Despite my mother’s sound advice of never reading parenting books (except the scriptures), I insisted on reading a potty training book by a parenting expert that I generally agree with.
Boy was that a mistake. It suggested an all-out approach to potty training and suggested doing it at an age that I now feel is far too young to potty train.
So we’re not going into the things I tried that went wrong at first. I want to talk about the things I did that ended up working. Because that’s the kind of mood I’m in tonight.
I started small. After everything went wrong the first time, I gave it a few months, and I started on levels that didn’t stress me out. That meant that we worked on going potty only at home and only while she was awake. If I was having a bad day, I just put her in a diaper and called it good. She didn’t wear pants or underwear while we were working on it, and I used a toddler potty so she could take ownership and go by herself. The most effective way to get her to go at first was to sit her on a toddler potty while she watched My Little Pony. She would end up going at some point during the episode and I would praise her for going in the potty.
Gradually, we worked up to her recognizing that she needed to go and sitting on the potty all by herself. Then I added underwear, which was a few steps back and a few steps forward for a while. Then I added pants. Then, I started taking her out without a diaper. After a little trial and error, we’ve gotten it down pretty good. And when I say gradually, I mean gradually. We moved forward when I felt like it and she seemed ready, and at this point we’ve been working on it for around four months. Accidents are infrequent, and I can now take her out and be reasonably certain she won’t need a new pair of pants. She is still wearing a diaper at night and during naps, and I’m willing to do that until she starts waking up dry. I’m in no rush.
Some things that I found helpful: never ask a toddler if she needs to go potty (the answer is always no). If I see her holding it, I tell her to go sit on the potty. If she doesn’t listen I lead her over to the potty, help her with her pants and ask her to sit down and try. And if we’re about to go out, I tell her that she has to sit on the potty and try to go. Asking her to “try” going potty seems to be more effective than asking her if she needs to go or telling her to sit on the potty; it seems like she’s alright with giving it a go as long as it’s ok if she doesn’t need to go after all. Occasionally she doesn’t go, but 90% of the time she’ll go if I’ve asked her to try. If she doesn’t go, I just say “Thanks for trying,” and don’t make a big deal about it.
In fact, not making a big deal about it has been the biggest asset for me. By doing it gradually and still relying on diapers, it wasn’t a crisis if she wasn’t making progress fast. And if she or I had a bad day, I just put her in a diaper and tried again the next day. Since I was laid back about it, I wasn’t pressuring her and she didn’t resist. When she has an accident, I just say, “Remember, pee and poop go in the potty. You can try again next time.” That’s it. No biggie.
The nice thing about the toddler potty, is that now she can pull her pants up and down (although sometimes she requests help) and sit on the potty all by herself with no help from me. Most of the time I don’t even know she’s gone. She even dumps it into the big potty all by herself sometimes. This independence has a bit of a downside, because she never tells me that she needs to go when we’re out. But I’ve found that if I ask her to go before we leave, and just give her a chance to go potty every 1-2 hours after that, we can go out for hours at a time and have no accidents.
Feeling confident that my toddler can go out without a diaper is a really great feeling. I’m glad it’s gone so well.