Potty Training Without Tears

Before I had children of my own, I spent almost two years as an assistant teacher for an older two's class at a local daycare facility. I thought I knew everything there was to know about potty training little ones.

After all, we were the potty training class. I must have helped potty train at least fifty children or more. I developed my own strategies as we went along, eschewing some ridiculous parental preferences some of these children's parents had. It was hard work remembering and then utilizing varying methods for each child. And then, as soon as there was success and the child was "trained", they would move out of our room and would be replaced by a younger, untrained version of their two year old self.

It seems that once I became a mother myself, and when the dreaded time came to potty train my oldest son, my mama brain overtook me and I forgot all of my potty training wisdom.

Hunter was the only child I didn't cloth diaper. He was about 21 months old when I thought he was ready. It was the perfect timing considering his little brother was due three days after his second birthday. I went from disposables to Pull-ups. It took forever.

Since he was my only child at the time, it didn't matter much that it was taking so long. But, as I would soon find out, having more than one little one at a time makes it extremely hard to juggle a new potty trainer. As Carter's arrival neared, it seemed as though he had "GOT IT". I was about to avoid having two in diapers. Perfect.

Carter came. And Hunter magically had no desire to continue participating in his newfound independence. He regressed.

I kept him in Pull-ups. (Why? I have no clue. Those babies are expensive!) And it wasn't until the following spring, when he was two and a half, that we were ultimately successful.

I was discouraged. How could I be a potty training expert and yet it took this long for me to potty train my own child? I dreaded the time when Carter would "be ready".

Since then, I've tweaked my approach. I've not forced the issue. And I've come to the conclusion that there are three basic criteria that the child must display in order for potty training to even be a possibility.

This is not a 'one size fits all' approach. But I truly believe that heeding these three suggestions will at least send both you and your child on your way to potty training success.

Does your child stay dry for an hour or two at a time? This is crucial to success. If your child still wets his/her diaper randomly and without control, he's/she's probably not ready. If your child does seem to have control and has predictable times that he/she goes everyday. OR if you can tell by body language or behavior when your child is dirtying his/her diaper, he/she may be ready for potty training.

Does your child communicate to you when he/she needs a new diaper? If your child has the verbal capacity or can sign and clearly communicate to you when they need changed, then they may be ready for potty training. It's so important that the child can clearly communicate to you if and when they need to use the potty. You will save yourself so much trouble if you just wait until they can effectively tell you, as opposed to constantly running them to the potty every 10-15 minutes to "catch" it.

Can your child pull his/her pants up and down? This is a vital skill in potty independence. Your child may have the other two suggestions down, but if they seriously struggle with this gross motor skill, then you may need to wait a bit longer to train. Some parents allow their children to run about naked for a few days, and while I'm not out to disprove any method out there, I personally cannot speak to this method. I've never tried it. It may work. But I really rather my child show me that they can be potty trained with clothes on. Since, well....we wear clothes around here pretty much full time. ;)

In addition to the above, and if your child is ready in all three areas, I suggest the diaper--->underwear method. I would skip the Pull-ups altogether. Take your child on an underwear date and allow them to choose underwear they would be excited to wear. Stock up! You'll need several pairs...I'd say at least 10 pairs, if not more. Then, explain to your child that because you think they're ready, they get to say 'goodbye' to baby diapers and get to wear big kid underwear. Pick out a potty, or at least a regular toilet insert for little bums and a small step stool (the key is independence here...you don't want to constantly run and put your little one on the toilet each time). I love boring looking potty's with removable buckets. I purposely avoid those fun, crazy, singing, light up potty's. Why? Because a toilet isn't a toy. I can give my child all the praise he/she deserves instead of letting the toilet flush her a "happy potty dance" song.

Just remember to breathe during the process. For some, it may take a bit longer to train than others. Try not to compare your child with anyone else's. Try not to look at the age of your child either. Just like sleeping thru the night, your child will eventually "get it" and become fully potty trained.

Here's to no more diapers! What method(s) do you/have you used to potty train? Share with us in the comments!!

love, Alicia


Training my oldest, Hunter, 2009.