Several people have asked me for advice about potty-training because we took our son out of daytime diapers when he was less than two years old.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Keep a potty wherever your family hangs out the most. We have our potty in our kitchen. Is it weird? Yes. Do guests get scared and disgusted? I don’t care. If they are still our friends at this point, a little pooping in the kitchen is not about to scare them away. Little kids are really social. They don’t want to be alone. Also, when they are young, the urge to go is…urgent. They may not make it all the way to the bathroom. I tried moving our potty into the bathroom and Wolfy moved it by himself back to the kitchen, so that’s where it’s staying until he goes to college.
2. Have a bunch of potties all over your house. We actually just have one potty for each floor and one at each of my parent’s houses. But really, have as many potties in your house as you can stand. Take them with you in the car if you want. We never did this, but I know a lot of other folks swear by this.
3. Make potty training fun. I can’t say this enough. Young children learn by having fun and playing. So put the doll on the potty and make fart noises. Sing a potty song. Sit on the floor in front of the potty and make it a special time where they get your undivided attention. If you have a little boy and are able to do this, take him outside and show him how to pee on things. As a woman, I’ve never really had the opportunity to pee on much of anything, but Wolfy makes it look truly delightful.
4. For the love of god, don’t make potty training scary. Seriously. Never force them to sit there. When Wolfy first started pooping on the potty, the act of taking off his pants (they had to be all the way off, for some reason) caused him to not have to go anymore. So I just had him sit on the potty and I read him stories. I had a big stack of books next to the potty and I would put his favorite ones there. Sometimes we would read five books before he pooped. Then he would poop and I would act really excited. Soon he didn’t like pooping in his diaper anymore and he started to tell me when he had to go.
5. Let you child go without clothes. It’s really okay. Like the potty in the kitchen, a naked toddler won’t scare anyone away that’s worth having around. During the summer, we let Wolfy go without pants or undies. He just walked around the house naked. Sometimes he would pee on the floor (luckily we don’t have carpet) and then he would get a rag and clean it up. I didn’t force him to do this (see number 4). He just liked cleaning up after himself. Sometimes he would walk over and use the potty. Seriously, if you’ve gotten to the point of potty-training your toddler and you still have nice furniture then I don’t know why you’re reading my advice. You are obviously the expert. But seriously, the key to potty-training without going insane is to just be kind of relaxed about the whole thing and not try to control it too much. Because you’re really not the one in control. If you try to control your child’s bodily functions, they will win. Every time.
6. In addition to trying to act relaxed about accidents is to steel yourself for the drudgery of going out of the house with a kid in the process of potty-training. You will need strength both physically and mentally. Physically for all the extra clothes you are toting. Always be armed with two or three changes of underwear, pants, and yes, socks. You need to be mentally strong because of this image: think of your toddler using the bathroom in Walmart. It is disgusting and upsetting. You probably used to wash off their pacifier when it fell on the floor in your own home. Now they are touching everything. Everything. There is no way to sugarcoat this. Consider yourself warned.
I have a few more pieces of advice to use when your child is almost totally potty-trained. These nuggets of whiz-dom are for accident prevention:
1) Put your child in their favorite undies. Remind them constantly that they are wearing special underwear and if they pee in them, they don’t get to wear them anymore. They will have to wear a lesser pair of underwear. Tough times.
2) Take short trips out of the house without any changes of clothes. Tell your child that you’re sorry but you forgot the diaper bag and that if they have an accident, they will have to stay in their piss-pants until you get home. I started doing this recently because Wolfy has this idea that he can pee in his pants and it’s just okay because there’s always a clean pair waiting to slip on.
I hope some of this advice is helpful. I know that all children potty-train differently and I would be love to hear some of what worked or didn’t work for you.