Potty training is a sh*t show (literally!) I am in the midst of training my 2.5 year old boy-girl twins and my 14-month-old son (yes, you read that right!) because my husband and I are so done with diapers at our house. If my kids know how to memorize shapes (including the obscure ones like octagons and trapezoids), know their ABCs and numbers, and are speaking in full sentences, it’s high time they learn to go the bathroom. However, I am quickly learning that kids are creatures of habit so no matter how acute their memorization skills, training them to change their routine and adopt a new one is painfully tough. According to Mayo Clinic, potty training success hinges on physical, developmental, and behavioral milestones, not age. Some kids show signs of being ready at 18 – 24 months and others are ready by 3 years old. Here’s what they recommend you ask yourself.
- Can your child walk to and sit on a toilet?
- Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
- Can your child stay dry for up to two hours?
- Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
- Can your child communicate when he or she needs to go?
- Does your child seem interested in using the toilet?
If you answered mostly yes, your child might be ready. If you answered mostly no, you might want to wait — especially if your child is about to face a major change, such as a move or the arrival of a new sibling.
For my baby, we prop him on the toilet when he wakes up in the morning and from his two naps, and he inevitably pees and goes number 2 at times. Amazing! We read that getting your child acclimated to the toilet at a young age may make it easier when he is walking and talking because it’s something he’s now familiar with. (Fingers crossed he trains right alongside my twins!)
To me, the process of potty training isn’t really for the kid. It’s for the parent. Are you mentally, physically, and emotionally ready for it? Because it’s your lead, and you’ll have to come up with a game plan and stick to it. As I said, we are in the midst of training our kids so I have yet to do our victory dance at the finish line, but the process takes time and I know we’ll get there. For now, I’d like to share what is working for us thus far!
- Reading Material. Most of my friends read Oh Crap! Potty Training – Everything Modern Parents Need To Know To Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki. She has a 6-step plan and encourages parents to spend a long weekend at home (with kids sans diapers) so that they get used to the sensation of going in a toilet. Kids actually grow comfortable with sitting in their own urine/feces (so gross, I know!) because they don’t know any different. For your kids, you can buy them Toilet Time books. All three of my kids love pressing the button and hearing the flushing sound, and though it’s silly, I think it reinforces what using the potty entails – start to finish.
- Get Equipped. We have both toilet seat covers and small toilets at home. The kids seem to prefer the Jool Baby toilet seat covers because they’re comfortable and they actually like stowing them away on the handy-dandy command hook on the wall. I love them since I’m a minimalist and hate clunky baby gear. You’ll need a step stool like the Acko foldable step stool (another stow away item in the bathroom. Score!), which helps them get onto the toilet and is necessary when they’re washing their hands. We use this Prince Lionheart faucet extender too, which makes it easy for my toddlers to be self sufficient. We have two Oxo Tot Potty Chairs which are easy to clean and do the job as well (especially when the kids need to sit a while). I just discovered this Mindful Moby Baby Potty that has an ergonomic design, doubles as a step stool, and donates a portion of its proceeds to save whales which is a lovely initiative.
- Schedule Time. Not going anywhere for a while? Grab a snickers (and some pet training pads to line the floor and bathroom cleaner) because doing the full-on potty training is a 3-day-long affair, in 1 hour increments. You can let your kids run around with no underpants or if you want, put on their underwear and if an accident happens, at least they know what it feels like.
- Buy the Necessary Apparel. My son wears Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs and my daughter wears Hanes hipster panties. On school days we send them in Seventh Generation pull-up diapers because I’m not quite ready to have an accident in their car seats. I find these to be the most hypoallegenic on the market. At night, they wear The Honest Company Overnight Diapers, which are free of harmful chemicals and are super absorbent for 8+ hours. There are PeeJamas (cute, huh!) that help with weaning off overnight diapers because they have absorbent material for accidents, and can be worn as regular PJs post training.
- Use a timer. Whether you have an Echo Dot with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or smart watch, set a timer for every hour or every 45 minutes and put your kids on the toilet. It’ll turn into a game each time the alarm goes off. If that’s too difficult, be sure to put them on at least 45 minutes after each meal or after they chug down their milk or water.
- Potty Chart, etc. You can make your own potty chart and put up stickers each time they use the bathroom which leads to a prize at the end like a new toy or a trip to their favorite indoor gym. I also started incentivizing with Auntie Annie fruit snacks – 1 for pee, 2 for poop. I know some schools of thought are staunchly against rewards because kids need not be rewarded for something they must learn to do, but if it’s working for you with younger kids, I don’t see the harm in it. Eventually it will become habitual and they’ll forget about the chart and rewards on their own.
As with any parenting strategy, to each their own. Get prepared, try a few different tactics, and remember to be calm and patient. Don’t shame your little one when they make a mistake because potty training can backfire and they may regress even more. Lastly, ensure that you and your village (grandparents, preschool teachers, nanny/babysitter) are on the same page. You’ve got this!