Monday, June 10, 2013

Lazy Potty Training

It doesn't take much to make me feel nervous and anxious.  One of the things that makes me feel that way is the possibility of any bodily fluids getting anywhere it should not be, for example on carpets, beds, and couches.  This makes the "throw your diapers away" potty training method very uncomfortable for me.
I feel like we live in a society that judges others if their older children are still in diapers.  I don't know if that's true, or if that's just how I feel, but most parents of young kids I know these days are dead-set on their kids being diaper free by age 3, most even younger.  If you and your child can do it, hats off to you, but it made my husband and I do some crazy things to get my first-born, my son, potty-trained by his third birthday when the "correct" way wasn't working.  In the end, time-outs for accidents was what finished the job and I still have guilt about it.  It seemed like a constant battle, and it wasn't any fun for any of us.
When my second child, my daughter, started showing interest in using the potty shortly after her first birthday (after all, she'd seen her big brother use the toilet a million times already) we heard about that three day potty training bootcamp method and a friend emailed me the e-book.  (By the way, it even advertises right on the website, "You will have bragging rights in front of jealous friends and family", proof that it's become a competition!  And why, so you suddenly have to be at the ready 24/7 to sprint your child to the nearest toilet and worry about them springing a leak on daily outings to the grocery store and shopping mall?)
Anyway, it made total sense after we read it, and as soon as my little girl was the golden age to try it, 18 months, if I recall correctly, we packed up the diapers in a big garbage bag and put her in the adorable big girl undies that she picked out from the store herself.  She was excited, we were excited, we were committed.  Until the accidents came.  We knew you had to have many accidents before a success, the e-book fully warned that the whole three days might be all accidents but guaranteed success by the end of the third.  Accident after accident, my anxiety's nightmare, we finally started making her stand or sit on a towel wherever she went, and at the end of day one she started to develop a horrible red, sore, itchy rash on the backs of both legs.  Not cool, pee, not cool.  So we aborted the plan, cleaned up all the accidents, did a giant load of peed laundry, and took the diapers out of their hiding spot.  We felt like failures but we both felt she was just too young still, she needed to "get it" for herself and she wasn't there yet.  So we stuck to Pull-Up's, calling them "big girl diapers", and kept up sitting on the potty every time we needed to change it.
Then we got lazy.  We went on holidays, we went on with our daily lives and potty training became something we were waiting for her to want to do.  And then I started to realize I don't need to feel guilty about it, it's not a competition, I'd way rather her be ready then to force it on her too young like we did with my son.  As long as she was potty trained by the time she went to Kindergarten, I'd be happy. 
A couple of months after my little girl's third birthday I noticed she was peeing in the potty about half the time I took her to sit, and decided to make up our own potty training game.  I made a potty chart using a mix of ideas I'd seen from others I found on the internet, bought some M&M's, bought a whole bunch of stickers, and taped the chart to the bathroom wall.  I brought her to the potty often, to sit and see if anything happened, I wanted to try to figure out her schedule and keep her clean so she didn't get used to hanging out in wet diapers anymore.  (And by "potty" I mean our regular toilet, not a empty-it-yourself kids potty because the thought grosses me out, and not a potty seat because she'd have me right there to make sure she didn't fall in and she'd need to use a regular toilet when we went out anyway).  Every time she had a wet/dirty diaper I'd write "Oops" in the square and mark the time, and every time she had success I'd mark the time and she would get an M&M (and one for her big brother, if he was home from school, so that he would help encourage her and cheer for her when she went) and she would get to put a sticker in the square.  Most kids respond really well to stickers or candy, so I did both to keep her extra excited.  We also kept adding things to the "when you pee and poop on the potty all the time you get..." list, including wearing big girl underwear (obviously), going to celebrate at Chuck E. Cheese's, and, the biggie, getting her ears pierced!  So, if she was having a day with lots of accidents, I'd go through the list and remind her of all the exciting things she'd get when she could do it all the time, and she'd get back on track again.
Eventually I started to notice a pattern, and figured out how many times a day she went, on average, and I knew when to remind her to go.  I started to set a sticker goal for the whole week and if she got that many stickers on her chart at the end of the week she got a big prize (a small toy or book).
It took a good 5 weeks of doing this before she was telling me before she had to go and only having only wet/dirty Pull-Up a day, and she'd always tell me right away if she had an accident as she was no longer used to sitting in it.  The last hurdle was #2, she'd wait until her afternoon quiet-time when she was alone in her room to dirty her diaper.  A little bribery incentive and a successful trip to the potty got her over her fear and made her realize she could do it all the time.
A whole week free of accidents (in Pull-Ups still), a chart full of stickers was the final step I wanted her to achieve before letting her wear real underwear.  Once she got it, she totally and completely got it, and she's been in big girl underwear ever since with not a single accident (although I'm sure this varies from kid to kid!)  It may have taken her a little longer, at 3 1/4, but it was worth it for the lack of stress, anxiety, and wet carpets, couches or beds.  I am a proud Mom!

Potty Training Reward - Getting her ears pierced!

And so, if you loathe and dread potty training like most of us do and you want your cutie, no matter how young or old they are, to learn at their own pace, when they're ready, try adopting some of these tips and see if it works for your child!

Here are two free printables, one for a girl, one for a boy, that you can print out each week to keep track of your child's successes, and best of luck!  Drag the image to your desktop (if you're on a Mac) or right-click and download/save it to your desktop, then print the image filled to page.
The second column beside the days of the week is to record whether they woke up dry or not.  That way you can get an idea whether they'll be ready to stop wearing diapers at night as well.  Remember to keep extra sheets close to their bed so if they do have a night accident you can change the bed quickly and quietly and get them back to sleep.

Girl Potty Chart

Boy Potty Chart
And if you sew, check out my Zippered Wet Bag Tutorial to have supplies on hand in case disaster strikes while you're out and about!


  1. love your method. i also had an absolutely horrible time with my firstborn and it took over a year and a half to really feel completely finished... my second is 2 now, and semi interested, but i'm not ready to go through the painful process again, so i'm letting him lead and not push it! i like these charts though, i will give them a shot when he is more ready!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this blog! although this is kid#4 for us, my youngest was 6 years old when I had Adrianna and so it's like starting all over again! On top of that, she's so stubborn, lol! She really does things her way! She just turned 3, so I've been slowly doing this but I think I'm going to give her a few another week or so and try this method of yours with your charts. Thanks for sharing, glad to know I'm not the only one! :)

    1. Thank you Laura, I appreciate that! It's been awhile since I've posted anything, I'm not a very dedicated blogger, oops!
      Every child is so different, the stubborn ones are the hardest to train. Good luck in your potty-training journey :)