It seems all seasoned parents have their own tried and true method for potty training children. Some will say their kid was completely potty trained and accident free in 3 days. To those parents, I salute you. Our potty training journey was a bit more interesting.
I was eager for my daughter to be potty trained. She was 2 1/2 and Dr. Google was telling me the average potty training age for girls had since passed. My husband also had the classic ailment of not being able to change diapers without gagging. He is a terrible exaggerator and also genius. Therefore, diaper duty was mostly up to me.
It took about six months, but we did finally potty train our daughter. Here I will share with you the multitude of things we tried including what worked and what didn’t.
Our Many Failed Attempts
Everytime you go peepee on the potty you will get a sticker! Each time you get a sticker you get to pick out a toy from this box of cheap stuff we got at the dollar store *insert cheesy smile here*. This was cool for a little while. She started going about every ten minutes. She would happily pee a squirt or two, run to get a sticker, smile big at me and then go for the toys. I was okay with it, since at least she was peeing and staying dry. Some of the toys weren’t “worth it” to her and weren’t worth her time for a pee. Ugh. Even so, a week later when the toys ran out, she didn’t think she needed to go on the potty anymore at all since there was no tangible reward. FAIL.
Look! Your big cousin goes peepee on the potty and she’s a BIG girl. Don’t you want to be a big girl too?
“No Mommy. I’m a little kid”
Acting like we won the lottery every time she went
“Mommy is soooooo proud of you! You are God’s gift to Earth! You are the most amazing child I’ve seen in my whole life”. Okay, we didn’t say exactly that, but you get the idea. She was extremely happy, but this still didn’t motivate her to go more frequently. Her feelings of not wanting to do it were not outweighed by the sheer joy (eye roll) she got from my approval.
Acting disappointed when she had an accident
This was the worst, actually. She knew we were “upset” with her (we really weren’t of course, just trying to act the part), but it just made her feel ashamed and start hiding when she had an accident. Definitely don’t recommend this one. In fact I’m rather sad we tried it in the first place. I’m not saying we were mean or anything. We would say something close to “Oh no, you had an accident. I guess you aren’t ready to be a big girl”. Still, I cringe even typing it.
Moving the potty into the living room
The idea behind this one was so she didn’t really have to stop doing whatever fun thing she was doing (watching a show, playing with toys, having a snack, etc.) to go to the potty. I thought this one was going really well when she went on her own (yay total win!!!!). Still, this was mostly a miss as it just added to the lovely decor of the living room (I think that’s what she thought) and was a total FAIL.
Giving away her diapers to other babies “that need them”
I read about this one online. Or maybe it was a YouTube video. I don’t know. All I remember it was a seasoned mom who said it worked. At this point I was ready to try anything. We loaded up all her diapers into a box and put them in the car. We had a playdate later that day with one of my friends and her little one year old boy. I explained that we were going to give him all of her diapers since she didn’t need them anymore and he was still a baby. She was happy and thought it was a great idea. She kept reminding me in the car on the way to the park that she was going to give him her diapers. This one was a fail because I forgot to actually do the hand of. My original plan was to actually hide them in a closet or something in case we needed to bring them back out. After all, diapers are expensive! The playdate was fun and we loaded up the car, got home and BOOM! She sees the diapers. My plan was foiled.
Regardless, we still tried going cold turkey and took away all the pull-ups and diapers. We put her in regular undies (we even had her pick out special Trolls and Shimmer & Shine undies at the store) and prepared ourselves for a few accidents. I had read that kids don’t like feeling wet and this could potentially get them more prepared to potty train. Unfortunately, my kid didn’t mind being wet. It didn’t seem to bother her at all. I should have predicted this, too, since she was also this way as an infant. She never cried when she had a wet or dirty diaper. Alas, FAIL.
This one was actually the most effective. See this post to read more on my thoughts about bribing children…
Here’s how it worked: Every time she went peepee on the potty, she got a jellybean (or maybe it was an M&M or a raisin if she was really unlucky and we had run out of candy). If she pooped, she would get two. My daughter loves to eat, and loves candy (let’s be real, what kid doesn’t?), and this was a big motivator for her.
This was going well so I jokingly sent this picture to my mom:
It’s a fair assessment if you ask me.
I call this one a fail because she would go potty and get her well-earned jellybean about 75% of the time. The problem was, if she just wasn’t feeling up to it, she would still have an accident and not care that she missed out on a delicious jellybean.
I was starting to realize that the more we pushed, the more she resisted. I knew she knew HOW to use the potty. I knew she was physically ready. We just needed to have more patience and let her lead the way.
Lessons Learned: What actually worked
Not caring so much
Seriously. As soon as I threw in the towel, it seems like she potty trained herself. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t an overnight thing like some parents brag it was for their kids, but it happened over the span of about a week or two. So still, pretty quick. She would tell me she had to go, I would take her and praise her, and that was it. She didn’t expect anything and it seemed pretty natural.
Ignoring the accidents
Like I said before, the more we focused on the accidents, especially in a negative way, the worse off she was with making progress. We learned to ignore them (as much fun as it is peeling poop of of underwear), and this worked well.
The Poop Song
My daughter went through a phase where she was scared to poop in the potty because she was afraid it was going to hurt. Randomly I searched YouTube for some songs about pooping and found this one. She loved it and played it every time she had to go and it seemed to distract and relax her. Weird, but awesome.
Parading her poop around the house to show everyone (yes, seriously)
Confession time! My daughter is 3 1/2 and still does this. Let me explain. She prefers using the little toddler potty (we have this one) over the regular one . It has an insert that comes out for “easy” cleaning. After doing her business, she loves to pick it up and dump the contents into the big potty, which gives me a mini heart attack every time since fine motor skills are not the hallmark of a preschooler. When she poops, she also loves to pick it up and show anyone and everyone who is in our house. Yes, this means carrying around essentially a bucket of poop for all to see and ooh and ahh. Of course everyone obliges with “Wow, that’s impressive” or “You’re such a big girl” and she gets the reinforcement she desires.
Reading Books about the Potty
We started reading books about the potty well before we started pushing the potty training, which may have helped. Who knows. I did notice that when she was really starting to catch on she did tend to gravitate towards these books more. She would pick them out and prioritize them over other favorite books.
These two were our favorites:
If someone asks me now how we potty trained our daughter, I say we didn’t. She made the decision and we gave her the tools to do it. And it was painful and I don’t have a ton of advice, if that’s why you’re asking.
The moral of the story is: your kid most likely won’t go to kindergarten in diapers. It’s not a contest of which kid is potty trained first. Find what works best for your kid and don’t worry about it so much.