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How I Potty Trained My Kids
I thought about the title How to Potty Train Your Toddler, but really there is no one way to do that. There are a million different ways and they all work. Seasoned parents all have different ideas about what way is the the best way when it comes to things like potty training, and that's okay. I am far from an expert, just a mother with 5 children. Four of those children are boys and were all out of diapers between the ages of 19 and 22 months without all that much work by me. The 5th one is a girl, currently 17 months, and judging by the fact that she used her potty 4 times today she will probably follow in her brothers footsteps. If you have a 1 yr old, I invite you to try it my way and see how it goes.
A Little Background
I'd like to start with a little about me and my parenting philosophy in general. I love my children, and I love all ages and stages of children. Therefore, I don't often feel sad when I think of my children growing. I encourage them to walk when they want, explore what they want, and assert their independence within reason. I don't hold them back because I am not ready for them to grow up. I see a lot of parents saying how they don't their babies to walk, move into a big bed or get out of diapers either because they want them to stay a baby or because it would take too much time and more work on their part. I am in no hurry for my babies to grow up and leave the nest, but it's happening anyway, so I don't fight it, I just enjoy each stage as it comes.
That being said, I would say my view is to do things early as opposed to later. We move quickly through baby food. They move to a bed as soon as they seem mature enough. And we potty train early, when the interest is there but the power struggles are not.
When to Start the Process?
We have introduced a small potty chair around the age of 12 months for all of our children. And when I say introduced I mean it is sitting in the corner or in the bathroom. They might sit on it, you tell them what it is, and they get used to it being there. If they are without diaper during the day or after bath and they go pee, I will sit them on it. Basically all this does is take the scary factor away from the potty. At this age it is just another thing to play with or sit on. They get to know the vocabulary. And if your kids are anything like mine, you yourself can never go to the bathroom alone; so while you are in there together you might as well have a potty for them to "go" on too.
Somewhere around the ages of 15-18 months kids start to get it. They start to understand what their bodies are doing. They are on a more regular bathroom schedule. They can tell you when they need to be changed. They might even be able to control it a little. I encourage all parents to let their kids have diaper-free time every day. Usually after bath is a good time for this. Watch them, they will pee on the floor every now and again, but look for signs that they need to go, ask them if they want to go (don't badger!). Most kids can start to feel that ability to hold their bladders when they no longer have a diaper on, and most naturally don't want to pee on the floor or on themselves.
Once you have seen their ability to hold their bladders and they actually use the potty a handful of times, increase their diaper-free time. If they start consistently going on the potty and not on the floor you are probably ready to potty train. You know your child best and how he communicates his needs. I am a believer in no turning back, so sometimes it's a leap of faith that you can do this.
The Week With No Pants
You read that right, the week with no pants. That is my method. It's not new, I didn't think of it, but it works. I always choose a week that we have nothing else to do. I plan to go NO WHERE. It helps if it is a rainy week so you can't even go outside. So it's just you, the potty and a pantless child. The only time a diaper comes out is for bedtime and naptime. Hide them if you have to and have a few towels handy for any accidents. By the time we got to this point with my boys, we were good. They had been going in the potty while naked consistently for a month or so and they had started wanting their diaper off to go, so the only difference is now the entire day was diaper-free. At about day 3-4, start introducing the underwear- and making it fun underwear should go without saying. They might not be able to get it on and off quickly or without help but that is okay, that's what you are there for- help. Remember to ask them if they need to go (don't badger!), fill them up on water so they actually need to go and have a party when they do go. Gradually increase the time wearing underwear until they are wearing it all day. If at any step along the way they need more time, take it. But really once diapers are out of their mind for a few days they start to forget about them, so just take their cues. If they have accident after accident in underwear, take it back off. If they do good, praise and keep it up!
Go Potty First!
Sometimes the hard part is to keep yourself from badgering the poor child. How would you like it if someone asked you if you needed to use the bathroom every 5 minutes? So how do you stop yourself? Repeat after me, "Go potty first". That little phrase is a life saver and saved a lot of fits from my kids. Time for dinner? Go potty first! Do you want to go outside? Go potty first! Movie time!! Go potty while I get it ready! So as you move through your day with your potty training toddler keep that phrase in mind, it really helps keep things a little bit happier.
Your First Outing:
So you've made it through your week of no pants, slowly the clothes are coming back on and the diapers are hidden away. At this point your child knows his underwear is for wearing and the potty is for peeing, and you are ready to leave the house! It's a little nerve wracking, that first trip out of the house with a newly potty trained toddler, but it has to be done! My advice is to make the trip purely about getting out of the house. Don't plan to do a massive shopping or an afternoon at the park or mall. Plan on a 30 min trip somewhere close by. And remember before you leave the house to go potty first! Once you've made a couple short trips you will feel more comfortable, and remember your child isn't thinking about this like you are. To him you are just going out somewhere. He's probably forgotten all about diapers!
Why So Young?
I read and hear a lot of people wondering why someone would want to potty train a child of 18-24 months, why not wait until they are older, have a larger bladder and more dexterity for putting clothes on and off by themselves. My opinion is that this age is prime for learning new things. They are in a stage of discovery where everything is new and exciting. As you move closer to the age of 2, kids enter into a stage where they really want to test their independence. You ask them to go potty, they say NO! An 18 month old is more likely to see it as just one more new thing to learn and be excited about. Before I had my own children I taught in a preschool classroom of 18-2 month old children, and I saw many of them pass through this stage where they really wanted to go potty, but their parents ignored it for whatever reason and we didn't have the resources to potty train them in the classroom, so the window of opportunity closed. They still have the understanding of their body that they learned, but now they start to realize they can argue or say no. If that window of opportunity is taken, by the time the child enters into this stage of independence diapers are a thing of the past. It's not in their thoughts because using the toilet is the same as eating or dressing or brushing, just one of those things you do.
Will you have accidents? Sure. The key is to not make a big deal out of it, and please, please don't go back to diapers. Going back and forth completely confuses the kids. Will you have to help them with their pants? Probably. Some kids learn that skill early, my boys did not. If I had waited for them to put their pants on by themselves a couple of them would have been 4 yrs old before getting out of diapers. And to tell the truth, when they were 2 years old my boys spent much of their indoor time at home naked from the waist down. It was just the easiest way. They would start out in underwear in the morning but after the first couple times of coming off it would just stay off.
It Works For Me!
Like I said at the beginning, there are a many different ways to look at potty training, and I am sure there are parents out there who completely disagree with what I have written and will tell you that waiting until they are older is the way to go. But this is what works for me and my kids and I have seen this interest in potty training at an early age in many other children. If you have a toddler, don't put off potty training because you think your child is too young, you might be surprised at how easy it can be. And what do you have to lose? Other than not having to buy or wash diapers anymore?