When my oldest daughter, Leah, was younger, I was definitely the milestone obsessed mother. I had a stupid timeline in my head on when she was “supposed to” do certain things. Give up bottles at 12 months, get rid of binky at 18 months, potty trained and in a big girl bed at 2 years.
Boy, was I dumb.
I drove myself (And my husband. And my mom. And my child.) crazy. And my child ended up doing none of those things at the “right” time. She actually wasn’t potty trained until she was almost 3 1/2. She was stubborn and so was I. It was a bad combination.
With my second daughter, Paige, I haven’t been driving as many people crazy (I hope). I’ve been much more laid back about when I want to encourage her to do the milestone stuff. She had bottles til she was over 2 yrs old, still has a binky, still in a crib, and up until this past week, was still in diapers.
And considering how old Leah was when she finally potty trained, I assumed Paige would be the same way. But people are right when they say that the second child is ready sooner. Paige has been randomly peeing and pooping on the potty for almost a year now, usually before baths. More recently, she has been waking up dry from naps, and keeping her diaper dry for long stretches. I could tell she was ready.
But I put it off for a few months. Its a lot of work.
And then as this summer was drawing to a close, and I was getting tired of trying to put diapers on her after going swimming. She was dry a lot of the time. We were ready. I didn’t feel like doing any sticker charts or bribes with her (I don’t think she fully understands the concept anyway) or anything else “official.” I just bought her 2 packages of training pants (basically thicker/more absorbent than regular underwear) and one day, I put those on instead of diapers when I got her up in the morning, and randomly took her in to go potty throughout the day. It worked pretty well, but she still was having accidents on my floor 3-4 times a day.
After about 2 days of that, I didn’t argue with my husband when he put diapers back on her for a couple days. But I couldn’t deny that she was ready. I just needed a new plan. (I love plans.) I did some googling and some thinking, and made up my plan.
Here’s what I did:
On the first day, I set the timer for every 45 minutes (seemed like a reasonable time for her, you might have to start with a shorter increment), and when it rang, I took her in and set her on the potty (regular old potty, no spiffy chairs or anything) and set her on it far enough back that she can hold on in front of her – don’t worry, I keep it clean! I brought in the iPad with me so I could show her a little video clip and help her be patient til she peed. If she didn’t pee, I would take her off and set the timer for 20 mins and try again. All day.
First day, zero accidents. But I felt like I was the “trained” one, and I was exhausted. It was a lot of time spent in the bathroom. But, zero accidents.
On the second day, I bumped the timer up to every 60 minutes. Good day, in spite of soaking the crib during her nap. And the third day, every 90 minutes. And that third day included a successful potty trip at Target! That is a big deal!
On the fourth day, I had to work. Daddy did a pretty good job taking her in to go potty, but there was an accident. But not the end of the world.
By the fifth day, I was just keeping an eye on the clock, and making sure to take her in every 90 mins-2 hours. She wore panties to church, and went potty in the potty there twice! At the end of the fifth day, she was starting to grab her little bum when she needed to go, and we would rush in and she would go potty just fine!
We are still keeping diapers on her at night, just in case. But as soon as she wakes up consistently dry in the mornings, we’ll ditch those too.
Getting toddlers to go poopy in the potty can be a whole other story. I lucked out with Paige, since she had been randomly pooping in the potty for a few months. All I had to do was keep an eye on her around 9-11am (her regular pooping time), and when she looked like she was starting to “strain” a bit, I would just take her in and put her on the potty to finish her business. No biggie. Other kids can get really freaked out by the whole pooping concept, so my suggestion is to start getting them comfortable with it as young as possible.
- Use cloth training pants. Pull-ups just add one extra step to conquer between diapers and underwear and prolong the process.
- Set a timer, to help your toddler’s bladder become more consistent/scheduled/organized, and to prevent accidents on the floor.
- Gradually increase the time.
- Don’t bother with treats or stickers or charts. Instead, use lots of genuine positive encouragement, reinforcement and praise. This helps them internalize their success and motivates them to keep trying.
- Begin early (12-18 months) by encouraging them to use the potty. But don’t begin actual potty training until they are legitimately ready (waking up dry, going long stretches with a dry diaper, and are able to pee on the potty).
- If its not working, take a break and try again in a few weeks. The last thing you want is a kid that resents the potty.
Good luck! And make sure you reward yourself throughout the process. Its hard work! You earned it!