Early Start Potty Training :: Part 2 :: Let’s GO!

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So now that we’ve discussed the reasons why moms usually don’t start early potty training (see Part 1), let’s get into the how-to for those of you who are considering trying!

First, you have to COMMIT

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not. This is not a “I’ll go to the gym every week” type of commitment (we all know how that goes). We’re talking about an all-in, every-day, I-promise-I’ll-do-it commitment. Commitement with a capital C. And don’t start it, realize how much work it is, and throw your kid under the bus by saying they weren’t ready. Wrong. You weren’t ready. Be ready!

Mental Tips:

  • Begin early: I typically begin early start potty training around 18 months. This gives us a good six months before their second birthday. At around that 1.5 year mark, begin exposing your children to the concept of going to the bathroom in the toilet.
  • Prepare yourself for accidents: Remember, they are young and accidents are going to happen. Personally I’d rather do laundry than spend money on diapers. If accidents are going to make you mad and only frustrate your child, then early start potty training might not be for you.
  • Have a game plan: When we’d be out and about running errands, I’d take my child when we arrived at Kroger. And when we left. And I’d drive 10 minutes down the road to Target and we’d go again. And then yet again when we left. I had to change my daily “game plan” on what I could expect to get in. I learned which parks had bathrooms, which had porta-potties, and which didn’t have anything.

 Introducing “the Concept” Tips:

  • Create a game: Most kids by this age know what the toilet is; you don’t need to spell it out for them. If they happen to not know, create a game teaching them to receptively identify the toilet … i.e. “Can you find the kitchen? Awesome! Where’s the fridge? Great! Go find the bathroom! Awesome! Now show me the toilet! Great job!”
  • Read board books: There are some awesome board books out now explaining the concept of going to the bathroom in a toilet!
  • Introduce the sign for potty: Every time you say the word “potty,” sign it. Little ones are great imitators. By no time, they’ll have the sign down. (My older kids still sign potty to me, especially out in public. It’s a great, subtle way to communicate the need without announcing it to everyone.)
  • Talk about it ALOT: Discuss the idea with your kids even before you formally start the training. Bring it up whenever you need to go or if older siblings need to use the restroom.

Practical Tips:

  • Buy a potty insert:  you could at this point buy a tiny toilet if you so choose, but I do not like kid-size potties. They smell bad and are awful to clean. Just gross. They create more work for me as a mom, and I don’t have time for that. Also, if you bought a tiny potty, please, for the love, do not put it behind the couch or in the playroom. YOU don’t go to the bathroom in the living room or playroom, so why would you teach your kid to? Humans, all humans, go to the bathroom in the bathroom
  • Open door bathroom policy for both you and your spouse: You know that joke about how moms can’t go to the bathroom without an audience? Embrace it. Don’t hide from your kids and lock the door. Let them come inside and “watch” Mommy. Because I promise you, they’ll learn more from observing you then they will from any “teaching” you might do later.
  • Buy multiple packs of 2T undies: Bye bye diapers! (But wait! What about pull-ups? I’ll speak to those in a minute.)
  • Make the bathroom a desirable place: One of the arguments of potty training early is that the kid won’t stop playing to run and go. Make the bathroom a fun “play zone” too. Have a basket sitting next to the toilet that has items they only get to play with while sitting on the toilet. I went to the dollar store and bought silly putty, small characters, and new board books. Remember, your goal is for your child to not be adverse to heading in there.
  • Limit technology to just in the bathroom: uh-oh. This might hurt for a bit, but we only let our two year old play on our phones while sitting on the potty, at home and out in public. (And let’s all just admit right now we let our two year olds play on iphones. It’s ok!) But now, those fun games will be limited to sitting on the potty. My kids are weird and don’t play many games, but they love listening to music. So I let them “create” a bathroom playlist they get to listen to while concentrating on going. I mean, who doesn’t like listening to “Zombies” while peeing?
  • Have lots of “outfits” ready to go. I had 3 small cloth bins: one for shirts, one for leggings, and one for undies. After the accidents, I can quickly grab the new clothes. We started out keeping the bins right in the bathroom, but eventually they migrated back into their bedrooms.
  • Keep spare clothes in the car. In my trunk I kept a basket of “potty accident” essentials, including at least 2 spare outfits, each in an individual gallon ziplock bag (clean clothes go on the kid, dirty/wet get contained in the ziplock bag), a pack of wipes, clean hand towels (believe me, no one likes wet legs!), spare shoes, and hand sanitizer. Also it’s important to remember to restock your emergency stash. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven a naked kid home! 

Let’s GO! (Literally)

Pick a day (just one) that you won’t be leaving the house.

  • DAY 1: after your kid wakes up, put them immediately on the potty [insert]. Since they just woke up, by chance, they may actually tinkle in the potty. Mine never did, but it started a precedent: when you wake up, first you go into the bathroom and try to go potty. If nothing happens, that’s ok! Because what’s next is more important: bust open those brand new panties! Yep. We’re going cold turkey here. Make a production about what a “big girl/boy” they are now! Ta-da! Today is undie day! {Also mentally prepare that today is also going to be lots-of-accidents-and-laundry day. But that’s ok, because you committed! Remember?}
  • What about nighttime? We did put our kids in pull-ups throughout the night. We knew they couldn’t go all night holding it. There were mornings that they woke up dry (one of the factors leading me to decide to start training), but it wasn’t consistent. An hour before bedtime (6:30ish), I stopped liquids. This helped lower the chances of peeing in the middle of the night. I also took my potty-training child to the bathroom before I went to bed (around 11/midnight-ish). The kids mostly slept through it, but they always went. This helped transition into eventually wearing undies all night long.

Get out a notepad and pen. Lower expectations even lower than before. As low as they go. 

  • When accident #1 happens, write down what time it was. Don’t reprimand and don’t punish. Just explain that, “Uh-oh! You went tinkle! Whoops!” Remind them that tinkle goes in the potty. Write down every accident they have all.day.long. You’ll start to see a pattern! 
  • DAY 2: Remember that list you made yesterday of all the accidents? Assuming they woke up around the same time and their day might look about the same, take them to the bathroom approx. 10-15 minutes before the accident time the day before.
  • Day 3 thru infinity: Keep at it! Remember, don’t ask them if they need to go (it’s always a no). Just take them on the time pattern you started.
  • When they (finally!) do go, praise praise praise! Occasionally, my little audience still claps for me! Man, makes me feel great!

Try and Try again! Remember, this is a learning curve for both you and your child! Don’t get discouraged. It will take patience, a lot of love, and even more laundry detergent. But you got this! (And just think of all the other things you can buy from saving money on diapers!)