Friday, March 16, 2018

Potty Training 101

I’ve recently shared some stories and posts on Instagram about potty training August and I had several people reach out for advice on how we did it. I was hesitant to write this up because every child is different, but ultimately thought that I could lay out what worked for us (both times) in hopes that if anyone out there is looking for a place to start, this could be it. Here goes.

August is just shy of 2 years old, and Oskar was 2 years 1 month when he potty trained. I truly, truly believe that the closer to 2, as opposed to 3, you start, the easier it will be. When they’re littler, they still want to do everything to make you happy and go along with what you tell them to do. The closer to 3 years old you nudge, the more opinions and personality they have, the more stubborn they are, and there is JUST NO WAY I could have potty trained #threenager Oskar if I would have started later than I did.  Ever. That said, you will certainly know your child best, and go with your gut feel. 

I read the potty training book below and it spoke my language.  I used it as a resource over and over again with starting the process, hiccups along the way, and what I refer to as “maintenance”. I just love the author and her sense of humor, and would recommend this 100 times over to any parent new to the process. 

Before you Begin
Talk about how your kid is a big boy or big girl, and how they wont be wearing diapers anymore starting the next day. If you work, start on a Saturday. Be matter of fact but encouraging. We also read and loved the books that I linked below to both of the boys. Daniel Tiger’s potty training episode is also very good. If you can take the week off of work, DO IT. Otherwise, make sure you work with your daycare provider ahead of time to make them aware of what’s going down. You’ll need to approach this as a team and stay consistent, both at home and at daycare. I like to write up a few paragraph summary of our potty routine, what works, what doesn’t work, and what type of positive reinforcement makes the biggest difference. Set aside your Clorox wipes and paper towels so they’re easily accessible for the next day.

Day 1
It’s Go Time, which means pants free and underwear free days spent only at home. This is VERY important! Any underwear you try to slap on your kid will trigger the same muscle memory as diapers do. It’s just too much at first. Naked is best, and I PROMISE will bring you the most success. Watch your kid LIKE A HAWK. This is no exaggeration. I logged 10,000 steps in my first half day of potty training August because I was one step behind him the entire time. Any pee or poop cues aside, which would require an immediate run to the potty, make sure you set a timer and take them by the hand every hour on the hour to the bathroom and simply say, “Come on, it’s pee time.” None of the “Do you have to use the potty?” nagging type questions over and over again, because quite frankly, the answer is always going to be no (at least in the beginning). Be firm and direct, and VERY celebratory after a successful pee or poop. The book, below, is insistent on no treats to award using the potty, and I’m here to tell you that we’ve done it both ways. Oskar got an M&M after using the bathroom, which was all fine and good at first, but eventually turned into a standoff well after him being fully capable. He demanded his bribe weeks and months later (like really, probably 6 months later) which I sort of shrugged my shoulders at and just let him have what he wanted since potty trained was better than not potty trained in my book. This time, we went treats and bribes free, and August was just as happy with a song and dance and praise from a Batman figurine that we made talk. On this note, both kids LOVED when we made stuffed animals or figurines “talk” and “use the potty”. This always encouraged them to do the same, especially when they were cranky or unwilling at first. Another good tactic is a stuffed animal telling them that they want to have a race to the potty to see who can go first. Works like a charm every time.

How to approach accidents: try to avoid using the language “it’s OK”, or “accidents happen”. Instead, try saying “We don’t put our pee or poop on the floor (or in our pants). Next time, please put your pee in the potty.” 

Accidents WILL happen, however, and day one will be all about consistency, consistency, consistency. After about the 5th pee on the floor you will want to change your mind. But trust me, that light bulb going off moment is not that far away, and just KEEP ON GOING. The closer you get to quitting is the closer you are to them getting it. I’ve found that after a good night’s sleep, the process will start to click for your kiddo and day 2 brings so much more success.

One more note for Day 1 (and 2, and 3, and beyond…). Poop is an entirely different animal than pee. August did phenomenally with pee and never had an accident after the first day, and neither did his brother, but just couldn’t seem to tell us in time when it was time to poop. It was always a deer in the headlights look right as it was happening and we scooped him up and RAN to the bathroom. We have a lot of accidents—at least one a day—until it FINALLY clicked on day 4. Even now, he tells us “Potty! Potty!” several times leading up to when he actually has to go because he’s still learning the sensation himself.

Day 3
If naked training is going well, it’s time to try pants, still sans underwear. This is step 2 in the process, and also one that gives you a LITTLE bit of freedom to leave the house (see section below). If pants training goes well, I’d try the last and final step, underwear, after 2 consistent weeks of potty training success. We love the training underwear I linked below. They're soft, comfortable, and have extra layers of fabric for accidents. Some children are also VERY receptive to undies with their favorite characters, as they are unwilling to pee or poop on their pictures. Whatever works here. If either step 2 or 3 goes south, time to take a step backwards in the process and go back to just pants, or totally naked, until the process clicks again.

Going out and About
I wouldn’t recommend leaving the house for more than an hour at a time until at least the 1 week mark. And though I’m stating the obvious here, if you have a 10:30am pooper, don’t go out at 10:30. Yes, it sucks to be stuck in your house, but it’s also important to REALLY nail down the process as to not go backwards. We went to the library and out to dinner with August so far, which were both good opportunities for him to practice using public restrooms. Word to the wise, here: most public restrooms have toilets that flush very loudly and can scare kids. Make sure you cover up the sensor with your hand as they’re using the toilet so it doesn’t go off as they’re on it.

Make sure you pack at least 2 changes of pants and undies, a pack of wipes, and a plastic bag to throw soiled clothes into if accidents happen.

Once you start getting braver and venturing out for longer periods of time, we like to throw a potty seat in the trunk of the car because when they gotta go, they gotta go. You have approximately 60 seconds of time to react, and nothing kills a kid’s confidence like peeing their pants after having asked to use the bathroom.

Nap/Night Training
I’m pretty firmly in the “nap and night train right away” camp, immediately following when daytime training has 100% clicked and its been smooth sailing for a few weeks. At first, we diaper for both and say, “You’re going to wear a diaper when you sleep because you’re still learning.” August is still diapered for both nap and night time, and Oskar wore diapers for about 2 weeks after day time training. When you’re ready, I recommend adding 3 layers of waterproof mattress covers and sheets to your bed (waterproof cover and sheet, waterproof cover and sheet, waterproof cover and sheet). This way, when your kid has an accident, you can just remove the sheet and waterproof cover and have a fresh set below, ready to go, without having to launder and change them in the middle of the night. 

For what it’s worth, we moved Oskar into a big boy bed when we potty trained, but August is still in a crib. 

Nap time is typically fairly easy to tackle since it’s only 2 hours. I make sure August doesn’t drink more than a few gulps of milk for lunch, then we potty before diapering. He’s been waking up dry on most days, so I’m confident we’ll be diaper free fairly soon.

Night time is a bit rough in the beginning. It’s almost like having a newborn again. We stick to the “no liquids after 6:30pm” rule, and potty, potty, potty leading up to bedtime. Back when Oskar trained, we put him on the potty once before we went to bed ourselves. Then, in the beginning, I set my alarm for every 3 hours through the night to take him to the bathroom. Kids sleep so soundly that he never fully woke up. The intervals slowly increased over time, and a few months out, I was only setting my alarm once, at 3am, to have Oskar use the bathroom. I will admit that his wake ups in the morning got earlier and earlier because he woke up to go to the bathroom and never went back to sleep. This is one of the rough parts of the process that just is what it is. We stopped the 3am wake up/potty all together after 6 months, and the 10pm wake up/potty after a year. I’ll be sure to keep you posed on how this process goes with August when we get there.

August Update: As noted in the beginning, every child is different, and we were reminded of this lesson with night training August. August stayed in pull-ups until 3 years 3 months old, which may have been partially my fault for misreading (what I believed to be) his readiness. Since he was waking up soaked every morning, I thought he wasn't quite ready to night train, and we continued to wait on him to give us a cue. Finally, August started fighting us on wearing pull-ups at night since he wanted to be a "big boy", and we gave in and prepared for disaster. We were wrong. He totally surprised us, and started waking up completely dry on 6/7 nights. I do think the diapers were a crutch for him, and once they were stripped away, he knew he had to use the potty instead. We still put him on the potty before we go to bed at 10, but there are no other night wake ups involved. Hooray!

In summary, your biggest tool here is confidence in your child. You have to BELIEVE in the process and BELIEVE they can do it, otherwise, they wont either. Be their biggest fan, and praise, praise, praise. Positive reinforcement is an amazing tool, and nothing is better than seeing them proud of themselves. 

Get some wine and get it done! You got this!

The Goods

Training Underwear Boys and Girls: these are great because they have extra material in the crotch to absorb accidents. 

Potty: We used this one for Oskar and eventually transitioned to the Potty Seat, below. If you can skip directly to the Potty seat/Step Stool combo it’s much easier, but it’s all about your kid’s preference. I will note, that whatever you choose, make sure it’s CONSISTENT in every bathroom. The last thing you need is your kid wanting to only use the potty upstairs, downstairs, etc.

Potty Seat: this sits right inside the ring of your toilet. 


Stuffed Animal: for mimicking how to potty and providing encouragement and praise by making them “talk”.   

Water Wipes: Our new favorite wipes that we have on hand in the bathrooms. Also great for tossing in your purse since they have the flip-top lid.

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