Seven Steps To Potty Training

Since my recent post about beginning Potty Training 101 on my son, a lot has happened. The experience was much easier than I expected. My two year old son (born in July, potty trained in August) is now out of diapers! (But for napping and nighttime). I’m going to tell you how I did it, with that hope that you might find valuable information from my experience.

But first, let me make an important point: All the talk about boys not being ready for potty training until almost three years old is just that – all talk. Ignore it. Every child is different. Some will get it at two, others at three. It would have been a real shame if I had waited another six months to potty train Blake. He was getting frequent bad diaper rashes and it would have continued, but for the underwear.

When I would tell people that I was going to potty train soon, they’d often raise an eyebrow and ask, “But is he ready?” What does that mean? Does he ask for the potty? No. Does he have dry diapers for hours at a time? No. Does he tell me when he makes a doody? Sometimes. I ignored the whole “ready” factor and just went for it. If he refused to sit on the potty, even with my varsity cheerleading experience and M&M rewards, then I would know that he wasn’t ready. But until I tried, I couldn’t know

Here’s how we did it:

Step 1: Read. I read books and websites, then came up with my own plan that seemed right for my son.

Step 2: Familiarize. Two weeks before the no diapers policy, I gave my son two books about a boy learning to use the potty. I also bought potty seats and step stools for almost every toilet in the house and had Blake sit on them, to pee or play, when he wanted to. Note: I did not use the typical potty bowl. We went straight to the toilet with a potty seat on top. Why? Because I don’t want to clean the bowls. The third purchase was superhero underwear. I showed it to Blake and we talked about it. He tried them on over his diaper. He’s not quite aware of what a superhero is, but he understood that it was something good.

Step 3: Intensify. A few days before serious training began, we read the books more frequently, practiced on the potty seat daily, etc. I also made sure he knew where his pee and poop came from. He pees in the shower sometimes, so he knew where pee came from already, but poop? He’d never seen it. Gross as it is, I showed him what was in his diaper and we put it in the toilet and he flushed it (while I gagged).

Step 4: Potty train a DOLL. In the morning of D-day, I gave Blake a gift of a doll that drinks water, has a diaper, underwear and potty seat. I had Blake help me train it. For the first time, we talked about accidents and told “Paul” our doll, not to pee in his underwear. I also taught Paul and my son to say, “I need the potty” before he has to go.

Step 5: No more diapers. After his nap, we took off his diaper and put him in underwear. I gave him drinks, any kind, so that he’d have to pee a lot in the afternoon and we could have many learning experiences. Every 20 minutes I raced him to the potty and gave him a reward for being willing to sit on it. His favorite treats are M&Ms, oreos and gummy bear vitamins. So that’s what he got, in moderation – 2 M&Ms, 1 mini-oreo or 1 vitamin. He was willing to go on the potty almost every time, which I saw as a big accomplishment. I had some of his books in the bathrooms so we had something to do while he sat on the potty. I also played pat-a-cake with him and we joked around. I praised him and cheered when he made a sissy on the potty. He had about 5 accidents that afternoon, but I saw each one as a learning experience.

Step 6: Longer intervals. By the following afternoon, we would go to the potty about every 25-30 minutes. There were fewer accidents. The third day I stopped pushing drinks on him, and he had only a couple accidents, which were usually just the beginning of a little pee and then he’d tell me he needed the potty and we’d run there and he would finish his pee on the potty. Again, a huge accomplishment worthy of praise and a reward.

Step 7: Maintenance. After four days, I stopped pushing the potty. I asked every half hour or so, but if he said he didn’t need to go, he usually didn’t. I’d just ask again every few minutes. When he said yes, or if I saw him touch his underwear or show hesitation, we’d go to the potty. At this point two weeks later, he often doesn’t go for hours at a time. Still has about one small accident a day, but that’s expected. Oh, and the doody part of all of this? It took a little longer for him to figure that out. I think that’s because there are fewer learning opportunities, and because it takes longer to make doody and he has to be extra-patient on the potty. It’s all good now.

During this whole process, we stayed in the house for the first couple days and then ventured out to a pizza place (I took a portable potty seat) and a day later to a playground (he can pee outside). Now he can go anywhere.

Potty training has actually been a great experience for us. We spent a lot of time together and it was nice. I had to put work to the side for a week, but it was worth it. I also discovered that my son can handle more grown-up responsibilities like using the potty and washing his hands independently. I love that I don’t have to change diapers more than twice a day (napping and wake-up), and the best part is that his diaper rash is gone. I am so grateful that I didn’t follow the trend of waiting until closer to three years old to potty train my son. It’s a lesson to think for myself.

— This post is excerpted from the blog by Laurie Puhn, J.D.. She is a lawyer, couples mediator, relationship expert and author of the new book “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In” (Rodale). Laurie is also a wife and a mother