So you wanna potty train your toddler. Well. It’s sh*tty.
Ha! I’m just kidding you guys. Its actually not a big deal if you go at it with a big dose of humor and some realistic expectations. There are pleeeeenty of experts out there that will tell you how it’s done. I’m just here in solidarity and to share some tips and tricks that might maintain your sanity.
First up. Friend. It is not gonna happen in one weekend. (I just…Who said that and why? What?!) I will say that there is a clicking point—where they finally get it. And that happens over the course of about 3 days. By this I mean the idea of “Ohhhhhhh. I know what pee feels like. And I understand that ideally you, Mom, would like me to no longer do it in my pants or on the floor. Cool cool.” Before that point, they have no idea what you are taking about. But are they magically regularly using the potty after 3 days? Hahaha. No. That’s funny.
Second. It’s not about them being ready, as much as it is about you, parents, being ready. Potty training is hard and takes commitment and a lot of effort. You think changing diapers is bad? You are going to be scheduling your life around peeing for the next 13 years, so buckle in. Kids will get it if you don’t give them an alternative. That’s why Elimination Communication is a real thing. Kids can be potty trained at basically birth. (Yes—I am serious. There are entire countries that do this because they don't have easy access to diapers!) It’s just way harder to potty train than to do diapers. So we, parents, put it off and put it off and we convince ourselves it’s them, but really it’s us. We, the parents, are not ready. And that’s okay! Once you can own that you can take the pressure off. When you are ready—head to the next point!
There’s no perfect time to potty train. See previous point. But if your kid starts exploring the potty and doesn’t have a fear of the porcelain throne—that might be your cue to start the process. But only if you, parent, are ready! Until then, take them to the potty with you! Partner them with their older cousin. Let them watch to understand that big kids and adults pee in the potty.
If you are ready to bite the bullet, we highly recommend Naked Days! Because the first step to potty training is to let your little pee on themselves! This sounds insane right? But think about it. These kids have been peeing without paying attention their entire lives. Now we are magically asking them to stop doing that and pay attention to the sensations of their body. That’s a really big ask! Children learn through exploration and cause and effect. They need to see and feel their bodies. They need to understand what that feeling is. They need it to splash on the floor and on their legs and go “Oh. Ohhhhhh. I’m wet! It’s stinky. I don’t like this.” Step one is to get it to click.
Resist the urge to react at all in Step 1. Just notate it with an even tone. “You peed. This is pee. Pee goes in the potty.” And walk them over and show them the potty. Make them clean it up with you. Take them potty with you when you go potty to watch you. That’s it. When we trained Vivie, we pulled up all the rugs and covered our furniture. And for the first day she peed on the floor. I didn’t ask her to sit on the toilet at all. I just let her explore her body. Think of it as setting the field.
During this step you should also notate their pee schedule. You want to notate when they eat and when they pee (or poop). Little Jonny has breakfast and juice at 7:30 and at 8:15 he peed on the floor. Then he had a snack at 9:00 and at 9:50 he peed on the floor. You’ll start to see some trends at the end of the day. Vivie has to pee basically 45 minutes after she consumes food and water.
Step 2 or Day 2 you are going to introduce sitting on the potty. I highly recommend making their bathroom experience as cozy as possible. I put Vivie’s mini potty wherever she was comfortable. Sometimes that was in front of the patio door. Sometimes that was on her own little rug with her little book and her potty buddy.
Potty buddies are great. I wouldn’t take Vivie to the potty—I took Elmo. Elmo had to go pee pee. And so she’d come along because she wanted to be a good “Mama”. And then whatdoyaknow—she’d pee. Not on purpose mind you. Completely on accident because that just happened to be where she was. I knew (because I was paying attention) that if Elmo and Mama went pee pee 45 minutes after Vivie ate or drank—Vivie would come too. And since in her mind we were playing the potty game in the bathroom, she’d pee on the potty. And when she did. Lordt. It was the MOST IMPRESSIVE PEE EVER! There were treats! There was a parade! It was AMAZING! And she felt so good about it.
Unsolicited advice? Don’t make your kid sit for longer than 3-5 minutes on the potty. You’ll make them hate it. You’ll ruin the game. The idea is for you to catch them on their schedule so that they automatically succeed. You are not going to win every time. Maybe 65% of the time. That’s okay! When you miss don’t make a big deal out of it. “Oops we had an accident. Let’s clean it up.” No parades. No candy.
Which leads us to Step 3 or Day 3 of Naked Days: Doing it on purpose. For some kids it’s day 4 or Day 5 before they are ready for this next step and that is okay! For Vivie, by mid-day on Day 3–she was getting it. She was like “wait, so you are telling me if I splash in this potty thing, I get a parade and candy? I love parades and candy. How do make this happen more often?” On this day, I started talking to Vivie about the feeling of peeing. “Do you have the tickle in your hoodle?” (We aren’t an anatomically correct family. You do you.) “Elmo has the tickle! The tickle means you have to go potty! We don’t want to pee pee on the floor. Mama has to go too. Let’s hurry!” We’d all hustle to the bathroom. “Okay I’m going to let the tickle go! Psssssssss in the potty!” And we’d all use the potty. Parades for all.
Eventually I noticed Vivie stopped peeing on the floor. She started “piddling” if we missed. She was learning to hold it. That’s when you know you are making progress. “We don’t pee pee on the floor! We pee in the potty!”
By the end of the day 3 we had a few successful “on-purpose” pees. If that’s what those crazy books mean by “potty trained” then I guess—go me! But this was just the beginning for us. Once she got it. She needed to practice it. We had 5 naked days after that. And every day we’d do a little better. And for months and months after that we’d still have misses. I had to be SO cognizant of making sure to offer her the potty 45 minutes after she ate or drank.
Final piece of unsolicited advice? For the love of all things holy—do NOT put your kid in a pull-up after Naked Week unless you would like to repeat Naked Week. You will undo all of your work. Big kid undies and plastic covers to go over them. It sucks. Pack changes of clothes and buckle in to do 5X as much laundry for a couple of months. They are gonna have accidents. But it will get better and better. Why go through all that work just to put them back in diapers?! You’ll confuse the crap out of them. We did pull-ups for naptime and bedtime, but I know plenty of folks that didn’t even do that. Guess whose kids are nap and overnight trained already? I’ll give you a hint—it’s not Vivie. But again, this is about knowing yourself as a person and parent. I kicked that can down the road on purpose. I chose sleep—for now 😎.
That’s all I’ve got for you guys! Wait until you, parent, are ready to to dig in. Or call Mimi / Grandma and make her do it. 😝😝
Good luck! Godspeed.