I started potty training my daughter at 22 months old. That may seem early, but it was actually common for parents of the previous generation to potty train around 18 months! For millennial moms, the current trend is training around two to three years old. Each child is different and although you should wait to see signs of readiness, you should also give it a try when you are ready to put in the work.
I used the book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki to daytime potty train my daughter.
The Oh Crap! method offers two options, you can tackle day and night time potty training in one swoop or you can separate the two. Since I don’t like my sleep messed with, I decided to start with daytime potty training. This decision was also influenced by my pregnancy. I thought that I would tackle nighttime training in December when I would be up with a newborn anyway. Although there won’t be a newborn in December, I will still be tackling night time training after my daughter transitions to her toddler bed. (You can read about how I nighttime trained her at three years old here.)
The Oh Crap! method starts with getting the child to recognize when they are going to the bathroom. There are six stages in the process:
- Peeing and pooping while naked, either with prompting or without
- Peeing and pooping with clothes on, commando, with prompting or without
- Peeing and pooping in different situations, with prompting or without
- Peeing and pooping with underpants, with prompting or without
- Consistent self-initiation
- Night and nap (unless you do it all at once)
On the first day, we kept my daughter naked from the waist down (per the books recommendation). We bought three inexpensive Summer Infant potties for $9 each. We keep one in the bathroom upstairs, one downstairs, and one in the back of my car. As she went about her normal day, she would notice that she was peeing. The first time it happened she stopped what she was doing and stared off into the distance. We immediately grabbed her and said in an upbeat voice “We go pee in the potty” while carrying her to the potty. By the time she reached the potty, she was done. By the second or third time that day, she was saying “Uh oh pee pee” or otherwise indicating that she knew she had started going.
The first day she also pooped on the carpet without much fanfare.
Note: I kept a Bissel spot cleaner in the living room to clean up messes as soon as they happened.
We started this process on a Saturday so we’d both be home during the first two days. Sunday proceeded much like Saturday, but she showed more awareness of what she was doing.
We did not go anywhere or do anything besides potty training for the entire weekend. We kept her contained to one room and one of us had our eyes on her the entire day. It was absolutely exhausting! Even though I take care of my daughter every day, I don’t have my eyes fixed on her nonstop.
After several days, she began going on the potty with more regularity. We took her to the potty as soon as she woke up in the morning and every two hours during the day. We had her sit on the potty before we got into the car and immediately when we arrived at our destination.
She was able to transition to the next stage – being fully dressed – by day five. She had many accidents during the first 5-7 days. Around the one week mark, something seemed to click and she was able to hold it while telling us she had to go. We also became aware of her “potty tells” which are stopping what she’s doing, standing completely still, and staring off into the distance. Whenever we saw those signs, we’d rush her to the potty.
We also had her go commando (no underwear) for three weeks per the book’s recommendation. Jamie’s hypothesis is that tight underwear feel too similar to diapers and the child will have more accidents if you introduce them too soon after taking away diapers. When we introduced underwear during the third week, there was an uptick in accidents for a few days.
My daughter has been daytime potty trained for about six months now. She rarely has accidents but does not like to poop in the potty. She will often hold it until her nap or bedtime. There is an entire section in the book that I need to revisit that discusses what to do in that situation. As of right now I’m not worried about it because I still need to tackle nighttime training. Most of the time when Norah has an accident, it’s our fault because we’re dragged her to several stores or went a few hours without bringing her to the potty. She is also much more likely to have an accident if she’s engrossed in something like a TV show or game.
Update: She has now been potty trained for almost two years and nighttime trained for one year. She has not had an accident in more than a year.
A few tips for tackling potty training:
Choose a method and be consistent
I chose the Oh Crap! method because I liked the humor of the book and that the method is a “no rewards” strategy. I did not want to use treats, toys, or stickers to motivate my child to go the bathroom for a few reasons:
- I didn’t think I would always have those things handy
- I didn’t want to associate food as a ‘reward’
- I didn’t want to reward biologically necessary behavior
- I didn’t want to get into a heated negotiation about how many things she could have.
If rewards sound good to you or you think your child would do better with incentive then you should choose a method that includes them.
All in all, I doubt it matters which method you choose, but it does matter how consistent you are. Potty training will eat up an entire weekend so don’t try to do it when you have other plans, don’t feel well, or aren’t up for it. It’s an exhausting weekend and you only want to have to do it once. You don’t want to give up on day two, only to start from scratch a few months later.
2) Talk it up and make it fun
My daughter loves books so we made sure to borrow as many potty books as we could in the weeks before we start training. We’d talk to her about how fun it was going to be and what a big girl she was. We let her pick out underwear and the color of her potties. We talked to her about how everyone and everything goes poop and pee. We tried to make the process as fun as possible because she initially showed some fear of the toilet.
She enjoyed the books:
3) Stay positive
Potty training can be very stressful and tiring. Keep in mind that it’s a slow process and there will be many accidents. Look for progress and not perfection. The first time Norah went on the floor there was no recognition that she was even going. By the second or third time, she was looking down at the mess and by later the same day she was saying “Uh oh.” No matter what timeline your child is on, it’s pretty incredible that they can grasp the concept within a few days. Stay positive and focus on the progression towards the goal instead of how much urine is soaking into your carpet.
Once the process is over, hopefully, you’ll never have to do it again…until the next child.