Two weeks ago the Modern Mama household started potty training our two year old… at two years 5 months to be exact. He finished off week 2 with 3 days straight accident free and has started running to the potty and climbing up himself when it’s time to go.
First things first, every child is unique so what works for one may not work for another. I will detail my process this time with what worked and what we struggled through with our first child. I hope it helps some of you reaching this milestone!
I will start by saying I HATE the potty training stage of parenting. My oldest was so stubborn and it was not the experience I expected at all. I made some very conscience choices in round two that made things much easier.
1. Wait until they are 2. Between 2 and 2.5 really is the golden time in my experience. Before 2, most kids don’t understand the concept of holding it or have the physical ability to do so. You may be able to train them but it will likely take more time and effort from you. If you have to put them on the potty at set times to go everyday then you trained yourself, not them!
Learning experience: we introduced the potty every morning at wake up with our oldest at 12 months. He did great! I thought potty training him would be a breeze… at 18 months my mother in law started potty training during the day while she watched him and his cousin who was 9 months older. She would put them on the potty in front of the tv and praise when they would go, but for our son it was mostly chance. He just was not ready. By 2.5 when we tried to train him at home he flat out refused to sit on the potty and it was a fight so we put it off a few more months. He finally trained 2 months before 3 (also a fight).
Moral of the story: don’t start too early, or too late. We waited with our second until nearly 2.5 and it was a new and fun experience for him.
2. Let them watch you go. From when our middle son could walk, he would wander into the bathroom when we would go in there. Let’s face it, there is no such thing as privacy with young kids! We tell him what we are doing on the potty (yay I just went pee pee!) and let him look before we flushed. Yes it’s gross, but it’s a learning experience for them. Then as time went on he would ask to try. We would put him on the potty and he would “try” but he would only make sounds like he was going and we would praise him for trying. It was all no pressure and on his terms.
3. Wait for readiness cues. My middle son started taking off his diapers at 18 months but he was no where near ready yet. You want them to be at a stage where they tell you they went, what they did so they understand the difference between pee and poo, and that they can remember basic things like when we clean up where does each toy go. They also need to understand how to take their pants off to go.
4. Understand that potty training is a process. In 3 days they will know the basics but it will take a few weeks to get it all down (especially poo). It will take several months to be fully sufficient.
Ok, they are ready… let’s train! Give a week of warning when changing diapers that they are getting too big and will start wearing big boy undies in _ days.
Day 1: start the day in underwear. No pull ups, this is a cold turkey transition. You want them to feel wet when they go! Make a sticker chart. Set your timer for every hour with a fun alarm sound. Everytime the chime sounds everyone proclaims “potty time”! And off to the potty we go. Use the big potty right off the bat. At first there is a sticker for every time they sit on the potty or make it to the hour dry. There will still be accidents, never scold just remind them we will try next time and praise when they sit to try. Write down when they go so it makes it easier for you.
Rewards: my oldest wasn’t motivated by stickers or food treats so we did a prize bin with matchbox cars. If you can choose an M&M it’s not as expensive! My middle didn’t even care about a prize, he was just excited to go. The stickers were more for us to know when he went last, with a frown when accidents happened. We implemented a poo poo prize instead with a special toy he got to pick out of a basket when he went on the potty… more on that in a bit.
Day 2: the morning started off good with our 1 hour schedule but this time when he would go a little bit we would encourage he get it all out and try for more pee pee. He was starting to get the hang of holding it more!
Day 3: AKA battle of wills. This day will be the hardest. Be strong!! At this point he didn’t want to sit on the potty every hour and he could hold it longer, so we let him go to 2 hours and tried to encourage going on the potty. Sometimes he would willingly but mostly he would fight and refuse. At 2.5 hours I would bribe with a chocolate coin after he went potty and that helped. The reality was by day 3 my son had to go poo but he didn’t know how to do that on the potty. My oldest did the same thing and would hold it and himself and try so hard not to go. By the later part of the day we just looked for holding himself cues or crossing legs to pick him up and put him on the potty… but ultimately it ended up with a poo in the pants later in the day. It is normal! We took him to the potty and dropped it from his undies to the toilet bowl and told him that’s where it goes next time.
From here on most of the accidents happened when he was holding out for poo poo, but we would try to put him on the potty when we could tell he needed to go. For both our kids the trick really was constantly putting them on the potty when they were starting to go poo (aka run off to a corner and get quiet). This stage is exhausting but eventually they won’t be able to hold it and it will come out when they are sitting on the potty. After the first time when they realize it happened it gets easier! The breakthrough for our middle son happened about a week and a half after starting. After the first time he started telling us he had to poo poo right as he was about to go. We would rush him to the potty and it would slide out as we got him on. Now after a few days he understands how to push it out himself.
This isn’t glamorous, but this is real life. Shit happens and here I am writing about it! Week 1 he had 11 accidents. 6 in week 2. I expect 2-3 a week for a few more before we get to 1 every few weeks. It is a process. They will get it! We still remind him to go if it has been a while, but he also tells us if he needs to. We aren’t night training until we have several weeks of waking up dry so for now, it is pull ups at bed time. Good luck, you both can do it!
- Week 1: 11 accidents
- Week 2: 6
- Week 3: 4
- Week 4: 0! A week and a half streak actually and still going strong!
Since day 1, no pull ups in the car or out of the house. We just bring plenty of clothes to change if needed. Make sure we go potty before leaving, playing outside, when we get to destination, and let him handle running their himself otherwise. Very proud of our big boy!
P.S. my husband made this chart 😍