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I feel as though kids should come with a warning label that says, “WARNING, at some point, you will have to teach this wild animal to sit still long enough to poop in the potty.” I love my son, but this has hands down been the worst experience of parenting so far. Some parents don’t have as big an issue as we did, and their kids just take to it quickly. Mine, not so much. I hope our journey, and this post helps other parents out there train their animal! This is a bit lengthy, so if you are only interested in a particular topic, skip ahead! There is so much that goes into potty training, and there was no way to summarize this in 300 words or less.
Our babies understand more than we give them credit for. When you decide to start potty training, don’t keep it a secret! Start to explain to your baby that the diapers are going to go away soon, and they will be going potty in the big boy/girl potty. Also, not like they give us any privacy anyway, invite them into the bathroom to see what you are doing in there. I would put the baby potty in front of the big one and have Micah sit down with me. He didn’t get it at all, but it did make him familiar with the potty, so it wasn’t a scary thing when we finally started.
Things to avoid
- You want to bring the potty out, so they are familiar with it, but don’t let it become a toy. This is a place of business, not a hat or a house for their cars.
- Don’t freak out if they start to have an accident, try and remain calm, so you don’t startle them.
- Don’t ask every 5 minutes if they need to go, tell them to go (and not every 5 mins).
- Give them privacy, would you want them inspecting your butthole?!
- Never leave the house without extra clothes or some sort of potty apparatus (see resources at the bottom).
Our first attempt
We tried to potty train Micah at 23 months right after our second was born. It did not go well at all. Micah is so defiant and independent he literally fought and protested the potty when we tried to get him to sit on it. I am talking on the floor, screaming. I read the book, Oh Crap! Potty Training (which I highly recommend), and it told me to clear my schedule and sit with Micah and literally stare at him all day for as long as it takes to learn his “cues.” Misery is the best way to describe those days. I am such a busy body; it was truly painful to sit around trying to watch what little thing he did that cued he was about to pee (his cue turned out to be a full junk grab). There were sooo many accidents and sooo many mistakes on our part. By day 10, I was about to lose my mind. I was too postpartum, too tired, and too impatient. I quit. My mindset was more important at that point than pushing through.
What we learned
Although our first attempt failed, we learned a lot, and so did Micah! He went from having no idea he had to pee to being able to tell us right before (like a second) he had to pee. Although that made it impossible to get to the potty in time, it is actually a really big deal for them to develop that sense of knowing when it is about to happen. He also was a very deliberate pooper. We would stare at him waiting for it ALL DAY, and the very second we turned our back, he would drop it like it’s hot. Although this was incredibly frustrating, the book said that it is really good that they can hold it like that. We just had to teach him where to drop it.
Our second attempt
After our first attempt, I was super reluctant to want to try again. I knew that I did not want to do it alone. Micah responds so much better to my husband in certain situations I knew he needed to help. There is a time and place for mom but teaching him to use the potty wasn’t one of them. Maybe Micah can sense how impatient I am and how patient his dad is. Also, I firmly believe that men should teach little boys to pee. Damian took Micah to pee with him all the time, and he noticed that they have the same equipment. So, with all that in mind, I asked that for my 30th birthday that Damian stays home with me his entire week off to potty train. At this point, Micah was 27 months, and it was a completely different experience.
The book Oh Crap! Potty Training says that she doesn’t believe in rewards or cheering for something that is a normal human function. Well, Micah loves cheering and loves rewards. He learned about “treats” a couple of months earlier for Halloween so we could say “treat” and he knew what that meant something delicious. His treat was mini M&M’s, and since they were so small, he could have several without it being a big deal (just a disclaimer, we don’t give our kids candy, so this is a huge deal for him. If you are a candy-filled household you might need to find something that is a bit more magical).
Day 1, we didn’t ask him if he needed to potty. We told him, “if you go sit on the potty, you can have a treat.” After he would go and sit, no problem, then we stepped it up to pee in the potty. We were both floored when we told him to go pee in the potty, and he did. We cheered him so much that we woke up the baby! At this point, we would take him to pee every 20 minutes. I was pumping him full of juice, water, and milk all day to give us plenty of fuel. By day 5, Micah was going to pee in the potty all by himself without prompting no problem!
The book breaks everything into blocks, and technically we should have gone to block 2 by day 3 and put him in pants, but our intuition said we needed to wait until we were getting poop in the potty.
Poop… I feel like this is every kids’ kryptonite. They are so used to it in their diaper and doing it standing up that we have to retrain their muscles to do something new. Micah held it all day until his morning diaper he would unleash. This went on for about 3 days, which meant no accidents but also no poop in the potty. Finally, on day 4 or 5 he started “trying” to go in the potty. He was just a bit late on his timing and would scatter nuggets all the way to the potty. I didn’t even care I was just so thrilled that he was trying!
Getting poop in the potty
Ok, this was hard. I would have moments that felt like, “why is he not getting it.” If you feel that way, don’t worry, they will. It just takes some kids a little longer than others. Those stupid “Potty train your child in a weekend” posts don’t help. Micah understood that it needs to go in the potty he just had a hard time actually doing it for a couple of reasons. His timing was delayed, and he is a very private pooper. He has an obvious “poop dance.” He starts bugging out, acting like he just had an espresso shot and walking on his toes. They try to hold it, but at a certain point, biology will prevail, and their body will force it to happen. What we did wrong, in the beginning, is hovered over him, sending him to the potty constantly when we knew he had to go. Finally, we decided we were just going to hang back and give him the privacy we knew he wanted. We closed off all the bedrooms, the kitchen, and the den area, so all he had was the bathroom and the dining room. Well, we stood in the dining room, so to get the privacy he wanted, he had to go to the bathroom. One afternoon he started doing his poop dance, and I casually told him, “if you go poop in the potty, you’ll get a treat” and continued on with my business. For whatever reason, that was the day it clicked (about day 6). He actually took me by the hand, lead me to the bathroom, and had me sit on the stool while he sat on the potty. I probably sounded like we won the lottery! Since then, he has been very consistent getting to the bathroom when he has to poop mostly getting it in the potty. A few times, he has been late and only gets half in, but everyday he gets more and more control.
After he was consistent, we moved on and put him in pants. I think for most kids they can start with pants by days 5-8 but not mine. For us, day 12 was when we decided to put him in pants. There is a bit of a regression, but that is to be expected. Putting pants on them means that they have to step up their timing even more so they don’t have an accident. I strongly recommend commando for at least a month after starting to wear pants. This is plenty of time to retrain their biology that they have to go when they have the sensation. A month might be a bit excessive, but it is the best way to know that you won’t have any accidents.
Naps and nighttime
Some people do it all right away. We are waiting for Micah to wake up dry consistently and then will take the diapers away completely.
It’s important to do small outings in the beginning. Running a quick errand and a quick trip to the store. I explained to Micah that we are going to be leaving the house, and he won’t have a diaper on, so it’s important he tells me if he needs to go. Then we go pee before we leave, I bring the potty and have him try to go while we are out, and then go again once we get home. I also got this awesome portable bathroom seat for kids that makes the big toilet safer and more comfortable. We call it the port-a-potty.
The most important thing is that just because you have started doesn’t mean you have to complete it. Mom life is hard, and if it’s just not happening, then I would stop, go back to diapers, and try again in a couple of months. It’s amazing the amount toddlers grow up in a few weeks or months! Don’t compare your child to other kids. Tom next door may have potty trained his 18-month-old in 3 days while your 27-month-old is going on 2.5 weeks. Every kid is different and has their own timelines and their own kryptonite’s. I bet Toms kid doesn’t inhale broccoli like your baby does! Last one, don’t underestimate the power of explanation. Kids are often underestimated of how much they understand, but their little sponge brains understand so much more than we realize. Best of luck! Drop a comment if I can offer any help!
BabyBjörn Potty Chair, White/Gray (I chose the potty without the back and I am glad I did! Micah likes to do this cowboy swing his leg over it like he’s mounting a horse.)
Urinal for boys (We aren’t going to train to stand and pee for a while. Probably not until he’s 3 or shows signs that he wants to stand up. This is a great resource though, to teach aim! It has a little wheel at the bottom they need to make spin. I like this better than the cheerio in the toilet to minimize clean ups from boys acting like boys.)