December 7, 2010

The Potty Train-Part 1

By popular demand: potty training.

Let me say, I am no expert, but I am happy to share what little insight I have into the bizarre world of training small humans to do their thing in a place other than their pants.

We got started around 14 months because I was hoping, based on the success of a friend, that I could have H potty trained by age 2. We still have 5 ½ months to achieve this goal, but I’m not super optimistic about it. Hopefully we’ll be well on our way.

I read Early-Start Potty Training by Linda Sonna. The book does indeed claim that you can potty train by age 2. It goes over various ages to start, strategies, and diapering and potty clothes. It gave me a good basic idea of what is involved. I’m not sure you need to own this book, so check your library before you take a trip to Barnes & Noble (should you be so lucky to have one in town). There are also many many websites devoted to the topic.

Basically, if you can house train a dog, you’ve got the tools to potty train a child. I hate to compare dogs and children, but in this case it’s pretty apt. When you have a puppy you feed it and then you take it out and use your key phrase to help it associate those words with going to the bathroom. Repeat until desired results are obtained.

With a kiddo it’s slight more involved, but it follows the same principle. First, you try to figure out when your little one goes to the bathroom. A friend recommended a potty log (I like to think of it as an input/output log). Obviously it’s easier to catch the poops than the pees. The process does get you to pay a lot of attention to your little one. I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying the exact position and look of concentration associated with the deed (one day, H will hate me for writing this on the Internet). If you can figure out when they usually go—everyone has a schedule—than you have a better chance of getting them on the potty in a timely manner.

I feel I should point out, if you’re trying “early” potty training (before age 2), then part of it is training you as much as the kiddo. This is not a bad thing. Just don’t expect your little one to be a pro at letting you know when they need to go.

I’m not sure that it matters a great deal if you get an infant potty or just use the big toilet. We’ve used both, and she’s gone on both. Either way, you start with getting the kiddo comfortable sitting on the thing. Start with clothes on. Depending on the age, your little one may have more or less interest in sitting still. Try to use a toy or book to help you get the kiddo to stay still a good little while (1-2 minutes). You may have to work your way up to the allotted time. Once the kiddo will sit fully clothed, try it sans pants.

This is also when you will introduce your key phrase. Whether you say, “Go potty,” make a noise (like a “Ssssss” peeing sound), use a sign, or some combination thereof, just be consistent. And use the same phrase when you tell the kiddo that you’re going to the bathroom. Repetition is key. On a side note, it can be helpful for kiddo to see you go to the bathroom (demos are good). Chances are he or she is following you in there anyway.

To get technical, for the human body to go, it has to relax. So you want the kiddo to feel as comfortable on the potty as any place else in the house. Once you have sitting down pretty well and you have an idea of at least one time that kiddo goes pretty reliably, try taking kiddo to the potty at that time, using your key phrase, and see what happens. Some kids pick it up almost immediately, others can take weeks or months to put it all together.

Even if you don’t have immediate success, don’t despair. All the learning about the potty will pay off. We have been somewhat sporadic with it for the past 4 months or so and we’re only now starting to see some successes. And once you start learning about the potty, you don’t have to keep at it like a drill sergeant. A few days here and a few weeks there is fine.

We picked before bath as our big potty sit of the day. We get her undressed and let her run around naked to the bathroom (if you try this, close supervision is required to avoid getting pee on your carpet). Then we sit on the potty and get in the bath. For months she would sit on the potty, do nothing, and then immediately pee on the bathroom floor or in the tub. So frustrating! But then a few weeks ago it started to click for her and we’ve been having success once a week or so.

Our plan is that once we’ve mastered the pre-bath potty, to move on to other times of day. Good candidates are first thing in the morning and immediately after nap. If you want these to work, you have to be Momma-on-the-spot to get kiddo up or you’ll miss it. One strategy is to let kiddo sleep with just a diaper and no pants and to keep an infant potty next to the bed.

Another strategy is to try a potty training boot camp. We may take a day or weekend of no diaper at all (and no carpeted surfaces) and try to catch as many potty moments as possible. With our hectic schedule, I’m not sure when or if this will happen, but if it does, I’ll be sure to report back.

Happy potty training! 

Check out Confessions of a Super Mommy for some more on potty training. I'm not sure of the exact posts, but hopefully the Super Mommy herself will comment with some "must reads" for us.


  1. My two cents: you potty train when the kid is ready. How do you know he's ready? He's waking up with dry diapers and interested in the toilet. Because I waited for those to things to be solid, there really wasn't any "training" involved. Three days after we put W in underwear, he was in underwear for good, including at night. (After B was born, he started wetting the bed, but bed-wetting is a whole other issue in and of itself.) B is NOWHERE near ready to potty train, and I'm not going to push it until I feel like he's close.

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  3. From what I remember regarding the Urinary System from A&P, very few children are physically ready to potty train before 18 months. The bladder has yet to be completely innervated and the sphincter which controls it is not fully mature before this age. Most girls are trained by 2 1/2 yrs and boys 3 yrs. I completely agree with getting her comfortable with sitting on the toilet and making it a routine but it might be easier to wait for her to get a little older. Who know you might be one of the lucky ones where it just clicks and almost happens overnight:) Good Luck!


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