I’ve been working on this post for longer than expected, mostly due to some tough things that our family is dealing with right now. More on that later, now I want to share details on how we successfully potty trained both of our kiddos within a year and at a young age for our culture.
Cora & Chloe were successfully potty trained around their 2nd birthdays in a matter of days
In the past year I’ve potty trained TWO children at ages 26 months and 23 months. For that I deserve a cookie, a pat on the back, and a margarita.
Depending on the child, it can certainly be an adventure. The key for us was finding what worked for our two VERY different children.
While it’s still fresh, I thought I’d get my tips out there since we were successful potty training both of our girls relatively quickly and young.
- Start young. I’ve been searching everywhere in vain for an amazing article I read about how a generation or two ago and in other parts of the world, it’s normal to have kids potty trained around 18-24 months (and unusual to have size 2T-5T diapers). Those paid the big bucks to sell diapers have used genius marketing tactics to change the American opinion on this including introducing new sizes every few years. Seriously, a child in a size 5T pull-up should be the exception, not the rule.
- Find your child’s currency to use as a reward. For our first, this was gummy-type treats known as “fruit snacks” in our house. That girl would do ANYTHING for a “fruit snack”. Cora kept us on her toes. First it was M&Ms, then coins for her new piggy bank, now just about any candy will do when she needs a little incentive. In our house, we ended up calling them “potty treats” since we had to keep changing the currency but wanted to remain consistent with our training.
- Consider training on the “big potty” from the get-go. I don’t feel that little potties and potty seats are a necessity for most kids. It was extremely helpful for our first, extremely independent child when she wanted to go off and do it by herself without us hovering over her. We have “comfort height” toilets and they were pretty high for her when we started “practicing” with her around 18 months. I do consider stools a necessity since the end goal for a child of any temperament is to go by themselves. Younger siblings and more high maintenance children could very well train straight on the big potty and never have to transition.
- Practice first, then go all in. What worked great with both of our children was practice, practice, practice and then going for it 100% by saying goodbye to diapers completely. We practiced for months with both girls. The second child was easier because she wanted to go with her big sister. When they can go on cue and hold it for long periods of time, set aside 3-7 days to go for it by taking diapers away. Our older, more independent child needed 3.5 days of resisting (there were tears from both her and us by the end) and then was suddenly completely potty trained – even at night – at 26 months old. She has never even had an accident. Our second, more dependent child took a week and then was potty trained for daytime and naps (not night, yet). She’s had a few accidents, especially at school where it took longer for her to trust her teachers with the job of helping her. When friends are potty training for months and months, I feel it’s confusing and compounds the problem. Rip that bandaid off quickly and permanently. It’s hard, but you CANNOT go back or it will take longer and be more difficult.
- Say “no” to pull-ups. We are totally guilty here which is why I can say “just say no!”. It is confusing to your child who already has a huge milestone to achieve. Simplify the task by having two categories… a) diapers that you are saying “bye-bye” to and b) underwear, the exciting new frontier. Pull-ups send a mixed message. We used them for school with our younger child who took weeks of accidents at school, even after perfect performance at home, and I believe it was because we sent her to school in pull-ups while training her at home on panties. If your child has an accident, it’s a much more effective lesson to have wet clothes than to have the safety net of the diaper.
- Cloth diapers will help you potty train faster. I know they aren’t for everyone, but your child will connect the dots between needing to go and going instantly when they can feel it against their skin. Modern cloth diapers are so much easier than the pins & plastic pants of our generation, they are available in a wide range of options including all-in-one disposable-style. We use a diaper sprayer connected to the toilet to rinse them, then wash them with free & clear tide on a long cycle. They are much less complicated than they are made out to be, I promise. You may want to try them just for potty training. It works because, seriously, who wants to wear a wet diaper when they can just go in the potty?
- Help the “go” with something that works for your kid. Some run the faucet or shower, some use cereal as targets for boys, we used “magic water” which was really just warm water in a designated container. I considered putting glitter in there, but they really didn’t care so long as we called it “magic”. This worked for both girls much better than the faucet.
- Get a potty book. Sure, your kid may know the routine from watching you, but when they have their own book, simplified in their own “speak”, it really can work wonders. For us, it really helped to keep them on the potty long enough for #2, since that can be much more difficult to achieve than #1 (it really helps to start young for this!). Our first only used it a few times, our second child asked everyone to read it to her for weeks, even bringing it to school for her teachers. She loved the extra attention and having her own special book. We used “Potty” by Leslie Patricelli.
- Understand that #2 can be more than twice as hard. You may potty train easily for #1, but many children have difficulty with #2. It’s a mental thing that we, as adults, just can’t understand, but it’s legitimate. It’s a completely new sensation to have it completely leaving them into a potty (instead of still being there in a diaper) and it takes more effort. Our first held it for a few days before finally going, and she cried the first few times. We held strong and after a week or so, she was fully confident. Our second, who started younger, had an easier time since she was more used to it. When you start young, you can often catch “the face” and rush them to the potty mid-thought. That really helped for us.
- Throw a party! Not really, but get seriously, ridiculously excited. Like lotto jackpot excited. Not just the first time, but as long as you can stand it. Maybe even a month or two. Make sure they know how great an accomplishment it is and how proud you are. It is a big deal after all, it’s a major step from being a baby to being a big kid. Make sure they know!
Ever hear of Potty Regression? I’m pretty sure it happened to us when our younger daughter was suddenly (inexplicably) having accidents after weeks of perfect days. She had 3 accidents within 10 minutes at school and came home, looked me in the eyes, and peed her pants while laughing. When it happened to us, I went back to using her currency (aka “Potty Treats”). We made it exciting by getting big, new treats. Easter candy had just been put out so I grabbed chocolate bunnies and candy eggs. I took them to school for the teachers to use as well and that was the end of that adventure. We did not put her back in diapers! Don’t do it or you will likely end up having to go through this all again!
If you have any questions, tips or anything that I might have missed, please comment below! For us, advice from other parents helped more than anything, and potty training can be an overwhelming time.
PS – Even though our kids are now out of diapers, I still get a ton of questions about our experiences with cloth diapers. A post with how cloth worked for us will be coming soon!