Disclaimer: I’m not an expert and I’m not claiming to be one. I’ve never potty trained a child before, I’m just writing down what we’ve done and what we’re having success with on this new adventure so I can remember for next time. I won’t make any wild promises to others who read this; this is simply what I’ve done for those who are curious and have questions.
I read a few blog posts found via Pinterest about “potty training a child in one day.” While these posts contained helpful tips and advice, I ultimately decided that this wasn’t the right choice for David and me. I think trying to make a toddler make all the connections needed for potty training success in one day is a bit extreme, and you’re both just going to get burned out and frustrated by the end of the day. My method is slow and steady.
I approached potty training in three phases. Phase One: creating interest, Phase Two: active training, Phase Three: reinforcement.
After David started showing a lot of the signs of being ready to be potty trained (telling me when his diaper was wet/poopy, becoming regular, etc), I started flushing his poop in the toilet. My hope with this was to show him what we use the toilet for and help get him excited and interested. We’d run to the bathroom and I’d dump his poop in the toilet and have him flush it. If he flushed his poop in the toilet he got an M&M candy. We did this for a couple weeks while we waited to see other signs of him being ready (staying dry for a couple hours at a time, including naps, etc). During this same time I made a big deal whenever I needed to go to the bathroom: “Mommy has use the toilet!” and run off to the bathroom. If he came into the bathroom while I was going, I’d tell him that Mommy uses the toilet because Mommy doesn’t wear diapers.
I took him to the store and helped him pick out a potty seat that sits on top of the regular toilet seat.* For an entire month I had him sit on the toilet once a day. I just had him sit; no expectation or pressure for him to go. At first he was a little timid and didn’t want to sit there. I’d smile and encourage him and tell him what a big boy he was. I’d have him sit for one song (Twinkle Twinkle, Popcorn Popping, etc) and then help him down telling him how proud I was of him for sitting on the toilet. Every time he sat on the toilet he got a smiley face sticker and an M&M.
By the end of the month, sitting on the toilet wasn’t scary for him anymore. I took him to the store and he picked out ‘big boy’ underwear. With some encouragement and the help of increased fluids and sitting longer than usual on the toilet, David went potty in the toilet. I made a HUGE deal about it and we called important people to tell them the big news (Daddy, Nana and Papa, etc). For going potty on the toilet he got a Cars sticker and a couple M&Ms. I encouraged him to try again the next day with success.
Since we have Lilly who needs attention too, I didn’t want to actively potty train David until there was a down week when there wasn’t a lot going on and I didn’t have to be anywhere and when I could get Matt’s help the first couple of days. For us, this time was immediately after his initial success of going potty in the toilet. Success is motivating, for both parent and child, so we were all excited to start.
After David got up in the morning we changed his diaper and put him in a pair of his ‘big boy’ underwear and explained that he’s a big boy and doesn’t wear diapers anymore and needs to go to potty in the toilet. I increased his fluids (gave him some Gatorade in his sippy) to increase our chances of having more success right off the bat to keep him motivated. I had him play with his toys on a cheap plastic tablecloth (in case of an accident so it wasn’t on our carpet). The first morning we had a few accidents in a row, naturally. He’d get wet and look at us concerned and we’d run him to the bathroom and sit him on the toilet. If he went, he got a Car sticker and M&Ms. After lunch we didn’t have any accidents until the evening when he got tired, Matt left, and I had to feed Lilly.
On day two he had one tiny leak in the morning before running to the bathroom and another accident in the evening. Seeing the pattern, on the third day I made sure he was on the toilet during the times he had accidents previous days: success, no accidents.
The key is to stay overly excited and encouraging and to go “try” when you think they need to go. I don’t always wait for David to tell me when he needs to go; in the afternoon he likes to play with his toys and “hold” it for as long as he possibly can. When it’s been a while since he’s gone and I can tell he’s starting to get uncomfortable, I have him sit on the toilet and sing songs until he goes. For some kids, distraction helps them relax and go. For David, he does better when I leave the bathroom briefly to get a drink, check on Lilly, etc. When David was listening, I’d tell Lilly what a big boy David was being and tell her that David didn’t wear diapers anymore. It seems silly, but it really helped David stay proud of himself.
Right before bed, we put David in a diaper. I didn’t want to buy pull-ups when we still had a few diapers left. In the five mornings we’ve been potty training, David has woken up dry three so I think in another week we may not even need diapers.
(We’re currently in this phase.) After several days of little or no accidents, he got a little less interested and started getting lazy. We busted out sparkly Cars stickers, stayed excited, and had him make more phone calls to share his success. After several accident-free days, it’s time to make some short outings to practice being away from home and build confidence. We got a foldable potty seat to use in public restrooms to make them less scary. I’ll let you know how it goes.
* The decision to use a potty seat that goes on a regular toilet instead of a toddler-size potty was personal preference (space saving) and in hopes of him not being timid of public restrooms when we leave home.