Potty Training 101
I would like to preference that I am no expert on potty training, but my son was fully potty trained by two so I must know something right? Well sort of. There have been two irrational fears I had since before having kids. These dated back all the way to my babysitting and nannying days. Binkies (pacifiers) and potty training. I remember them both vividly as a struggle. To my delight Sonny never took to a binkie, but there was still potty training to tackle. My mother in law will still tell you that my husband was potty trained by his first birthday (impossible and it was most likely his second birthday) and my mom will tell you that both my brother and I were fully potty trained by the age of two. So why were my friends with kids older than mine struggling? I felt like most toddlers are potty trained around 2.5/3 now. Why do I remember the diapers battles I encountered when I babysat? So here I was questioning when, where and how to potty train Sonny when the time came. Let me tell you what I learned, what worked and how we successfully potty trained by two. My hope is that you can use my experience to help yourself and kid(s) stress a little less!
The internet is a crazy thing. When we were potty training our parents couldn’t google “potty training tips and tricks” or find thousands of social media accounts dedicated to the subject. Maybe that was for the best because I found myself going down the rabbit hole of following accounts and getting far too much advice (yet here I am to offer you some more). Either way the technology is there so utilize it. Find what works for your household and child. If one strategy doesn’t work don’t be discouraged because there is definitely another out there and it’s only a click away. All my research, including asking my mom friends, led me back to the same concept of NAKED POTTY TRAINING.
We will get to naked potty training next, but first TIMING. Just because we have some arbitrary milestone in our head when kids should be potty trained doesn’t mean they are ready. Society often make us feel we need to hit this marker by a certain time or we are failing our children. The truth is like every other milestone your kid will get there with your help. You cannot and should not force potty training. It will only have the reverse effect of your intent in my opinion. You will know when you child is ready. There will be signs and signals. That may sound silly, but we just knew when Sonny was ready. The first thing we did was we bought a tiny potty. There is two theories behind this… first one is GREAT a child size toilet that they find approachable and not intimidating. The second sentiment is it’s a BAD idea because they may find the big (aka regular size) potty intimidating and have difficulty transitioning. We did not have that issue. The little potty is still readily available for Sonny to use at home, but he has no issues using regular toilets when we are at home, out and about, or in public. At home he always had the option and since we didn’t make it a huge deal he is naturally gravitating to use the regular toilet consistently now. I truly believe because it was never made to be an issue in our house it never was!
Signs & Signals:
So what are the signs to look for if you child is ready? Sonny began to become conscious of when he was going in his diaper. He was kind of telling us and showing signs of recognition. When we saw that we started introducing the potty. We made it a big deal when we went to the bathroom. We allowed him to go with us when we used the washroom. We bought the tiny potty for him to start sitting on and getting accustomed to. We bought “big boy” underpants with characters (to my dismay). We did little things like that for months. Many methods, like naked potty training cut out diapers cold turkey but because we were starting so young (before age 2) I wasn't comfortable completely taking diapers away and doing a three day regiment. We got very lucky and one day after about a month or so of potty introduction Sonny announced "no more diapers" and wanted to wear underpants. That’s the day the diapers went away forever. That was our cue and sign so we ran with it! If your kid doesn't want to part with their diapers a common practice is the diaper fairy. At night when when kids are big enough to use the potty the diaper fairy comes and takes all the diapers away to bring to babies who need them.
Nap & Bedtime:
So what did we do about nap and bedtime if we took away diapers? Kids naturally will grow out of urinating in their sleep. Some parents will limit water intake before bed, but that wasn't a route I was willing to take which led to the issue of sleeping with no diaper. Even several months after being fully potty trained Sonny will urinate in his sleep. While we wait until his body matures and his bladder develops we switched to pull-ups. We call them sleepy pants in our house. When we introduced them we made it very clear that these were NOT diapers and only for sleepy time (i.e. naps and bedtime). What worked for us is how different the pullups look in comparison to diapers. In retrospect we could have continued just using diapers during periods of sleep because they serve the same exact purpose, but we didn't want to confuse him. After Sonny was fully potty trained we would slip on a pull up for longer car rides or when we thought he may fall asleep on a drive. As he has gotten older he won't consciously pee in the pull ups. If we put one on in the car he will ask us to pull over or at night/nap time he will go use the potty. This again happened naturally! I think taking our time and transitioning worked because of Sonny's age. I understand why parents potty training later and take away diapers cold turkey to eliminate confusion (I would probably do to the same). A good happy medium was pull ups for us.
This coincides with timing. There are some amazing advantages and disadvantages to potty training at different ages. Personally I believe starting potty training for Sonny before the age of two was beneficial because he is a very strong willed individual that would probably have fought the process if he was older. He was eager to learn and try because he was under two. As he has gotten older he has gotten more opinionated. But with early potty training comes accidents. Lots and lots of accidents are to be expected. I believe if he was older with better self-awareness and bladder control we would avoid these more often. So that is the benefit to potty training later. Will there be accidents... yes but there might also be fewer. A more intense naked potty training regiment is likely to work with older kids if you plan to eliminate diapers from the start. We had to incorporate pull-ups (aka sleepy pants) for sleep that I know older kids did not need.
What I don't think people understand is as amazing as it is to finally be rid of diapers (for cost and convenience purposes) potty trained kiddos bring different obstacles to the table! It's like hooray no more diapers... but now we have frequent bathroom breaks built into our day. This is more challenging with younger children. Sonny has the personality that is go go go with zero chill. He often rushes his potty breaks and takes more frequent trips to the bathroom because his bladder isn't developed enough to hold more urine AND he doesn't sit long enough to fully empty it. Again, this is something that comes with age and body maturity. Potty training eliminates some gross diaper changes, but it's not necessarily an easier route! I definitely need to get be more conscious as a parent of a potty trained toddler than when he was in diapers. There are days when we are out and about and I curse myself for potty training as I make the 165356733 trip the bathroom with Sonny!
Naked Potty Training:
If you are in the potty training trenches or spoken to a parent who has potty trained you’ve definitely heard of this strategy. It is also known as "no-pants potty training". People swear by the naked potty training method. Many get their kids fully potty trained in three (very dedicated) days of utilizing it. Naked potty training is not for the faint of heart. You have to dedicate time (usually multiple days) at home for it work. Oh and you have to accept the fact that your kid will poop on you floor... multiple times. Basically you let your kid walk around naked while you watched them like a hawk and try to get them on a toilet before they have an accident. This method requires dedication. You need to clear your calendar and bunker down at home while focusing solely on watching your kids every move. We used a version of naked potty training and still do after months of being fully potty trained. I say a version because we implemented no pants with pull ups at nap times and over a period of a month due to Sonny's age. I wasn't willing to do a more intense version at the time, but if he was older and there was resistance I wouldn't have hesitated to be more regimented. We still use the naked method when we are home alone. Sonny is naked from the waist down and can independently use the bathroom. He loves the freedom and independence and we have less accidents! When children are naked versus wearing diapers, pull-ups and/or clothes is they become more self-aware when they actually need to use the bathroom. Using a combination of diapers and naked potty training is not recommended because it is confusing and will make the process longer and harder on them.
Here’s the HUGE issue with naked potty training that I never heard anyone speak about, it really only works for stay at home caregivers. How can a child in daycare naked potty train? It really isn’t socially acceptable to allow your toddler to run around in public naked! I never really realized this obstacle until I was speaking with a working mom. This is when you have to adopt the three day method. The only way naked potty training works is if you fully commit. Whether that is three days or three months. All caregivers need to be onboard whether it’s a nanny, daycare, or family childcare. Communication and consistency is they key to success if you are not fully in control of the process. Children thrive on stability and routine so potty training is no different.
Yay you made it! Or so you thought you did. Regressions are natural. It would be odd not to experience them. As challenging as it may feel don't get discouraged or frustrated. Ok, maybe get a little frustrated and then learn to let it go. Kids will continue to have accents; especially if they potty train younger. Again, while I write this Sonny has been potty trained for over 5 months and he still waits until the last minute and "dribbles" pee if he waits to long. If he is sleepy an accent is almost guaranteed. AND THAT'S OK! If you find yourself in a regression and/or power struggle take a step back and take a break.
Here are a few things that made our lives easier while potty training from products to social media accounts to books and bribery.
Products We Swear By
These items made the transition from diapers to toilet easier.
We cannot stress enough how much extra underwear you will need during (and after) potty training. Specific potty training underwear do provide some additional absorbency too. Opt for fun prints and your kids favorite characters to make the transition more exciting! Travel toilets and disposable covers are an amazing options too when you are on the go! We've had followers rave about the potty watch too. This vibrating watch reminds kids to stop and try to use the potty without constant reinforcement from adults. Toilet targets are a favorite in our house. These are particularly fun for boys when it comes to standing and aiming in the toilet. They come in fun characters that kids will love. Traveling in the car was one of the most challenging issues we still face. I can't tell you how many times we've pulled over on the side of the road (which is not safe) or Sonny has fallen asleep and had an accident. You don't want to create confusion by allowing diapers/pull ups for every car ride, but a great tip is to line the car seat with dog pee pads. These absorbent pads will save you from having to constantly wash the car seat after an accident. We all know how fun it is to take those apart to clean! our favorite products are linked here.
We're not above bribery!!! We bribed with food, stickers, toys/cars... you name it we did it. Some people will tell you this is a bad practice but I personally don't know any toddlers that are intrinsically motivated. Find what your kid loves and bribe them. That is some of the best advice we can give. They will grow out the bribery stage of potty training. In the beginning Sonny would immediately look for a reward after using the bathroom. Now he rarely asks for anything because it is part of his daily routine. Using the potty is now natural and normal so he no longer requires mini M&Ms or a new car. Your kid won't either. Sticker charts are a great non-food option too.
Social Media Accounts
We follow these accounts that have great strategies and product recommendations when potty training!
Potty focused books may help your kid make a connection to using the toilet quicker and with more confidence.
Reading them consistently and repeatedly will familiarize the topic making it less of a new (and sometimes scary) experience. There are also plenty of potty training specific episodes of your children's favorite shows. We use this technique whenever we need to introduce a new experience. For example when we have a dentist appointment I let Sonny watch an episodes of his favorite show when they visit the dentist. Thankfully this is as easy as a quick free search on YouTube! We linked some of our favorites potty training books here.
Out & About Potty Use & Training:
One of the most challenging (and scary) things for us after transitioning to potty training was when we finally started to leave the house! I remember having a birthday party and having anxiety Sonny would have an accident. The best advice I can give on this is always have an extra change of clothes and let your kid know there is a potty wherever your go! I still do this. Anytime we go somewhere new I tell him they have a potty and to just let me know. In the beginning I would go as far as showing him the bathroom as soon as we arrived. This reinforces that they can use the bathroom outside of the home. As scary as that first outing was it couldn't have gone smoother. Sonny didn't have an accident and if he did I had a change of clothes ready to go. When we were first out and about we brought some of our favorite products (see above) to help too. Another great idea is if your child struggles with using public restrooms because of the loud automatic flushing is to put a post it note to cover up the censor! Simple, easy and cheap solution. I will say the benefit to having a boy was how easy it is to use the restroom when we are out while avoiding germs. It is not unusual to see my child just randomly peeing outside. Judge me all you want, but we have no shame. The trick to using the bathroom when we are out is I let Sonny stand on the end of the toilet seat and pee standing up so he doesn't touch anything and I don't have to hold him up. This is obviously trickier with girls and those potty products will really come in handy.
I think the most important thing we did was take our time. We didn't rush or force potty training because we, as parents, felt like it was time. Ultimately, Sonny (with our help and guidance) did this on his own time. Regressions and accidents are a natural part of the process. Stay consistent and positive and it will make all the difference. Find what works for your kid and your family and you'll successfully potty train. Remember, it's not a competition and there is no college admissions question asking how early or late you learned to use the bathroom. This is just another milestone that your kid will figure out in there own time with your support!
XO - Amanda