So I've had a lot of mothers asking me how we were so successful at potty training Bryce. I don't really consider myself a potty training guru, but here is what I think every mother needs to hear:
Step 1: Decide when your child is ready.
Step 2: Potty train them.*
*if you are unsuccessful, revisit step 1. Repeat when ready.
If you care to read my ramblings on the matter, continue reading.
When my son was just about 14 months old, I walked in to my local Barnes and Noble and found myself in the parenting section. I wanted to find a book, a bible, a holy grail for potty training. I started so early because its not like I have a lot of time for reading books in the first place so I wanted to be well read on the subject when the time did come to potty train Bryce. At first, I was completely overwhelmed. All these books had different methods promising to be the best way to potty train your child. How was I ever going to decide which way was the best? I spend a lot of time standing in front of the bookshelves, agonizing. I eventually bought a book that had cataloged several methods and how to achieve success. I never read the book. I can't even find it now, so I can't tell you the title.
A few months later, I was at local consignment sale. I saw a potty chair/contraption that was like $5 and it was in perfect condition so I bought it. I took it home that night and Bryce immediately wanted to know what it was. He couldn't even talk. He was 16 months old and had like 2 words. I just remember him pointing to it looking at me like "tell me about this". So I did. I told him all about how it worked and how to use it. I asked him if he wanted to pee pee in the potty and he grunted his cave man grunt that only his mother would know meant "yes". I had no intention what so ever of starting the potty training process when I bought the potty chair that day, but I figured if he was so interested in it, why not? What happened next still amazes me today. I pulled off his diaper, sat him on it, and he immediately peed and then pooped. I couldn't believe it. I mean, this stuff isn't supposed to be this easy is it? I didn't read to much into it and just decided it was a fluke. Beginners luck. I put the potty chair in the corner of his room and left it there for the future. Whenever that future might be, I didn't know.
In the months that followed, I did not offer the potty chair to him, not once. I didn't even mention it, or refer back to it. I knew he was WAY to young to start pressuring him to use it. However, he did use it multiple times in those few months. It was all his idea. He was chronically constipated so pooping was always an Olympic event at our house. I think that this actually helped potty train him. We could always tell when he was working on a poop and had time to get him to the potty. He quickly realized that it was a lot more comfortable and easier to go on the potty than in his diaper. He was about 20 months old when he started requesting the potty to go poop. At this point, peeing in the potty was just happenstance.
It was also around 18-20 months that I noticed he could control his stream of urine. Sorry, I know this is kinda invasive! I would lay him down to change his diaper and he would grin a very mischievous grin. Then I would notice that it was like he was concentrating very hard on something. Then he would pee. I was CONVINCED he was peeing on me on purpose. No one believed me. Everyone was like "Oh he can't control it yet, he is too young." But after awhile I knew for sure he was controlling it because I could tell by watching him do it that he was using his "muscles down there" (sorry I don't know how else to say it).
My thoughts were that at 20 months old, he was ready to start potty training full time. I couldn't get anyone to support me in this. My mom, the school, other moms, all told me he was too young. They all kept saying, "But he's not even 2!" As if 2 is some magical number that suddenly makes all toddlers "ready" to use the potty. He was already pooping in the potty and could control his pee, so what did it matter how old he was? I was his mother and I felt like he was ready.
I didn't want to fight the school on it. I just made up my mind that when he turned 2 we would go all in. Right around his 2nd birthday, I noticed that his diaper would be completely dry every morning. This was another big indicator to me to stop waiting around. So I got onboard with his teachers at school and we laid out a plan to potty train him.
I feel like pull ups are kinda pointless really. They are just a glorified diaper. A great marketing ploy by Huggies. And I'm not even sure what the point in training underwear is. Maybe they soak up the pee so it doesn't run down the child's legs? Idk. Anyways I felt like going cold turkey from a diaper into some big boy underwear was the best route.
I sent him to school in some underwear on Monday. He had 1 accident where he emptied his entire bladder on the floor of his classroom. (Sorry Ms. Kyesha!) I sent him to school in underwear on Tuesday. He had 1 accident where he peed all over himself as he was trying to get on the potty. And on Wednesday, no accidents.
That was 4 months ago. We have probably only had 1 accident at home and maybe 3-4 accidents at school. At school, his teachers offered to use the bathroom every 30 mins -1 hour. Once he got the hang of things, they left it up to him to say when he needed to go. He also never napped in a diaper. At home, I always made him go when we got home and right before bed. Any other time, I would let him tell me when he needed to go. He doesn't nap in a diaper or pull up at home either. I do put him in a pull up at night. We just keep re-using the same pull up until he wets it.
It was amazingly easy. I know there are mothers right now cursing at me as they read this because they are in the potty training trenches and it hasn't been an easy Sunday afternoon stroll. But let me just be really clear on this- I fully believe that the reason it was so easy was because he was 100% ready. He was ready for months before I tried. Not only was he physically ready, but he had the motivation, he was ready. He had all the classic potty training readiness skills:
1) staying dry all night
2) indicating when wet or dirty
3) language skills to tell caregiver when he/she needs to use the potty (this can be verbal or non-verbal)
4) shows and interest in the potty
5) gross motor skills to get on and off potty (with assistance of course)
I know what some of you are thinking. "This girl just got lucky and had an easy experience." Maybe I did. But I really feel that it was because he was ready. Oh and Ms. Kyesha! I owe most of the credit to her. Bryce is in her care for most of his waking hours and she obviously had a lot to do with his success.
Some of you might be thinking "My son is 3 and he has all of these readiness skills and he still is not potty training". I know we mothers have heard it a million times but I'm here to tell you again: All children develop at their own rate and develop differently than others. Just because my child was ready at 2 years doesn't mean that your child should be ready at 2. It doesn't mean that he is more advanced or smarter than your child either. It doesn't mean that I'm a better mother than you (b/c believe me I am not).
My husband wasn't potty trained until after his 4th birthday. (I know I'm embarrassing the heck out of him right now). He is a completely normal, healthy, adult with a college degree. The age at which he was potty trained has absolutely no bearing on the rest of his life. He had all those skills on the list too, but he, himself, wasn't ready or motivated to actually use the potty. It wasn't until he was denied a field trip to the zoo with the rest of the 4 year olds that he made up his own mind to potty train himself. His mother patiently and gracefully waited it out until he was ready.
This is why I don't think there some magic age to potty train. I don't believe there is one magic way to potty train either. I picked a way that I thought was best for him and my family and my parenting style and it worked. Every mother out there can find a way that best suits her child and her parenting style. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Its all up to you as a mother.
All that really matters is that you and your child are happy and have a successful experience. If it really has become such a burden, then take a break. Give your child a break from the stress of being expected to use the potty. Give them a few months to grow and develop a little more and then try again.
And under no circumstances should you ever feel like a failure! No mother really knows what they are doing! If anything, I hope this helps mothers realize that they are spending too much of their precious time trying to compare their child to someone else's. You are doing just fine momma!