As 2017 winds down, Rick and I have been reflecting back on our whirl wind year. So much has happened in our lives that it’s been almost comical. First and foremost, so many of you have asked for updates on our potty training progress. It’s no secret that we’ve had a difficult time potty training our oldest toddler. He turns four in March and we’ve been working at it, on and off, since last summer. It’s been an exciting journey but with all of our life changes, we’ve definitely encountered some unforeseen setbacks. Although we’re ending on a high note – he’s completely potty trained during the day (YAY!!!) – it was a bit of an adventure to get there. Our 20-month-old is now starting the process too. He’s amazingly good at it – there was no learning curve with him. He just seemed to get it.
We learned a lot throughout the process and as we embark on the journey, yet again, we figured we’d share some tips based on our experience:
There isn’t a specific age or time to start potty training so don’t fret if you haven’t started or if you’re not sure when to do it. The truth is, no two kids are alike, so watching your own child for those early signs of interest and readiness, is key to your success!
Jack started showing interest in the potty when I was pregnant with my second baby. Everyone kept telling me not to start the journey yet because we might encounter a setback once a new baby was on the scene. That advice ended up being an even bigger setback because we missed that window of keen interest. By the time I was ready to start, he wasn’t.
So keep an eye out for signs that can help you determine when your little one is ready to begin potty training, which can actually start as early at 18 months. Get started as soon as you catch some of the following cues from your child and don’t make excuses (like we did):
- Pulling at a wet or dirty diaper
- Hiding to pee or poop
- Interest in others’ use of the potty, or copying their behaviour
- Having a dry diaper for a longer than usual time
- Awakening dry from a nap
- Telling you that they’re about to go, are going, or have just gone in their diaper
There’s also a Signs of Readiness quiz (from Pull-Ups) to help you figure out if your little one is ready.
Make the Process Exciting!
Buying the first training pants is a huge milestone for your little one. So when you’re heading to the store to stock up on potty training supplies, take your child with you and get him / her involved in shopping. Let them pick out their own Pull-Ups (they come in different characters and themes). We didn’t do this with our first son because we didn’t know we should or could. The thought of making training pants fun didn’t cross our minds.
All of that changed with our second — we made the kick-off to potty training a big, exciting experience where we let him pick out his Pull-Ups, the potty (we bought three and had them in every room he frequents), showed him his underwear and read a ton of potty themed books. It’s a totally different approach and it’s working well for us so far. He somehow seems to just get the connection between the potty and going pee-pee.
Buy the right supplies
Make sure your training pants work with your little one! We prefer Pull-Ups because they look and feel like underwear but they still offer that diaper-style function for easy changes: your child can slide them on and off, independently, to mimic the underwear motion OR he / she can use the easy open sides for a quick, easy change, in case of an accident. With our son, being able to help clean up when there was an accident continued sending him that message that, “you’re a big boy!” “You’re independent!” Even if he had a minor accident, he still felt confident and motivated.
Keep Calm & Enjoy the Learning Process
When your child encounters potty training setbacks, it can be hard to keep (yourself and him) motivated. But, think of it like learning to ride a bike. Every parent is so excited throughout that learning experience and hoots and hollers words of encouragement as they run along behind the bicycle: “you’ve got this!” “Don’t worry, you’re almost there!” “You did it all by yourself! I’m so proud of you!” With the potty partnership, it’s the same – you need to be excited and continue those positive words of praise. We always jumped around the bathroom, gave high fives and used high energy. Sometimes, we really had to dig deep and raise our spirits. But, you can do it! And in the end, it’s so worth it.
Reward the Effort, Not Just the Results
One of the biggest lessons we learned was to really focus on the actual effort of when your child tries to use the potty and even just sits on it. Once the glamour of it all is lost, they can soon lose interest. So we continue, to this day, to praise our boys and talk about their potty progress. These positive messages reaffirm them that we’re still aware of their efforts and attempts and that we’re proud of them.
Say Farewell to Diapers and Stick to It!
Remaining consistent has been our biggest hurdle. After we started the potty training journey with Jack, we often used diapers as a crutch. If we traveled, had long business meetings, changed childcare or went on trips, we went back to diapers. It’s so important to stay consistent. Once you take the child out of diapers, don’t let them think they’re still an option. Even on those days when potty training is going to be hard (like road trips, parties etc) be consistent! It’s an invaluable lesson to teach your kids — work hard, even through the tough times. Jack had a few meltdowns asking for diapers, but we remained firm and showed him how exciting it was to pull up his own training pants.
Take your Time!
A lot of other parents told us not to worry about our son’s long journey – that eventually he’ll get there and be potty trained. It’s sort of like a switch flips and they’re ready. I never understood what this meant until it happened to us. I kept thinking I was doing something wrong and I compared myself to other families. I found myself asking for tips and advice from every other mom at the playground. To be honest, I actually lost sleep over it. I tossed and turned in bed often stressed over why I couldn’t stick with it or do it right. But, in the end, there’s little you can do it make it happen. The best advice is to encourage the journey and the process. Not every child will get it right away. Keep the process positive and know that your child will get there…they all do. In hindsight, the pressure I put on myself to get it done by “XX” date was silly. Jack honestly just woke up one day and went accident free from then on. Sure, he’d have minor setbacks on moody days, but in general, he just seemed to understand it all of a sudden.
Be a team!
Team up with your spouse / partner and child. They call it the “potty partnership” for a reason. If everyone is on the same team and has the same goals, it will make the training much more fun for everyone. There are a lot of resources available online to keep things fresh and exciting. So if you feel like you’re running out of ideas, see how other parents are doing it and give a different approach, activity or game, a try!
Once Rick and I agreed on how we were going to handle each attempt and success, things were so much smoother for our family. We used jelly beans as a reward (we still are) and they were like magic.
Now, we’re back at it again as our 20-month-old starts the potty training process. With Harrison, we already see such differences. He just seems to just get it – as though the switch flipped a lot earlier. Maybe it’s the help from big brother Jack?Or, it could be that I was more in tune with the early signs of readiness and I caught him right away.
We did the signs of readiness quiz when he first turned 18-months and he wasn’t ready yet. So, we didn’t push it. We just kept the potty visible and watched him. Once he started showing a bit of interest, we jumped on it. It’s a much easier experience this time (so far). He has his older brother cheering him on, explaining things, and showing him how to do it. We’re hoping to have his journey well underway by the time he turns two (in February). So, stay tuned!
We’d love to know what your biggest hurdle has been with potty training? Is there something that you fear the most? Is there one aspect that you find difficult? We’re working on a project for other families so please send us a message so we can compile all our thoughts.