When Callum was born, I said we’d for sure do potty learning by 2. And then he turned 2 and that seemed like a rather bad idea. We were still without words at that point (which while words are certainly not necessary for PL, they do make the process easier I think). And with little sister due to arrive only a few months later…well, let’s just say avoiding a potty regression was a good excuse for not starting the process at all.
If we want to get technical, we really did start the PL process well before 2 in some ways. We bought a little potty and a seat reducer around 18 months or so and had those out if he ever wanted to try them. And once in a while he did. Eventually, we got to a point where he was pretty reliably peeing before or after (or during!) bath time. I think having the potty out helped him be comfortable with it and the no pressure bath time practice helped him to figure out how to “go on command.”
I should stop now for an important disclaimer 🙂 I still don’t think I know the secret to potty learning. Rather uncharacteristically for me (given that I normally research things to death!), I haven’t read a single book on the subject. The only “research” I did was talking to a few mamas who’d been there (which yielded no consensus on the “best” method). This is me, winging potty learning – not that it’s rocket science but it can be rather troublesome!!
Once Eleanor arrived and we were well established in our new routine, my “regression” excuse ran out. Jesse and I talked about it being time and even made a few half hearted attempts at some diaperless time – but the diapers always went back on when we got tired of watching and reminding Callum to go potty. It then occurred to me that the biggest obstacle to giving Callum a go was me – or more specifically my reluctance to just deal with some accidents and start carrying a spare set of clothes around everywhere.
Pretty much every mama I talked to about potty learning prefaced her advice with “but of course they have to be ready.” There seem to be a number of ways to measure readiness – child can tell you when he’s going in his diaper, child stays dry for naps (or overnight!), child expresses interest in the potty, child can use words related to potty procedures, and so on. Since I wasn’t quite sure if we properly met those criteria (or even if they really matter as I know parents who have had success with potty learning at much younger ages or even who practice Elimination Communication with young babies), there was only one way to find out…give it a go.
So one morning we woke up and put on our big kid undies (something we’d done before but never for a whole day). And we went potty – a lot. I’m not going to lie; it is really annoying doing the “Callum, let’s go potty. No really, let’s go potty.” thing every 30 minutes, particularly when the toddler in question is working on asserting his independence by replying to everything with an automatic “no.” The first day we tried stickers every time he pottied with the promise of a “new tractor” once the chart was full. I’m a bit on the fence about rewards in potty training (naysayers suggest that it teaches the child to potty for the wrong reasons), but given that Callum loves stickers, stickers are pretty harmless, and stickers got him to try the potty without a fuss…I promised stickers.
Interestingly, Callum forgot about the stickers somewhere during our second day. But that was ok because at that point he was having fun constantly pottying. And better yet, he was actually emptying his bladder every time – which I took to mean he really was ready to ditch the diapers.
The first couple of days we had about one accident a day, but each time we were able to “finish” on the potty – another positive sign. For a while there, I was worried that pooping wasn’t going to happen on the potty, but we seem to be working past that now with lots of praise and encouragement. We’ve been daytime diaper free for over two weeks with only a handful of minor accidents – so I think that counts as success! When Callum does have an accident, we rush to the potty to see if we can catch the rest and then talk about how sometimes accidents happen and that’s ok. We’ve even had several incident free trips out of the house and have used public potties (using one of those little folding seat reducers which Callum finds quite cool). So no more daytime dipes for Callum; I’m sure it will be a while on nights, but that’s ok (although we’ve taken to calling them “night night pants” instead of diapers).
So, yeah, I don’t have any magic words of wisdom on the whole learning to potty experience. I think the hardest part is just taking the plunge. If it seems stressful for your child, it probably is and maybe it’s time to back off. If your child seems to be having fun (and Callum is pretty excited when he does “go potty”!), then the time is probably right. Aside from that, I’d suggest lots of pairs of undies, plenty of patience, a good sense of humor…and maybe a bottle of Nature’s Miracle just in case 😉
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