Okay, first, let me start with a confession. I am uncommonly enthusiastic about potty training. I know, I know…who ever could be? But there’s a few reasons why. First, I know how to do it quickly and painlessly. After lots of training in childhood development, plus even more real life training as a nanny, a teacher and then a daycare owner, I have assisted dozens of families in making their dreams of ditching diapers a tangible reality. And of course, I also get super excited to watch my own littles hit this milestone!
But why do we need more info on potty training? Certainly this issue has been covered adequately by now and there aren’t any new methods under the sun. While that is probably true, my hope is to share about the fastest and most effective way to train (and I have seen them all!), along with my favorite tricks to make it a positive experience, and ways to solve common problems that can develop along the way. So read up and you can glean from all of my messy experiences…while skipping half the mess!
Determining Child Readiness
First things first…you need to determine if your tot is ready emotionally and phsyically. Here’s a few questions to get you started:
–Does your child have dry diapers for 2-3 hrs at a time?
–Does your child seem aware (tells you or hides) when she is peeing or pooping?
–Is your child able to say a simple word like ‘pee’ or ‘potty’ or gesture to you (sign?) when they need something?
*If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, there’s a good chance you have a child that’s physically ready to potty train!
–Have there been or are there about to be any major changes in your lives (a big move, a baby coming, divorce or separation)?
–Has your child been experiencing any unusual mood or behavior changes?
–Does your child resist being on or near the toilet to ‘try’ going potty?
*If the answer to these questions is ‘yes‘, you may want to wait another few months and then consider training.
What You’ll Need
Now, let’s say your child is ready. Then Congratulations, this is going to be fun! You will want to go ahead and take a minute to gear up! If possible, you will want:
1) Lots of easy to pull on and off pants…think sweatpants, joggers, leggings or anything free from buttons and zippers (we visit thrift stores to stock up),
2) Way more toddler underwear than you ever imagined…fun designs or characters a plus (I buy two dozen pairs but you could squeak by with less if you wash more frequently)
3) 2-4 pairs of vinyl or plastic pants (I like these https://amzn.to/32n9vPy)
4) a child sized potty and/or toilet insert (2 is even better!) Definitely a case could be made for starting with the just the insert but I find that many kids, including mine, tend to be more comfortable starting on a toddler sized potty. That said, I have both for different stages (Here’s what we use at our house: https://amzn.to/2vfxJ1Yand https://amzn.to/32n95bW
5) some rewards like stickers or small treats (chocolate chips, m&m’s, raisins).
Ready, Set, Go!
You’ve got all your stuff, and you’re ready to get started! Here’s what to do next.
Make Time – Plan a time when you have at least 3-4 days you can be at home with a clear calendar. If you’re a working mama, is there a holiday or long weekend coming up? If you’re a SAHM can you postpone activities for a few days and hunker down? Trust me when I say that fully focused time upfront will save months of work down the road.
Give a Heads Up -take the opportunity to explain to your child that tomorrow all the diapers are going bye-bye and she will be using the potty (like mom, dad, brother, etc).
- Wake up in the morning. Change your last diaper.
- Remind the child that they will be putting pee and poo in the potty from now on.
- If using a small potty, move it to your desired location ( I like to keep one on each floor in a visible place but that’s a matter of preference).
- Show them where the potty is.
- Take the diapers away. Did I really just say that? Yes. I. Did. Take them away! Take them totally away (okay there is a sleep time exception I will discuss later)! But during wake times your child will now be wearing nothing on his or her little bum for the next several days.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Won’t he just pee and poop on the floor? And the answer is, yes. But not a lot. The first day it could be frequent. The second day it should be less, and each sequential day it will decrease even more. I promise it is worth the cleaning up effort!
Your child’s experience seeing and feeling what it’s like to ‘potty’ without a diaper will teach them more quickly then anything else you can do.
Accidents -When your child has an accident:
- Move him/her to the toilet and say “whoops! pee goes on the potty.”
- Don’t let frustration show! Accidents are part of learning! If your child becomes afraid of ‘going’ this will lead to worse problems. So do whatever you can to stay calm, and when your child successfully eliminates on the potty, praise him and offer a reward.
- Use Minimal Reminders – In the first couple days of practicing on the potty, try as much as possible to refrain from telling or reminding your child to go to the bathroom. I know this is legitimately hard. But power struggles will often develop when a child feels constantly nagged to go. Trust that wetness and accidents are the most powerful teachers! And BONUS, they don’t pit you against one another (as long as you keep your cool, that is…which I know you can!)
Nap and Sleep
Now let’s talk briefly about *the nap and sleep exception. This first
day, feel free to put a diaper on your child at rest times. ***But be sure
that you and everyone in your home knows to remove it immediately
when they wake in the morning!
As long as no problems develop, it’s okay to continue night diapering
(most kids aged 3 and under are not able to wake up on their own
from sleep to use the restroom). Continue night diapering until your
child begins waking up dry. If problems arise (such as holding poop for
the rest time diaper) see the Problem Solving section of this page
Day Two and Three
- Stay naked and press on! Take these next two days to hunker down and keep practicing. Every successful elimination reinforces this new idea to your toddler.
- Notice a Decrease in Accidents. You should notice a few less accidents on day two, and will observe that your tot is more aware when he/she is about to go. On day three, most children (especially age 3 or older) will be successfully using the potty the majority of the time.
- Keep Practicing. Children younger than 3 often need a little extra practice but if you are ready to take this on, don’t be afraid. My children were all completely day trained by age 2! If however, you are not seeing any progress at all by day three, your child is likely not ready to potty train. You can wait a few months and start again or if you’re really eager, continue naked training until progress develops.
Day Four Undies!
- Celebrate – Make a BIG deal about how big he/she is when they put their undies on!
- Get Silly! If you’ve bought ones with characters or designs on them get silly and imitate the voice of the characters. “I’m Spiderman and I really want to stay clean and dry. Please don’t pee or poop on me.” You can employ this tactic a lot in the coming days! And even though you might feel ridiculous, your kid will think it’s great.
- Expect More Accidents Initially -Regardless of your prompting, expect an increase in accidents on the first day or two of underwear. The warm snugness of underwear will almost always remind your little one’s brain of the comfort of the diaper and trigger them to respond as if they are wearing one. Typically, once they’ve soiled a few times they start to remember what they’ve been working on the last few days.
Getting Back to Normal – Now that your tot is in undies, you may be ready to return to your normal routine. Since your little ones skills are so new, its a good idea to:
- Put plastic covers on– Time for those vinyl or plastic pants! Wear these over underwear for the next few days when you leave the house. Then you can spare your car seat and usually pants too from getting soaked but your tot can still feel the wetness if he has an accident
- Pack Extras -It’s also essential to pack extra pants, underwear, wipes and a bag for wet clothing. At first, I pack one pair of clothing for every hour we will be gone and then decrease as time goes in. If you’re going somewhere without bathrooms bring your toddler potty along! This is also super helpful to remember for the next several months if you have a road trip coming up, or just loads of errands you’d like to knock out quickly.
- Map it Out -When you arrive at a new destination, be sure to point out the restrooms to your child as soon as you enter.
Take a Break – If you’re at a very exciting place (like the zoo or a playground) you may want to keep an eye on the time and if it’s been close to an hour head over for a bathroom break.
- Communicate– If you must return to work at this time, be sure to explain to your needs and expectations concerning potty training to anyone who cares for your child. For consistency’s sake, it’s important everyone is on the same page.
Day Five and Beyond
So what’s next in your potty training journey? Well that depends on the child. Some children will master their new skills quickly and be ready to start wearing underwear and pants full time. These children may have occasional accidents, however they are infrequent.
Other children may need more naked practice to get the hang of it. If you have daily activities that require clothing, but your child is still struggling, try having the child naked whenever you are at home. If he continues having frequent accidents (more than 3 per day) after two weeks time, check the Problem Solving section of this post.
If your child has made good progress and you are using a child sized potty, you can stop using it now and have him go on the regular toilet. If he shows a lot of resistance, try using a toilet insert like this: https://amzn.to/2Pn9INm You can also try weaning from using treats simply by distracting your child immediately after a bathroom break.
Regardless of how perfectly you’ve followed the above methods, unforeseen problems can arise. Don’t get discouraged! They are part of the learning curve! I will try to address a few of the major problems that can cloud your peaceful potty plans below.
Problem #1): Holding Poop – your toddler doesn’t poop until he has a diaper or underwear on
One of the most prevalent issues, and one of the most frustrating, is your toddlers newfound ability to refuse pooping for hours and even days…until they get that rest time diaper or underwear. This can definitely prolong the process for all involved but it doesn’t have to mean going back to diapers. The number one reason that a toddler holds their poop is fear. But it can be overcome!
Apply ‘Diaper Free‘ to Rest TImes too– First, the child has to be completely naked for enough days to have several (5-10) bowel movements while diaper free. This means night and rest time diapers have to be taken away as well. This is hard guys, I’m not gonna lie. But the alternative is waiting 6 mos-1year (sometimes more) while a child continues pooping in their underwear … or to give up and go back to diapers.
*Choices for Diaper Free Rest Time
- Wake your child every two-three hours throughout the night to try using the toilet
- Sneak a diaper on your child after they have fallen into a deep sleep (usually about 30-45 min after they initially fall asleep) and remove it before their usual wake time
- Place several layers of bedding or towels on your child’s bed and wake every few hours to check if they are soiled. We have a bunch of waterproof mattress pads like these at our house that makehttps://amzn.to/2v4593S the job a little easier.
Again, after your child has had 5-10 bowel movements (which may take a week or a bit more) while diaper free, he will begin to accept that this is the new way and start feeling comfortable using the potty.
Cut a Hole in the Diaper – I know this sounds crazy but cutting a whole in the child’s diapers when you know they need to have a bowel movement can help! It gives them that old secure feeling and helps them relax as they sit on the toilet.
**If you have been consistent, and followed all other suggestions, and this acceptance still doesn’t come, you can confidently say that your child is not yet ready and try again at a future date (I’d recommend at least 3 months down the road).**
Problem #2: Wetness Not Working-your child does well naked, but doesn’t seem to mind wetting her underwear or won’t stop playing to go.
Solution 1: Delay how long you wait to change her into clean clothes. Don’t leave her wet for an hour by any means, but fifteen minutes should be sufficient time to start feeling some discomfort.
Solution 2: Don’t use plastic underwear. If you have been using plastic pants, stop now so that she can feel the wetness on her legs and even socks. You aren’t trying to punish her by any means! Just allowing her brain to absorb the message that this isn’t a desirable way to spend the afternoon.
Solution 3: Make her Clean Up. Make her do more of the work, even if she protests. If she’s old enough to do it herself, set her in the bathroom and tell her she can come out when she’s removed her wet things. If she’s still too young to undress independently, make sure she puts an effort into helping take off wet clothing and at least has to touch her soiled items.
Touching urine soaked clothing is simply not fun and it’s a rare child who doesn’t mind doing it. Plus, slowing down and having her help will take her away from the play things she wants so badly, thus reinforcing the message.
Problem #3: My child will only use the potty at home
Solution 1: Go Before You Leave.
Solution 2: Have a Toddler Potty With You. If public bathrooms are scary (well, they kinda’ are) let him use this until he’s comfortable. Further, if your child attends a daycare, ask if you can bring your potty from home for a while. This promotes relaxation.
Solution #3: Use Comfort Items. Letting him hold on to a favorite stuffed animal or blankie while he goes is also a way to help him relax.
*Even if you do nothing, you can almost always be sure that he will outgrow this one on his own with time.
And that’s it! I hope you’ve found this information helpful and that it aids in making your world diaper free! If you have any other issues or questions, drop me a comment! I’d love to help.