Potty Training Lessons

I originally had this master plan to start potty training Sadie at 20 months (around October). I read countless blogs about what I’d need and bought supplies at the store. Then we finalized our holiday plans which included two 13 hour-long car trips and I thought to myself “Hmm, 13 hours in a car with a newly potty-trained toddler?” …And I decided to postpone our potty adventures until after the holidays in January.

In that 3 month span, I started to set Sadie on the toilet each night before bath and my Mother-in-Law (who watches her while I work) was putting Sadie on the toilet whenever she needed to do a BM. Sadie started to take an interest in the potty. Eventually she learned the words “potty” and “B” (for BM) and would tell us when she needed to go! She started being able to keep her diapers dry. By the time we got to January, she had half of the process down and the step we needed to take was moving from diapers to big girl underwear.

Here are some of the things I learned when switching to underwear:

  • Even with a child who already can go to the bathroom on the toilet, on that first day you still need to start by taking them to the potty every 15 minutes. Then, you can slowly lengthen the time in between trips. The sensation of wearing underwear is different and they need to learn they can’t even let a little bit out (like they might have before in diapers). It took me about 6 accidents to figure this out.
  • Setting aside a few days to work out the kinks at home really helps them build confidence. Then trying a very short outing (to a place where you know where the bathroom is) is a good test to see if they can (a) make it without an accident (b) tell you when they need to go in public.
  • Character underwear is awesome because it’s something they’re proud/excited to wear and you can celebrate things like “You kept Elsa dry!” It’s a great motivator.
  • When accidents happen, say “Oops, you had an accident!” and let them feel the underwear is wet (and then promptly wash their hands) so they can understand what happened.
  • Watch their fluid intake and look for signs they need to go (dancing around, touching down there, trying to go off in a corner by themselves, etc.)
  • As they get more proficient, keep asking if they need to go (especially when you suspect they might need to) but if they say “no,” trust their judgment. They like being able to own the process – or maybe this is just Sadie!
  • When they do say they need to go, drop everything and take them right away!
  • If they say they need to go several times and nothing comes out each time, either (1) they’re working through a BM, (2) they want to play with something in the bathroom, or (3) they’re avoiding something outside of the bathroom.
  • Be consistent on your policy for picking up toys on the way to the bathroom. I let Sadie bring one toy and they can “watch her go” on the bathroom floor. I don’t let her hold toys on the toilet because a couple have fallen in.

I’m sure I’m missing things, but these are the lessons that jump out to me. What have you learned with potty training? To those of you about to start: Good luck! I hope this helps. 

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