Friday, January 18, 2013

Potty Training

I currently have two sisters potty-training for the first time, and I am just wrapping up potty-training #2, so this is a timely topic for me!

Every parent/child relationship is unique, so this won't be the best method for everyone, but it's worked really well for me twice.  I haven't read about it anywhere, it's just what we decided to try and it worked both times.  I lovingly call it,

The Bare Buns Technique!

Here's what we do.

  • Talk long in advance about going to the potty, wearing underwear, how the child is growing so big (too big for diapers), etc.
  • Buy a potty.  You probably already have one.  We had a fancy-pants potty chair with a soft seat, but it started smelling really bad, and no amount of strong chemicals (I hate to use) would get the smell out of that soft seat.  So, we reverted back to a simple $5 IKEA potty 
I know people who keep one in the house and one in the car.  Not a bad idea.  And don't worry, cleaning out a potty like this is not as nasty as changing a dirty diaper.  Really.  

  • Pick a day--several days when you know you're going to be home with few distractions.  
  • Explain that now your wonderful little child is now big!  And it's time to not wear diapers anymore, but go on the potty!
  • Go on a special outing to buy underwear that they choose.
  • If you want, you can watch this cute movie I remember from my early childhood.
  • Take off your child's diaper and pants (here's where the bare buns comes in).  For sanitation purposes, you can put your child in an extra long shirt for a boy, or a skirt for a girl.  I found that both of my boys felt "safe" with underwear on, so they'd still have accidents.  With their buns blowin' in the breeze, I could simply explain that if they had a "wet" or "BM" (pardon the lingo) and they forgot to sit on their toilet, it would go on their foot.  And that would be yucky.
    • Note: you might not have to go this far if you have children who are really excited to always go to the potty.  My boys knew how, but they didn't want to.  But more than they didn't want to sit on the potty, they didn't want to go on their feet!

  • Through out the day, ask if your child wants to go to the bathroom.  Don't make them; you want them to learn to listen to their bodies.  You don't know how they are feeling, my boys can both go all day without going to the bathroom sometimes!
  • Take the potty into every room with your child, and don't go too far!  If it's warm, take the potty outside and do potty training outside all day!
  • If there's an accident, just say, "Oh I'm sorry, I'll bet that's yucky for you.  Let's clean that up."  (If your child didn't mind getting it on him/herself, maybe they can help clean it up and that would change his/her mind :)
  • When they do go in the potty, give them a good hug.  Don't make too huge a deal about it, though, whether they do or don't make it.  You don't want to put too much pressure on them.  Think about it: it doesn't make it easier or more fun for you if someone is standing at the bathroom door when you're going, telling you to hurry up!
  • Depending on the personality, you might want to use a chart system.
Abraham with his filled out chart and new toy
My oldest had three charts: going in the potty chart, a wearing underwear all day chart, and a dry nighttime chart.  We haven't done charts this time around; I wanted it to be more low-key, and I think he's responded well to it.
  • Wear diapers for naps and night for a while.
    • I know a lot of people do potty-training all at once.  I prefer to wait until they're waking up dry (which usually happens right after they learn to be dry during the day).  
  • After they're great bare buns, try the underwear.  Remember to stay close to them, and train them well how to remove it.  Make sure they're in pants that are really easy to pull down.
  • When they're doing great at home, take it on the road!  
    • Do a small outing first: to a park, on a walk, or to an understanding friend's house.  Bring the potty along!  
    • As they get better and better, you can do longer and longer outings.
  • Celebrate!  Buy them a "big kid toy," throw them a party, or take them on a date!  (Think of all the time/money/headache they're saving you!)
How do you know if your child is ready?  One very clear sign is if they leave their play, go out of the room, or into a corner or somehow separate themselves when they're going to do their business.  That way you know for sure that they know beforehand if they need to go to the bathroom.  Some mature 18 month olds can be potty trained.  

This looks like a ton of information, but it's easier than you think!!!  and soooo worth it...
There are many ways to potty train.  What have you tried?  What works for you?


  1. Fabulous ideas!! George has been doing so well. I knew he was ready a while ago,but I wasn't ready for how difficult I thought it would be. I can't believe we waited as long as we did.

    I confess, I have been taking him places. We have to go on some adventure most days, or we go a little stir crazy from being inside so much more during the winter. George has done well. I do remind him to take breaks to use the bathroom when we're out.

    We stole your bare bum idea for the first day, and it worked brilliantly. He did so well we decided to move to his underwear the second day. He has been awesome!!

    Thanks again for the ideas!!

  2. Great ideas Ariel.

    Anyone have any tips on how to prep a one-year old for eventual potty training?

    1. Get a little potty, and start putting him on it! Now is not too early.

    2. Agreed!! We've had a litlle potty out for George for a while. I also think it is helpful being open about what happens in the bathroom. It might sound a little strange, but we leave our bathroom door open often, and we talk about the things that happen there -- showering, bathrooming, everything. I know kids who were afraid of the toilet, and we never wanted George to have that experience. Hope that doesn't sound too weird.

  3. Great post topic!

    It's true that each child is unique. We've also potty-trained two boys, each in a different way. I think that's because they respond in different ways, and also because they were different ages: the first was not quite 2 1/2, the second was about 22 months. I have come to believe that the myth about boys not being ready as early as girls is just that -- a myth (then again, I don't have any girls...). Apparently, just a few generations ago, most children were potty-trained by about 18 months on average. I can't imagine a child who isn't much happier OUT of diapers.

    For our first, we did the popular "Potty Party" idea, where we picked a free day, and had fun with it all day. He was practically trained in that one day alone (though he'd already been used to sitting on the potty each evening before bed, and it took him several days longer to have a BM in the potty). We had actually tried a few months earlier with the bare buns approach, and he became so completely indifferent about pooping on the carpet that the next time (for the party) we went straight to undies, which worked for him.

    I wanted to train the second earlier for everyone's sake (I had a baby due just after his 2nd b-day), and because kids seem a little more eager to please before they turn two. So we just had him start sitting on the little potty often until he wet in there by accident. He nervously looked in and said, "Uh-oh!" but we went wild about it, and he began to make the association. Unlike #1, our second wouldn't dream of going on the floor, so I let him go bare buns. He was more nervous about letting anything out on the potty at first (esp. number two), but we had him sit there until he had success, sometimes with a LOT of coaxing and patience, but it paid off quite fast. During the process, I did take him places in underwear and made sure to take him to the bathroom a lot. With a child this young, I felt like it was my fault if he had an accident. Sometimes he didn't say he had to go until it's almost too late, and of course, he couldn't even pull his pants down and up by himself. But boy was it worth not having two babies in diapers at once!

    As far as night-training goes, there must be other factors present there (genetics? deep-sleepers?), as 4-year-old Sammy still rarely wakes up dry. Daniel does more often.

    I should also add that the biggest difference between my first (failed) attempt training #1 and his more successful potty party a few months later, was that we decided to be 100% positive, no exceptions. That made it a fun experience for everyone. Lesson in life there too I guess.

    I should just do a follow-up post on this someday (we all could). Maybe after a third perspective...

  4. I like the bare buns technique, and the concept of following the boy around with the potty. Aaron actually likes to drag the potty around with him sometimes since we've been reading about potties. Winter seems like the time to train while we're cooped up inside, although we could take it outside like you said! There's a well loved photo from my childhood of toddler me sitting on a little potty in the middle of a vast sagebrush desert. On long car trips, don't forget the potty!

    Meredith, The Baby Whisperer has some good potty training ideas for babies starting at 9 months.

    1. That car trip idea is brilliant! Thanks for that.