Parenting at home, abroad and everywhere in between.
Start Potty Training Early
Potty training before two takes time, patience, dedication and the realization that you will never go to the bathroom alone again, or at least for the next several years. Having a routine is crucial, taking your little one to the potty every time you go is the easiest routine to implement in the beginning. Yes you will have to increase your frequency of bathroom breaks, unless you were like me and had to go every 30 minutes anyways; I couldn’t seem to hold it after the baby was born. Conforming to this routine can be overwhelming and sometimes completely out of the question so being adaptable is key. Below are eight steps how to potty train by two years old and how we implemented them.
Potty Training in Eight Easy Steps:
Step 1: If your child can sit up they can sit on a potty. Start early, there is no need to wait.
Step 2: Have a routine. Start out slow, if needed. Take your child to the potty first thing in the morning, a few times during the day, then at night before bed. Increase frequency, take them every time you go, ever hour, ever 45 minutes. Pay attention to their fluid intake, 10-15 minutes after they drink take them potty.
Step 3: Make it fun: sing, dance, clap, say encouraging words. Bribe them if you have to.
Step 4: After a few months of taking them to the potty put them in training pants or let them ‘go commando’ during the day. The latter is not recommend if you have carpet in your house, unless your looking for a reason to replace it.
Step 5: Constantly ask them if they need to potty, every 20 to 30 minutes. Set a timer if you need to. Take them if they say yes, if they say no ask again in 5 to 10 minutes. Yes your whole day will be consumed with talking about the potty but that’s just how it goes.
Step 6: Once daytime functions are relatively under control, move to leaving the diaper off at night. No massive amount of fluids should be consumed within the hour before bedtime. Make sure they potty before going bed. If they wake up in middle of the night to the bathroom, even if they are half asleep.
Step 7: Reap the reward of having a potty trained child. You will continue to have to ask them regularly if the have to potty, and sometimes make them go to potty especially when you see them do their pee pee dance.
Step 8: Stay calm and understand accidents will happen. If your child starts refusing to tell you they need to use the potty take away what ever is distracting them or something they love. Explain why it is being taken away and convey their behavior is not acceptable. Shortly after give them positive affirmations so they know you are not disappointed in them.
How we potty trained our toddler…
I started our daughter, Francesca, on the potty as soon as she could sit up by herself. I did not expect her to be potty trained quickly but I did want her use to the process. Every morning when we woke up we went straight to the bathroom, baby on the little potty and mommy on her throne, and without fail she would relieve herself; we continued this routine for months. I would sing her an up beat little tune that I had made up: “You get a party when you pee pee on the potty.” And do a little shimmy dance, so she would associate fun with going potty. As she got older I added an extra reward of temporary tattoos or balloons; I thought it was a better option then candy but use whatever works for your child.
Fun tidbit: My mom said when she was potty training me I wanted to go to Circus World, I know I’m dating myself here. She told me that we would go to Circus World once I was completely potty trained; “no more poop poop in your pants.” She told me about week later she had to buy us tickets to the attraction I had not had one accident. Sometimes it just takes finding what motivates your child and bribing them with it. Believe me, no parent is above bribing their child at some point.
Pay attention to their mannerisms
Even though we regularly took Francesca to the bathroom we still had to changed diapers. She couldn’t even talk yet when we started the whole process, so communicating her need “to go” solely depended on us reading her expressions and making time to take her to the toilet. At the time, my husband and I were running a bed and breakfast, we lived where we worked which was a blessing but it was also very demanding. Often our employees were built in babysitters. Don’t worry they loved every minute of it and they were getting paid to play with Francesca, it was a win win situation. Having our little one around all day gave everyone the opportunity to learn her mannerisms when “duty” called. So no matter whether your child is with you every minute or they spends time with a sitter you can start implementing this process, everyone involved will benefit from early potty training.
Cloth or Disposals it up to you
We didn’t always make it to the potty in time but we did successfully reduce the amount of poopy diapers we changed, which was a bonus. We used a combination of cloth and disposable diapers, trying to stick to cloth diapers when we were home and disposable when we were out and about. Each kind have pros and cons, I don’t know if I could advocate for one or the other. I liked reducing landfill waste by using cloth diapers but they did increase water usage and laundry, the disposals were easy but created so much trash. Whatever diapers you use completely depends on personal preference and what your comfortable with, no matter what kind you pick your still going to have “blow outs” and leek throughs. It is crucial to always have a multiple changes of clothes with you for the first few years.
Let’s ‘go commando’
We frequently let Francesca ‘go commando’, taking her to the potty every time we thought about it or when we noticed her doing her pee pee dance. Around 17 months we transition into training pants. After her morning deuce the undies when on. Frequency of outfit changes increased but that’s goes without saying when your potty training. We still used diapers when we left the house for long periods of time or at night to sleep, often she would be dry in the morning.
By the time she was 23 months she only used diapers for plane rides or long car trips. She slept through the night without wetting the bed. She would still have an accident every now and again, primarily when she was excited or couldn’t make it to the toilet in time but, in general, she didn’t need diapers anymore.
Why we decided to potty train early
We were adamant about the potty training process because we had planned an around the world trip and hoped not to have to worry about using diapers. However, due to a few spectacular potty training moments, one that left daddy covered in shat (you can read more about that in our travel story, In January their getting Married) we decided it was best to still use diapers on occasion.
In Europe in the dead of winter, with three layers of clothes on a toddler finding a bathroom in time was a feat and virtually impossible. We made her wear diapers when we were out and about. She did not it one single bit. Francesca had gotten use to wearing her big girl panties, she would fuss and cry when we put the diapers on. We would tell her why she had to wear them; “we don’t know if there are bathrooms where we were going, nor do we know if we will find one in time.” Sometimes we allowed her to choose a diaper or undies and without a doubt she would pick undies every time. She knew that she had to tell us when she needed the potty and we always brought a change of clothes.
Being aware of restroom availability while traveling
We did this for the month as we travel through Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary and Czech Republic. Even with a diaper on she would let us know she needed to use the restroom and we would desperately try to locate one. Bathrooms are not as readily available in Europe as they are in the US. At times we would stop in for a cup coffee just to let her use the potty. Pay toilets, similar to fancy outhouses with plumbing, can be found randomly placed on promenades but if you don’t have correct change you can’t open the door to use them. In populated areas, you might find signs for toilets that direct you to an underground hallway with a valet collecting payment. Be advise, if your headed to Europe make sure you have coins on you incase duty calls. We were able to avoid a couple big messes by having a diaper on but she would be sad and felt defeated when she messed herself. We would always reassure her it was ok, that it was not her fault and that accidents happen, while we were franticly looking for a restroom.
Less then two months after her second birthday she was done with diapers, completely. Occasionally there are accidents, especially when she is preoccupied with an activity and can’t be bothered to stop. She sleeps throughout the night in undies with no problem. However, we do monitor her fluid intake in the evening and always take her to the potty before bed. Otherwise we may wake up to a large wet spot, which is no fun for anyone.
Once you think all is good and accidents begin happening…
At three months for a diaper free child, there are days when she purposely wet her pants. We have asked multiple time if she need to go potty and she insist she does not then we find she has wet her undies while sitting on the couch, this sure fire way to tick mom or dad off. She is reprimand immediately, we take away what she is playing with, typically, for the remainder of the day. We let her know why she can’t have it every time she ask for it. We ask her why she didn’t tell us she needed to go potty and let her know that the behavior is not acceptable. We make sure she knows that we would have stopped what we were doing to take her to the bathroom had she asked. She is told that if she continues this behavior her favorite things will be taken away such as cookies, popsicle, iPad, boobies, what ever we can think of at the time.
I still breastfeed so the other day when she refused to use the toilet she was not allowed to nurse that evening. I explain to her why she could not have boobies; “You went pee pee in your pants, even though we asked if you needed to go potty. Since you did not tell us and purposely went potty in your undies you do not get boobies tonight.” I make sure to tell her the reason why she is being punished (not getting boobies) many times and in different ways. I carefully choosing my words avoiding the phrase “you were bad” but rather use “your behavior was unacceptable and you do not get rewarded for such behavior.” Some people believe you cannot reason with a two year old but I think otherwise. The sooner you teach a child about cause and effect, explain actions and consequence, the sooner they understand about causality, thus becoming a normal part of their thinking process early in life.
Although Francesca was upset when her request to nurse was denied, fake crying with a bit of crocodile tears, pouting, and calling out “come on mommy, come on” she listened to what I was telling her. She said “ok” and understood her action (peeing in her pants) was not acceptable behavior. I make sure to tell her: “I love you very much. I need you to understand and listen to me when I say something to you. Maybe tomorrow you can have boobies, if you listen and don’t pee in your pants.”
Be positive, they need it…
I believe any sort of punishment should be followed by reassuring, positive, loving words. Perhaps not immediately but shortly after; you do want them to think about what they did and why they are being punished. Positive speak helps counteract any negative feelings a child may have, especially the one about you being disappointing in them. Telling them why they are being reprimand helps them begin to understand reasoning. While, letting them know that tomorrow is a new day gives them the opportunity to behave better and reap a reward. This helps encourage better behavior the following day.
All children are different, some are easier to potty train then others. However, all children want to be loved and do not want to feel as if they are a disappointment. This is perhaps a parents most powerful weapon and one that has to be used with caution. For continuously telling a child you are disappointed in them can lead to a lifetime of them feeling like they have not lived up to your expectations, which is something that should be avoid at all cost.