Potty Train Without the Torture

If there is anything I have been dreading as a mom, it's potty training. Probably even more so than I did labor. I heard nothing good about the experience - visions of my son running around naked all day, peeing and popping on everything danced around in my head. Also, apparently, I was supposed to pump him full of liquids and to take him to the bathroom every 20-30 minutes. I would literally be a slave to the toilet and my child's bowel movements, which had me feeling all kinds of anxiety

I can't say for certain if it was for his sake or mine but one thing I knew for sure was that I was not going to rush my son with potty training. I would wait for his cues. At just barely two years old, he started showing interest in sitting on the potty. I thought I had struck mommy gold. 

As it turns out, my toddler was only toying with my emotions. He suddenly stopped showing any interest in potty training. 

The closer he got to three, the more anxious I got about potty training. People would ask either myself or my son all the time if he was potty trained. Right about two months before his third birthday, I decided it was time. I set a goal to get it done by the start of his birthday month. Which gave me about one month. 

If you've done any research on potty training, you have likely come across the 3-Day Method. It's wildly popular and I can certainly see it's appeal. Especially for parents that work outside of the home or are enrolling their child in preschool and really just need to get it done.

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I quickly learned that the 3-day potty training method was not for us. I also quickly learned why everyone hates potty training. We only attempted it for half a day (if that) and it was total torture. 

Ultimately, it felt to me like I was forcing my son to do something for the sake of my own pride and timeline. Whether he potty trained by his birthday or not, I decided that this regimented of a plan was not a good fit for either of us, and I was ok with the fact that he likely wouldn't be potty trained by 3. 

I didn't give up on potty training, I just decided to slow my roll.

Here is what I did instead of the 3-day method: 

I let my son wear pull-ups for a few days. 

Instead of looking at the ultimate goal, potty training, I cut it down into steps. Step one was to get my son used to the idea that he would no longer be wearing diapers. So, for about 3 or 4 days, he wore pull-ups (or training pants). I took him to the potty regularly throughout the day but, most often, he just peed in it like a diaper (which, by the way, is why most potty training advice will tell you not to use them). I never scolded him for peeing in the pull-up, I would just gently remind him that it wasn't a diaper and that he should potty in the toilet.  Then I would take him to the toilet and encourage him to sit. 

I rewarded him for sitting on the toilet.

In the time that he wore the pull-ups, he really didn't go potty in the toilet but we still tried and every time he sat on the toilet, he would get a potty sticker. (I had taken him to Hobby Lobby to pick out some stickers, he chose Paw Patrol.) He was told he would get candy (M&M's, which he also went with me to the store to pick out) if he pottied in the toilet but he really wasn't there yet. 

I moved him to underwear. 

After a few days of the pull-ups, I told my son he was going to wear underwear now. At this time, he was not using the potty at all. He would just sit there and then potty in his pull up. I didn't tell him that he "had" to use the potty or anything like that, I just told him that he needed to wear underwear. I was fully prepared for multiple accidents but all it really took was two for him to realize he didn't like it. There was a little resistance and he would ask for a pull-up but within one week from the time we started, he went from not even showing that he knew when he needed to go potty to telling me when he needed to go. 

By the end of week one, he was regularly going pee on the potty, with no accidents. 

At the start of week two, he stopped wearing a pull-up at night but he would still wear one when we went out and to go poop. He wouldn't poop in his underwear but he would ask me to put a pull-up on him when he had to go. I decided to take the same approach as I did with peeing and ease him into the idea, so I let him use the pull up until the end of week two. 

By the end of week two, he was no longer wearing pull-ups to bed or when we were out and about. And on one of his outings with my mom, he discovered how to pee standing up as it was the most sanitary option. From that point on, he started standing up! 

At this point, I decided it was time for him to poop on the potty. We have one of those next step toilet seats, which was great for going pee but he was terrified to poop on it. So, my parents went out and bought him a little car potty. When they brought it home, I showed it to him and told him he was going to start pooping there. He had already pooped that day but I still had him sit on it just for fun. 

The next morning, he asked for pull up and I reminded him that he would be pooping on the toilet. He cried but I talked him through it and really talked up the car. This was definitely the most resistant he got and the closest to stern I got. But we got through it. I knew that since he was telling me when he needed to poop that it was just a matter of getting him to stay on it. It only took one time because he really loved all the grossness of seeing his poop in the bowl. 

So, no it was definitely not days but in 2 weeks and 1 day, my toddler went from seemingly disinterested possibly even oblivious to 100% toilet trained - pee, poop, on outings, night time and standing up - this is frequently not the case even for those that "potty train" in 3 days. 

I truly believe that the entire process would have taken much longer had I followed through with the 3-day method.  Instead, what I thought would be the most torturous part of motherhood, thus far, turned out to be relatively easy and stress-free.

My advice to a mom getting ready to potty train is this, don't feel pressured to do it the way "everyone else" is doing it! Ask for advice, read about others' experiences and decide on something that you believe will work for your child's temperament and your family's schedule.