The morning that Ella turned 25 months old, she woke up and told me "No more diapers, mama!" Dream words to most parents, I'm sure. But being nearly 9 months pregnant, that was a nightmare sentence to my ears. I was perfectly content having two in diapers. Diapers are easy. Sure, they're kind of a pain and, I would imagine they get expensive if you're using disposable diapers 24/7. But potty training - cleaning up accidents (down on hands and knees), literally running to the bathroom every 20-30 minutes, being holed up at home for days on end - torture for a mama in full blown nesting mode and ready to give birth S-O-O-N.
If you know my daughter, you know that when she makes up her mind to do something, she does it. I have no idea where she gets that from, you guys. Except that when I relay stories to my mom about things Ella says or does, she laughs this almost evil laugh and says, "Gee, I've never known a little girl who was just like that when she was a toddler ... " Anyway, as soon as Ella said she wasn't going to wear diapers anymore, I kind of panicked.
The good news:
- She already had a potty that we purchased when she was about 15 months old and first started showing interest in our toilet habits
- She had already pottied in her potty several times over the previous 10 months or so
- She had pooped in her potty once in the previous 6 months
- We already had big girl panties on hand
- Mr. Lukie would be off for 6 days straight - I would just have to get through the first day on my own
- Mr. Lukie would be off for 6 days straight - I just had to get through the first day on my own
- Mr. Lukie would be off for 6 days straight - during which time I had a nice little "Honey Do Before Baby Gets Here" list for him to start on ... and knew that none of it was going to get done
- I had ZERO desire to do this potty training thing
Several of you have asked me how we did it. We certainly didn't reinvent the wheel, but I did read about 1,293 different blog posts and articles on how to potty train your toddler. I mostly followed Ella's lead, but I also took several ideas from everything I read and just made up something that worked for us. So, here is what we did:
- Waited until our child was ready. Honestly? I think this was the biggest factor in our success. I have friends who've tried to 'force' their child to potty train at 18 months old, for one reason or another. Most kids aren't able to control their bladders or even determine what the urge to go feels like at that age. Ella had been showing signs of being interested since she was 15 months old, but nothing I ever felt the need to act on. I knew that when she was ready, she would let us know.
- Hyped up pottying and pooping. We would all gather around the toilet when Mama or Dada were going potty. We made a big deal out of Mama or Dada successfully going potty in the toilet - clapping, cheering, high fives, and the potty dance (make one up and be as crazy as you want to with it - it's fun!) I know it sounds weird to do this, but Ella really fed off of this and it worked for us.
- Gave rewards for successful potty and poop. Days 1 and 2, she received one M&M for trying to go potty on her potty chair, 3 M&M's for successfully going potty on her potty chair, plus the "potty dance", and 5 M&M's for successfully going poop on her potty chair, plus the "poo poo dance." Day 3, she no longer received M&M's for trying, she still received 3 M&M's and the "potty dance" for successful potty, and 5 M&M's and the "poo poo dance" for successful poop. She hadn't pooped for the first 2 days, though, so we upped the ante for poop to 5 M&M's, the "poo poo dance", and a tractor (we bought a 5 pack of little yellow CAT tractors at Target - find what motivates your kid). Day 4, she no longer received M&M's for successful potty unless she asked. Most of the time, high fives and the "potty dance" were enough motivation for her. Successful poops still received 5 M&M's, the "poo poo dance", and a tractor. By Day 5, she wasn't asking for M&M's anymore, and we had given out all of the tractors. High fives and dancing/cheering were enough, and by day 6, just high fives and "I'm so proud of you!"'s were adequate.
- Didn't force her to sit on the potty. I read a lot of things about setting a timer for every 20 or 30 minutes and then forcing your kid to sit on the potty for 2-5 minutes. If your kid is like mine, that will just force them to be done with potty training, or hold it until they get off the potty and then stare at you while they purposefully soil themselves. I knew this method would not work for us, so we skipped it.
- Didn't ask her if she needed to go potty. That's like asking an adult if they want to pay double on their mortgage this month, just for fun. You're always going to be met with a big, fat "NO!" Instead, we said, "Mama has to go potty! Ella is going to try while mama goes, too!" So, we'd both sit on our respective potties and then do the potty dance for one another when we were done.
- Holed up in the house for the entire first 3 days. Well, that's a lie. It was the entire first 2 days. The third day, I had a midwife appointment that had already been rescheduled once and I really couldn't reschedule. An hour away. Going by myself wasn't an option, either. So, we loaded the car with the potty chair, extra undies and pants, and lined the carseat with towels. We also stopped halfway there on an off-ramp and had her try to go on the potty in the trunk of the car. You do what you gotta do, people. But other than that, we didn't go anywhere or do anything. And we didn't let her out of our sight. You start to learn their potty and poop faces (if you didn't know them already) and can usually catch an accident before it becomes one.
- Let her run around bottomless (no undies, no pants) for the first 3 days. It is so much less-likely for an accident to occur when they don't feel like they have a "security blanket" AND it's so much easier to run to the bathroom and sit on the potty chair without trying to finagle undies and or pants off.
- Be positive. Be patient. Be forgiving. There will be accidents. We never, ever got mad at Ella for having an accident. She is learning and is bound to make mistakes along the way. We gently remind her, "Ella, we don't go potty/poop in our undies, do we? Where do we go potty/poop?" and then let her tell us "In the potty/toilet." The first few accidents she had, she cried and was so upset with herself for. She's my little perfectionist and if she doesn't get something on the first try, she is just beside herself. I would constantly reassure her, "Honey, it's okay! Mommy isn't mad and Daddy isn't mad! You just had a little accident and accidents happen. We can get you all cleaned up and next time, we'll make it to the potty on time!"
- Took turns watching her like a hawk. Potty training is exhausting. Seriously. So, we took turns watching her like a hawk (truly, never letting her out of our sight for the first three days or so), so that the other person could work out, run to the market, run an errand, or just get out of the darn house, for crying out loud! If you have someone who is willing and able to help you out, take them up on it!
- Take the potty chair with you wherever you go. Now that we're two weeks in, we don't do this, unless we are unsure of our destination or are worried about getting stuck in traffic, etc.. But that first week, the potty chair went in the car with us everywhere we went. You just don't know what a public restroom is going to be like, or how long you're going to be on the road, or if you're going to get stuck in traffic. It saved us a few times during that first week, but now, she's totally okay with going in the big toilet at Target, Starbucks, and a few other places.
Oh, and one other thing - she's still in diapers at nap time and bed time. Many articles out there say to go cold turkey and say no more diapers at all, ever. I think it's silly to expect a 2 year old to be able to hold it while they're sleeping. She'll get to the point, one day, where she'll start waking up from nap and bed time dry. But until then, I'm fine with her wearing diapers so that I don't have to change the sheets multiple times per night. She won't wear diapers to sleep in forever :)
Happy Potty Training, Mamas!