You are about to read about our potty training story and a little boy who’s favourite word is “no!”. It does not contain professional advice but it does have tips and tricks from a mom who slowly and patiently befriended her suspicious little bug with the “terrible” potty. So if you are nervous (like I was) about potty training and in need of reassurance and above all practical ideas, then read on.
There are many milestones that we, as parents, get giddy with excitement to see our precious little ones go through. For me, personally, I couldn’t wait to see my princeling (he is the ruler of our household) sit on his own, start being mobile and stop breastfeeding (which he didn’t do for a long while but that’s another story for another day). And the 2 milestones that made me sweat both with excitement and fear: weaning- we did baby-led weaning so you can understand why I was a little bit anxious but it all worked out brilliantly- and potty training.
You might ask, ‘Why would potty training make you sweat? I mean, it’s a natural thing and all kids do it at one point or another”. Yes, now that we’ve come out on the other side and joined the ‘big boys with no nappies’ club I will agree and even laugh a little bit. But going through it at the time, I had thoughts like ‘Pfff, I’m sure he can’t be the only one going to college in nappies, right???’ going through my head.
Yeah, our potty training story is sprinkled with a few new grey hairs, laughter, bribery attempts, some tears (mainly mine) and collateral victims like the carpet, underwear and shorts that ended up in the bin, even the cat had a few narrow escapes. So, grab a cup of tea and let me tell you how it was.
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Meet Sir George, the first of his name
George, the apple of my eye and my little sunshine, is a unique little boy (aren’t they all). He is extremely set in his routines and changes are met with suspicious scowls. Oh, and his favourite word of all is “NO”. My bright little boy knows exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t. I am sure that reading these lines some of you are gently nodding your head and thinking “Yup, I know what you are talking about”.
So, naturally, you can understand why the thought of potty training had me biting my nails. Quitting his nappy was going to be a huge change and as I mentioned before, George and changes are not the best of friends.
Knowing this, I armed myself with all the patience I could muster up and extra hair dye boxes for the future white hairs (hehe, joking…or am I?).
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Getting ready for potty training
When George was about 26 months old I figured we should give potty training a go and see what happens.
So I started getting ready for the big event by buying some supplies and educating myself.
First of all, I started browsing for a potty chair and found so many options, it was almost overwhelming. From the potty chairs that looked like a mini toilet, to potty seats with a race car design or Disney-inspired ones. In the end, I opted for a rather simple potty seat which we decorated together with some farm animals stickers.
Next, since I expected lots of accidents, I bought some potty training underwear. Again, we were spoilt for choice but because George was going through the dinosaur phase I looked for dinosaur underwear. We did great with this 6-pack cotton underwear which is high-quality, made of soft material and surprisingly absorbent. It’s machine washable and the best of all, wallet-friendly, hehe.
I didn’t go crazy with buying stuff since I wasn’t sure that our potty training journey would be a success at this point.
Besides the buying all of the above, I started educating myself on potty training, tips tricks and strategies. I read countless blogs, from the more technical ones to the personal stories of moms like me. I especially loved this post from Mommy to Mom which is all the info you need on potty training and I used many of these brilliant hacks from Momhacks101. I also got some potty training books.
“The First-time Parent’s Guide to Potty Training” by Jazmine McCoy is very good and touches subjects like potty training readiness, how to prepare, ground rules suggestions, the actual process of potty training, naps and nighttime training and more. I found this book very informative, the chapters are well-organised and overall it is very supportive. Another big plus is that the author, Dr Jazmine McCoy, is a clinical psychologist so she knows what she’s talking about besides her own experience with her 2 kids. I definitely got some practical tips out of it and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Another book that I found interesting was “Potty Training in 3 days” by Brandi Brucks. Although it was a good read, unfortunately, knowing George, this method wouldn’t have worked for us. But if you have a more malleable child, I do recommend you give this book a read. Oh, by the way, if you have Kindle Unlimited, it is free.
And finally, I made use of all the potty songs on Youtube.
Trying and failing
As I said, our first attempt was at about 26 months. He had some of the readiness signs so I figured we’d try and see what happens.
We started by watching some songs, reading the above potty training books together and generally trying to get him excited about the whole potty training idea.
I bought the potty seat and decorated it together with some farm animals stickers. So far so good.
Then, I gently tried to encourage him to sit on the potty. This is where all the fun ended. He flat out refused to sit on it. Not only that but every time I even suggested taking his nappy off I was confronted with a definitive “NO!”.
I tried for about a week and realised that he simply wasn’t ready. Plus quitting his nappy is such an intimate thing that I really didn’t want to push it.
So we abandoned the potty training….for now.
After the first failed attempt I realised that no matter what magical strategy I used, one thing was clear: my little boy had to be ready.
So I waited and observed.
Meanwhile, a good friend, whose daughter is 9 months older than George, warmly recommended Oh Crap Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to do it Once and do it Right by Jamie Glowacki. I often wonder if I had discovered this book on our first attempt would we have been successful.
I read the book in one sitting and I immediately knew this was the strategy that I wanted to try. Or, to be more clear, the core of the strategy.
There is one thing that I want to say:
Always adapt any strategy to fully benefit your child’s uniqueness and home environment.
The things that I love about this book are that it is so easy to read and the steps are clear and easy to follow. Her style is down to earth and realistic with humour sprinkled in. When I bought the book, some of the reviews called the style bossy and patronizing. I can see how her “tell it how it is” style can come across as bossy but to be honest most potty training books (the ones that I read at least) have a tad of that.
Another thing that I appreciated about Oh Crap Potty Training is that the author doesn’t push the idea that 1 size fits all. Instead, she relies on years of experience and observed patterns of how children learn to use the potty.
But what really makes the book stand out, in my view, is the fact that she doesn’t use a time frame, as in “your child will be potty trained in 3 days”. She uses blocks or learning stages that can take different amounts of time for different children. For your child it might take 3 days, for mine it took a few weeks.
Jamie Glowacki describes 6 blocks that children need to go through in order to be fully potty trained: Potty naked/Potty commando/Potty places that aren’t home/Potty with underpants/ Consistent self-initiation/ Night or nap.
Of course, like any book, it has its drawbacks and it can’t please everybody. For me, it worked. I learned many valuable tips that I later successfully applied with my sometimes strongwilled toddler.
Oh Crap Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to do it Once and do it Right by Jamie Glowacki is a wildly popular potty training book and I do recommend it to anyone who wants a successful, tear-free potty training story.
After arming myself with a new strategy (adapted here and there to work for us) the moment came! My darling displayed most of the readiness signs: his nappies were dry for longer periods of time, he had his favourite hiding corner for pee-pee and poo, he was clearly uncomfortable with a wet nappy and letting me know, and I even found him sitting on his potty one day.
Just as a side note, the second attempt happened when George was about 32 months old, which according to Oh Crap Potty Training book (and others) is considered late and a missed window of opportunity which will make things harder. The ideal age would be between 20 and 30 months. I would like to reassure parents who have toddlers outside this age range that it is not necessarily so. Our potty training journey, even though it started later (according to the book) was smooth and successful.
So, we were ready!
Oh boy, I was nervous! I decided to follow an adapted version of Glowacki’s blocks.
For the first few days, while we were at home I took his nappy off and let him run about in his birthday suit. The first time I did it he wasn’t too happy about it and kept asking for a nappy. I kept explaining that he’s a big boy now and like mommy and daddy it’s time for the nappy to come off. He understood and there wasn’t any drama.
I also did my best to keep him entertained so he can forget about his missing nappy. All the while I kept the potty close by.
To force the process a little bit, I gave him more fluids than usual and put him on the potty every 20-30 minutes.
One important thing that I want to mention, a tip that I got from Oh Crap Potty Training is:
Do not ask whether he wants to go potty or not. Tell him that it’s time for potty and do it.
Remember what I told you about Sir George at the beginning and what his favourite word is? Well, imagine what his answer to the question “Do you want to pee-pee?” would’ve been.
So I did not ask but simply announced that it was time to sit on the potty and try to make a pee-pee in there.
The first couple of times he resisted sitting on the potty a little bit. So, no matter how controversial this method is, I resorted to BRIBERY. I know a lot of parents frown upon this kind of incentive but for us, it worked. And you may think that we went on this slippery slope he won’t sit on the potty without a snack. From my own experience, I can say that it didn’t happen and after a few days he sat on the potty without getting any treats.
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The first week was…interesting. There were loads of accidents and even though deep down I got frustrated, I never showed it and kept encouraging him. There were times when I’d put him on the potty and nothing would happen. Only for him to pee on the floor a few seconds later. *facepalm*.
After about 3 days he started displaying pee signs like touching his twinkle and dancing in place. That’s when we started getting more successful in wetting the potty. As soon as I saw him do that, I’d put him on the potty and what d’ya know…the magical sound of wee-wee in the potty. You wouldn’t believe that someone could get so excited about another person peeing. But yeah, that’s parenthood for you.
You’ll probably ask “How did you go out with a not-yet-potty trained toddler? This was tricky indeed. For the first 3 days, while I learned the ‘I want to pee’ signs, we stayed close to home, only ventured in the garden with a pair of trousers that could be pulled down quickly and easily. But we couldn’t stay home forever. So I cheated a little bit and put some potty training underwear on him which, honestly, were a life and sanity saver. Of course, he had accidents in the supermarket, in the bank, in the playground. However, these fantastic underpants have just enough absorption not to make a mess but not as much as a nappy so they are uncomfortable wet.
So we continued in the same manner for about 2 weeks. And then, the miracle happened.
I nearly fainted with joy! Of course, by the time I had recovered from the jubilant surprise he had already done it on the floor. But hey, we reached a new level. He was verbally acknowledging when he had to wee.
Next time, however, I was ready. As soon as he let me know I sat him on the potty and he did his business. As simple as that.
This new phase had its own challenges like I only had literally a few seconds between him announcing and actually peeing. So unless the potty was nearby, we’d have an accident on our hands. But gradually, over the course of another week, the time increased and we made it to the potty or the toilet more often than not.
Number 2 was still a little tricky, as he would go just as I put the night time nappy on. He only occasionally did it in his potty. But that too worked out in the end, and he started doing both in the potty, although he didn’t announce poo.
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We did it!
We were now towards the end of the fourth week and my fantastic little man was asking to go to the potty most times. Sure, he still had the occasional accident, for example when he was engrossed in a game or activity and he didn’t want to miss out he’d wet his pants. But more often than not he would get it right. Oh, and around this time we also quit the training underwear and transitioned to the ‘big boy’ underwear.
We had done it! You can’t imagine the happiness, even while I’m writing these lines I have a broad smile on my face.
It had been quite a journey. Even though from the outside I might’ve looked like I had everything under control and it was going smoothly, on the inside there was frustration, despair, struggling to remain calm and supportive. I often considered quitting and putting a nappy back on. But I’m glad I pushed on through those not so nice feelings.
September came and he started kindergarten. By now, he had been nappy-free for a couple of weeks and doing great.
But kindergarten is a huge change with a new environment and new people. I was worried.
As expected, he was going through 1-2 changes of clothes at kindergarten and accident after accident. Even at home, I noticed an increase in “whoopsie” moments.
Although I was a little sad to see him regressing, I realised that it is normal. He was going through a big adaptation period and eventually, things would settle down.
After about 2 weeks, George formed a connection with one of his teachers and felt confident enough to let him know when he had to go to the toilet.
Things simply returned to the right track again and I’m so happy.
At almost 3, Sir George is a big boy and mastered this whole potty training thing like a pro.
Nighttime potty training is next and I have no doubt that he’ll do this as well in his own time.
Going through all this potty training story I learned a few things:
Here’s the bottom line (I’ve been wanting the whole post to insert this pun!!! hah):
- Wait until the child is ready. No matter what highly-praised potty training books might say about windows of opportunity and stuff like that, your little one needs to be both physically and mentally prepared.
- Each child is different. For some, it may take a few days to master potty training, for others a few weeks. Do not set time limits. It will put unnecessary pressure on everybody. Let natural things happen naturally with a little bit of guidance.
- Arm yourself with patience and calm. As I said above, for some kids it may be quick and easy, while for others it may take longer. If you are in the second category (like we were), remember that you cannot show your little trainee that you are frustrated or sick of mopping up wee off the floor. What goes on inside can’t show on the outside.
- The journey may be long but you’ll come out on the other side with your own successful potty training story.
In the end, I want to say again that this is our personal story and not expert advice. What worked for us, may not work for you so take everything with a grain of salt and just enjoy the story.
How was your little one’s potty training story? Or are you getting ready for it? Let me know in the comments section below.
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Learning activities for kids
Mom of two wonderful children, dedicated teacher and book lover.