So you're thinking of potty training and you're doing your research on where and how to start. Let me just say, I successfully potty trained my 24 month old son in a week. So, if you've been told they're not capable at this age or that boys take longer...ignore that. It IS possible and is so rewarding (not to mention what a relief! NO MORE DIAPERS!) I'm not sure what has made you choose now, maybe your child is showing signs, maybe circumstances in your home have dictated the timing or maybe you're just tired of changing diapers and want to save some money. Whatever the reason, you HAVE to be committed. Like 100% in it to win it. If you're not, it will NOT work, will take MUCH longer and be much more frustrating and confusing. I decided this was the right time for us to potty train because of some cues from my son but more so this was the start of 2020 quarantine and I knew it was going to be the only time we could stay in with no exceptions. Another reason I chose this time was because I had heard somewhere along the way to train them while they're still young and eager to please rather than after 3 when they can be more stubborn and set in their ways. With that said, I've been told to wait and they "practically get it on their own". The decision is yours, but make it and stick with it!
Where do I start?
I would recommend getting the book "Oh crap potty training" as a jumping off point. The author writes from such a "real" approach rather than some sort of scientific formula. I personally ordered the book off amazon but if I could do it again, would maybe consider the audiobook so that you can listen to it while cooking dinner or in the car, as it can be hard to find the time to read and I'm sure if you have found some precious time to read, a potty training book isn't what you had in mind. She has loads of tips on where and how to start but I'll share with you what we did exactly.
Before you do anything else, get yourself a potty (or 2 or 3 depending on how big your house is). YES, I will recommend a potty to you and I will swear by it. It was a game changer in our progress. When we started, we has a small cheap $5 potty I picked up one day at TJ Maxx (before I had any clue). This is what we used for the first couple days before I started noticing that this was too low, too hard and would move when my son would try and lower himself onto it. Make it fair, your child is trying to learn to use a potty for the first time. The target shouldn't move, be too low or uncomfortable if we have any hope for this whole new skill to "take". Once we got the potty I will recommend to you, we say immediate change in results. I said buy a few depending on your house because if you have more than one floor, chances are you'll need more than one toddler accessible potty. We only have a small single story house so we were ok with the 1 potty but I also got a seat/ladder combo for the spare bathroom toilet for him to grow into. That's another thing, your toddler may need to grow into the idea of sitting on our adult "big" potty. It's kinda scary for them so if you see that as an issue for your toddler, just stick to the small potty for now. Try to make it as easy as possible for them to get to as urgently as they may need it.
Next, find a time where you can realistically STAY HOME. Now if you're reading this and we're still in quarantine...NOW is the ideal time. But if this isn't the case, then maybe choose a long weekend or some people even take days off work. Avoid starting this process during vacations, time change, or any other disruptions to your normal routine. You will need to be strict about staying home during this time. As crap (no pun) as it sounds to cancel plans or stay home, it's crucial if you want this to be successful.
Ok, so you've picked the day you're going to start, you've got your potty, and that day is here. Now what? A little tip I got from the book was to have your toddler throw their diapers in the trash and talk to them about them going in the garbage and not needing them anymore. So I did this. But I grabbed a clean trash bag and put them to the side because I knew we would still need them for naps and bedtime in the beginning. This just helps your child understand that the diapers are gone and it's time to use the potty.
I chose to keep my toddler naked from the waist down until we started seeing consistent, accident-free use of the potty. Why naked? Well, you can't expect them to do this with a diaper on and any other undies or pants will be very confusing for them at this stage. I mean, up until this point, there was nothing wrong with them using the potty in their pants so why not now? Also, no pants means they will be faced with their actions. They will literally see and feel their potty in a way they never use to and this can help them realize and also make them uncomfortable. Yes, my couch had to be professionally cleaned after this. Yes, we used a lot of wipes. But remember, this is part of the process. Did I get frustrated? HELL YES. Did I consider giving up on day 5 and 6...YES. All I can say is KEEP GOING because if I'd given up on day 5 and 6, day 7 and 8 wouldn't have happened and those are the days we knew he was potty trained.
You can choose to use training undies which absorb accidents but I decided NOT to do this as I wanted to eliminate any possible confusion for him and make getting to the potty as easy as I could. These are your choices and please understand I'm only speaking to the process I chose.
You will have set backs. Seriously, day 2 and 3 I got a pee and poo in the potty each day. I was amazed and thought I had the smartest toddler and by day 4 we would be done. He didn't pee in the potty again until day 7... Oddly, we had zero issues with poo from the start and for whatever reason that was the easy part. Pee was our biggest hurdle. Learn your child's cues. My son is a crotch grabber. When I see that tiny hand reach for his crotch, I know he needs to pee. I also learned that over prompting my son to use the potty or go pee actually made him rebel. He would pee on the couch the second I walked out of the room. Instead, I started saying "have a seat on your potty while mommy gets you "insert snack of choice". THIS is what cracked our pee problem and worked in the subsequent days to solidify his new skill. This may work for you, or you may have to find something else that is unique to your child like a certain toy, song or TV show. Who knows. Just remember, you're learning too so go easy on the both of you. It's hard work!
Never tell your child "it's ok" when they have an accident. Instead, allow them to help you clean the mess and guide them to the potty. Explain to them that pee and poo doesn't go on the floor, it goes in the potty (another thing the book will help you with). Also, never shame your child or yell at them for not using the potty. They're learning. Don't get me wrong, on day 5 with a couch soaked in pee, I definitely lost my cool and yelled. So if you do this, take a breath, you're only human, and remember to try and avoid this outburst next time.
Each time your child successfully uses the potty.... PRAISE THE HECK OUT OF THEM! I wanted to avoid rewards such as sweets as much as possible so instead we had a "bubble party" after each use of the potty. I would fill the bubble machine and cheer and dance like an absolutely idiot for the benefit of building up my son's confidence. I gave him big hugs, kisses, high-fives and verbal praise "you did it! I'm so proud of you! Way to go!". Soon I would hear my son from another room shouting "yahhhhhhhh I did itttttt!" and I'd know he'd just used his potty. How amazing to help build someone's confidence. You can also try stickers or tablet time. Whatever works in your house for your family....but what toddler doesn't love bubbles?
They're using the potty without accidents! Now what?
WOW! Way to go! You should be VERY proud. Pour yourself a glass or 3 of wine and whip out those super cute toddler toosh size undies. And let me just tell you, toddler tooshy in undies is the cutest thing! But let me warn you, you're going to need a lot and don't be surprised when you go through a few a day. This may not be because your toddler has soiled themself (or maybe they have. accidents happen) but also because in the process of learning that they need the potty, getting to said potty, and now pulling down undies...there may be a couple dribbles of pee. It's not a problem. Praise your toddler for successfully using their potty as a couple dribbles in the process of using the potty doesn't count as an accident, just a lesson in timing.
As the days pass and you gain more confidence in your toddler's abilities, you can start to add pants into the equation. You may need to help them at first if they're not confident in being able to pull their own pants down. My son surprised us by running into the room shouting that he did it, with no pants or undies in sight. So clearly, he managed to feel the urge, rip off his pants and use the potty. Your kids can surprise you with what they're capable of without your help. Let them gain some independence as this too is important for their self confidence.
Don't get discouraged if you go days with no accidents and then one happens. Accidents are going to happen so just be prepared when you decide to venture out. Pack spare undies and pants in your bag (which you have so much more room in now that you aren't totting around diapers!)
I suggest throwing a travel or small potty in the car for outings. We went for a walk and my son needed to pee and really didn't understand the idea of peeing in a bush or even sitting on a rock. It was potty or nothin so in this case he managed to hold it til we got to a potty. I look back and wish we'd have just thrown a little potty in the bottom of the trike stroller. You can also get collapsable pottys on amazon.
Another good rule of thumb, treat the potty routine like you would a dog's. Potty first thing upon waking, potty before leaving the house, as soon as getting home, before a nap, after a nap, before bath time and maybe even post bath. It sounds silly to say treat your kid like a dog, but I think you know what I mean. Preempt the times your toddler is going to need the potty and you'll reduce the chances of an accident!
I hope that this has helped and wish you lots of luck an support! Please comment with any questions or additional tips!! Also, please note this is daytime potty training as I have not yet ventured into naptime and bedtime training. That's next but I'm giving myself a little break and some time to reflect on my triumph!
As promised THE POTTY: Home potty, Transition to the big potty and travel potty!