Adventures In Potty Training


Today marks “day 11” of potty training our nearly 3-year-old son, Bubba. I don’t want to jinx myself, but it seems to be going well! In fact, today is the first day Bubba has voluntarily used the potty without saying a word! TWICE today, I walked into the living room to see him sitting on the potty doing his business. Of course, we have had a handful of accidents, and over the next few months, we are anticipating many more accidents, but that’s okay. Bubba is learning something completely new, and reaching one of the most fundamental milestones of his life!

Where did I get such a positive attitude about potty training, you ask? It certainly hasn’t been an easy 11 days teaching a stubborn kid to pee in the potty, while simultaneously directing my attention to our new baby, but after reading Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right (yes, that’s actually the title of the book!) by potty training guru and parent, Jamie Glowacki, I was inspired! A friend recommended the book when I mentioned that we were planning to train Bubba, and sold me on the book’s philosophy when she said that WE (the parents) dread this milestone way more than the kids. Essentially, WE are the ones getting in their way of learning this skill. Wow. I was motivated! I picked up a copy of my own a few days later.

Getting Started
Like many potty training methods, Glowacki’s plan starts with a 3-day kick-start at home, which requires nakedness (the kid, not you), lots of fluids (for pee practice), lots of observation, and LOTS of prompting/reminding the kid to use the potty. In fact, clear your schedule, because that’s ALL you do for 3 days. I kid you not, I had never been so exhausted.  By day 2, we threw some pants on the kid, and took him outdoors for an hour at a time, as an experiment, and by day 4, we were back to our normal routine — with many potty stops and accidents, of course.

Nearly 2 Weeks Later
Outings with an infant and newly-potty-trained todder can be challenging, but I love the fact that we have stuck to this “no diaper” business, and are actually able to go about our lives as usual. I think Bubba will only need a couple of months to really grasp the concept, and learn to consistently go potty completely on his own (without me reminding him). It’s so exciting!

I must mention, at this point, the child will not poop in the potty. In fact, he will only poop in his diaper during nap and bed (we have him in diapers for sleep since we are not quite ready for nighttime potty training yet). There is a whole section dedicated to this very issue in Glowacki’s book, which suggests to wait it out, or night train while you day train. Since I am currently getting up at night tending to a newborn, we plan to tackle night training in a few months…when I am caught up on sleep!

Without recapping the entire book (you need to read it yourself!), here are a few key things that worked well for us:

  • Consistency is instrumental to the potty training process! Seriously. You and your partner/spouse/family/sitter need to be on the same page and be consistent with incentives/rewards, agreeing on ditching diapers (except for night and nap if you choose to night train later), and even use the same lingo. Everyone needs to work together to make the concept simple and mandatory — pee and poo goes in the potty. If you feel like it’s not the right time, and you want to take a break because it’s not clicking, that’s one thing, but a “no turning back” attitude will really make the process better for everyone.
  • Ditch the diapers! Either throw them away if front of the kid, or stash them somewhere for nap and night use (like we did). I explained to my son that diapers are only for sleeping until he learns to pee and poo in the potty all the time. It doesn’t seem to confuse him, in fact, the other day, right before lights out, he asked me to help him pee in the potty (he didn’t want to go in his diaper!). If you are wishy-washy about diapers during the day (excluding nap), your kid will receive mixed signals, and potty training will not go well. PS. Pull-ups are diapers. Sorry, they just are. Save your money, and go “commando” in the beginning and graduate to undies.
  • Naked-time at home is ESSENTIAL for the first few days. However, be sure to start dressing your kid in bottoms without underwear or pull-ups (commando) so he will not associate the potty with being bottomless, and learns to pull his bottoms (and later, underpants) down and up on his own.
  • Stay commando as for a few weeks before allowing him/her to wear underwear. Most kids feel secure in underwear and pull-ups (like they did in diapers) and they are more likely to wet or dirty them.  Glowacki explains that when accidents occur in single layers of clothing, they feel it — and it is uncomfortable. Therefore, commando encourages the child to use a potty. It’s been almost 2 weeks, and Bubba is still commando. I am not sure when he will get to wear his awesome new underwear, but it will most likely be once he has been accident-free for a block of days, takes himself to the potty without being prompted by me, and can pull his bottoms down on his own.
  • Be smart about incentives. Bubba’s potty reward is a bunch of clapping, praising, and a special “potty song.” Occasionally, he is given a treat (sticker, fruit snack, M&M) when he asks for it, OR if we are having an especially hard time convincing him to sit on the potty and we know he has to go. Bribery is advised against in Oh Crap!, but it works for us. However, I think you’ll be surprised what your kid will do for simple praise and fanfare.
  • Learn your child’s potty cues and potty “schedule.” You don’t have to log every pee and poo, but start recognizing the key times and frequency in which he goes. I learned that my son waits about 30-45 mins after his morning milk, so I don’t prompt or stalk him until then. I know that when he’s holding it and close to having an accident, he pokes at himself, crosses his legs, or hides. This is important to know, so you can get him on the potty before an accident occurs.
  • Never ask if they need to go. Tell them they need to go. Prompt, and remind them to use the potty, without nagging. If I ask Bubs if he needs to use the potty he almost ALWAYS says “No.” If I say “Come on, let’s use the potty now,” he will follow direction if he has the urge to pee. If he still says “no,” he usually doesn’t have to go. There are times when he refuses because he wants to continue playing or watching a show, but then I say “take the toy with you” or “I’ll pause the show, and you can watch once you are done.” I also like weave the prompt into our plans: “First, we get dressed, then pee in the potty, then go to the park.” He seems to follow along better when it is part of a plan.
  • Avoid the power-struggle. We screwed-up. Our son is nearly 3, and according to Glowacki, we waited too long to train. The sweet spot is 20-30 months because of development and independence. Our son is very headstrong, so the last week and a half has been all about striking a balance between monitoring his pee and poo while trusting he will make the right choice. The key is to avoid nagging them, and never let it turn into a power-struggle. Once they sense your desperation, frustration, or anxiety, there’s a good chance they will use that to their advantage or get turned off completely. I like to use the book’s suggestion of prompting/reminding Bubs to pee when he shows signs, we are about to go somewhere, or if it has been 30 minutes since the last pee, and if he refuses and says that he does not have to go, I say: “Okay, well, your potty is right here when you need it. Let me know if you need help with your pants.” Then I walk away…crossing my fingers.
  • Bring the potty with you! I ordered an awesome portable potty seat on Amazon that is great for travel and public restrooms — but it’s also just as easy (and cost-effective) to throw your training potty (we have the BabyBjorn training potty and love it!) in the trunk every time you leave the house. We have popped Bubba on that potty in the back of the car, passenger seat floor, and on the side of the road!
  • Accept that accidents will happen…a lot. Bubba left a nice little puddle at Barnes & Noble a few days ago. Just have back-up clothes, wipes, sanitizer, and a positive attitude with you at all time, and you will both be fine. However, be sure that your kid knows that it’s NOT okay to wet his pants or pee on the floor at the bookstore, and to always tell you when they need to use the potty. I blame myself for his accidents. I think 9 times out of 10 they occur because I forget to prompt or whisk him away to the potty in time. Eventually, it will be his responsibility, but right now, he is still training and he needs my guidance.

 Just DO IT!
If your child is between 20 and 30 months, Glowacki says to give it a shot. Past 30 months, you run into more issues. We are those people — though I don’t think it’s been especially hard up to this point. Why did we wait? As I have mentioned in other posts, Bubba has a speech delay, and without proper communication, we feared potty training would be a disaster. Plus, I was about to have a baby, and figured he’d regress anyway. As we approach his 3rd birthday, and find ourselves changing 2 sets of diapers (AND spending nearly $100 a month on diapers!), my husband and I know it’s TIME.

My advice is to take the plunge! If timing is not right, you can always regroup. Do your research beforehand and have a plan. Make potty training FUN and exciting for your child! Remember to be patient and understanding. This is a huge developmental milestone, and they will eventually get the hang of it.

What potty training tips do you have? Please share!

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