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Potty Training 101

Let me start by saying: I am not a potty training expert. I’ve potty trained my 2 kids and those will be the only two kids I potty train on my own in my life. Potty training is arguably one of my least favorite parts of parenting.

If you are about to or are currently in the throes of potty training, read this book: Oh Crap! Potty Training. You can thank me later. If you couldn’t tell from the title, Jamie Glowacki is straightforward and to the point. She tells you exactly what you need to know without any fluff.  As soon as I read that she doesn’t recommend rewards for potty training, I knew I could trust her approach because I am NOT a fan of rewarding kids for behavior or skills. Plus, she’s funny!

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Unfortunately, I did not read this book the first time around.  I started potty training my daughter right after she turned 2 years old, at the beginning of my summer vacation.  It went great for the first two days and I put her on the toilet every time the timer went off every 40 minutes (or was it an hour?) and she went.  (By the way, Glowacki does not recommend using this timer method). Two days later, she was over it and would run and hide when she heard the timer, and would pee on the floor or sit on the toilet and do nothing and then, pee as soon as she was off. Have I ever mentioned that she’s very strong willed? It was stressing me out and I probably (definitely) put too much pressure on her during this process. I was lost and in no mood for ruining our summer. We went back to diapers for the summer and tried again a few months later (let me be clear in saying Glowacki does not recommend doing this either). I read the book before Round 2 of potty training, and it went incredibly well and my daughter got the hang of it sooo quickly and without resistance.

I started potty training my son when he was 31 months old. Glowacki recommends 20-30 months, but I was a little terrified from my first experience so I kept putting it off and coming up with excuses why every weekend wasn’t going to work for potty training. Within about 10 days he was consistently telling us when he had to go and was almost accident free during the day!

Here’s my version of Oh Crap! Potty Training’s basic potty training guidelines:

  1. Potty train when your child is 20-30 months: there’s a “developmental lull” during this time period where they won’t necessarily be learning something new, but will be refining and practicing their recently learned skills.  She also talks about dignity. Kids are capable of learning so much more than we sometimes give them credit and don’t need to be sitting around in a poopy diaper. If you wait too long beyond 30 months, it becomes more of a power struggle and can take so much longer.

  2. Readiness signs: there’s no magical sign. Kids don’t just typically decide to start toilet training on their own. She suggests thinking about this as “potty training capability” rather than readiness.  This means: Is my child capable of learning something new? Do they retreat to a corner or hide when pooping? Can they sing they ABC song? Can they communicate their needs? This does not mean speaking in complete sentences necessarily. Can they somehow let you know they need or want something, like using a word or a signal?

  3. Set a date and clear your social calendar for a week when you’re starting.  Yup, a whole week.

  4. Prep your child ahead of time and let them know you’ll be getting rid of diapers and will be going in the toilet.  Don’t bring out the potty seat until you actually start. They don’t need to warm up to it. Seriously. Side note: We have the toilet insert for the regular toilet and also a potty seat that I brought to whichever room we were in. Kids usually can’t hold it long enough at this stage to make it all the way to the bathroom, so it’s important to have it handy!  

  5. There are generally two methods: 1. Rewards and 2. Consistency and commitment. Glowacki follows method 2 and I 100% agree with her. In case you haven’t read my other blog posts, I am not a fan of rewards. Commit to this method and see it through!

  6. Mentally prep ahead of time.  Know that there WILL be accidents. Guaranteed.

  7. When you start, your child should be pants-less. This means no underwear either. You will be hanging out at home, undistracted, watching your child. “TODAY YOU WILL DO NOTHING BUT WATCH YOUR CHILD!” Think of it as a day bonding and playing together. Whenever you notice they’re starting to go, take them to the toilet. She says that she’s seen better success doing it this way rather than setting a timer and taking them to the toilet whenever the timer goes off.  When you take them to the toilet when you see they’re about to go, they will more quickly recognize the sensation in their body and connect it to the act of using the toilet.

  8. If they start having more accidents, ask yourself - have you been distracted? Was the accident while you were in the other room? Were you doing something else?

  9. She also has entire chapters about poop (apparently this is a very challenging part of potty training for so many families), what to do regarding potty training when your child is in day care, and night training.

  10. If you are outside of the 20-30 month range, she has an entire chapter dedicated to this too!

If you are going to be potty training in the near future or are in the process and it’s not going as planned, do yourself and your child a favor and read this book!  Oh Crap! Potty Training