Can You Go Minimalist With Potty Training?


Months ago another blogger asked me if I knew of or had any information on simplified potty training.

My curiosity was piqued. I started asking other parents how they trained their kids and read up on some popular methods.

There are so many, many ways to go about potty training.

What would make one potty training method simpler or easier than the other? That was the question I kept asking when I learned about the many ways parents teach their children to use the toilet.

So here is a brief guide to some popular methods of potty training, what’s simple about them and what’s not so simple about them.

Elimination Communication

Potty learning can start as early as hours after birth.

Elimination Communication relies on a lot of parent involvement and reading infant and young toddler cues. While it may seem a bit strange in the Western world, it is widely practiced in developing nations. Babies are held over bowls and encouraged to relieve themselves. Older babies are put on small potties. Eventually the parent and baby can communicate to each other on when the baby needs to go. The idea is that the child will be potty trained before two and you’ll save a bundle by not using diapers.

I actually did some EC as they call it with our oldest. From four months to ten months I sat him on the potty several times a day. We had some good success with it but at ten months our son started to refuse the potty and I was feeling some burnout from the work involved so I stopped.

The simple of this method: less diapers! A lot less diapers. Less garbage or less laundry depending on what you use. And a whole lot of savings.

The not-so-simple of this method: relies on a lot of parent involvement and the learning process can be long.

If you’re interested in Elimination Communication check out Andrea Olson’s book EC Simplified. Andrea is well versed in potty training for the under 18 months set and says her book can help anyone – even if your baby is in full-time daycare.

Early Potty Training (before 2)

Early, by North American standards, potty training does work.

Carli at OneFitMom used the methods in Oh Crap Potty Training to get her 17 month old into underwear.

You can read more here about how she decided Oliver was ready for potty training and get the full diary of their 12 days of potty training here. Carli’s son was in daycare part-time but she kept him out for two weeks while they potty trained. It also sounds like her daycare provider was able to accommodate an “early” potty trained toddler. Something to keep in mind.

The simple of this method: again, less diapers. A shorter window of potty learning than Elimination Communication.

The not-so-simple of this method: you may have to take your child out of daycare to train them and/or it may not be possible for your care provider to accommodate a toilet trained child that is being cared for with children that are in diapers. While your toddler may be capable of using the toilet they may not be willing.

The Three Day Method

I’d heard about the three day potty training method from a friend that did it successfully when her son was two and a half. He took to it easily and after three days he was not only toilet trained during the day but was toilet trained overnight. Potty Train in Three Days by Louis Kleint seems to be the most widely used book for this method.

The method: you stay at home and get your child to drink a lot of water. You clean up a lot of accidents. You use positive words about the toilet, always encouraging and never scolding them when they pee on the carpet. The child eventually wants to use the toilet and has the confidence to do it themselves. You completely ditch the diapers, training pants or pull-ups with this method.

The simple: trained for day and night in just three days??!! Sign me up.

The not-so-simple: you’re not going anywhere for 72 hours. Anecdotally, for every person I have talked to that used the three day method and had success, I talked to or read about a person that it was a complete and utter fail for.

Wait Until They Can Do It Themselves

Mother of five Meagan just waits until her children are ready to train themselves. Meagan says she likes to take the easy way out on potty training. As a mother of five she’s done a lot of potty training and after some early frustrations decided to wait until her children were older for potty training. It sounds like her laid back approach means an easy week of work to get a child out of diapers between the ages of three and four.

The simple: less work for parents.

The not-so-simple: some children will happily stay in diapers for a long, long time. If you’re at all concerned about what other parents think, you may be uncomfortable with having an older child in diapers. The big one for me: more time wiping bums and dealing with diapers.

Here’s the thing: easy potty training is defined by the person doing the training. For some parents three days locked in a bathroom with their three year-old might seem easy. For others, holding a newborn over a bowl within hours of their birth and avoiding diapers entirely might seem easy.

Our simple method? The one that I am still in shock that it worked?

Let’s call it Slow Potty Training.

It was about four months between potty introduction to being in mini boxer shorts and down to one or two accidents a week.

It was low key, fairly stress free and worked well for the personality and disposition of our first born. It also suited how much time and energy we wanted to invest in it.

Our method: we used some bribery incentives – chocolate buttons or Thomas the Tank Engine episodes plus a lot of clapping and cheering by us – to transition to each stage. There was a lot of naked time at home in the beginning. Once he got the hang of using the small potty on his own, or telling us he needed to use the big toilet, he stopped asking for the incentives. We only got out of diapers outside of the house once our son was consistently using an adult toilet at home.

Yes, I skipped the whole bringing a little toilet out with us phase.

It was simple for us for many reasons that it may not be simple for another family: we only had one child (at the time), our son is in daycare part-time, we aren’t that busy on weekends so we got a lot of “training” in on Saturday mornings while Henry played with trains and my husband and I chatted and had one too many coffees.

After this positive experience I am totally open to the idea that our second born may be, or will likely be, a different potty learner all together. He’s already a very different baby. Maybe I have a three day trainer this time around… let’s hope!

If you’ve potty trained a child before was there a method that you used that made it simple or easy for your family? I’m also curious: do you think training a child earlier makes life simpler or harder?

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  • I potty trained my first daughter in a similar way to you. We were on holiday and were going on a boat to a small island. I told her there are no nappies on this island and we went nappy free.

    I gave chocolate kisses for results in potty, lots of clapping etc. Once she had mastered weeing in potty it was just chocolate for poo in potty and only for one week max. It didn’t take long at all & we didn’t have too many accidents. I figured out that she wee’d every 1.5 hours or so and so invited her to sit regularly (used a little timer).

    I did carry a potty around for a while but only because we were out & about alot. (Now 5.5 she still isn’t dry at night though!)

    It was pretty easy & painless – I’m about to potty train DD2, so enjoyed the article. thanks

  • Despite 3 grown daughters and 2 grandchildren, I can only say they’re all different. My great-aunts used to insist that they were all potty trained by a year when THEY were young… presumably some kind of EC and the use of the classic, leaky nappy!!
    I do think that the modern super-absorbent nappies keep children in them for longer, as the child simply doesn’t feel wet or dirty. My own girls took longer and longer – from around age 2 for the first two (an extra couple of months for nights) to age 3 1/4 for the last (day and night immediately) and my grandson was 4 1/2 before he was reliably dry and still has a night nappy…
    It seems to me to be easiest to start when a child is around 18 mths and the warm weather comes along so they can be nappy-free outdoors where it doesn’t matter so much. When they feel what is happening, they usually soon get the idea, but at the end of the day, children are little individuals, so one rule won’t suit all.

  • All these methods have value but I do agree with the above comment that every child is different. I also think that it is much more difficult (not impossible, but more difficult) to potty train a child who isn’t developmentally ready. That said, I also think that kids might require a bit of prodding or they may be happy to be in nappies until they are 4 or 5 which is not much fun for parents and also restricting for the child.

    Our method was a slow version of the 3 day method! So, it took basically a week rather than 3 days. There were accidents for the first few days and then occasional accidents after that but basically at the end of the week they were out of nappies during the day (except for nap time).

    In most of these methods I think it is at least partly the parents being trained! We have to learn to make them sit on the potty when they first get up in the morning and every 1 or 2 after that, and especially just before leaving the house. Once we had that as part of our routine it was all pretty simple!

    My kids both trained around 2 and a half. They were in cloth nappies, so that was a big incentive for me and probably for them too. I can only see the positives of having a child trained earlier rather than later. I don’t consider EC for the under 18-month old kids to be true potty training as it is really the parents who are trained, not the kids.

    Also, don’t ask me about night-time training! My kids just stopped wetting in the night fairly quickly after their daytime training. But exactly how their brains managed this feat is a mystery to me! I’m sometimes amazed that any of us can hold our bladders all night!!!! Our subconscious is really amazing!

  • We used your slow potty training method also. We initially tried a small training potty, and while she liked to practice sitting on it, I’m not sure it did much good. The adult potty with a small stool to climb up worked better. We rewarded success with “poop candy”. Sounds gross, but that’s what our daughter liked to call it. We used Smarties, the most delicious of all tiny candy, and gave her a few any time she used the potty.

  • Great article and great timing for us – summer is on its way and so is potty training! One thing I would point out – cloth nappies can help the child know when they are wet and also are a one time cost (and if you can get them second hand much cheaper), so it doesn’t matter if your child takes another 6 months to train!

  • My oldest (3.5 years) just potty trained about 2 months ago. We had tried between 18 months and 2 years, and he was mildly interested in the little potty for about a day and a half, and then wanted nothing to do with it. He was consistently waking up dry in the morning for quite awhile before he actually potty trained.

    We finally got sick of still doing so many diapers (and needed to move the second kid into the next size of cloth), so we told him that after his current stack on the dresser was gone, he would have to use the big kid potty. It took a little over a day for him to understand the “I have to pee” feeling, and another couple days to fully make it to the potty without accidents, but I consider that couple days pretty easy.

    I can already tell that my second son (2 years) is going to take awhile too, and I guess that’s okay. We do cloth diapers about half the time, so we haven’t had to buy as many diapers as if we were just doing disposables, and I’d rather have the couple days of training and accidents later on than longer now. To each his own!

  • I’m so glad I’m immune to anyone else’s beliefs on potty training or else I’d be a nervous wreck! I waited for my kids to tell me they were ready, and it wasn’t any work for me–almost no accidents. My eldest was 4.5, my middle 2.5. My youngest is almost 2.5 and not enthusiastic, so we’ll wait. I’ve known too many people who started at 18 months and were still “training” two years later. My own mother was very relaxed about me and my brother (kids #5 and #6 for her), so at least I wasn’t hearing any criticism from her–that can be tough, I’m sure.

    (I think most people are going to claim their methods were easy–it’s hard to look back and say publicly that maybe you made a mistake, especially in this *hypercritical call Child Services because that kid’s eating a lollipop and wearing polyester at the same time* culture)

    • Yes, my mother potty trained six children and told me we were all different. Some of us declared we were done with diapers at two and some of us took a lot longer.
      My peer group of mom friends back in Canada all trained their kids just after they turned two. I knew my son wasn’t ready at that point. I did feel a bit of pressure because people here (UK) seem to train very early, 18 months to 2.5 years, but like many people have said, the process took a long time and some were still having a lot of accidents a year later.
      Interested to see what our second throws at us :)

  • We are currently potty learning with my second. Though let me back up and tell you about my 1st. We did EC a little with my first and I think it helped him be comfortable with the potty. When he was big enough I would set him on his little potty when I would go in the am, so he got used to it and I would always ‘catch’ that first morning pee. The EC faded away by the time he was a year and we just kept doing the early am pee on the potty. Then cloth diapers all day. I think he heard me say one day how proud I was of him to a friend about using the potty and from that day on he used the potty all day every day and a few weeks later was dry at night (same time I stopped breastfeeding). It was just before his 2nd birthday. Now onto child number 2 and it has been a completely different story. Not easy at all, but I just try not to make a big deal out of it because he is more stubborn about doing things his way and for I quit using cloth diapers with him right around age 2 (because I thought he was ready to potty learn and we moved and had no washer for a time). He has been making all his pees on the potty for the last 3 days. Wish me luck that this is it!

  • Both my boys were potty trained well before 2. My oldest we started putting on a tiny potty at 6 months but it was just when it was easy. If he was already undressed for bath or after a diaper change why not plop him on there for a minute, not caring if anything came out. They we did lots of naked time around 16 months. I found with both of my kids they did better during the early days of truly independent potty use if they had no undies on at all – so if we went to the park I might put them in shorts or sweat pants with nothing underneath. The confinement of undies seems to closely mimic the sensation of wearing a diaper and this differentiated the experience for them. My youngest saw everyone else using the big toilet and never ever used the little potty. From a very early age I would support him on big toilets in public restrooms without issue. As you mention, this was simple for us but not everyone. And it was slow, but I felt no rush and the sooner you start the sooner you finish no matter what method you use!

  • My 8 year old has recently become night trained. He was day trained at 2 years old, but we could not get him to stop bedwetting. We tried EVERYTHING!
    At one of his visits to his pediatrician, I told him of my concern and frustration. We were going through 2 or more big kid pull-ups a night and wetting all over the bedding also. I was in a constant laundry frenzy. His wonderful pottery barn kids quilt and sheets were fading fast. :(
    I am not one big on medications, BUT his pediatrician told us it is likely a hormonal imbalance in the brain and put him on desmopressin. He started at a low dose and that didn’t work, so we increased it. He had no negative side effects. Suddenly, life was great! No more wetting. After about 3 months of the medication, I forgot to give it to him one night. He was dry the next morning. He told me he didn’t need it anymore. I thought “I wish”. So, I told him he could try without it. He has been dry and medication free for 8 months now.
    So, if any readers have an older child with bed wetting, it may be worth looking into.
    Love your blog Rachel!

    • Yes, thanks for posting. That is a very common, safe medication for kids with that problem. I am a nurse and when I nurse at camp, we probably have at least one child per week on it.

  • I agree that every child is different – even if you’re doing the same things. That being said, I’m so glad we did EC with my second! She never went poop in her diaper after 9 months old (which was actually BEFORE her 2 years and 9 month old sister started pooping in the potty!). She was diaper-free (except nights) before 17 months old. Well worth the extra effort to me to be done so much earlier.

  • My first daughter I could tell was ready to be “trained” at 16 months, but I was 8 months pregnant and moving to a new apartment, so we waited until she was 1 y 9 months old. In 2 weeks she was potty trained (but wearing diapers at night). With the second I thought it would be easier but no, I started too early for her (1 y 10 months). So I quit and started again 3 months later, and it was perfect, even faster. I think 2 things are really important: read the signs to see if there is a chance they are ready; and when you start it, ditch the diapers entirely, or the child will get confused (sometimes she can pee in the diaper, sometimes her feet get wet…). But my best advice is: YOU, mother/father, have to be ready too and go for it. Don’t make it harder than it already is, and try to enjoy the process! :)

  • When my two oldest (now 15 and 12 and probably super glad I still talk about this …lol) were potty training, I thought it has to begin on the day they turned 2. I thought they had to have a special brightly colored potty that made noises, and I thought it would happen in just a week or two. I thought wrong. It was stressful, and it took forever.

    With my youngest (now 3), I decided to wait. We started once when she was about 20 months but only because she asked to sit on the potty. It last three heavenly days and then quickly ended. So we waited again until summertime, when she was about 26 months. Then for about 2 weeks, she ran the house and yard wearing nothing but panties (I bought a ton to get us through this time). The first few times she wet herself, it didn’t phase her, but she didn’t like have to stop what she was doing to sit on the potty, get cleaned up, get new panties, put the old in the laundry, etc. So we tried rewarding her with M&Ms Once if she was dry when she went to the potty, 2 for going potty, and 5 for BM in the potty.Within a week she was get one or two m&m’s at every trip to the potty. So we scaled back to 1 for pee success and 5 for BM. After she got the 5 two times, she never had a daytime accident again. The whole thing took about two weeks. Least stressful potty train ever! To be fair, she still wears a pull-up at night and has varying success with staying dry, but I just don’t think her little body is ready to “hold it” for 10 hours. So once again we will just wait until she’s ready.

  • I have to agree with everyone that is saying every kid is different! I think I tried every method with my first daughter and she just wasn’t ready until she was five, an old five (talk about needing mom self-esteem!) With my second daughter we EC’d for the first year and then she wanted nothing to do with the potty until she was three and decided she wanted to wear big girl panties (a cool toy and a sticker chart may have had something to do with that…) With my third daughter we did EC until about 8 months when she wanted nothing to do with it. She has decided now at 17 months she’s ready and will take herself to her little potty or ask us to help her onto the big potty. It’s so true that every kid is different and what works for one family or one kid may be totally different for another family or kid.

  • My oldest was a nightmare to train – We started training him at least 3 times, he was never ready. When he was over 3 (I think – I’ve blocked it out LOL) and not wanting to train at all there were many frustrating attempts with methods and timers ect. Being in central Canada in winter with a little sibling, we were not going out a lot. I stripped him off and let him run around with no bottoms for weeks, I cleaned up a lot of accidents, but he got the idea. Being older it was easier to talk to him – to explain what was happening inside is body and how to “know when to go”. He finally got it, but it was a long road. With my second we did the same thing – after she was three. Again explaining how her body worked ect – She was trained in 2 weeks – both day and night. I never used a potty – I really couldn’t imagine having to transition them to an adult toilet after all the work t get them to go in the potty, plus who wants to clean another toilet? :)

  • Thanks so much for this post!! I have a 2 1/2 year old that can stay hours in his poop, so needless to say he’s not trained yet. I also have a 15 months old, so I think a no-fuss, no-stress approach might work for me.

    I’m willing to try “naked training” (that’s what call it) when we’re on vacation at the lake. They will be outdoors all day, swimming, running and playing; perfect time to try!

    I’ll bring a print-out of this post for reference. Thanks again! :)

  • Potty training was one of the things we dreaded as parents. It turned out to be surprisingly easy for us. We started just after he turned two and he refused to sit on the little potty we bought him. We took a relaxed approached and after about a week with him still refusing to get on the potty we decided he was not ready and put it back in the closet. We did not take it out again for another 8 months. At this point we had read a bit online and decided to try the three day method. We did a modified version of this. Basically we just took his diapers off and told him he would not be wearing them anymore – not even at night. He peed himself a few times over the course of about three or four days, but within a week he was day trained with only a few accidents at night. We used hospital pads in our bed (we cosleep) and when he wet the bed we woke him up and changed the sheets, clothes and bedding. We were very casual about it, but the next night we would suggest that he go pee before bed so he wouldn’t have to wake up in the night. He really hated waking up to change. The tone was very casual and matter of fact and completely free of any shaming whatsoever. We never acted grossed out or freaked out that he had wet the bed and peed all over himself and us. We also made sure to tell him that it was something all kids go through. We shared our own bedwetting stories from childhood and what we did to make sure we stayed dry all night (no drinks close to bed and peeing before bed). Within a week or two he was completely free of night wetting. So we had a surprisingly easy and quick time – about a week. However, we also consider ourselves very lucky. I think the two best things we did were: saying no to pull-ups and avoiding any shame or gross out talk. Incidentally, we did not use rewards either. We did give him some praise when he went to the potty on his own. Oh, also, he never did use his small potty very much. He always wanted to go on the big potty. He was a bit small at first, but I read a tip that if you turn them around to face the back of the toilet, they can hold themselves up better. After a few months, he started turning himself around. We just provided him with a step stool. He did not pee standing up until he was tall enough to reach the toilet without the stool. So here is my minimalist toilet training gear: step stool, underware, and hospital pads (which can also be used for when children are sick and may vomit in bed).

  • I can attest that it seems to depend more on the child than on the method. I have 8 year old fraternal twin boys. I used the early training method and one of them was completely dry day and night by age two. His twin brother still has daily accidents both a little pee and poo and seems quite content to go around with soiled underwear for hours at a time. He still resists using the toilet and I often have to force the issue. As I’m writing this his sheets are in the washing machine after a night-time accident he failed to mention. I used exactly the same method for both at the same time, go figure.

    • I’m a twin – same story for us as my mother would tell it. My sister just decided one day she didn’t want to wear diapers. I, on the other hand, was happy to stay in diapers and wet the bed for quite a while.

  • We introduced a small potty when my son was about 15 months old. We had nighttime books while he sat on the potty every night. He got to where he would pee nearly every night. We never said anything, or pushed. Then when he was a little over 2 and it started getting hot I asked his teacher (he is in Montessori school full-time since he was 8 weeks old) if she thought he was ready to do full-blown training. Side note: His school is AMAZING when it comes to potty training, they are strict about what they do and no one complains because their system works. Once kids get to the 2 year old class regardless if they are in “active” potty-training, they have potty time where every kid has to go sit on the potty. Since the whole class does it and it is a part of their schedule none of the kids complain. Once they are in “active” training the kids go to school with underwear (no pull-ups allowed AT all in the school they require that the kids are either in diapers or underwear). You send about 8 changes of clothes and the teacher take them every 15 minutes on the dot. So, the teacher said they would try “active” with my son and the first 3 days the teacher said he was not ready. We put him back in diapers (we did cloth diapers) then 3 days later on the weekend we were at a restaurant and my son said he had to potty in the big potty. I took him, he sat on the potty and went. Then said, he didn’t want to wear diapers any more. So that was it, he was potty trained at 2 years and 3 months. No accidents and about 2 months into it he told us that he would not be going potty in his underwear at night anymore, and he hasn’t. So, people always ask me for advice on how to potty train and I say, I just got really lucky and the school is AWESOME when it comes to potty training, all the kids are potty trained from about 1 week of them being in “active” training at the school. Plus, cold turkey is the best. No pull-ups, no diapers half of the time, just underwear and they learn real quick that they don’t like the feeling of peeing on themselves. I do think cloth diapers help (in my opinion because they are kind of used to not feeling dry as they would with regular diapers).

  • I love your post. We have friends who just potty trained in three days or so. It worked great for them but I can say that he was totally ready and they were able to read the signs from him (he’s almost 3). As for my two, the first we took a whole summer, from early two to almost three years old to fully potty train and then he was still in pull ups overnight until 4 1/2. But he did a great job and I’d say the brunt of the work was done in a month or two. Potty training over the summer is great, peeing outside etc is an easy way to go.
    My daughter on the other hand decided she would be completely potty trained before 2 1/2, no pull ups at night at all. I was nervous at first but read her cues and she has been COMPLETELY accident free since.
    Every kid and parent is different. I did know a family who used the EC method. What a disaster. The child just peed all over the floor all the time. Yuck.
    Thanks for this post, any help parents can get with this right of passage is awesome!

    • Thanks, Aviva. Funny, I read up on all these methods and then used none of them. All of the comments about finding what works best for each child and family ring true to me. I would have loved to be done in three days but our son had already shown us he learned new skills best if we introduced and encouraged them slowly. I was also already expecting #2 and was told by many people that even if he did potty train he would likely have a big regression once the baby arrived (hasn’t happened yet).
      Helpful to read all these comments from other parents that have done this a few times. Particularly when they can compare how children learned this skill to another sibling.

  • We used cloth diapers (Motherease brand) with both kids (and then sold them for 1/3 of what we paid for them after we were done with them! Total final diaper cost 14 years ago for 2 kids – $400 + the cost of washing them at home). My oldest, a boy, didn’t fully potty train until he was about 4 or so. It was a slow process for him and we let him set his own pace. We had a small kid toilet available, but didn’t push the issue or really stress about it despite pressure from relatives who insisted their kids were fully toilet trained at 6 months and what was wrong with us. :-) My daughter declared when she turned two that she was done with diapers and also done with nursing, and from one day to the next she was completely out of both day and night diapers, to our utter shock.
    Every child is different. Had we pushed our son more, I think it would have been a negative experience for him no matter how pleasant and unstressful we would have tried to make it. He simply wasn’t ready. We hadn’t even started to think about potty training our daughter when she did it herself without any involvement from us.
    It’s nice there are so many different methods and ideas for how to potty train a child, but it isn’t a one size fits all approach. Like so much in parenting, you first need to know your own child, and then follow the path that is best suited to them. Potty training isn’t a competition, there are no ribbons for reaching the goal sooner than others, nor are there penalties for reaching it later.
    But the day I washed the diapers for the last time and put a for-sale ad on the local mothers’ club list was a very happy day indeed!

  • Thanks for the shout-out, Rachel! :)

    Some other things that I thought were simple or minimalist about this method:
    – The use of training pants is discouraged, so we didn’t have to invest in an expensive set of cloth trainers, or get sucked into the ongoing expense of Pull-ups. We simply ditched the diapers and that was that.
    – There are no tangible rewards or sticker charts, just verbal encouragement and praise.
    – There are no singing potties, DVDs, dolls or other potty paraphernalia.
    – The focus is on time and connection with your child, which is perhaps an oft overlooked point when people get bogged down with all the potty training gimmicks out there.

    I should clarify that taking Oliver out of daycare was not a requirement of the method. It was a decision we made because the daycare wasn’t completely on board with our decision to potty train at such an early age, nor were they on board with how we wanted to do it (they prefer a child-led approach). I knew that consistency was going to be the key to success, and I just didn’t feel that they would be able to be consistent with what I was doing at home.

    • Thanks for following up with this, Carli. I was really impressed with a) potty training at 17 months (!!) and b) the very candid and thorough documentation of the process on your blog. You’ve provided a great resource for parents that are considering potty training before two. Maybe that will be us next time :)

  • My Dad bought us a potty chair when our daughter was about 18 months old. I put it in the bathroom right next to the big toilet. She would follow me into the bathroom and sit on it when I sat. So I started taking her diaper off when she arrived in the bathroom and letting her sit herself on the pot. I would also encourage her to sit there after meals and naps by sitting myself down on the toilet even if the lid was closed. It took her about three days to stay dry day and night. I always say she trained herself.

  • I saw a lot of friends struggle with potty training and accidents and so I realized that like one poster said, in a lot of ways, it is parent training and when developmentally ready, this should be a quick process. I waited until there were signs that my boys were ready which included 1) Staying dry through nap time, 2) Staying dry through the night (some start before this, but for both boys this happend at the same time as 1, and 3) Reconginition of the need to have a BM and developing a routine around that (#1 would go in a corner and stand, #2 would pace circles around the table).
    When these three things happened, I knew it was time, and it was fast and easy. Both of them were 3 years and 1 month old and the process took about two days with maybe a hand full of accidents since then, maybe. I happened to be on maternity leave with #2 when I trained #1 and with #3 when I traned #2. I’m about to have #4, so it seems like it might be time to train #3. She has had days that she gets really excited about wearing underwear and stays dry, but then the next day, I say, let’s get the underwear and she says, “No, I want a diaper.” I’ve learned that drama has no place with potty training, so I let her choose back and forth for now, but when #4 is born and I’m home, I think she’ll be ready. I also agree on not using pull-ups as part of the process (plus, they are soooo expensive).

  • Thanks for posting awareness about your method Rachel. In my experience, that’s the way to go, even when accounting for differences in personality. We “potty-trained” our first child, but the subsequent children we did not. The first child is the most difficult because there is less “peer pressure” but after that, there are so many people around to model that you don’t even have to be intentional about it.

    For example, when it’s bath time, everyone pees before. So the toddler thinks he should go too. When it’s time to go on an outing, everyone pees before, so he goes also. When one of our kids was a toddler we took a big long road trip with regular bathroom stops in which everyone went, and I think that got him in the habit, on a regular pee schedule, and an aversion to be wet more than anything.

    For me, it’s about the toddler being developmentally ready, because that will save more energy in the end. Also, it’s not about being completely potty trained, but even eliminating a diaper or two a day, slowly over time, and the child will eventually not use any diapers. But the biggest thing is I don’t want to fight with my child and damage our relationship. I actually know of people who forced their kids to sit for so long that their kids developed a fear of the potty and/or eliminating. I want it to be a good experience for everyone.

  • My daughter at 26mths started developing a rash from her disposables so rather than invest in cloth at that late stage thought I would give toilet training a try. I had heard good things about the 3 day method, so althougb I was bit skeptical thought what have I got to lose. It worked well for us and she hasn’t been in nappy or pull up since. She only had 2 accidents outside the bathroom so cleanup was not too bad and by end of day 3 was pretty much dry day and night, witb only handful of accidents in 18mths. Of my friends who did the same system 3 were successful and for 1 it was not. This method really sited my daughters personality, she loves routine and taking all nappies away day and night avoided confusion about whether or not she needed to use the toilet/nappy. I will definitely try this again with my son in a few months.

  • We did EC with our third. I wanted to with our second, but didn’t start until about 3 months and that didn’t work well. We did use less diapers, but the benefits weren’t really there.

    Our third, however, was never in diapers in the traditional sense. She could travel and go overnight without accidents at an extraordinarily young age. She was amazing at birth, the second we took the diaper off, she went. We were all into it and, although it was a challenge to find a quiet spot sometimes (public restrooms are artificially bright and the flushing is LOUD), after the first few weeks, we had a signal and it suddenly became less getting to/waiting by the potty for her to relax.

    Anyway, I would highly recommend doing it, if you are with your child all the time. It was an amazing experience for our family and, if we were ever to have another baby, I wouldn’t do it any other way!

  • I think it really depends on the individual kid, and other circumstances like you said. My son had this weird aversion to being dirty when he was a toddler (putting his fingers in the icing on his first birthday cake made him cry), and he was ready for potty training about a month before he turned two. I had him running around pantless at home and set up his potty where it was easy to get to (our only bathroom was upstairs). He did NOT want to pee on himself. It took us about a week, and if I remember correctly I only cleaned up one accident. That’s the way he’s been, though–when he’s ready to do something, he picks it up rather suddenly. Potty training was early, but other things he’s done later than some kids. I’ve learned that there’s really no point trying to teach him something before he’s ready.

  • I highly recommend the ebook, Oh Crap Potty Training! My first two sons (12 and 9) took a long time to potty train…I was pretty clueless. My 9 year old has to wear pull-ups because he has a super small bladder and is a heavy sleeper.
    My daughter came along quite a bit later and I just felt clueless again about how to start. I ended up buying the Oh Crap Potty Training! ebook. It was the best $12-$15 I’ve ever spent. She was 2 1/2 when we potty trained her in about a week. I stayed home with her Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to really kick-start the process. By the end of the week I took her in the car shopping. Within a month she was dry at naptime and night time too! I realize now that we could probably have done this earlier and saved plenty of money…I still have a case and a half of diapers left :) The author is educated and thoughtful about the psychology of kids this age, as well as hilarious, and she has quite a potty mouth too!

  • My soon 19-months daughter is wearing underwear. Only nights we use diapers (cloth), but actually she don´t pee most of the time. I have tried nights without diaper but she is wet then… I don´t know why. We give it a try soon again.
    I started doing something similar to EC when she was 4 months, but then it was irregular. When she turned 6 months we bought potty. Since then (over year now) poop is always in potty (maybe two-three times accitents have happened). Before she turned 1 (maybe 10-11 months) she has been wearing underwear at home, when we were out we used diapers just-in-case. Mostly it wasnt needed, but weathers were cold then…
    From 6 months I have bring her with me to toilet so she sees that others use toilet to. I think it’s very important! Children want to be like others (parents). They see we eat, they want to try also. They see we clean, they want to do it also.
    Yeah, I have trained myself mostly, but now she totally gets it and asks to go to toilet when she needs. I have saved so much diapers and diaper washing. I have saved environment also!

  • We potty trained the same way as you. My oldest was 20 months and was telling me each time he peed that “diaper change momma.” Our pediatrician had been telling from the time he was 12 months that we are the only culture that waits so long to potty train and that I should attempt it. So, I just felt it was time. At first he was hesitant to even sit on the potty, but I also “bribed” him with jelly beans. 1 jelly bean for sitting, 2 jelly beans for actually peeing. He was also naked for about 2 days, and we did have some accidents, but it was really rather painless for both of us! And the jelly bean thing just wore off. He really did not ask for them after a while, just clapping and saying “hooray!” was enough. I am always home with him though as my husband works a lot of hours, so I think that helps. He tends to have accidents only when he is home alone with his dad which is not that often. And I think I just prompt him more. My daughter is 10 months and I am hoping to start even earlier with her in the potty training department!

  • We were sort of forced into waiting small boy out. He didn’t care about being wet or soiled. He didn’t want to sit on the potty, big or little, and no amount of bribery — even chocolate — was going to convince him to. Peer pressure had the opposite effect: he told us, in all seriousness, that he “preferred to do things his own way”. Fortunately he was cooperative about diaper changes…and you know what? Even after he was trained (which took about a day, when he was ready; we had exactly two accidents) I am still wiping his poopy bottom, because though he is willing to do it himself, he does a slapdash job, and then he gets itchy and rashy and goes around with his hands down his pants. I watched friends deal with accidents when we were out and about. No, thanks.

    BTW — I am an MD, and the description of a “hormonal imbalance” with night wetting in 8 year olds is a bit misleading. It’s not an imbalance, which implies a disorder; it’s just that the part of the brain responsible for producing ADH (antidiuretic hormone) which stops us from urinating while we are asleep hasn’t matured yet. In boys, that’s normal up until age 12, though most are dry long before that. Desmopressin is simply synthetic ADH. Very useful stuff for sleepovers and summer camps, and safe, but unless a child is upset by needing to wear pull-ups at night, not at all necessary.

  • I was very lucky, I have never had to potty train. My oldest, I could tell he was quite capable of using the toilet, he just didn’t want to. So, we made a deal that on his third birthday he would use the potty and he did! Just like that. My youngest is very independent so she just wanted to use the potty like her older brother and started to around 22 months. She had a few accidents but was totally out of diapers by two. So, I have no words of wisdom, it was nothing I did, but I found it to be super easy! Now, our next door neighbors son is nine and I think he’d still be in diapers if they hadn’t made him potty train. Kids are so different.

  • We were a wait until they are ready family – sort of. My oldest liked to sit on the potty but was reluctant. When she was 2.5 and was asking to be changed I knew she was ready and needed some encouragement. We of course had been talking about it and reading books in preparation. The best advice I ever read was to make certain your child has all the tools necessary to be self sufficient. This is more than just a potty. First I started by having her do the work of taking her own diaper off and helping clean herself (parent assist). At the same time I had a small potty and a seat on the large potty for her to use (she started to prefer the big one very quickly), a pail with lid for soiled clothes, and her training undies in the bathroom in a reachable location. After about a week of helping clean and change herself out of diapers/nappies, and my periodic offers to use the panties, she switched. Again, she was responsible for “changing” herself when she had accidents although mom and dad assisted with clean up and disposal. We also started to use the potty as soon as we woke up and before we went outside or left the house. When she had the tools and responsibility, it was very quick for her to learn (within a week) and we had very few accidents after the first day or two. Having everything in the bathroom to change herself was critical for her independence and I think paramount for her success. The only reinforcement she needed was congratulations and a hug and calm reaction and help to change after accidents. My youngest has started to show signs of being ready and we will hope to use the same method. I guess I describe it as a child led/parent assist method. I found the gentle approach of Waldorf’s toilet learning to be most helpful. I found several blogs and resources on the internet by searching “Waldorf toilet training approach.”

  • We tried a number of different techniques with moderate success but what really made it click for our daughter was a tip from a friend of ours: pants but no undies. She no longer felt the undies “safety net”, which I think felt like diapers to her. We did that for 2-3 months as our friend recommended but it worked like a charm right away.

  • we did EC — loved it and had great success with it — but the popular method here is a “slow method” that doesn’t involve incentives.

    basically, when a child is around 18 months or so (some people start younger around 1 yr old), you simply start taking the child to the toilet every hour. They sit for a few minutes and you sing a song with them or something, and they relax and go — or they don’t need to. You do this for several weeks — to get them used to going in a toilet.

    Then, you start stretching out the time between toilet runs — an hour, an hour and 15, an hour and a half, and hour and 45, and two hours.

    Once you get to 1.5 hr intervals, you start asking the child in between if they need to go — and take them then. Apparently this does two things: 1. lengthening the interval teaches them to “hold” it a bit; and 2. asking them if they need to go helps them make the connection between different sensations (noticing the desire to go, holding it, over holding it to the point of accident, etc) as well as gives them some empowerment to say yes/no in between intervals.

    Once you get to two hour intervals, the kid tends to be able to tell you whether or not they need to go at that interval. So, you sort of ask hourly, take every two hours, and then after a few days of htat, you just go to asking regularly. And usually, the child just starts to go on his/her own.

    It is a slow process. It can take 2-6 months for this to work. But, i like how gentle it is.

    Most kids here are toilet trained by 18 months using this method. 2 years is late. There are still some children who are in diapers up to age 4 or 5, but it’s rare.

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