Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Friday, September 26, 2014

Potty Train Quickly and With Minimal Stress

Image from adventureswiththepooh.wordpress.com

I'll start right out with this: I hate potty training. With child number five I spent several weeks in denial before finally admitting that the day to start was staring me right in the face. But I'm about to let you in on a little secret about potty training. It can be done with just one seriously intense day and about a week of reminders for your little one.

The first thing we've done is let go of the expectation that our 18 month old or 2 year old will potty train successfully. We wait until our kids are three years old. This is especially for boys, but I'd wait with girls until at least closer to 2 1/2. There are several cognitive abilities that need to be developed before children are ready to train. They must be able to hear, remember, and obey at least three simple directions at once. So, something like, "Run to the potty, pull down your undies, and pee," must be a reasonable request.

(A lot of people talk about using peeing dolls to aid in their child's understanding. Hogwash! Why go and buy an expensive doll that drinks and pees when you can just set your child up in the bathroom with Mom or Dad (depending on the sex of your child) to watch an actual live person? Dolls are great for pretend, but you want your child to go potty in reality. So show them how.)

We begin by really talking up the potty experience long before we actually start using the potty. We build anticipation and talk about how diapers are for babies and undies are for big boys/girls. We let our child watch us go potty to get an idea of what he'll be doing. And we talk about it in excited tones and with big smiles.

On the day of, we take off the diaper in the morning and congratulate our child on becoming a big boy. It is absolutely crucial to this method that you switch completely to underwear! Even at bedtime. Yes, it sounds painful for mom and dad, and it can be, but it is necessary to give the message that they are no longer a baby and only wear underwear.

We take our child to the potty. Most of our boys have started out by standing. Three year old boys are typically just the right height to stand at the potty. They don't need to direct their pee because it just heads straight into the toilet. We've had one boy prefer to start sitting, but within a week he was willing to try standing. Sometimes, putting cheerios into the toilet for boys to aim at can be very helpful. Girls are easier because they don't have to aim. Sit them on the seat and let them go!

One tip I haven't personally tried but have heard works well is turning children to face the back of the toilet when sitting. It allows them to hug the tank and feel more secure on the toilet. I typically let my children hug me if they feel insecure, so I haven't tried turning them around, but it sounds like a great idea (and a back saver for mom!).

It may take a few times of trying before your child really gets the feeling of going potty. We had one child try for the entire day and finally at 8pm went 9 times in a row in the potty. What a relief! Most kids don't take that long.

You begin by first having your child feel the front of their undies. You ask if the undies are dry or wet and he will reply with dry. You praise him for having dry undies! Explain that dry undies are comfortable and that dry undies are what we want to have. Have your child try to go potty. Even if they can't yet, it's okay. Tell them that you are proud of them for trying. Since their undies are dry, let them have a treat. My kids love candy and it's a rarity in the house. We just put out a bowl of m&m's and whenever they have dry undies, they get one.

Set your timer for 10 minutes and let your child play. At the end of 10 minutes, go to your child and have them check their undies. Are they dry or wet? If dry, praise them and bring them to the bathroom to try going. If they have stayed dry through trying, give them a treat.

If your child is able to actually pee into the toilet, throw a party! Call a family member or friend who will celebrate on the phone with you. Clap and cheer and make a huge deal out of it. Give the child 2 m&m's for going in the potty.

Continue to set the timer for every 10 minutes that first day. It's a long day. Long. It may be wise to begin on a day when your spouse can relieve you from potty duty halfway through the day. If you have older children, involve them in the process.

It WILL happen that your child will wet in their underwear. When you ask your child to check their undies and the response is that the undies are wet, the real work begins. This is the time to practice getting to the potty. Voice your dismay at wet undies. Explain that when he needs to pee, he should run to the bathroom. Then say, "Let's practice!" Grab his hand and run with him to the bathroom. Pull down the wet undies and have him try going. If he can't pee (which he usually can't because he's just gone in his undies), pull up the wet underwear. Leave the wet undies on! This sounds awful, but it's a key part of the training. Go to a different spot in the house and start the exercise over again. Ask if the undies are dry. Of course, you'll get the answer that they aren't. Remind your child that when he needs to pee, he must run to the bathroom. Run with him and have him try to go again. Do this 10 times. Yes, 10 times.

At first, your child will think this is a fun game. After a few times of wet underwear, he'll hate it and so will you. But it very clearly sends the message that wet undies are undesirable. He'll very quickly learn that it's worth it to get to the potty before he pees.

Once the practice is done and you've accomplished your 10th try of running to the bathroom, you give your child fresh, dry underwear. Then have him check and praise him for having dry undies. Give him an m&m. If at any time during the practice he is able to get some pee into the potty, praise him and discontinue the practice. Give him fresh undies and a treat.

I have trained 5 children with this method and all have been using the potty consistently by the end of the first day. Typically they still have about one accident a day for the first three or four days. When your child takes himself to the bathroom without any prompting, you can consider him trained. That sometimes takes up to a week. Until then, continue prompting, but stretch the amount of time between prompts.


Push the fluids on the day of potty training. The more your child drinks the more opportunities for success they will have.

Have a special treat for bowel movements. These are sometimes scary for kids, so promising a really special treat can help them buck up their courage.

Plan to be home for about a week. Until your child is really comfortable with using the bathroom in your home, you shouldn't introduce a different bathroom. And for a long time (months), any time you go out, point out where the bathroom is immediately upon arriving at your destination.

Fill the day with positives. The practice times are hard emotionally. Be sure that you are filling up your child with positive remarks all day long. And maybe order in pizza as a positive for you!

Set a flannel backed plastic tablecloth underneath your child's bedsheet. Bed wetting will happen in the beginning. Be prepared with extra sheets, underwear, and a blanket on hand.

Plastic underwear covers are your friend. If potty training in the summer, beware that these cause your child to sweat. But these will keep most of the pee in the underwear cover instead of on the bed. And it allows your child to still feel the sensation of wetness intead of absorbing it like a diaper or pull up would.

Have patience, and take this all with a grain of salt. With six kids, I now know that there is no formula to parenting. What works for your friend's kids may not work for yours. And what works for one child in a family may not work for their siblings. With that said, please recognize that while this method has worked for five of my children, please do not use it if you feel it won't work for yours. You know your children best!

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