Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Potty Training Success!

So it's been over a month, and I'm proud to say that our little Emma is potty trained! I waited a while to write this one because it's a personal pet peeve when I read a post about someone potty training (or any number of subjects) in 3 days, and they're writing the post on day 3 - I personally would like to know about day 4 and maybe even day 17 because life goes on after day 3. This pet peeve also applies to product reviews when people say, "This just came in the mail today, and I love it!" I'd much rather know how you feel about it a month from now, thank you very much. But... I digress.

We did do the 3 day potty training method with Emma in which we stayed home for three full consecutive days and focused solely on potty training, although I must admit that we began preparing a while back. We got her a potty chair for Christmas, and it's been sitting in the bathroom for the past 7 months. I showed her, using her favorite doll and some big girl training panties, how you would pull down your panties, sit on the potty and go, and wipe, and pull your panties and pants back up. She would sit on her little potty (fully clothed and in her diaper) occasionally when one or the other of us was using the bathroom, just to get used to it. We also read a couple different books about learning to go in the potty, including:

After Bryson was born in May, we had a few conversations with her about how diapers were for babies (like Bryson) and she was growing up to be a big girl who could go in the potty, and that her diapers would be going away soon. We encouraged her to tell us if she needed to go, and if we could tell she needed to go (think pooping face - you know the face I'm talking about) we'd take her to sit on the potty.

On those occasions when she did tell us, or when we caught her in time to go in the potty, she would get a jelly bean along with lots of praise and tons of high-fives. We also promised her that we would take a trip to the zoo when she learned to use the potty because (here comes the shameful lie) you are not allowed to wear diapers to the zoo.

We went on like this from May to July, with Emma occasionally using the potty and getting a reward but generally going in her diaper and us not really pushing her. In July the blow fell. Derek came home from work and told me that this year his company picnic was being held at the Minnesota Zoo. So, we could either skip the picnic, or go and somehow explain to Emma why she could suddenly go to the zoo in diapers, or we could potty train.

The next week, I started an impromptu potty training marathon. Honestly, I got home from grocery shopping with the kids on a Wednesday morning and thought, "We have food in the house, and no plans for Thursday or Friday. Why not just stay home and try potty training?" I am type-A to the core, so this was very unusual for me, but I think it helped that we just started spur of the moment and didn't have time to psych myself out. So, after I'd put the groceries away, I told Emma that we were done with diapers and took her diaper off. We use cloth diapers, so I potty trained with Emma naked from the waist down because I was concerned that she wouldn't feel a big difference between wearing a cloth diaper and wearing cloth underwear. It also allowed us to get her onto the potty very quickly.

I moved her little potty chair into the nursery, spread a large sheet out over the floor (we have carpet throughout the house), and shut the door. It really helped me to have a "base camp" where we spent the next few days so all accidents were confined to that space and it was easier to keep an eye on Emma.

She had an accident within the first 20 minutes, and I took her to the potty before she had finished and encouraged her to go on the potty. She went a little and was happy to get a jelly bean and a hug. I put the jelly beans in a clear plastic jar next to the potty so they were a visible reminder to try to sit on the potty and go. I also let Emma have juice, which she NEVER gets, and pushed salty snacks like pretzels and goldfish crackers, to  encourage her to keep drinking.

The first day went better than I'd anticipated. After her first initial accident, she went pee successfully on the potty 4 times in a row. She even stayed dry during her nap in the afternoon! Then tragedy struck. A poop accident! Thankfully the sheet on the floor caught everything and there was no major disaster. She did well the rest of the day and only had two additional accidents in the evening right before bed.

She was wet when she woke up in the morning and continues to wear a cloth diaper overnight, although she does stay dry during naps. We do believe that night time dryness will come in time and aren't stressing about it too much right now.

Days 2 and 3 went very well, with three accidents on Day 2 and two accidents on Day 3. She continued to have about one accident per day sporadically for the next week. After that first week, she really stopped having accidents and now accidents are rare. She tells me every time she needs to go and I help her to the potty. She is even getting better about being able to pull her panties and shorts down by herself and sit on the potty, although she does need help with wiping and generally with getting her pants back up.

I think a big part of our success was that Emma was really ready to be potty trained. When Emma was about 19 months old, before Bryson was born, I decided to potty train her, but only made it about halfway through Day 2. It was a horrible time full of tears, and accident after accident with no discernible progress, but I think the answer can be found in the last sentence. I decided. I thought it would be easier to potty train a 19 month old before the new baby came. But I discovered it was easier to train a 23 month old - even with a newborn baby in the house - because she was physically and emotionally ready. Some signs of readiness are:
  • You are changing fewer diapers because your child is staying dry for longer periods of time.
  • Your child communicates (whether verbally or non-verbally) when they are peeing or pooping.
  • Your child asks to be changed or fusses when a diaper is dirty.
  • Your child is able to perform simple undressing.
  • Your child is interested in the potty chair or interested in you going potty.

I think nowadays too much emphasis is put on potty training early, and if your child is ready to potty train at 16 or 18 months that's great! But if they are not ready until 24 or 36 months, there's no shame in that. Every child develops differently. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret that others might not tell you: having a potty trained toddler will not solve all your problems.

From now on every trip out of the house will begin with a trip to the potty. On top of that, you'll probably want to visit the potty as soon as you reach your destination. Even if you do that, there will still be the inevitable announcements of "needing to go to the potty" when you're about to check out at the grocery store or right as you buckle your child into their carseat, or sit down to nurse your baby. Not that any of these instances have happened to me personally, ahem.

Even through all the ups and downs, it was a good growth and learning experience for Emma as well as for me. God has shown me new depths of patience that I didn't know I had, and I'm so proud of Emma as she is growing up into a big girl! Our story had a happy ending, and we got to enjoy an accident free day celebrating at the zoo as a family!

What potty training tricks worked for you?


  1. When did you phase out rewards for using the potty? We are about to begin potty training our son, but I'm worried he'll stop going in the potty when he stops being rewarded.

    1. I started potty training on a Wednesday, and we went to the zoo on Saturday the next week, and we stopped doing a reward at that time. So it was about a week and a half. Great question though!

      I was worried about the same thing, but we just decided that we wouldn't bring treats to the zoo, and after that we didn't mention a reward. If she asked about a jelly bean - which she did, and honestly still does sometimes out of the blue - we tell her we are all out of jelly beans, and she takes it at that. She has never made a fuss about getting a treat since we stopped doing a reward.

      However, we did pump up the verbal praise and hugs and high-fives those first few reward-free days, so she knew she was doing a good job.

  2. Where do you draw the line with using the potty at bedtime? We are sort of passively potty training right now (planning to do the 3-day thing while I'm on maternity leave after new baby comes next month) but he has figured out that he can ask to yse the potty repeatedly to stall going to sleep. I'm afraid to tell him no if he legitimately has to go but hate him getting up 6-8 times when he's supposed to be going to sleep (he does pee about 75% of those times).... #mommyproblems

    1. We did have a similar problem when we were training Emma. We've eliminated a lot of it recently by limiting her water intake after dinner (about 2 hours before bedtime). Sadly, when we were potty training, she also had a little cough, so she we were pushing water and really let her drink as much as she wanted at any time.

      What we did then, and still do some now, is to have her sit on the potty - maybe even read a story on the potty right before we put on her nighttime diaper and pajamas. Then she gets snuggles and a song and goes right to bed, within a few short minutes of using the potty.

      If she comes to the door and says she needs to go potty, we do let her try.... but we have the little potty chair in the nursery with her at night. So one of us will go in to help her undress and sit with her while she is on the potty - we don't turn on the light, just use the light from the hallway or nightlight, and we don't talk unnecessarily or give snuggles. I kind of thought about it the same way I did when we were sleep training her as an infant and she had days and nights mixed up. The room stays dark and there is minimal interaction.

      We did try to err on the side of grace when we couldn't tell if she really did need to go and when she was just stalling. I'm sure it's tricky for them at the beginning to control their bladder, and to try to fall asleep when they might feel an urge to go. So that took some patience on our part. And sometimes she genuinely had to go! But in the situations when she said she had to use the potty and did NOT go after a minute on the potty (usually the 3rd or 4th time up for her), we did discipline her because at that point it was a disobedience issue and not a potty training issue.