I get asked almost weekly how I potty trained Cole at such a young age. Whether it be a friend, a lady in the post office who notices Cole’s big boy undies hanging out the top of his shorts, family members, e-mails from readers, etc, I get asked a lot. So to the curious mom’s out there, this one’s for you!
Before I start getting on the goods of the post, let me clear the air with a few disclaimers. I know some people have passionate feelings about potty training and things may get crazy in the comment section, as sometimes they tend to do with hot topic issues on this blog.
1. Potty training is not easy.
2. I really do believe that every child is different in the way that they learn and pick up on things. Keep this in mind when reading this post. It may not be the way you want to go about it…that’s fine. I don’t care. Really.
3. No, I didn’t wait until I thought Cole was “ready”, was able to tell me he needed to go, or gave me signs. He was 18 months old when we started potty training, and I did it when I was ready. It was more of teaching Cole a new habit because he was so young. And it worked.
Now on to the good stuff. To be honest, I didn’t read a single article or book on the topic. I wanted to, but just never got around to it. I asked for suggestions from moms, grandmas, etc. I took everyone’s advice, used some, didn’t use others, and did what I think Cole would react best to. Potty training a child that’s older may be a little different than my experience because they’re more independent, vocal, and strong-willed. Not that it’s a bad thing to potty train when they’re older, it’s just different from my experiences so my tactics may or may not work for you. Call me a mean mom, but these are reasons why I thought it was a good idea to start young, and because he couldn’t say no yet
- Invest in a good one! We went through a couple different seats before we found one that we loved. Keep in mind if it’s for a boy or girl. At first we got this Munchkin one because we liked that the seat was squishy, had handles, and was simple-looking. We ended up not liking it because it didn’t have a pee cup thing (for lack of a better term), so when Cole would pee, if he wasn’t pointing down it would just shoot straight out onto the floor. Sounds funny now, but it’s not when you’re cleaning it! It also had a hard plastic seam on the inside of the seat that pee would get caught in and go all around. It was hard to clean. Cole’s little butt was so small too that the seam scratched his back and butt and made it bleed! Ouch!
We ended up getting the Baby Bjorn seat and we LOVE it! It’s all one piece so it’s comfortable, easy to clean, and very light weight for Cole to put on and off of the toilet. It was one of the pricier ones, but SO worth it. We’ll use it for all of our kids.
I wouldn’t recommend the little seats that sit on the ground for a number of reasons. First of all, I wouldn’t want to clean it out every time Cole did his business. Gross. Secondly, I don’t want my child to be able to just get up and walk away from it. Third, I wanted Cole to get used to a real toilet, and not have to adjust to a big one later. You can’t carry those tiny floor ones around with you in public. But again, to each his own.
Bribery in a jar
-M&M’s, skittles, stickers, toys, ANYTHING your kids like that are small and can be easily distributed through hard work is perfect for the jar. Cole preferred M&M’s and stickers. Put the jar on the back of the toilet. Let it be visible. Make it known that the ONLY way to get a treat is to sit on the toilet and go to the bathroom, or (in the beginning) at least give it a good try.
-Keep a stack of books in the bathroom. One of Cole’s favorites (suggested by SIL Kindsay) was Everyone Poops. (funny side note story, my nieces and nephews who stayed at our house a few weeks ago found this book and were disgusted. I heard them in the other room discussing it for a couple days in a row, saying that it was a “bad” book, and “not to read it” because it was “really bad”. I walked in and asked what would happen if they couldn’t poop. It put them into deep thought and the subject changed).
Finger puppets were always a hit too. When your child is waiting for a few minutes to “go”, put on a little puppet show.
-I would suggest about 10 pair. If you’re starting young, you may find it difficult to find small enough ones in the store. Trust me, they’re there, you’re just looking in the wrong place. They’re not in the little boy/girl underwear section. They’re actually in the baby section, by the cloth diaper covers and such. They sell size 2 there. We got Cole a variety. We bought some fun disney ones (so tiny and cute!) that he’d like. They are the more traditional underwear that you’d normally think of. We also got him Gerber Training Pants (found at Target). I liked these because they’re underwear, but they’re thicker so that when accidents happen, you don’t have a HUGE mess (just a little one) all over your floor or carpet. The child still knows that they had an accident, but it’s not as big of a mess for you. This is the reason I don’t recommend Pull-Ups. To me, Pull-Ups are just diapers that you can pull down. The mess pulls away from the child, and they don’t really know they had an accident because they feel just like diapers. Again, my two cents, but to each his own.
Now that we have supplies covered, it’s on to the action!
Dedicate at least 5-7 days of homebound-ness. Moms, it really is up to YOU. Here’s my philosophy (and here’s where I might get arguments, hate comments, and who know what else). 100% dedication and commitment is KEY to successful potty training. Mom, if you’re not consistent in a regular routine of putting your child on the toilet (especially for the first while of training), there’s no way that your young child will be able to stay consistent either. And the other way around. If you’re completely consistent and dedicated, you will start seeing results and consistency. You can do it! It’s hard, but SO worth it! Who really wants to spend ALL that money on diapers anyway, not me! Who really wants to wipe smelly poop all day long? Not me!
How I started:
1. Have a talk. Children understand more than we think. I remember sitting down with Cole and telling him that he’s a big boy now and he gets to wear big boy undies! I let him pick out the cool ones at the store, let him hold them, and really talked it up like it was something totally awesome (which it is!). I told him that poop and pee goes in the toilet now, and any time he needs to go all he has to do is tell me and we’ll run to the toilet. I reiterated ALL the time that poop and pee goes in the toilet, especially when he had accidents.
2. Put the undies on (not on you, on the child). Show him what he looks like in the mirror with them. Tell him how cool they are. Let him call his grandma and tell her that he’s wearing big boy undies now (am I taking this too far For those first 5-7 days, don’t even worry about putting pants on your child. There’s no point.
3. For the first couple days (again, this is what I did, adjust accordingly to your own child and what YOU think), put him on the toilet every 30-60 minutes. Yes, EVERY 30-60 minutes. Maybe even more frequently. Maybe for the first day, every 20 minutes until he goes. After you know he went, adjust your sitting times accordingly. For the most part, if you feed your child at the same times every day, he’ll poop around the same time every day. Be aware of his schedules. It makes life a whole lot easier. Now, obviously it won’t be super pleasant for either one of you after the first few times. Try to make it fun! When your child (accidentally or intentionally…usually the first few times they go on the toilet it’s accidentally), make SURE to point out that they’re PEEING or POOPING! Make sure they see that they’re going. Point and cheer! The second they’re done give them a treat. Make it a HUGE deal! When they’re done doing their business, I would say, “you’re all done! what a big boy” or something like that, and get them off the toilet. Let them look at it in the toilet and let them flush it. It’s fun and exciting for them (or at least it was for Cole).
Sometimes poop training can be harder than pee training. We would tell cole to try to “squeeeeze” it out. He would try SOOO hard, and it would usually work! Too graphic? Whatever works, right?
4. Accidents happen. You will have many, MANY accidents. It’s okay. Don’t get mad at your child. You don’t want him to be scared to go to the bathroom. When Cole would have an accident, I would try my hardest to catch him mid-stream, say “Uh-Oh!” RUN him into the bathroom, and set him on the toilet. No treat was given, unless he held it while we were running and finished in the toilet. Again, I would tell him that peepee goes in the toilet. If I didn’t get to him mid stream and the act was already committed, the SECOND I would see it, I would run him into the bathroom and put him on the toilet, show him his mess, and say that it goes in the toilet. EVERY TIME he had any sort of an accident I’d take him to the toilet. I know of a friend who potty trained their two year old and the first time he had a poop accident they made him help clean it out of his undies. He never had an accident again. Haha! Whatever works!
5. After a while you obviously have to go out in public. Be prepared. Keep with you two sets of undies, wipes, change of pants, and a plastic bag. They sell these little bags at Babies R Us that are for messy diapers. They fit perfect in purses and if you carry a couple around all they time they will be life-savers in “messy” situations. They’re good for messy clothes and undies until you get home. Make sure you take your child to the bathroom right before you leave the house, and at first, try not to be out too long, maybe no more than an hour. You will have accidents in public, no doubt. If your child is anything like mine, it’s a little bit of a punishment to make him sit in his mess for a little bit till you can get somewhere to clean him up. It’s ok. If your child tells you he needs to go to the bathroom while out in public, take him and put him on the toilet facing backwards (if he can’t stand and pee yet). It works like a charm! Not sure what you do with girls…I guess just set them on?
6. After a few months, just when you think your child’s totally potty trained, accidents will happen. It’s ok. It’s a long haul, but well worth it!
7. THE ONLY time I use pull ups it at the nursery at church on Sundays. The only reason I use them is because sometimes the nursery workers don’t know Cole’s potty trained, and if he happens to have an accident it’s taken care of. I’m yet to find he’s had an accident, but it’s a “just in case” thing. Between the second and third hour of church I like to go take him to the bathroom.
8. For the first while, Cole was still too young to actually tell me he needed to go. After he was trained, he’s just know to hold it until I took him. He trusted that I would take him, and I trusted that he would hold it. It worked well. When we were first training though, I wouldn’t ask, I’d tell. “Cole, it’s time to go to the bathroom…”. Now that it’s been a while, I’ll ask him if he needs to go, and he knows if he does or not. He also tells me if he needs to go. Sometimes he does need a little reminder that he needs to go though, especially if he’s playing with friends or with really fun toys!
I know this is a lot if info, but I’ve been asked so many times that I thought I’d write it down. Here’s a little overview of the most important things to remember:
1. It’s up to MOM to BE CONSISTENT
2. Praise, praise, praise
3. Bribe if necessary
4. After EVERY accident (even better mid-stream), put your child on the toilet
5. Don’t get mad. It’s okay to be a little firm though.
6. Be consistent
7. Be consistent
8. Be consistent
I’m happy to answer any questions you have! Again, I’m not an expert by any means, and I only had one child to focus on while potty training. This post is from my experience only and I do understand that every child is different and my tactics may not work for you.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes!