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I Potty-trained my 18 Month Old Boy

Updated on January 11, 2011

Let me start and say I hate changing diapers.  That may just be innate in being a male, but I really hold diapers in disdain.  Needless to say when my wife become pregnant with our second while our first was still in diapers, I panicked.  I wanted to potty-train our son.  After talking it over with my wife we adapted a plan that had him potty-trained by 18 months.  Our pediatrician marveled at our son wearing underwear at his next checkup.  She had never seen a boy trained that young.  You probably haven't either.  I sure hadn't.  I had been terrorized with the thought of how horrific it was going to be to teach a child to use a toilet, but our plan worked.  It wasn't the ordeal I expected.  In this hub I'll share with you 5 simple tips that will train your child faster and easier than you ever imagined was possible.

Start With Signs

We started training our son when he was just 14 months old.  I know what you're thinking: "4 months of training!"  Hardly.  We just started the first step then, but didn't start really training for another 3 months.  We started to try to get him to realize what was going on when he went to the bathroom.  As parents we know when our kids are going.  Especially after a year when they start going somewhere to do their business.  It was then that we taught him sign language for potty.

Sign language is phenomenal to teach kids.  Although they can't speak they can understand and communicate.  Our six month old would tell us when she was hungry, when she was done, and when she wanted to be held...all with sign language!  I don't know if the sign we used for potty is correct, but that's really irrelevant.  Your goal is to get your kid to realize what they are doing and then communicate with you about that.  The sign we used was the thumb in between the middle and ring fingers shaking back and forth.  

Every time our son did his business we would smile and make the potty sign at him and tell him he was going potty.  It didn't take long before he caught on.  Since we were always smiling and happy when we made the sign, he enjoyed coming and finding us and making the sign.  That helped.  He now understood what was going on.

Lead By Example

Please, I don't need any rude/inappropriate comments for this next tip.  I assure you that what I'm about to share with you was done in a discreet way.

Soon once our son started making the potty sign we would take him into the bathroom to see the toilet.  We wanted him to associate the act with the sign with the place.  Up until this time we very strictly had not allowed our son in the bathroom.  To be able to go into that place for the first time was pretty special for him.  I know it sounds weird but for those who have kids you know what I mean that it was kind of the forbidden fruit for him.  He was now allowed to go where he hadn't been allowed before.

On top of showing him the toilet, I would take him in the bathroom with me when I went.  This may sound weird, but I did it discreetly.  He needed to see someone do it.  I wanted to show him that this is what we do on a potty.  My son would watch very intently as I went to the bathroom and would make the potty sign to him.  My son was now getting the picture: this is how daddy goes potty.

Take the Time

So many parents that I know personally don't have time for their kids.  They don't take time to be with them at all.  They don't take time to teach them things.  If you are going to potty train your kid, you have to make time for it.  The day finally came when our son asked to sit on the toilet.  This was the day we had waited for.  He didn't go the first time, nor did we expect him to.  But as soon as he asked we decided that it was time.  We were going to clear our schedule for the week and potty train our son.  Yes, I said week.  

I won't belabor this but if you don't make time for you kid, the process will be horrific.  


So as this explanation continues: our son now has expressed interest in sitting on the potty.  My wife and I then took the time and said we weren't going to do anything for a weekend.  The only thing we did that weekend was make sure that we take our son and sat him on the potty every hour on the hour.  We also didn't put a diaper on him.  He was just wearing underwear (which is a new feeling for him).  The only time he had the diaper on was at nap and bedtime.

Was there accidents?  Of course, but that's not the point.  When he had an accident everything stayed the same.  We made the potty sign, we took him to see the potty, he watched daddy use the toilet and say potty and we continued to set him on the toilet every hour on the hour.  Eventually the moment came when he went while sitting on the potty.  By taking the time and keeping to the schedule we had finally had our first taste of success.

Where's the Incentive?

So you are with me to this point.  Finally the moment has come that your child has used the potty.  How do you build on this to ensure complete victory?  Our son had not been allowed to have sugar up to this point in his life (except for his birthday, and all natural honey).  But the no sugar rule changed the day he used the potty.  We had a big bag of deliciously chocolaty sugar goodnessy M&Ms.  He got 3 of them the first time he used the potty.  We continued to congratulate him as he savored those scrumptious snacks.  For our 17 month old, he had just hit the jackpot.

A word of caution here.  This is one of the most dramatic changes in your childs life to this point.  Never has he been asked to change to the extent you are asking him to change.  Be very careful of scolding for accidents.  I'm not against discipline in all things, but this is stressful for your child.  By scolding them for accidents you are adding pressure and it makes it really hard to perform.  Focus on positive reinforcement.  Gently tell them not to go in their pants if they have an accident, keep it light.  But when they go on the potty go over the top ballistic with excitement.  Your child will respond will to this.


In just 2 short weeks our son was completely potty-trained from the time we took a weekend to work on it.  I'm so proud to say that he was trained before our daughter was born, so there weren't two diapers to change.


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      Jessica 3 years ago

      Each hour how long did you have him sit on the potty for? Did he have to go before he got up or was it timed?

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      Barbara 4 years ago

      I love this post thanks.. if you more need review tips and techniques about potty training boys you can learn at my blog.

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      Brandye 4 years ago

      Did you ever use training diapers or training pants? If so, when did you start using them?