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I Don’t Know What I’m Doing :: Potty Training {Answers from Our DMB Contributors}

potty training tipsSummer is a great time to take on new challenges, including for your kiddos.  For two of our DMB Contributors, Katy W. and Katherine H., they attempted the biggest toddler challenge of all…Potty Training.  We’ve asked them our most pressing questions about potty training and they’ve offered their experience and tips for potty training your own kiddos. 

How did you know your kid was ready?  

Katy: She started showing signs of being ready a little before her 2nd birthday.  She was going on the potty sporadically, talking about it, and I was changing so many dry diapers, I knew she was getting good at holding it.  The one that needed to get ready was ME.  I felt like she was too young, and I was not prepared for huffing it to every bathroom in Dallas in the 100 degree heat.  I figured we would maybe start in the fall when she got closer to 2.5.  But I knew I had to listen to her and her signals…so we jumped in feet first.

Katherine: We’ve had a potty since Little Man was about 18 months. He’s gone on the potty off and on for a year, and recently started getting more consistent going every night before bath time. Prior to that, he’d tell me he didn’t need to go, and then pee as soon as he got in the bath tub. A few weeks later he’d tell me, “No.  I go in bath tub.” And promptly pee in the tub. So I knew we were getting close.  A few weeks ago he started waking up with a dry diaper and I encouraged him to go on the potty when he woke up.  It was time.


What did you do to prepare?   

Katy: Keeping with my “fly by the seat of your pants” parenting style, I didn’t read any books.  I read some blogs of people who apparently read all the books, though, so that counts. Mom friends with potty trained kids are the best resource out there, so I hit them up left and right.  We have had kid potties in the house since she was about 1.5.  I bought some Finding Dory underwear.  I bought some candy.  We used this book and lots of the Daniel Tiger potty training episode, which we still sing all the time.
Katherine: I like to know what I’m getting into and definitely research everything, but even after reading lots of blogs and Potty Wise, after taking the “what kind of potty trainer is your kid” quiz, I still felt totally unprepared.  We attempted potty training 3 times.  The first over Thanksgiving weekend.  I bought juice, which he never gets, thinking he’d drink it down and be in the bathroom plenty.  That didn’t happen (and that’s when I discovered he could hold it for over two hours…), and we both ended up in tears by 10:00am. The second attempt, I just woke up one Saturday morning and decided, let’s give it a try.  Again he held it and I ended up with pee all over the kitchen.  Finally this summer I decided enough was enough.  I bought salty snacks, a new water bottle, sticker charts, and we hunkered down for a scheduled weekend of potty training.

What techniques did you use?  

Katy: I did a modified version of the “Oh, Crap” naked training, and we winged it. I knew I wanted to do this blitz method for sure because why not be miserable for 3 days instead of 3 months? We did one day of apple-juice-pounding nakedness and she probably went on the potty 20 times with no accidents. It clicked right away. Pooping took a couple of weeks, and constant eyes on her watching for signals that it might be time to spend some time on the potty. She was clearly ready, because within two weeks of potty training we were diaper free, including during naps and overnight.
Katherine: The first day, was naked day, and we pushed the salty snacks and lots of water. We figured out he could hold it forever, so putting him on the potty every 30 minutes was just a waste of time. We went with about 45-50 minutes, even up to an hour, and that worked out much better for him.  Going #1 and going #2 are two very different things though. For peeing, we kept the potty in the bathroom. For pooping, I resorted to putting the potty in the living room, because by the time we’d get back to the living room after he thought he had to poop, he needed to go again. It was a repetitive cycle that we had to get through.

What kind of reward system did you use?  

Katy: I’m gong to put this in the category of biggest parenting win that might also be seen as a fail in history, but we used TV. On my laptop.  All day. I would pause it every 20-30 minutes and not turn it back on until there was pee in the potty. She was a machine. She never once protested during that first day, just as long as she could get back to Beat Bugs. We used (and still use sporadically) lollipops for poops. And LOTS of praise. She still tells me everyday how proud she is of me when I go pee in the potty as well.  
Katherine: My biggest tip is to figure out what works best for your kiddo and where they find motivation. Our Little Man had a sticker chart going (stars for pee, smiley faces for poop), and we used M&Ms too. One for pee, eventually 2 for poop.  Once we got to training more for poop, we told him he’d get a new Star Wars toy if he went 10 times on the potty. It took him a bit of time, but he finally got those toys…and knows how he earned them too!

Team underwear or Team Pull-Ups?  

Katy: I don’t understand the point of pull-ups, to be honest.  As heartbreaking as it was to see her distress after the few accidents she had, a pull-up doesn’t seem to help them experience how uncomfortable it is to be wet. We did a whole lot of nakedness at home (yay, summer!) and regular underwear or padded training pants. We did diapers overnight for about 10 days but they were usually dry in the morning.  
Katherine: I know, I know.  Everyone says go straight to underwear. But we were in daycare this summer too, and after a week of just underwear, and him not being trained on #2 yet, I decided no one should have to deal with that mess. We moved to pull-ups. It didn’t cause any issues for peeing (though we still have to tell him to pee since he won’t tell us he needs to go). Now that he’s figured out pooping, we’ll move to underwear with a pull-up on overnight, and eventually underwear all the time. He can pull the pull-ups up and down on his own, and as long as it stays dry, you can use it all day.

How did you handle PT outside of the house?

Katy: I sent my daughter to camp on day 3 of potty training in underwear and never looked back. I let the teacher know she was potty training and to keep an eye out. She’s done great. We have a car potty for situations with no public potty, but she’s a pro at going wherever we need to go.
Katherine: Our daycare actually encouraged us to potty train. They gave their full support at school and worked with him every day on potty training. I don’t think I would have made the leap without them! The second weekend of potty training, we had dinner at friends and church on Sunday. At home before we left for dinner, I offered 2 M&Ms for peeing on the big toilet and took the M&Ms with us to use at their house.  And that’s all it took. Now when we are out, he has no problem going on the big toilet, no chocolate required.

What I wish someone would have told me. . . 

Katy: This stuff is mind-numbingly tedious. Mentally prepare yourself for a few days of misery. Your back will hurt from sitting on the floor next to an Elmo potty. You will hate the sound of your voice from saying “Time to sit on the potty” every 20 minutes. The stress of taking a diaperless tornado into a public place will be intense. Stock up on wine and let your friends know that you will be doing a lot of text whining for a few days. Stay humble and don’t get cocky for a least a few weeks, because the minute you brag that she’s a potty training genius, she will pee on your couch without batting an eye.
Katherine: 100% agree with Katy. It’s just about worse than breastfeeding every three hours. Every 45 mins. And if your kiddo loves routines…you can’t falter from the order of things. Or they will only go through the routine with mommy. It’s been about 6 weeks now and yes, it is much better. But those first few weeks are crazy hard. Our Little Man took to it pretty well, but I was exhausted and over it. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that.

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