Before you have kids, I feel like people warn you all about the newborn stage. The lack of sleep, the crying, and eventually the teething (which is horrible btw). What people fail to mention is something just as horrific….
the impending days of potty training.
By the time you realize that potty training isn’t as easy as sticking your toddler on the toilet and giving them a “good job good buddy!”, it’s too late. You’re stuck with them, and you’re in it for the long haul.
Now that Lincoln is almost fully potty trained, I guess it wasn’t that bad. It was a lot of trial and error, listening to advice, ignoring advice, and help/motivation from family and friends.
There are about a million potty training articles out there, and I am by no means an expert (with my one 80% potty trained kid). But I do know what worked for us and what was a total disaster! So if you’re stuck in potty training purgatory, like we were, hopefully you can find something below that can get you over the hump.
Potty Training Tips That Worked
First, let’s talk about the potty. We’ve used and tried them all: the “my size” potty like in the pictures above, the potty seat, the potty seat with the built-in step stool…you name it. While all of them served different purposes at different times, we had the best luck with the step stool potty seat.
1.) Giving an incentive. A little
bribery incentive goes a long way with kids. And Lincoln is my son, so of course he’s motivated by food. We learned that he’ll do just about anything for an M&M. We give 1 M&M for “tee-tee”, and 2 for “poo-poo”….although pooping took a little longer (see number 4).
2.) We let him see other kids using the potty. Well, obviously not random kids. We had gone back and forth with potty training, and he just wasn’t showing much interest. And he didn’t give a lick about watching mommy and daddy use the potty. But one night we were at some friends’ house for dinner, and he saw their kids disappearing into the bathroom to use the potty. He decided he wanted to be like the “big” kids, and that’s what got him asking me if he could use the potty (although to consistently yet), instead of me begging him to.
3.) Motivational videos. Lincoln’s best buddy since 10 months old is the same age, and this mama was fighting the same battle we were. One day after her son used the potty, she took a video of him later on where he was telling Lincoln “I pooped in the potty!” and encouraged him by saying “You can do it too!”. Lincoln must have watched it 20 times, and it really helped! Now they love sending videos back and forth bragging and encouraging each other when they use the potty.
4.) Giving him some privacy. Lincoln held out pooping in the potty for what felt like forever! Anytime he had to poop, he’d go hide somewhere and go in his diaper. One day when he was peeing on the potty, he started freaking out because all of a sudden he had to poop….and he couldn’t run away. He kept crying for me to close the door, and when I did and gave him some privacy..he finally pooped! Turns out the kid just doesn’t want an audience. Now pooping in the toilet is a non-issue, and I could be happier to not clean a man-child’s poop anymore.
5.) Making him potty at certain times throughout the day. Once we decided we were potty training forreal this time, we made him sit on the potty and try to go during certain times of the day to help him get started. We tried to make him sit on the potty every hour through the day, but all that got us was a lot of tantrums. Instead, we made him sit:
- before every “sleep” (naptime and bedtime)
- as soon as he woke up (naptime and bedtime)
- after every meal
We still have to remind him occasionally to go during these times, but he also recognizes when he feels the urge to go throughout the rest of the day.
6.) Cloth training pants. As a mama who loves cloth diapering, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t even know about cloth training pants until we were halfway through potty training! We love Grovia’s cloth training pants, which come in fun colors and are adjustable, so they can grow with Lincoln. I wish I would have purchased these sooner because of course, they ended up saving us money…just like cloth diapers. Since we started and stopped potty training so many times (see number 9), I wasted a bunch of disposable pull-ups that he 1.) either outgrew or 2) just ended up using as a diaper because he wasn’t quite ready for potty training.
7.) Cool undies. Who doesn’t like cute underwear? It’s no different for kids. We also found some super cute underwear through Grovia that we love. We’ve got a pretty large stockpile of undies that were given as gifts, but it’ll also be fun to let Lincoln pick out his own undies when he outgrows these. Plus, if there’s anything cuter than a toddler running around in little undies, I don’t know what it is.
8.) Wearing his underwear…even before he’s FULLY potty trained. This is a piece of advice I had gotten that actually worked. The idea behind this was that if Lincoln had underwear on and he peed himself, he’d realize he didn’t like how it felt and he’d start wanting to go in the potty. I was dead set against doing this….mainly because I didn’t want to clean up pee around my house. But when my son stayed at my in-law’s house for a weekend, and my MIL put him in undies from noon to bedtime with no accident….that gave me the courage to continue it at home. I still use cloth training pants while he sleeps, and when we go out….because I’m just not brave enough yet. But when he’s awake at home, it’s undies all day. He’s only had a couple of accidents, and the clean up was really no big deal.
Potty Training Tips That Didn’t Work
9.) Pushing him before he was ready. This is probably the most important one. I was caught in the middle of feeling pressured to get Lincoln potty trained before Goldie arrived (at 2 years old), and other people telling me that boys usually just take a little longer….and it’s so much easier if you wait until they’re ready. And it is SO true. You know your child best, and it doesn’t matter if Timmy was fully potty trained at 18 months or Susie wasn’t potty trained until she was 3 1/2. Wait for your child to show signs that they are ready. Yes, they might need a gentle nudge….of course. But if they are totally resisting, my advice is to give it up for a little while…and try again later. The difference for me between potty training before Lincoln was ready, to waiting until he was showing me signs, was night and day. I should have listened to my gut because we could have avoided a lot of power struggles and frustration. Once I realized it just wasn’t working, I stopped and tried again several months later. It made all the difference.
10.) Punishment. This went into the “ignoring advice” category because it just felt wrong to me. I punished Lincoln one time when he refused to use the potty and instantly felt horrible. Again, I really feel like I pushed him before he was ready…and that it wasn’t something he was doing to be spiteful. Punishment might totally work if they’re peeing and pooping in their pants on purpose (maybe to get attention?), but I don’t think that was the case for him. Once he was ready and started going consistently, I never even considered using punishment again. There have been a few accidents, but they’re exactly that….accidents.
The Potty Training Take-Away
I haven’t packed away the training pants yet, but I know we’re in the home stretch. I’m still a Nervous Nancy about undies at night and during outings because he still only stays dry in his training pants about 50% of the time. But I think this says more about me selfishly not wanting to clean up the mess if he has an accident in his bed or while we’re out.
I’m also so grateful to my parents and in-laws for jumping on board and motivating him to use the potty whenever he’s at their house. Without them, I’d probably still be too scared to start! Getting some help from some seasoned pros is always a good thing. Plus, he’ll do just about anything to make his Gram & Pops and Papa & May happy.
But seriously….go with your gut. Ignore the haters who say your child should be potty trained by a certain age and pay attention to your child’s cues. Because, again, it makes all the difference.