That’s my last baby when she had just turned two. She turns three this week. It’s amazing how quickly the time has passed. About six month ago, she kissed diapers goodbye, and I entered a new phase of parenting. Oh my.
Potty training can seem daunting, particularly when you’re in the midst of it. There were days with each child when I thought he or she would never get it.
Yet, lo and behold, after 14 years of diapering, all six of my kids know how to take care of business. Hallelujah!
Ten Days or Less?
I’m not really going to sell you a get-rich quick scheme, the Brooklyn Bridge, or a fail-proof strategy for potty training. But, I am thankful for the moms who went before me and shared their experiences. So, now I’m passing mine on to you.
With our guinea pig first born child, I took the slow road, buying a potty seat when he was just two, and slowly over the following twelve months worked with him until it clicked. It took a year, and he was fine. So was I. But, it was a hard year with lots of “one step forward, two steps back” kind of progress.
When our second child was two, we had just welcomed our third baby and wanted him to be able to adjust to that change first. He was always a sensitive kid, and while he was advanced in some areas, we didn’t want to rush the emotional stuff. As he approached his third birthday, we moved cross-country. And again, we didn’t want to put him through multiple transitions at once. Plus, I was pregnant with baby #4!
A couple months after our move, a friend mentioned that they had potty trained that weekend.
My ears perked up. She explained that they did potty training in a day. Say what? She shared the book that helped them get their kids potty independent in a short amount of time. I promptly read the book. While I can’t recommend the book based on some of the parenting techniques described, I will say that the idea of intensive potty training has worked.
Our subsequent five kids have all potty trained in ten days or less. One was dry 24/7 by the end of the 2nd day. Another took a full ten days to get the hang of it. The others fell somewhere in between. Just when I was ready to throw up my hands, the child got it.
Is there a magic formula? Is there a trick? Will it work for all kinds? I dunno.
I’m just a mom. I have no degree in child psychology. And I am sure that there will be plenty of people to disagree with my methods. But, I know that this worked for us. As always, your mileage may vary.
Here are the basics that we’ve used to successfully potty train our children:
1. Know your child.
This is probably the most important part of parenting in general, but it specifically applies to potty training and making this step, one of many, from babyhood to big kid. You are the one to know your child and his temperaments. Does he take well to new adventures? Or does he need to be coaxed? Does she have an independent spirit? Or is she willing to go with the flow?
Go with your child’s strengths. Talk up the adventure in such a way that he or she is intrigued and excited. Books help do this. Dora’s Potty Book was a big hit last year. It comes complete with a flushing sound. Oh yes, yes, it does.
2. Make sure he or she is ready.
The internet is rife with potty training readiness quizzes that seem quite complicated. I looked for three basic things: overnight dryness, ability to dress one self, and an awareness of when the diaper was getting filled. Remember, I’m no expert. But, these were the things that I looked for. I think they will vary from kid to kid. Waking up wet does not mean that a kid isn’t ready to be trained. But, in our experience it was a good sign to wait a little longer.
Personally, I didn’t even consider it with my younger boys until they were very close to three, or past it. The girls seemed ready at about 2 1/2. But, age is a misleading factor. Many people have a strict age guideline. I say go to steps 1 and 2 again.
3. Make sure YOU are ready.
You need to be able to move this new experience to priority level which means being willing to adjust your schedule — and maybe your attitude — to be prepared for more frequent potty breaks, accidents, and repeated instruction.
Once you decide to go for it, go for it. Rip off the band-aid. Cut the cord. Don’t hem and haw. Once you know that your child is ready, then proceed. If you’re not sure he’s ready, then wait. Why frustrate both of you with half-hearted efforts? You don’t want to confuse, you want to teach.
The “potty training in a day” crowd suggests to demonstrate with a doll that wets. We have simply made sure that our toddlers got a chance to see siblings or the parent of the same sex demonstrate how it all works. Once the kid knows the routine, it’s a matter of practice. Often.
5. Offer intense practice over several days time.
Spend the day focused on potty practice. Offer lots of snacks and drinks. Lots. And every twenty minutes check for dryness.
This was the epiphany for me: dryness is the goal. Going in the toilet is a complimentary facet, but dryness is the goal. Reward, praise, and cheer for dryness. Check for dryness often. And then offer more treats.
Help your child make the connection between going in the potty and staying dry.
The more your child can practice, the better he or she will be at listening to body cues and getting to the toilet.
(On a practical level, we preferred to use toilet inserts rather than separate potty chairs. This is less for you to clean and makes a later transition to the toilet unnecessary.)
6. Praise often.
Make a really big deal about it. Talk it up with friends, neighbors, and relatives. Buy the Dora chones. Make this an occasion to celebrate. It’s perfectly fine to offer small treats, stickers, or toys as encouragement for a job well done.
Just be prepared for your kid to ask for a “poo poo treat” in front of company.
7. Be patient.
Accidents will happen. Your child will try to wipe himself before he’s ready — and use a whole roll of toilet paper. There will be messes.
Be ready to be patient. Be willing to clean things up with a good attitude. Your child is at a tender age and going through a big transition. Make this moment be one of learning and be okay with mistakes.
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