We decided that we were finally done with diapers.
Within the past six months we had tried unsuccessfully to potty train Peanut, with very little to show for it.
She began showing interest in bathroom functions (as evidenced in her constant spying of her elder sis Pumpkin), but she herself was unwilling to sit on the potty.
Peanut already knew what poop and pee were, where they came from, and how fun it would be to flush a toilet.
We finally decided when Pumpkin went back to school, Peanut would have my complete and undivided attention, and thus began what became known as Potty Training Boot Camp.
Nothing would deter me this time.
If you’re so over changing diapers too, read on:
BEING CONSISTENT WITH VOCABULARY
One thing I learned about training Pumpkin is that age matters. Doctors will gently nudge you into training at your child’s two-year checkup, but that’s not necessarily what works for all kids. After the rigors of training Pumpkin, we decided that two-and-a-half was the right age for my kids. Genetics? Who knows? Who cares? I wasn’t going to waste my time before Peanut reached that age.
AFTER THE RIGORS OF TRAINING PUMPKIN, I DECIDED THAT TWO-AND-A-HALF WAS THE RIGHT AGE FOR MY KIDS. GENETICS? WHO KNOWS? WHO CARES? I WASN’T GOING TO WASTE MY TIME BEFORE PEANUT REACHED THAT AGE.
By the time we were ready to train, we had taught Peanut the basic terms and what all was happening down there. Once they learn the words you’ve taught them, stick with those words.
PICKING THE RIGHT POTTY
We had a cute little plastic frog potty we tried when training Pumpkin, but since she was just under two years old when we introduced it, she decided to use it as a chair instead. No results, nothing. We then purchased a potty chair, the kind you place on the toilet, for her to try. She loved it. It made her feel grown-up, the real deal. We began to see results from that point on.
Fast-forward to training Peanut. I made a grand sweeping gesture toward the potty chair. “It’s yours,” I crowed. “Come and get it!” Silence. She couldn’t have cared less. Then I remembered The Froggy Potty which had sat unused for more than two years. Sure enough, she ran toward it, eager to claim it for her own, and hasn’t looked back. Diapers? What diapers?
RECRUITING ELDER SIBLINGS
For the last several months, Peanut would follow Pumpkin to the bathroom and watch eagerly as her elder sister dutifully performed her functions. It was a great way for Peanut to learn firsthand what to do in the bathroom. Since she’s also in the phase now where everything her elder sis does or says is cool, this only played to my advantage.
When Peanut began using the potty successfully, we would say, “See? You’re going pee/poo just like Pumpkin!” Talk about an ego boost! Prompting Peanut occasionally worked as well, and Pumpkin also helped with small reminders here and there.
So in the beginning, Peanut had to know what was in it for her if she gave up diapers. She started with going totally commando—an unfurnished basement. That way, when she had that inevitable pee accident, she would feel it. She would hate it. Her first accident was on the second day in fact, and she only had one more two days later. After that, she learned to pay attention to avoid accidents, because she preferred feeling clean, the ultimate benefit to not using diapers.
SHE STARTED WITH GOING TOTALLY COMMANDO—AN UNFURNISHED BASEMENT. THAT WAY, WHEN SHE HAD THAT INEVITABLE PEE ACCIDENT, SHE WOULD FEEL IT. SHE WOULD HATE IT.
We introduced underwear on the third day with no pants. When she wears pants, she seems to forget that she isn’t in a diaper anymore.
REWARD AND PUNISHMENT
Decide early on what rewards and punishments will work for your child. For Peanut, it was stickers and stamps. Yes both, and on each hand. Hey, whatever motivates your child, do it. Throw some confetti in the air if you have to. Using the potty like a big boy/girl should be celebrated!
As far as punishments, I wouldn’t actually punish a child for having an accident. After all, they need to time to undo the only method that they’ve ever known. I said things like, “Well, since you didn’t go in the potty, you’re not getting a sticker or stamp this time.” Believe me, Peanut considered that punishment enough, and initially only used the potty for the rewards. After the fourth day, though, she had forgotten totally about them and I quietly phased them out.
I SAID THINGS LIKE, “WELL, SINCE YOU DIDN’T GO IN THE POTTY, YOU’RE NOT GETTING A STICKER OR STAMP THIS TIME.” BELIEVE ME, PEANUT CONSIDERED THAT PUNISHMENT ENOUGH, AND INITIALLY ONLY USED THE POTTY FOR THE REWARDS.
Use rewards as long as you need to though. When your child forgets to ask you for them, that’s when being potty trained becomes its own reward.
So, to recap:
Day 1: Introduce potty. Let your child go commando. Constantly prompt and watch very carefully. Reward any and all successes, no matter how small.
Day 2: Continue going commando if necessary. Introduce underwear and help your child to remove prior to sitting on the potty. Continue to prompt/watch carefully. Reward as needed.
Day 3: Shift to underwear only. Allow your child to flush/help you flush. Reward as needed.
Day 4: By this time, Peanut was trained with little to no prompting. We continued as above, but phased out the reward, since she had forgotten about it. Otherwise, continue as above.
Day 5: Since small children pee so often throughout the day, they get lots of practice. Each session is a new opportunity to praise, remind, correct, and reinforce.
Frankly, I was shocked yet delighted that Peanut caught on so quickly, but like I mentioned earlier, age matters. I guess she was just ready and all we had to do was give her the chance to prove herself. She does still wear a diaper during her nap and overnight, which we will be phasing out when she shows readiness.
If you’re currently potty training or thinking of starting, best wishes! With a little planning, it will be totally worth it!
What tips and tricks would you recommend to other parents who are potty training their kids?