happen, you nurtured your toddler and you encouraged him to get back up and try again. You didn't get angry or burst into tears every time he fell, right? Try to have the same attitude when your babe is potty training.
Step 5: Set Ground Rules
Talk with your spouse about how you're going to go about this. Make sure anyone who takes care of your child on a day to day basis is involved in the plan.
Rule #1 Don't get angry
When your toddler has an accident while learning how to potty train, the last thing you want to do is yell at them or show them that you are angry with them. You want them to know that going potty is a good thing. They just need to figure out where to do it. If you yell at your toddler when they have an accident, they will start to fear potty training and pull away from the process completely.
Rule #2 Every time your toddler says the magic word, believe them
Our key words were “potty”, “Elmo”, and “pee pee”. Any time our son said those words, we went to the potty. No matter what we were doing at the time. Even if we had just strapped him into his booster seat we had to just unstrap him and get to the potty as quickly as possible.
Will they go every single time? Nope. Sometimes it will be a huge disappointment. But the purpose is to teach your child what to say when he has to go and that when he says it, he goes to the bathroom. It's a learning process. Stick with it.
Rule #3 Reward your toddler no matter how small the win
It's up to you what kind of reward you want to give your toddler. For us, we gave half of an animal cracker every time he successfully went potty in the toilet. He only received this treat for potty. No other times during the day. So he knew that this was special and not just any old thing.
At first, the wins are pretty small. If they have an accident on the floor but then you run to the bathroom and put him on the potty and he continues to tinkle a little bit in the toilet, give him a reward for that small success! As time goes on, it will change. But for now, everything counts.
Rule #4 No Going Back
Never just give in and say “just today he's going to wear a diaper” or “just this time I'm not going to take him to the potty”. Be consistent. Once you decide to start potty training, you've got to stick with it for the long haul to make sure it works. Going back and forth a bunch of times will just confuse your toddler and I think it will make potty training harder on you later. If you decided that you want to potty train, DO IT.
Rule # 5 Sleeping doesn't count
Now, this is my opinion. I know that a lot of people do it differently. But if you know me at all or have been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I am the type of mother that likes to take things slow and easy. I'm not a “train in three days or bust” type of girl. I like to make sure that things are as easy on my child as possible and make sure that there is a “process” to everything. Taking away diapers 100% including night time seems a little harsh.
Plus, guess what? I don't really feel like being woken up in the middle of the night because he's saying he has to pee or because he's frustrated that he's sleeping on wet sheets. Nope.
I've kept the diaper for naps and night sleep and my son is not confused at all. Don't let people tell you that if you don't take it away all together that they will get confused. Logan pees and poos in the potty all day long and sleeps soundly at night peeing away in his diaper. When he starts waking up with a dry diaper, I will start to wean off diapers for sleep. Until then, I'm happy with this.
Do The Damn Thing. Start Potty Training Your Toddler
Can you believe that all of that was just prep? My goodness. Well, the day has come. You are ready, you are prepared, you are potty training your toddler.
Here's what you need to do:
Start first thing in the morning.
When they wake up in the morning, take off their diaper and put them on the potty right away. Explain what's happening and encourage them to pee in the potty. Likely, nothing will happen. Hang tight, you'll get there.
Take them to the potty constantly.
CONSTANTLY. I can't really give you an exact number of minutes between each potty time. I would guess around every 10-15 minutes. Your child has been used to peeing frequently for their whole life. There has never been reason to hold it for any period of time. Your goal is to catch a pee in the toilet for the first time. Once that first time happens, you have the upper hand. Until that first success, your child has no idea what to do.
A good trick that we figured out with our son was having him sit on the potty between every activity. So, it's breakfast time? Go potty first. Done with breakfast? Go potty. You want to read books? Let's go potty first. Done reading books? Let's go potty. You want to play outside? Let's go potty first. Get the picture? We started doing this pattern and it worked really well. Like I've said before, this changes over time. You've just got to get them used to it in the beginning.
Let your child go naked for the entire day.
Yes, naked. No undies, no pull-ups, no clothes (maybe a shirt). I warned you that you were going to need a day off, right? This is why. Your baby needs to see what is happening when he feels the urge to pee or poop. They will see it on the floor, they will feel it running down their legs, and all of this will be completely new to them.
Plus, pulling down undies 100 times a day seems exhausting. More exhausting, even, would be washing the undies that you're constantly soiling in these early days of potty training your toddler.
Expect a lot of accidents
Every time your child starts to have an accident, get excited and say “oh! pee pee! Hurry, let's go to the potty!” and take them right away.
Hopefully they will have a little left to pee in the toilet. When they do, celebrate! Even though they had an accident on the floor first, show them how exciting it is to pee in the potty.
After some time, you can switch it to “oh no, we are supposed to go pee pee in the potty!” to show them a little more disappointment that they had an accident.
Potty Training Your Toddler Won't Last Forever
On our first day, we didn't catch even one single pee in the toilet. Not even one. We sat on the toilet about a million times, but he never actually made it. It's about knowing what the urge to pee feels like. They don't understand the urge because they've never had to. Don't worry, they will figure it out.
Our second day he successfully made it to the potty 3 times but still had so many accidents I was extremely frustrated. I felt like he was too young and the whole thing was hopeless. This day was extremely discouraging.
Now, you guys, the third day of doing all of the same things, Logan only had ONE accident. He made it to the potty every other time. I'm not even kidding. I was so relieved! It was the first time that I thought maybe this could really work.
Now? Logan hardly ever has accidents. He just turned two and if he has an accident it's because he's completely engrossed in something and get's distracted having too much fun. He always realizes that he's having an accident and he will tell me “accident!” and run to the potty.
Be Gentle With Yourself & Your toddler
You really can't expect a very young toddler to be perfect. Especially after a short period of time. Give them grace, give them encouragement, and be realistic with your expectations. Now that I've potty trained a very young toddler, I would have it no other way. I recommend it for anyone ready to get their toddler out of diapers. I am so glad we did it when we did because now life is just so much easier.
Do you have any awesome potty training tips? Let me know in the comments! Are you potty training right now? How is it going? Let me know!
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