Potty Training: How we Tackle it



I think Potty Training is just one of those things parents dread. Just like getting rid of a soother or a security blanket or object. It's tough. It's not for the faint of heart. The following is what we did with Mikail (who will be 4 in one month) and what we are now doing with Olivia (who will be 2 in one month). It is not some amazing method that will work for everyone. It is simply what we gleaned from others, taking what worked for our family situation and the little characters we were/are trying to potty train.


We started Potty Training Mikail when he was 22 months old. Olivia is just about 23 months old and she has been showing readiness for a while. I've been the one reluctant ~ I remember how hard it is to take on this challenge. And perhaps part of it is that this is just another little bit of letting go of one of the last baby stages (not that diaper changing is fun or anything). It's different when your last little one goes through her lasts. Don't get me wrong, there is no screaming coming from my uterus for another baby. We are done that. I have no desire to be pregnant again, or have a newborn in the house. I am content and fully blessed with our little family. Yet, these 'lasts' are a bit bittersweet.

There is never the perfect time to start potty training. It's always an inconvenience. It's always messy. Something that shouldn't get peed or pooped on always gets peed or pooped on. So, truthfully, now is as good a time to start than any. The sooner I start the sooner the diapers are out of the house and we don't have to ever do this again ;)

When we Potty Trained Mikail, I read the ebook 3 Day Potty Training by Lora Jensen. I had no expectations that Mikail would be Potty Trained in three days, but I thought the book had some great ideas in it and many ideas that would not work for our family situation at the time. As with many things, I took the attitude of: Take what works for you and throw out the rest. I haven't read the book this time around, but I am using the ideas from it that worked for our family the last time around:

1. Build up to the start of Potty Training ~The first thing I did was go out with Olivia and have her choose two large packages of underwear that she loved. This happened a few weeks ago and we have been talking about the underwear, taking it out and looking at it, wearing it when she wants to and making a big to do about underwear. Everyone's underwear. Daddy wears underwear. Mommy wears underwear. Mikail too. Nana too. Papa too. Opa too. Oma too. You get the picture. She gets the picture. Whenever she asks to use the toilet, we go for it. This weekend we started talking about how diapers are for babies and not big girls.

2. Get your supplies ~ underwear and lots of it.I think I got 14 pairs for Olivia. A potty or seat for on the toilet (THIS is our favourite because it's attached to the regular toilet seat and it's all that Olivia will use) . Lots of juice (we want to encourage peeing). A treat for when there is success. Stickers for when there's success (eventually we want to move away from the treats, but stickers can go on for a long long time as different levels of the Potty Training process progress.)

3. Put your life on hold for at least three days ~ For the first three days of Potty Training, I focus on just that: POTTY TRAINING. We don't go out. I don't do anything put focus on training, feeding the kids and keeping laundry going. The house isn't clean. I am not working on projects or cooking or baking in huge amounts. T.V. and reading are out and if they happen, it is a huge luxury. The focus is on getting this idea of peeing and pooping in the potty down. We spend a lot of time in the bathroom reading stories. We do a lot of colouring and painting and playing.

4. Don't sweat the night time stuff ~ With Mikail we decided to keep him in underwear for the night. We expected accidents and there were. We did this for a while and for some reason I was the one who was having issues. I could not sleep, thinking he was possibly sleeping in a soaked bed. How uncomfortable. I am a person who needs her sleep, so for the sake of a sane Mama and a sane family, we decided to use pull-ups/cloth training pants at night. So much better for our family. Jason took Mikail for a 'sleep pee' around 11 p.m. just before he came to bed himself. Then as soon as Mikail woke in the morning, I would take him to pee (can you tell who in this relationship is the night owl and who is the morning person?). Interestingly enough he was completely night time trained before he was completely daytime trained.

5. Expect Regression ~Perhaps this isn't positive thinking, but when we Potty Trained Mikail, we were expecting the arrival of Olivia in two months, as well as Mikail teething his 2 year molars. Both are disruptions in life that could cause regression in the potty trained child. There was regression and we didn't sweat it. We continued the positive reinforcement and talking to him about what a big boy he was going pee in the potty and how he would keep his underwear dry the next time. Praise, praise, praise. At times it was frustrating for us, but by tag teaming it as parents, we made it through.

We did not consider slightly damp underwear as a relapse. We just reminded him that he needed to tell us when he had to go pee. Damp underwear just means that he was able to control the urge to pee.

Another thing we have learned not to call regression is when he is playing and has an accident. This only happens when he is outside. He is busy, focused and having too much fun to remember to get to the toilet in time. We use a stern voice to remind him that he needs to remember to come inside, do his business, and then get back outside. He now remembers to go pee BEFORE he goes outside so that he doesn't have to stop playing to go do something as inconvenient as go pee.

6. Travel ~ Many people (including Lora Jensen of the 3 Day Potty Training method) believe that pull-ups are a big no-no. I can see why, but reality sinks in and you have to decide what works best for your family and child. For us, this means wearing a cloth training diaper or pull-up for travel. We always bring a potty along on trips as well as extra clothes. We tried the no pull-up method with the disposable change pad in the car seat idea, but it bunches and you only have to clean a car seat of an accident once to know you will not do this again. Ever.

As for airplane travel...wear pull-ups. Mikail was potty trained for a long, long time. 18 months, I think. We took him pee before the flight in the airport, in the airplane before take off, and during the flight. Just as we were about to land, he needed to pee. The airline staff would not allow us to go to the bathroom. There was a big messy puddle and wet clothes to clean up afterwards. Not fun. Humiliating for Mikail since he hadn't had an accident in months, perhaps even in a year. From then on, he wore "airplane underwear' (pull-ups) just in case it should happen again.

So, there are the basics of what we did and what we are now doing with Olivia. Truth be told, it is going a lot better the second time around. I don't know whether it is because I am not 8 months pregnant and hormonal, or because Olivia is a girl, or because she is a bit older and a bit more ready, or because this is my second go at it and I am more laid back about it all. Who really knows. I do know that with Mikail, I cried. A lot. With Olivia there haven't been any tears yet. I guess it's just different with every child.

Here it is. The whole mini-series on Surviving Potty Training one click away:

Surviving Potty Training: How we deal with it
Surviving Potty Training: Day One
Surviving Potty Training: Day Two
Surviving Potty Training: Day Three
Surviving Potty Training: Day Four
Surviving Potty Training: Days Five to Seven

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