In Life, Parenting

How to potty train your toddler realistically and with as little wine* as possible

*I don’t drink, but the title sounded better with wine rather than chocolate 😉

To anyone interested, I am pleased to announce that….

Baby Bun is OFFICIALLY potty trained and we are in progress to finalize it to where we have zero accidents.

WHEN DID YOU START TRYING?

I started when he started showing signs of wanting to go on the potty, any of which include:

  • Telling me when he poos or pees
  • Pretending to wipe
  • Wanting to pretend to sit on the potty

This happened around 2 years for me, but it didn’t start showing up more consistently until around 2 years and a half.

With girls, it seems to be sooner around 18 months, and with younger siblings, they also potty train quicker and sooner because they have a role model to look up to.

I wasn’t really actively trying until maybe he was 2 years and a few months, because I was starting to think:

IT IS NOW. THIS IS THE TIME. UGH.

People were starting to exclaim in the elevator like:

WHAT? He is almost 3 and NOT potty trained?

Judgemental .. #*%#% Nosy Parkers ….#%&$….

Then a super kind reader Kerri left a note saying that she heard from a daycare worker that with girls it ‘clicks’ around 18 months and for boys the magic age is around 2 years and 9 months unless you want to use other methods like forcing them to just learn and do it, or having started with them learning from a very young age (e.g. China with split pants).

I also heard consistently from parents and daycare workers that if you train after 3 years old, you can run into problems, so I had a sweet spot of about 3 months to try.

So it wasn’t until I was ready when he turned a little over 2 years and 9 months that I decided:

It is this weekend, now or never.

The challenges with girls and boys I have been told are different.

Girls, don’t like potty training even though they start earlier, because they think it’s dirty and don’t want to be dirty. Numerous parents have told me how their girls would hold in their poo and get constipated to the point where they’d have to go to the doctor to get pills to force it out.

When they poo, they think they’re ‘losing’ a bit of themselves in the toilet so it scares them.

Boys, don’t like potty training and start later, and apparently take longer to train because they just don’t get it as quickly, and can wet the bed up to the age of 7. Boys also are lazier I was told, and would prefer a diaper over potty training because it’s just easier.

In both genders, the typical hurdles are:

Getting them to POO in the potty (they may pee readily but not poo and will wait for a fresh diaper to do it)

Getting them to tell you independently without coercion that they need to go on the potty

Refusing to just sit on the potty altogether (this is where bribery comes in)

Refusing to wear underwear (this happened to my toddler because he felt better in a diaper)

WHAT KIND OF POTTY DID YOU USE?

I was told by a daycare worker to NOT buy the potty that sits on the floor. She said moving from that little floor potty to the toilet freaks out a lot of kids. They’re used to sitting on the floor on this potty to do it, and the transition can be hard for some.

I was also told by other parents that the really fancy potties that sing and have colours and so on, don’t help in the sense that the kids then WANT to sit on the potty to hear it sing and play songs, but then you might end up having the potty in the living room, and them sitting on it like a chair while you wait, exhausted beside them, waiting for pee with a glass of wine* in hand.

(*Wine optional, I had a mouthful of cake instead.)

I decided against any kind of floor potty for that reason — I want him to get used to the toilet, the bathroom and not to feel like he can pee anywhere because of this potty.

I was also cautioned to perhaps just teach them to balance on the edge of the toilet to pee, because if they had to go out somewhere, you aren’t going to tote around the potty every single time are you!?

I wasn’t sure what to think, but I will say that I toted around the potty seat each time I went out, but when I went to a friend’s house one day, I just decided to balance him on the toilet seat, and he did it beautifully, with me gripping HARD on his shoulder under the armpit and having him balance properly.

He wasn’t scared like he would fall into the toilet seat, and adapted very nicely.

I will say that not all toilet seats are built that way with the lip going all the way around, and the one day I brought the potty seat, it was lucky that I did so because it was a half seat (?) and he couldn’t balance on ANY edge unless he sat sideways on the toilet seat, and I was not comfortable with that.

WHAT ABOUT NAPS OR NIGHTTIME?

Finally, I was told to not put him in diapers any more, but eventually Baby Bun refused to wear diapers at all (he started to love the feeling of underwear and the freedom), and wouldn’t put one on for his nap, so I put three towels underneath him to sleep.

At night, we put him in “Pull-Ups” or we call it “Night Underwear”, and he wets through it because he drinks water before sleeping (a habit I am working on breaking). If he doesn’t drink water before a nap or nighttime, he wakes up with a very light diaper.

Some kids will refuse even Night Underwear to go to sleep, so you’ll have to try and figure out a method to keep them dry.

WHAT METHOD DID YOU TRY?

I have tried a whole bunch of methods from trying to just demand he goes on the potty, to letting him ‘lead’ me in potty training and tell me when, to bribing, to cajoling, to showing him videos, pictures, demonstrating for him what I do.

I tried it all, and what worked for me was what I call the BRAINWASHING + BRIBING method.

At the core, what seems to work has been to give him a reason to want to do it, and to not beg for the diaper to come back.

BRAINWASHING PREPARATION

I prepared him mentally for it about a month before I wanted to start training, by telling him that he would be a ‘big boy’ soon and he would wear underwear, and there would be NO MORE diapers because little boys don’t wear diapers, they wear underwear to go on the potty.

I repeated this ad nauseam for a month. Every diaper change, I would repeat this, and he would parrot back to me the words, over and over again.

BRIBING METHOD

Some parents use candy (Smarties, mini M&Ms are popular), but I wanted to avoid giving food as an incentive, particularly candy or chocolate.

TO FILL UP ON LIQUID OR NOT TO FILL UP?

I was also told to just fill him up with tons of juice and water the whole day to force him to get that full bladder feeling to want to go on the potty.

I tried this the first time I tried to potty train him at about 2 years old, and I gave him TONS of water to drink, but he just kept peeing and peeing every 10 minutes, and I didn’t know what to do, so I lost it by Hour 5 and went back to the diaper.

I know now, that I should have filled him up on liquids the way I did, but then put him on the potty every 15 minutes consistently, with stickers. I didn’t marry the two methods together, so that’s why I failed.

The second time around (2 years and 9 month sweet spot mark), I didn’t bother with liquids or trying to force him to drink as much as possible. I just let him be, and put him on the potty every 15 minutes. Once he started resisting the potty sitting at 15 minutes, I increased it to every half an hour to get him on the potty, telling him he would get a sticker each time he went pee, and two stickers if he went poo.

When he drank more liquid, I watched him like a hawk and got him on the potty every 15 minutes if I could, after about half an hour of drinking.

SHORT JOURNAL OF WHAT HAPPENED

DAY ONE

I prepped myself by baking a Banana cake (recipe here), and stashing a lot of chocolate away to get myself through the day. I made sure I had enough food for lunch, and I would have NO REASON TO LEAVE.

I started on a Saturday at 7 a.m., and by 3 p.m. he was able to tell me he had to poo…. peeing, however, was a harder sell as it is harder to feel when you need to pee versus poo.

I just kept it up, putting him on the potty every 15 minutes, then every half hour as I relaxed on the checks.

We ended the day on a decent note, he had wet about 5 pairs of underwear, and each time he did it, he would look down and see a stream, and I would tell him: Not in the underwear! We have to sit on the potty, okay?


DAYS TWO TO FOUR

I started to get cabin fever. Imagine Day One Groundhog Day style. It was repeating the same frustrated instruction over and over again, trying to keep a smile on the face and keep it positive, to get him to SIT ON THE POTTY BEFORE he pees. I felt like he would never get it. I ate so much cake I am sure I almost turned into a cake.

DAY FIVE

I couldn’t take it.

Cabin fever broke me.

I took him out with the potty in a bag (it’s the kind that goes over the toilet seat) and went to his playgroup. He played, I left him upstairs with instructions about the pee/poo and sticker reward, and took a break.

He had one accident, but the second time around, he asked to go to the potty.

DAY SIX

THE HEAVENS PARTED AND THE SUN CAME OUT.

BABY BUN FINALLY GOT IT.

He totally, 100% GOT IT that he had to go sit on the potty BEFORE he peed, and what’s more, he even knew how to try and HOLD in the pee when he felt it coming out and wetting his underwear, and then have me rush him to the potty.

He would squeal: “WET WET WET UNDERWEAR WET” when he peed even just a little and we’d whisk off to the bathroom.

He would sometimes resist going to the potty, and there were at least a few times I asked him if he needed to go and he kept saying “No”, but then he would pee all over the floor.

I also started to keep an eye (and a nose) out for his Potty Dance, where he would cross his legs, uncross, and ‘dance’ around to try and keep the pee in, and I’d ask him gently: Do you need to go?

..and sometimes he would say yes, sometimes no, and I would insist if I saw him ‘dance’ some more. I managed to avert a few pooing accidents this way.

Every time he wakes up from a nap, before we go out and after we come home, I put him on the potty, and it has now become habit.

He did regress a little and have a few accidents when he is engrossed in something, and I don’t remind him every hour or hour and a half.

I thought it would never happen.

My partner by Day Six wanted me to give up because he saw how angry and frustrated I was getting but I was COMMITTED TO MAKING THIS WORK because I was already five days into this, and I was not going to give up like this Mommy Panda passed out from all the wine and stress:

He wanted to just give up and go back to diapers, pleading: BUT HE IS JUST A BABY!

Me: HE IS NOT A BABY. HE IS A LITTLE TODDLER. HE CAN DO THIS. I KNOW HE CAN.

(We had at least two major potty-related fights during the course of this week so be prepared.)

I think that determination and motivation to see this project through is what got me through the whole thing.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

Realistically, expect it to take 7 days full-time, UNRELENTING in your resolve to get them trained.

Then expect them to have accidents for another 6 more months until they truly, finally get it and no longer (except at night maybe), wet themselves.

I hate that parenting blogs and articles (and parents) tell you that it only takes a day or a weekend to train your child. Maybe with tons of water to force their bladder to work overtime or giving them chocolate instead of stickers, it works, but it didn’t work with me.

I will say that you should definitely do all of the following:

Breathe in. Breathe out. Eat something to get yourself through the day or drink a big glass of wine (I don’t drink but I hear it helps people cope).

Have whatever bribes you want handy — sticker, chocolate whatever works for you.

Day One & Two: On the potty every 15 minutes, then half an hour once they start resisting.

Day Three – Day Seven: Start letting them tell you each time they need to go. Remind them gently every hour, but don’t go and ask them to sit on the potty. If they pee, immediately whisk them off to sit on the potty to get whatever is left in the toilet, and wipe them down, change their underwear, and remind them again about the potty protocol.

This will happen A LOT. Do not get discouraged and cry like I did.

Drink more wine or eat more chocolate.

Underwear only. Tell them there are no more diapers. If your child cries and you have to give up, don’t force them to wear underwear, just put them back in diapers and try again a few weeks later.

I tried forcing Baby Bun when he was younger and he regressed for a few more months, refusing to even HEAR the word ‘potty’, so don’t force them if you can wait and have patience. It will go a lot quicker if you catch them at the right time, at their sweet learning spot.

UPDATE @ 3 WEEK MARK

Baby Bun has still been having accidents almost daily. Little ALMOST pees into his underwear and he will then say: PEE PEE POTTY and run to it. Once he does it though, he then remembers to go before he pees a little afterwards.

Only once every 3 – 4 days do we get a peeing incident where it is just a full blown pee all over the place. After THAT, he remembers the whole day to go to the potty without even a LITTLE pee in his underwear.

After Week 2, I did not get any more poo-in-the-underwear accidents *crosses fingers*.

I also discovered that he started to regress & hate going on the potty and would poo in his underwear for 3 terrible days straight because I was wiping his bum and it was really painful on his sensitive skin.

I devised a solution where I would take a couple of tissue papers and squirt some lotion on there, THEN wipe his bum so it would clean off all the poo. I did it multiple times with fresh tissues until it was clean.

It also moisturizes his bum in the process, which I think was then part of the pain and fear of going on the potty for poo, and made him regress for those 3 days.

He now lets me do it without squealing and the paper doesn’t get stuck in there. *cough*

GOOD LUCK.

It is a terrible, horrible thing to go through but necessary.

I wish you all the best of luck and please shoot me an email if you want more help or advice. I am NO potty expert and I do not train children for a living but I lived through it and tried almost everything online, short of paying for a “Potty Expert” to come and tell me what to do.

(Just in the same way I did not pay for a “Sleep Expert” to come and tell me how to let Baby Bun cry it out to sleep).

Just like with birth stories, every child’s potty story is different.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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12 Comments

  1. Sarah Li Cain

    Argh, I keep going back and forth and I just think my son isn’t ready. I’m going to try one more time (NO DIAPERS) and see what happens.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You can do night diapers but get the pull-up kind. I bought mine from Naty. This is exact kind from Naty Size 5 I buy, and he calls them Pull-ups, and his special night underwear… he doesn’t even pee in them any more at night, just a little here and there if he drinks a lot at night before sleeping but otherwise the moment he wakes up, we are ON THE POTTY. His diapers are so dry, it is ridiculous.

      How old is your toddler? 2 years 9 months is the right time…

      Reply
  2. Sarah

    We were lucky – I wasn’t even planning on trying potty training, but all of his friends at daycare are a few months older and were starting to go on the potty so he learned. For a while he would go on the potty at school but not at home, but it was definitely around 2 years 9 months that it got really seamless.

    I’m still not brave enough to go diaper-free at night…

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Very lucky. VERY LUCKY. I would say mine is still having daily accidents now, even at home. I don’t get it. He waits until he pees a little, and THEN He runs to the potty…. ugh.

      I don’t go diaper free at night, he still pees a little.. but it is 99% dry.

      Reply
  3. Muzzy

    We didn’t potty train as such – we talked about it (toilets are for big girls etc etc) then one day she announced she wanted to wear underwear now – we have had possibly 5 accidents since (18 months or so since) she needed a nappy for BM until she turned 3, and was night dry by 3.5. Left it entirely up to her to lead and it was painless (hoping #2 will be as easy)
    In NZ where I am 2.5 is the norm for both girls and boys – my girls are at daycare and it all seems to be once they move into the 2yr old group with a few still in nappies at 3.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Very lucky… if he was in daycare I probably would not have been so stressed about it all, daycare people would have done it for me.

      Reply
  4. Kerri

    Hi Sherry, I was the reader who commented on the 2 years and 9 months! I’m glad it worked out for you….I fully understand the cabin fever feeling…it was hard mentally that first weekend…but looking back, I wouldn’t have done it any other way…both my boys were potty trained with one try. I saw a lot of nightmare situations at daycare…kids running into corners to poo in their pants at 4 years old because they didn’t want to go into the toilet. Each time, my daycare lady told me they started after 3 years old and it dragged on for months. I felt so bad for the parents.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      THAT IS WHAT I WANTED TO AVOID! He was getting very close to turning 3 and I thought: It is now or never. I don’t want to hit 3 and then hit a wall in the training and have him cry. Thank you Kerri, you saved me!

      Reply
  5. Ramona Jar

    I had all kinds of idiots tell me she’s almost 2 and a half and STIIIIIIIIILLL in diapers. Argh!

    She just wanted her panties one day. And we stuck with it, since she wanted to keep them on. She had accidents for 3-4 days in a row, then nothing. I never forced, I was actually caught off guard (purchased a big pack of diapers and we used ONE :)).

    I don’t believe in forcing your kid to do anything.

    She walked pretty soon (before 11 months), she is very gifted when it comes to anything dealing with carts, bikes, balls, running etc.

    She’s been a VERY slow talker, although she’s perfectly fine (intellectually).

    2-3 months ago she started talking more, now she’s like a storm. She’s not speaking perfectly for an almost 3 year old, but she’s made huge progress and is recovering for the lost time like it’s a contest.

    As long as the kid is healthy and within normal growth range, it will work out 😉

    PS: congratulations, by the way 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you 🙂 It all worked out, and honestly, toddler-led training works too. I just couldn’t take it.

      Reply
  6. Miemo

    Thank you so much for this. My little one is 18 months now. And I’m trying to figure out when is the best time to try to do this. I also agree with just using the big toilet so that there isn’t a need for transition. My kid might tell me otherwise but we shall see!!

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You’re welcome. She’s a girl, so I think this is about the time if she starts saying: Mama, pee pee.. and she is ready then.

      Reply

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