Potty Training: What Worked For Me | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

March 23, 2012

Potty Training: What Worked For Me

Let me rephrase: what worked for Little Chica.

I've been doing pretty well with toileting for a while now, thank you.

Everyone dreads potty training.  It's hardly ever easy, although some kids seem to take to it easier than others.  Way long ago in a galaxy far, far away when our parents were potty training us, it was the philosophy that kids should be potty trained, day and night, by the time they were 2.  Now a days, mindsets have shifted.  Many books, as well as pediatricians, don't look for kids to even start potty training until they are 3, with nighttime potty training coming even later down the road.

I didn't have a set method when it came time to start the training Little Chica.  I knew I didn't want to push her before she was ready.  Starting at 14 months or so, I left the option to sit on a small potty before bath time each night, so she would have a positive connection with the potty.  Surprisingly, she took to it well, and even peed in it a few times. I thought, "Wow!  She's going to be an easy learn on this whole potty thing!"

When she was around 2 years old, she accidentally pooped in the potty (as in, it was not her intention), and it totally freaked her out. She wanted nothing to do with the potty anymore.  So we didn't push her.  We would bring it up from time to time, but it was often met with a negative response, so we let it go.  But as her third birthday approached, we became concerned about her lack of potty training, as the school she would be going to in the Fall required that they be potty trained.

So we tried.  And it was awful.

Little Chica would not willingly go on the potty. Ever.  If she was made to go anywhere near a toilet, she would get twitchy.  On a few occasions we put her on the toilet, and let's just say an exorcism would have been easier to watch. Seriously.  There was such an intense screaming, crying and thrashing that I was actually frightened.

So what's a Mom to do?  Send her teenager off to school in diapers?


I'm happy to report Little Chica is both #1 AND #2 trained during the day (we're still working on the nights - but not stressing over it - another post on that to come)!  Some kids don't "follow the rules" when it comes to potty training, no matter how to the letter you follow a certain book or method. You have to get creative and try different things to see what works for your kid.

I am in no way an expert (far from it!), and these are not sanctioned by the AAP or anything. But, here are a few things that worked for potty training Little Chica:

Wait until they are ready

I know this is a common enough mantra, but there is plenty of research to show that pushing kids to start toilet training before they are ready can lead to a more difficult training period (and subsequent regression).  Check for signs of readiness and willingness before you give it the old college try. And don't let people who have different mindsets on the matter pressure you. Do what you as a parent are comfortable with. My sister-in-law, Laura, is one of my favorite supports as I journey through motherhood.  And her encouragement to follow Little Chica's lead has been priceless.

Reward them for staying dry

While we were in the midst of the potty training battle, I bumped into Melissa from Girlymama at the Horizon Organic event.  Her son was also working on potty training, and we chatted (fretted?) about it for a bit.  She shared one piece of advice she had read in her research, and for some reason it really resounded with Little Chica. I had been attempting to reward Little Chica every time she went #1 or #2 in the potty (usually a mini marshmallow), but that wasn't motivation enough.  Melissa said to try rewarding her for staying dry.  It takes a little more work, but I set a timer for every 10 or 15 minutes. When the timer went off, I'd check her diaper (or panties), and if she had NOT messed in them, I rewarded her.  For some reason, this philosophy hit home, and shortly after implementing it, Little Chica started peeing on the potty.

Sit on the potty for #2

While Little Chica eventually started urinating in the potty, she was quite disturbed by the idea of pooping in the potty.  It took several months for her to actually stop going #2 in her drawers.  And what eventually got us there was a 2-step process.  The first step was to have her sit on the potty in her diaper to poop. Little Chica waited until she got into her nap time diaper to go #2 once she was pee-pee trained.  So when she was ready to poop, I told her it was fine if she wanted to do it in her diaper, but that she needed to sit on the potty.  She wasn't keen on it at first, but eventually took to the routine.  Getting this pattern going helped lead to the second step.

Cut a hole in the daytime diaper

Little Chica was only wearing a diaper during the day when it was nap time.  As per the above tip, it became our pattern to put the diaper on before her once-a-day nap, and then sit on the potty for her daily constitutional.  Thanks to a tip from Cari, another parent from Little Chica's preschool, one day I cut a small hole in the diaper before putting it on her.  Since we went to sit right on the potty after putting on the diaper, she would go #2, and it would fall out into the toilet instead of staying in the diaper.  I believe part of the psychological issue that kids have with pooping in the potty is that they are used to the feeling of the poo being near their body after they go. The feeling of is coming out of their body and falling away is a different and strange sensation.  So when we tried cutting the hole the first time, it surprised her, and she realized it wasn't as bad or scary as she thought.  Little Chica wasn't ready to willingly poop in the potty for another week or so, but we cut the holes bigger and bigger, and shortly thereafter she made the transition.

Keep your cool

It's hard not to get stressed when potty training doesn't go well.  Do you best to keep your emotions in check and to not get visibly (or verbally) upset in front of your child.  This sends mixed messages and can put pressure on them, which in turn will impede training progress. Little Chica is sensitive. And some days I was tired and exhausted and slightly disheartened at the lack of progress. If I unintentionally shared my frustration, she took it to heart (which made me totally feel awful. #MOMFAIL!).  It's a hard skill to learn and master, so be patient and know it takes time.

It's not all or nothing

I had to eventually give in to this philosophy, although some parents may not agree (feel free to speak up!).  Even though Little Chica was daytime trained, she was far from being ready to nighttime train.  She was still waking up quite wet in the morning (one sign of readiness is that children start waking up dry).  So I didn't push it.  She eventually started waking up dry, and when she was dry for several weeks and started asking to wear panties at night, we gave it a try.  The 3 nights we attempted no diapers at night, Little Chica wet the bed during the first half of the night.  This is to be expected.  The problem is she would not fully wake up, and the only reason we knew it happened is that it lead her to having a night terror.  So the poor girl was completely disoriented, screaming and thrashing as Hubby and I tried to change her AND the bed. We decided it was not worth it, and we went back to pull-ups at night.  We will try again in a few weeks.  But the fact that she is not nighttime trained does not take away from the fact she is fully daytime trained.

Expect accidents

This might go without saying. But try not to get discouraged when accidents happen.  Little Chica does amazingly well, but every couple weeks she waits to long to get to the potty and has an accident. Sure, it frustrates me sometimes.  But it's totally normal. It does not mean she is regressing.  She's just still learning.


So this is not an exhaustive text on the topic of potty training, but having new ideas helps.  I hope you feel encouraged in your journey with potty training.  Remember - they will get there eventually!

I'd love to hear your stories as well. Do you have any tips to share? Good books or other resources?

Leave a comment below!


  1. Sometimes the strangest things work. We had a potty outside by the pool the summer my son was 2 and we let him run naked by the pool and he used the potty pretty much every time. I figured transitioning to the inside potty would be a breeze. It wasn't. Despite everything we tried, he was still in pullups almost two years later, and although he would often use the toilet at home he almost always refused to at school.

    I was at the end of my patience at this point. I knew he was ready. I knew he could use the potty. I knew it was mostly stubbornness and lack of desire on his part that kept him from making that final transition to underpants. So out of desperation more than anything else, on his fourth birthday I told him "you are four now and four year olds wear underpants." He had a few accidents at first but from that day on he used the toilet. Go figure.

    We're still working on nighttime (and I prefer not to push the issue) but the dry nights are getting more frequent so maybe soon...

  2. This is really encouraging! I know lots of people whose children are potty trained early, and my daughter just turned 2 1/2 and she usually goes on the potty once every few days, maybe. It's really hit or miss & I'm trying to remember to wait until she's ready and be encouraging to her and not fuss at her for not going as much as I am ready for her to! Thanks for these reminders!

  3. These are great tips, and even though I've potty trained two already, that was years ago! (I had the same issue with being set back when my son got scared the first time he accidentally pooped in the potty.) :) I have a new baby, and I'm always open to new ideas and reminders of how it's done. I'd never heard of cutting a hole in the diaper, but it makes sense - we might just try that when the time comes!

  4. I appreciate this post--encouraging and helpful as we have yet to start potty-training. Not that Mommy is putting it off b/c she is dreading it or anything ;)

  5. I'm potty training right now, and so far, it's been going well. I give a lot of credit to my husband, who's been so diligent about taking the little boy to use the loo. We take turns, but DH likes to be participative, since he has this thing about Vito (our son) learn from him. To him, teaching the little boy to go to the bathroom is HIS job as dad, simply because he's the "boy" and I'm the "girl" as far as our son sees things. We're still using nappies at night, but so far, Vito's not wet himself for over a month in briefs! Now to begin trying the no-nappy thing at night... we'll see!


Hey! Share a thought or two - I'd love to hear from you! ~ Steph

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...