I dread potty training more than just about any other parenting task. I’ve always heard that boys are hard to potty train, and I’ve known many a good mama who couldn’t get her stubborn little boy to potty train until he was nearly 4. So I resigned myself to this from the beginning, and I decided early on that I would wait until my son was completely ready to potty train.
But almost 2 months ago, my son showed me that he was ready, so we dropped all other plans to give it a try. And it worked. I’m not saying it will work for every child, but it definitely worked for us. It’s similar to how I potty trained my first child, with just a few differences.
1. Determine readiness. First, my son finally wanted to dress himself, pulling on his own pants. Then he showed an interest in wearing the fun Thomas undies we’d purchased months ago, and he would walk around the house with them over his diaper. But the last straw was when my 2 1/2 year old son started spontaneously wanting to peepee on the potty. When I took his underwear off and let him run around naked, he would not have accidents. He showed me that he could hold it and then potty when needed. This is the sole reason I decided to potty train him at 2 1/2. He seemed completely ready for it. I potty trained my first child at this age too, but I had no readiness signs–I was ready for it.
2. Clear the calendar. I’m a big fan of doing nothing but potty training for a few days.
3. Have a Potty Party! We watch various potty videos, like Elmo’s Potty Time or Bear in the Big Blue House’s potty episode. I let my kids snack all morning long on our first day of potty training. They eat lots of salty snacks and chips that we normally don’t have at home. These snacks make the potty trainee very thirsty so that he drinks a ton of water and has to potty constantly. It gives us lots of opportunities to practice!!
4. Let my son go around bare bottomed so that he was more aware of his bladder. This was my first time trying the bare bottom approach, but it really helped my kiddo learn to potty. I was so glad I read about it in the Potty training e-book I reviewed a while back, Potty Train in a Weekend.
4. Reward with a sticker every time he sat on the potty. Because there’s nothing my kids won’t do to earn a sticker!
5. Reward with an edible treat every time the child potties. We opted for Skittles this time (M&Ms aren’t safe for his nut allergies), but food rewards are up to you. I know, I know…rewarding with food isn’t a great habit, but I think all the rules go out the window for potty training. Big sister got a treat every time he pottied too, for cheering him on. This created a team work approach to potty training.
6. Reward for dryness. Every so often, I would ask my toddler if he was dry. If he was, then he got another potty treat!
7. Give a toy for staying dry all day. We had several days of accidents which were driving me crazy. To help with this, we bought a small little airplane, Dusty from the movie Planes, which he had just seen when his aunt came to town and took the kids to the movies. We put Dusty up on a shelf, where my toddler could see him on the potty. Once he went an entire day without having an accident, he earned his Dusty toy, which has been his favorite toy ever since. Bribery is not my favorite parenting method, but again, this is potty training! The rules don’t apply. And in my education classes, we called this positive reinforcement. It sounds much better than bribery, don’t ya think?
8. Keep it positive, no matter what. I had a rough time with potty training him, for several reasons. One, he decided potty training should happen during our first week of homeschooling. It was bad timing, but I knew I needed to catch him when he was ready, not me. It made for a distracted mommy and a stressful potty training experience. And at one point, he would potty a tiny amount and then declare that he was all done. Ten minutes later, he would have an accident on the floor! He did this for an entire day and it was so frustrating!!
I found myself begging him to potty, and I was near tears. Then I remembered the one piece of advice my pediatrician gives regarding potty training:
Just keep it positive.
OK, doc, I can do that. So I prayed, calmed down, and decided that it didn’t matter. Hopefully we would potty train successfully, but if we didn’t potty train well this time, we could try again later. Maybe I was pushing him to do it too early.
But I wasn’t. He really was ready. The next day, he did much better and stopped having accidents. Now, about 6 weeks later, he tells me when he has to potty and he doesn’t have accidents. He stays dry at naptime and doesn’t even wet in his nightly pull-up.
Sitting or Standing? We opted for sitting. Less mess! One friend suggested teaching him to potty facing backwards, which is easier and there’s less likelihood of a mess, but we’d already started and he refused to potty backwards. Since then, he sometimes decides to potty standing on a stool, which is cute, but oh so messy. I prefer him sitting at this age. He’s short!
What would you change? I wish I wouldn’t have lost my patience with him. I would’ve liked to have postponed starting our homeschool curriculum, but my daughter was so excited that I couldn’t put it off.
What’s the difference in training a boy and a girl? For me, it’s simply the mess. I frequently have to scrub the bathroom down completely to find out what that smell is. And with my daughter, wetting herself was incredibly upsetting for her. This made her potty train in about a day, with reminders after that. She never had an accident. Mess doesn’t bother my little boy quite so much. I also thought my first born was stubborn, but clearly I had no idea what stubborn was until I had my son!
How do you handle potty training at your house?