Ahhh, potty training. If you have yet to cross this bridge with your kids, congratulations! Your carpets are much cleaner now than they ever will be in the future. To those who are in the middle of potty training, an even bigger congratulations! Diapers will be a thing of the past, sooner or later. I promise.
Potty Training the No-Nonsense Way
We've gotten almost all of the way through potty training all four of our little boys who were born in just five years. We travel about half the time as a family, so there have been a lot of changes and obstacles in the way. Things like public restrooms and the fact that boys generally have NO shame when it comes to peeing on everything from their mattress to their shoes to their little brothers.
Thanks for the suggestion, all of you guys who said to just “let him go naked.” Got any other genius ideas?
I read all the books, listened to all the advice, and distilled it down to a simple, repeatable process that has worked for us over and over and over again.
Bribery for the win
First up, prepare your child to be a big kid by treating them like one! It's time to upgrade from diapers to Pull-Ups or training pants that look like a pair of underwear with an extra-absorbent strip through the pee and poop region. We've often had success with one or the other tactic, depending on the kid. Some think that Pull-Ups are too similar to diapers and the cloth feel makes the difference. We've had a ton of success getting our kids excited with a fun print on either one. When we have a successful trip to the potty, we bribe them even further with reward treats and stickers – so go ahead and stock up on those now! Star charts work well with some kiddos, too.
Hydrate like heck
Water, water everywhere. Load your kiddo up on milk, juice, water…whatever gets liquids in their body so they can predictably go potty as often as possible and learn to recognize the sensation.
Take them to the potty every 15 minutes
At least initially, this is a safe number that you can stretch out over time. It's easiest if you're going to be home for a few days, obviously. Make sure that they don't get too involved in any particular activity, and keep the potty trips casual and fun. If you're playing outside, you could even encourage them to pee on a tree!
Make it entertaining
We read the Potty book every time we sit down at the potty. It's simple, effective and short – so if there is no potty need, the kids aren't stressed and sitting there crying while we get through it. It's just long enough that they have the opportunity to evacuate their bladder or bowl, and short enough that they won't get frustrated if there's no movement.
Discuss bodily functions openly
For families who tend to be a bit more delicate about stuff, this one can be a challenge. Don't be bashful or shy about what's happening: refer to it in a straightforward manner as “pee” or “poop” (or whatever words work best with your kids). We are very open as a family. Our kids like to share the love with complete strangers, too! I did a segment that entailed a bunch of news reporters coming over to film a “typical day” for our family, and one of our older boys had JUST finished potty training. Just as we got that kiddo all situated reading a book with us on the couch, he decided that it was the perfect time to tell everyone about his potty habits.
“Pooooop?” he questioned the video guy insistently. “Poop poop poop I go potty poop poop bye-bye in the bathroom poop poop toilet.”
Yup, it's all about the potty talk around here.
Don't overreact to accidents
Accidents happen. They happen Whether our kiddos make it to the potty or not, discussion is always a good thing. When we have accidents, we simply talk about what's happening in our usual excited and enthusiastic manner. “Oh, look, pee pee!” and then we whisk them off to the potty as quickly as possible. Even if they don't have anything left in them, it's good to reinforce that that's where they belong.
Prioritize date night to keep humor happening
In case you all have forgotten, I just wanted to throw out that there was a time long, long ago when Nate and I used to get dressed up and have nobody pee on us OR tell us about their poo.
Now, life looks more like this. When we're in the thick of potty training, I try to prioritize time together so that it doesn't feel like we've been totally overwhelmed with poop and pee all the time. That helps us both keep our cool when things get frustrating. The trick here is to have a really good babysitter or grandma and grandpa, and get them totally on board with the system so we can take a break without missing a beat.
Know when to postpone
When I was first beginning with potty training the boys, I got frustrated at everyone else's tales of a “two day solution” that “worked like a snap.” The fact is, kids will not potty train before they're ready. The above is the simplest, most effective and mess-free way of making it happen…but it won't come to fruition if their physical and mental development isn't on board. Give it a week or so, and take a step back if you don't see progress. When kids are ready, they'll let you know.
How's potty training going at your house?