After the crazy success of my post sharing tips about how to get your little one to sleep in a big boy bed, I thought that it would be a wonderful idea to share what I have learned about potty training as well. The transition from crib to big boy bed was almost flawless and easier than I had expected, but potty training has been a bit more of a process. There has been a great deal of trial and error, discussions with friends, and some reading on the subject too.
We started the long process way back in March. I thought (naively) that it could be done during my one week spring break. It went very well. In fact, he had no accidents for most of the week. But I didn't realize how much of potty training is truly up to the parent, and once I went back to work and he went back to daycare, I realized that we were not able to be consistent enough for him to be successful.
We kept talking about it, rewarded him if he went in the potty, and tried to stay as positive as possible, but I quickly realized that if I were home, it would be far easier to keep him on track. So we somewhat let it go, with the plan to come back to it in June when I was finished with school. Of course, life got in the way, and once again it was pushed back due to my laziness and lack of consistency.
Although it took me quite a while to get to this point, I knew that I wanted to get Liam out of diapers before his baby brother or sister arrives, I also knew that at least starting the process while I was at home would help us get a head start. I finally got serious about it and got my husband 100% on board, the week before I was to head back to work.
So far we have been doing very well. We have gone almost a week with no diapers (other than at bedtime), and have had only a handful of accidents, even while he is at daycare. I know that we have quite a way to go, but I also know that we are making progress, and that we are much farther than we were a few weeks ago.
Below are some tips that worked for us. Once again, I'm sure that there are more ideas out there, I understand that some things work for some kids/parents when they won't work for others, and I also realize that some people don't have a lot of time at home, but I thought I would share what we learned.
* Wait until they are really ready: I think part of our issue was that we tried too soon for his body. Our pediatrician said that you know they are ready if they wake up in the morning with dry diapers consistently. We saw one or two and thought, "We're ready, lets try!" It didn't work out for us, until it was more like one or two wet diapers a week in the morning.
* Offer treats when they use the potty/tell you they need to use the potty: We had a couple of big issues when we got to this tip. Issue one- we had a difficult time finding a treat that would be exciting enough, that he would want it over and over again. We had to change it up pretty often. Issue two- we started out giving M&M's for treats. One for pee and two for poop. It wasn't long before we realized that kids use the toilet a lot and that we were not comfortable giving him so much candy. The remedy for both of these issues was finding some recipes for healthy, yummy snacks to give to him instead. I chose to make yogurt melts and homemade fruit snacks. We alternated so that he wouldn't get bored, and by making them myself, I felt as though it was a healthier choice. We also tried to give him a potty toy for a successful week, but that seemed too difficult and he quickly lost interest. Maybe if the time period were shorter, it would work better. Who knows!
* Give them something to do while sitting: This is a great tip, but with some serious downsides. At the beginning, we filled a basket with books and magazines for Liam and I to read while he was using the potty. This was a great way to introduce the potty routine, but it also created the issue that Liam wanted to sit on the potty forever! We slowly took the books away and gave him a time limit for siting, because I was spending ten-twenty minutes in the bathroom with him, each time he "had to go".
* Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and are equally invested: One of the biggest reasons that I gave up on potty training at the beginning, was that it's far more work than I expected and I was doing the bulk of the work while my husband was at work. Once he got home, I wanted more support but we didn't go about training the same way, so I would get frustrated and end up doing it myself. It was exhausting! Once we sat down, talked about the ques we would use, and created a loose schedule of how to go about it, it was far easier to keep with it. Having a partner makes all the difference!
* Be patient and positive: Just as with the big boy bed transition, patience was key to getting through the more difficult times. You need to have patience with your child, your spouse, yourself, and the process, because it is a long one with speed bumps every where! You also need to be excited about it, so that they will be excited about it. If you get frustrated, so do they.
* Make sure your childcare provider is on board and can be consistent: This process really made the whole "It takes a village...." statement clear to me. Just as it's helpful to have your spouse's help/support, it is absolutely vital that you have the support of your childcare provider. They will be in charge of enforcing your rules/schedule while you are away from your child, and without their consistency, it will never work. But you also need to keep in mind that most daycare providers have more than one child to take care of, and you need to be prepared for less consistency than you offer at home. You need to think about whether or not your expectations are fair and realistic for someone in their situation.
* Expect accidents/speed bumps: Potty training is a process, it doesn't happen over night. I have heard crazy stories about kids being potty trained in two day. I'm sure it's possible, but it wasn't for us. Praising them for even trying seems to help during these times. It reminds them that they are doing a good job and helps you both to not dwell on the downfalls.
* Be consistent: I'm sure that this tip has already jumped out from between the lines, but just in case, and because it's so important to your success, I wanted to make sure to touch on it. Make sure that your little one goes potty at roughly the same time everyday. This way they get used to it, you get used to it, and their body gets used to it. We tend to go right after waking up, after breakfast, once in between breakfast and lunch, before nap, after nap, before dinner, and before bed. We also take him anytime that he says he needs to go. I know that this sounds like a lot of trips to the bathroom, but it has really worked for us, and we thought that it is doable for his child car provider, since it will only be 3-4 times while he is there.
* Trust your kid: At some point you know that your child has the hang of it. There still might be accidents here and there, but they frequently tell you that they have to go and you tend to go a day or two without accidents. This is the time to back off a bit. I use this phrase with my son often. "I'm trusting you to tell me when you need to go." I know he's two, but he gets it. Joe and I will remind/ask about a potty break at the times listed above, but if Liam says he doesn't have to go after we ask a couple of times, I use that line and let it go. At some point they have to know it's up to them, and we need to back off. I noticed Liam would get tired of our constant nagging and would go in his underwear just to show that he was in control. Once we realized this, we gave him more choices/control and it's worked very well.
* Get rid of the diapers!: This is by far, the most helpful hint I have. It has been what has motivated all of us to stay on top of his potty training. Once we decided there was no going back, we were fully invested in the process. Also, once his lack of making it to the potty in time caused all of us grief, we all wanted to work harder at it. Joe and I are motivated not to clean up after an accident, so we stay on top of the schedule and give reminders often. It also has helped Liam to care more about whether or not he makes it to the potty. He doesn't want to miss out on playing with his friends and toys during the time it takes to clean him up. I'm sure that it is also uncomfortable to pee or poop on yourself, as evidenced by his immediate shedding of the yucky clothes.
I hope that these tips are helpful, and since we are still in the midst of it, I would love to hear any more ideas and advise that my readers may have. Good luck with your big boy or big girl!