My potty training tips (potty training a 20 month old)
Everyone is so scared of potty training. I’m here to tell you not to be afraid and to share my best tips. I’m not going to dance around the words, so if you’re uncomfortable with potty talk please skip this post. I’m definitely no expert, but I want to share what I have learned in the hopes it can help someone else. It will also be a great reminder when the time comes to potty train our next child.
To start, I have to say that I hate the word potty. But <potty> is a lot easier for kids to say than <toilet> or <bathroom>. So we say potty in this house for now.
R is 21 months old, and he is potty trained. Of course there are still things we’re working on, but I feel comfortable saying he’s trained. I can confidently say that R is completely day trained, including naps, for pee. He has not had even a minor accident in several weeks. He still wears a Pull-Up at night, and sometimes it’s wet, but most of the time it’s not. I’m not pushing the nighttime training just yet since he’s still in a crib and he is pretty young. R is also poop trained, but it takes him a lot longer to, well, produce. And sometimes he has a small accident on the way to the potty (about 1 time a week). We are working through it though, and luckily I don’t mind hanging around the bathroom for 45-60 minutes so he can take care of business. I know that with time and more practice this will become easier.
It’s tough to know when to decide you can say your child is potty trained. I’ve decided R is potty trained because he wears undies full time during the day, rarely has an accident, initiates bathroom visits, etc. We started at 19.5 months and it took us about 6 weeks to get him trained.
Here are my potty training tips. Again, I’m no expert, but this is what I’ve learned.
Trust your instincts. If you feel your child is ready but everyone around you claims he can’t be, trust yourself. Everyone said Raffi was too young, but I felt he wasn’t and thought I had a good window to work on it. I didn’t mind if it would take a few weeks because of his age. We started at 19.5 months. Everything else he has learned has taken weeks to master, why wouldn’t potty training?
Read The Nuts and Bolts of Toilet Training board‘s featured post. I learned a lot from that post and found that board to be helpful.
Keep a diary of successes/accidents/incentives. Basically keep a diary of every potty training detail. I did this for the first couple of weeks and even now check in every few days so that I can see his progress. It helps a lot when you’re feeling discouraged to be able to look back and see how much they have improved over time.
Here’s how we actually potty trained:
After introducing the potty over a period of a few months, I carved out a few days to officially start training. I chose not to do a parent directed method because I wanted him to learn and understand his body’s signs, even if that meant it would take him longer to initially stop having accidents.
*As an aside: So many people are afraid of accidents. I don’t know why. Accidents are an important learning tool in potty training, and they are really no big deal. I kept Clorox wipes around to clean the hardwoods, and for the first two weeks had to use Resolve on my carpets a few times. We also had to change clothes a thousand times the first two weeks, but what’s the big deal? For a pee accident I would just throw the clothes in the washing machine, and for a poop accident I would rinse out the clothing and then wash and soak in hot water in the washing machine. I think lots of people make a mistake in forcing their children to sit on the potty at regular intervals because they don’t want accidents. Don’t be afraid of accidents – use them to your advantage.
Day 1: OK, so the first day I kept Raffi naked and gave him lots of stuff he would never normally have. He was given french fries and pretzels and juice and fun water cups and my house was full of crumbs and spilled water. I put the potty in the living room in front of the TV (which remained on for hours). When he’d start to pee a little I would stop him and run him over to the potty. I also had Elmo pee in the potty and made a big deal when he did it. I just used an old medicine dropper that I hid behind Elmo as Elmo sat there. I didn’t think Raffi would understand or appreciate the pretend potty play, but he was really interested in it and I think it helped him that first day. His only reward the first day was getting to pour the pee into the toilet from the small potty, but it was fun for him and fine for the first day.
For the first week I slowly transitioned from bare bottom to undies. He still wore a Pull-Up for nap and a diaper overnight. He also wore a Pull-Up on top of his undies if we had to go to the park or run an errand. It provided me peace of mind so I wouldn’t stress myself or him out about the potty. Any accidents were neatly contained and I could just switch his undies and Pull-Up and move on with our day.
Over time I stopped using the Pull-Up on top of his undies for outings, and started putting him in undies with a Pull-Up on top for nap. After two weeks of dry naps I put him in undies only. I think it’s important that you show them you trust them to trust their bodies, so I tried to phase out the Pull-Up barrier and the naptime one as soon as possible.
At first, especially when out of the house, I’d give lots of reminders. I would tell him “no peepee in the undies, ok?” and the potty was mentioned multiple times an hour. Pretty much every 5 minutes the potty was mentioned. I would ask him to tell me when he had to go, but I only insisted he sit on the potty before and after nap, before bed, first thing in the morning, before we’d leave the house, and when we arrived somewhere. Once he got better control of his bladder (about 2-3 weeks in) I switched to only making him sit before and after nap, first thing in the morning and before bed.
There are lots of skills to learn in potty training. You have to learn how to hold it, how to release it, know when you have to go, be able to communicate that to someone, etc. I focused on a few of those skills at first, and once he mastered holding/releasing I switched my focus to initiating. I now put the ball in his court to decide when to go. Since we lead active lives he wasn’t given the chance to initiate initially, so he didn’t really learn how. Now I simply ask him if he has to go before we leave the house, and if he says no we leave and that’s that. He has been forced to ask to go to the bathroom when out which has helped him to learn to initiate and to use bathrooms all over town.
You need to be flexible when potty training. We’ve visited many random cafe bathrooms, and I’ve stopped 10 minutes into a car ride to get him to a bathroom upon his request. Sometimes he can’t go even after telling me he had to, but I think it’s important for them to understand that they can stop and use the bathroom even when out. I suggest not waiting too long to introduce a public bathroom. I think I had R in a public bathroom within a few days so it would never be a scary experience for him. I also think it’s important for them to know that they can take a quick break from playing to use the bathroom and they can go back to playing after. Oh! And at night, before bed, if he says he has to go (“I go peepee?”) I always take him – even if it means the bedtime routine takes a little longer and he’s just trying to delay it. I want him to know that I am listening, and that it’s normal to stop your daily activities to use the bathroom.
I needed a lot of support while potty training. I had lots of questions and took advantage of the nuts and bolts board to have them answered. No one method works for anyone, so it’s important to be able to brainstorm different ideas to move past any obstacles. For example, at first we didn’t need rewards for using the potty. Then we used rewards for going potty, then switched to rewards for staying dry, and finally rewards for pooping in the potty. I used chocolate chips, new small toys, and stickers as rewards. We currently use rewards only for doing a full poop on the potty (with no mini accident before), in which case he gets to pick a toy or a chocolate.
Everyone wants to know if it’s better to use the toilet insert or the potty on the floor. I use both. I started with just the potty on the floor but had the toilet insert readily available. Within a week I was using both, and when we are out I often bring the toilet insert with us. If I don’t have it, I sit him on the toilet sideways so that he doesn’t feel like he’s going to fall in. The Baby Bjorn stand alone potty ($28) is great, but IKEA has one identical to it for much cheaper called the LOCKIG ($9.99). We have one in R’s bathroom and one in the bathroom next to the living room where he plays. For toilet inserts we have a CARS one that we use at home and a Sesame Street one that lives in the car or stroller to take along with us. I brought it everywhere the first few weeks, but now only bring it if we are going to be somewhere for several hours. We also got two TROGEN bathroom stools from IKEA ($19.99) so he can wash his hands independently. He still doesn’t climb up onto the toilet himself, but in a few months when he’s tall enough I’ll move the stool in front of the toilet.
R also can’t quickly pull his clothes off himself. In the last month he has learned how to do it, but it takes him to long when he has to use the bathroom so I still do it for him.
We bought about 25 pairs of Thomas & Mickey underwear and went through about 15 of them the first day. I bought R size 2T-3T since that was the smallest available, even though he wears 18-24 month clothing. They fit him just fine.
Other tips… Once you decide your child doesn’t need constant reminders you can switch to subtle reminders: for example walking by the bathroom and making a comment about it, or announcing that you have to go and does anyone else in the house need to too? I don’t do either now. I wait for him to tell me, but if he hasn’t gone in about 3 hours I will ask him if he needs to go.
These are just my first hand potty training tips. I am not saying I’m any sort of expert, but I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far. I can’t express enough how much I learned from The Nuts and Bolts of Toilet Training board (what TO do AND what NOT to do), and I found it to be more informative than any book I could have read. I also found that having support on those bad days where they seem to regress was really encouraging.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask away. I’d love to help in any way. Potty training is made out to be this big scary thing, but it really isn’t. Just remember that accidents are good learning tools and potty training doesn’t happen overnight.
I’d love for you to share any potty training tips you have so that anyone coming upon this post can have even more tips to learn.