Potty training: two words that make any parent cringe. I admit, I was dreading it too. However, when I least expected it, my toddler decided she was ready. If you knew her at all, this wouldn’t surprise you! It happened about a month after we had our second child (she was about 2 months shy of 2 1/2).
I didn’t rush her and I wasn’t in any hurry; having 2 in diapers did not scare me! I used cloth diapers during the day at home, so it was no extra effort or cost to have them both in diapers still. When she was around 18 months old, Claire had been waking up from nap dry, and my friend had dropped off a Fisher Price potty she used for her son (like the one pictured above). I had planned to stash it in the attic until she was 2 1/2 (in my previous daycare experience, anything before 2 1/2 was largely unsuccessful, and as I said before, I wasn’t in a rush), but she saw it before I hid it away and wanted to use “Riley’s potty.” I figured I’d just leave it in the bathroom and she could use it when or if she wanted, but I wasn’t going to pressure her. Around that same time, I found out I was pregnant again, and with pretty severe morning sickness I decided I just didn’t have the energy to commit and be consistent. She peed on the potty a few times if she sat there long enough, but by 20 months old had no more interest in it.
Fast forward 7 more months. Her sister was a few weeks old, and Claire was fighting me tooth and nail on diaper changes: running away, screaming, kicking, taking them off, rolling off the table, you name it. She would tell me she just wanted to keep it on, or she would say she wanted to run around naked. I bought another potty to match the one we had already (one for each floor), and a seat with handles so she had the option to use the “big girl potty” like Mommy.
I got out all the potty books we had (reading is one of her favorite activities), and we read them over and over and over again. We read the books, and watched the potty videos or apps that accompanied them (I link to them below), but I didn’t push it. I left the door open whenever I used the bathroom. She would come in, tell me what I was doing, then cheer for me or ask me if I got a lollipop.
One day I up and decided I didn’t feel like fighting her anymore on diaper changes. My husband had less than a week left of paternity leave, so we went for it. I told her she could be diaper-free, but she couldn’t pee on the carpet. We got out the two potties we had, one of which sings when you pee/poop in it, and set it on some leftover chucks pads. I gave her lots of fluids (even juice if she wanted it), let her watch a video if she sat on the potty, and did a huge dance when she peed on it. That worked exactly one time. She was more interested in if she could have 2 M&Ms for peeing or 1 Dum-Dum lollipop for pooping.
Every time after that, she fought me if I asked her to go potty (this child is more stubborn than I am!) so we let her play or do whatever she would normally, and gently reminded her “pee and poop go in the potty,” and left it at that. We went to Target and let her pick out whatever big girl panties she wanted (I wanted her to be excited to wear them and keep them dry), and she picked “boy’s” Thomas & Friends briefs. Rock on, girl. She also picked out some pink Gerber training pants.
Honestly, that was it. I decided we weren’t going to reprimand her for accidents or pressure her in any way. We used diapers or pull-ups at nap/bedtime (calling them sleeping underpants), and always asked her in the mornings whether she wanted a diaper or big girl panties. She picked big girl panties (or being naked) each time, and we reminded her where the potties were. If she woke up from nap dry, we asked her to sit on the potty, or if she was grabbing her bottom (a sign that she needed to go).
She had 3-4 days of saying “I’m peein’!” as she would start to go in her underpants, and then we (or she) would run to the potty to finish.Her only accidents were a few drops in her underpants on the way to the potty, and the occasional pee on the floor if she wasn’t quite sitting back far enough. For the first few days we offered M&Ms or a lollipop, and we always made a big deal about her successes, even if she didn’t quite make it. After the second day, I didn’t offer the candy but would give it to her if she asked after she was successful.
After about a week, I took her out of the house in just panties, and still no accidents. WIN! (I recommend these travel seat covers or this foldable plastic seat for public restrooms if you’re a germaphobe like I am.) I did buy a piddle pad to protect the car seat just in case of any accidents, and it’s come in handy for traffic or when she tells me “I’m peein’!” when we’re two blocks from home.
We’re now about a month in, and she’s been waking during nap/bedtime when she pees or poops (this sleep regression is very normal, because they’re becoming more aware of their elimination habits and are no longer comfortable with a wet diaper/pull-up). I think the biggest challenge has been reminding her to go potty before we leave the house because she doesn’t always “need” to go yet. Daniel Tiger has been very helpful with this part of the process, but sometimes it still turns into a bit of a fight.
On a personal level, I will say there’s an element to diapering that’s much easier than a potty-trained 2 1/2 year old: everything’s contained, you can change them as soon as it’s convenient for you, new bathrooms in public places aren’t a novelty to check out and play around in, reminding them to go when they don’t have to is a constant challenge, etc. Claire learned that “Mommy, I need to go potty” gets my attention instantly. I expected these things to come along with this milestone, and I find that when I’m patient and attentive, things go more smoothly.
We traveled recently and she didn’t poop for a few days. When we got home and her schedule readjusted, she had some trouble. It was hard not to get frustrated with her since she’d been doing so well for the last month! We had 2 days of a 90-minute long “I have to go potty!” followed by “no I don’t need to go, I’m not ready!” then “I’m pooping!” song-and-dance, but once she gave in to the urge, all was well again. Fiber for breakfast helps, too! 🙂
We haven’t tackled nighttime training yet. Honestly, I’m too selfish for sleep right now to try anything that might jeopardize that. For the most part, she wakes up wet in the morning, but is dry after nap about every third time. Some days she doesn’t nap and instead does the “I need to go potty” song-and-dance for the entirety of her rest time. Admittedly this is frustrating for me, but in the long run I know that she will get there on her own time.
There is SO much information out there on how to potty train a toddler, and here is the one thing I can guarantee you without a shadow of a doubt: the child will do it when they are ready. No amount of bribing, coaxing, or training will work if your child simply is not developmentally ready. And, so you don’t feel like your child is a Harvard-bound genius or a behind-the-curve anomaly, let me reassure you again that the range of normal for potty-training developmental readiness is some ridiculous range of 12-48 months (that’s between the ages of 1-4 years old). Daytime potty training and nighttime potty training are completely different animals. So, don’t stress, and don’t worry.
We read lots of potty books. Some she picked out because she was interested, others we already had, and some I got as a gift. These books are still some of her favorites, and she likes to recount parts of each story as she uses the potty now. The following list are the books we had and liked (in no particular order), and why.
We loved other Karen Katz books, and this one was no exception. It’s definitely a good book for either a girl or a boy, and the pages are bright and the flaps are interactive. The rhyme is cute, so I didn’t get bored reading this a hundred times a day. I like that the kid in the story isn’t using the potty regularly right on the first page. It made it real and relatable for my situation!
This book is part of the “best behavior series” from Free Spirit Publishing, and is a crowd favorite around here. They have a whole bunch on hitting, kicking, pacifiers, etc. This one again is good for both boys and girls, and has a really positive message (I’m personally not a fan of forcing kids or using methods that tell them how gross their bodily functions are. I believe this self-consciously shames them into holding it, and holding it too long can contribute to UTIs and constipation and all that down the road).
This one was probably Claire’s least favorite until AFTER she was potty trained, and I’m not sure why. Who doesn’t love stickers?! My friend gave us this book when we started the process because her daughter really liked it, so clearly it’s a hit with some! My guess is it’s because none of the potties or panties looked like hers, or else the book just wasn’t her style. In any case, the front cover is like a potty seat, which is the source of much entertainment now, and makes for a good play potty seat for her stuffed animals. Win some, lose some I guess!
This book was my personal favorite, and has been around for a while. I remember my mom reading this book when my youngest brother was potty training! I actually saw this book in the store and didn’t know they made a girl version. Claire was only a few months at the time but I was feeling nostalgic about my childhood so I bought it! It’s so cute, and there’s an interactive iPhone app that will actually read the book to you! There’s a board book and a play-a-sound book version too, but ours is just the old school paper variety.
I’ve never been a huge Elmo fan (his voice is just too annoying in large doses), but this book is cute and Claire enjoyed it. It also has an iPhone app that will read it, give you a reward chart, and sing some super cute songs (which come in handy later for things like washing, flushing, waiting, etc.) The pictures correspond to the buttons which is really fun for toddlers (I know this is not a new concept, but I loved that she could read along with me and know which button to push and when). There’s a whole Elmo potty series of books out there, but this is the only one we had.
How about you? How was your potty-training experience? What books or tools did you find particularly helpful? Leave a comment and let us know!
This post may contain affiliate links. View my disclosure page for more information.