Guest Post: Potty Training

by guest on April 28, 2011

Our sleep specialist, Kathy, always has great advice for us! This week, she is stopping by to share some of her success with potty training! We’ve posted a couple different ways to potty train because what works for one doesn’t always work for another! I used the 3 Day Potty Training program with Luke and LOVED it for several reasons. It worked wonderfully for him but there are different ways to get the same result! I hope this offers you another great way to potty train in a supportive and positive way! -Kim

“After I managed to get a handle on Kayla’s sleep and we were finally in a great routine, I felt like I could tackle anything – including potty training.  I heard some horror stories about potty training and how hard it could be but this time around, instead of throwing myself into research like I did when I was trying to stabilize Kayla’s sleep, I decided to go with guaranteed no-fail advice:   my instincts.

Realizing that potty training was yet another major milestone that can often lead children to regress and develop fears about The Toilet, I decided to take it slow and allow Kayla to take the lead.  While I loathed buying diapers, toting them around and spending ridiculous amounts of money on diapers and Diaper Genie replacements, I tried to maintain my perspective in that Kayla won’t be in diapers forever.  The process leading up to actual potty training took several months but the actual toilet training took about 3 days.   Here’s how I did it.

Leading up to potty training – introduction to The Toilet

When Kayla began showing interest in the toilet when she was around 20 months– wanting to come with me or banging on the door asking what I was doing or what was happening as I was on the toilet – I started asking her if she wanted to come with me on a regular basis.  If she said yes, I would let her stand or sit on a stool beside me and explain exactly what I was doing/what was happening.  If she said no, I would let it go.  I knew that some kids had fears about flushing toilets so I would ask her if she wanted to flush the toilet and when she did, I would cheerfully say “ok, let’s say good-bye!  good-bye!  see you later!” and we would both wave good-bye.  A little funny gleefully waving good-bye to your –for the sake of this post, let’s call it “Stuff” – but it seemed to be fun for her.  I added the “see you later” so that the disappearing of Stuff wouldn’t seem so final.  During this time, I never put her on the toilet or asked her if she wanted to sit on the toilet; she seemed slightly timid when about the whole thing and I didn’t want to push her so instead, I just let her flush the toilet and hand me toilet paper.    This went on for about 2 months.

I also made the decision to skip the small potty and go with the regular toilet instead.  I heard about kids having trouble moving from the small potty to the toilet so I wanted to avoid the transition.  I took Kayla with me to pick out two toilet seats – one for when she was at home and a travel one.  Moms – I highly recommend buying a travel seat because public washrooms are atrocious and I don’t want my kid’s bottom (or anything!) touching public toilet seats.  You can carry them with you and then sterilize them when you get home.   I have the foldable Dora one that is compact and easily fits into any diaper bag/back-pack.

Moving to pull-ups

When Kayla was almost 2 years old, my daycare provider and I agreed that Kayla was close to being ready for potty training so we worked together to ensure consistency.  I highly advise you to do this if your child is with a care provider so that the message is clear to your child.  Letting him wear diapers at home/not taking him to the toilet but allow training only in daycare will only prolong the process so once your child is showing signs of being ready, work together with your care provider to ensure a consistent plan.  If daycare is putting the kids on the toilet at certain times (ie. before meals or after nap etc), then establish the same routine at home.

I took Kayla buy pull-ups and explained to her that these are big-girl diapers (she didn’t quite understand the concept of pull-ups” at first so I used “big-girl diapers” to illustrate the difference)and  that she would be wearing them during the day instead of diapers.  I decided to keep diapers for night sleep but during the day and for naps, she would be wearing pull-ups.  To further illustrate the difference between the two, I let her take one apart so she could see the differences for herself.  Then I showed her a pair of my underwear and compared it to the pull-up so that she could see that there weren’t any flaps and they were similar to “mommy’s big-girl underwear”.

Kayla wore pull-ups for about 2months.  During this time, I started asking Kayla if she wanted to sit on the toilet whenever we were in the bathroom.  Sometimes she said yes, sometimes she said no.  If she said yes, I would just sit her on the toilet with her clothes on so she could get used to the feeling and then I would take her off when she asked after which I would praise her and give her plenty of hugs and kisses.  If she said no, I said “ok, maybe next time” and let it go.  After a week or so of this, I started asking her if she wanted to try and pee in the toilet like mommy.  At first, she was reluctant and I never pushed but one day, she said yes and when she did go, we cheered and clapped and gave her a treat (in the form of stickers).  My daycare provider created a bathroom chart for her so I did the same and pinned up right beside the toilet.  Even if Kayla sat on the toilet but didn’t go, she still got a sticker for trying.  I went out to the dollar store and bought a pack of stickers as well as those stick-on tattoos.  Kayla got a sticker for sitting on the toilet but if she actually went in the toilet, she got a sticker plus a tattoo.   She seemed really excited about going to the toilet because of the stickers and I continued to take her to the toilet on a regular basis.

Toilet Training  – The actual event

About 2 months into wearing pull-ups, Kayla started getting “lazy” and stopped telling me when she had to go.  I think she realized that she could still go in her pull-up and so she started doing just that;  instead of telling me that she had to go to the toilet – and *gasp* having to stop playing for one minute – she went in her pull-up instead.  My daycare provider and I once again formed an alliance and did away with the sticker and tattoo incentive since it had lost its spark.  Instead, we decided that verbal praise would be enough and Kayla was now ready to be fully toilet trained.

The first thing I did was take Kayla to the mall so she could pick out her own underwear.  Then I showed her my underwear and her underwear so that she could see that she’s “now wearing underwear just like mommy”.  I also gave her a pull-up and her new underwear so she could feel the difference.   I explained to her that she shouldn’t pee in her underwear because it’s not like a pull-up or diaper and she would get her pants wet if she peed in her pants.   I also explained to her that she would still be wearing a pull-up for sleeps and a diaper at night but that over time as she got bigger, she wouldn’t have to wear them anymore.

We started training on a Friday morning.  When she woke up, I immediately let her pick out her underwear and let her put it on herself.  Then I reminded her that she needed to tell me if she needed to go pee or poo.  The first day was a huge success.  She did tell me a few times that she had to go but mostly, I monitored her fluid intake and took her to the toilet on a regular basis:  first thing in the morning, before each meal, before we went out, when we came home, before nap, before bath.

That first day, she went sometimes but not others for which she always got praised whether she went or not.  She didn’t have one accident.

The second day wasn’t quite so successful.  Kayla had about 5 or 6 accidents but that was mostly my fault – I thought that she would tell me so I didn’t take her at our designated “times” and each time she had an accident, I never scolded her but simply said “peeing in our pants feels yucky, right?” and to let me know next time she has to go.  In a lot of ways, I think kids should have accidents when they first start potty training just to feel the discomfort that comes with wet clothes.

The third day I smartened up and took her to the bathroom at our designated times and continued to ask her on a regular basis if she had to go.  My daycare provider explained to me that when you first start potty training a child, you must take the initiative to bring your child to the toilet because they’re not used to the feeling of having to go and by placing them on the toilet, you’re helping them get used to the sensation and association of the toilet and having to pee or poo.  It took all of 3 days to potty train Kayla and I honestly think it was because I took my time and never rushed or pressured her.

Ten tips on potty training

1.       let your child take the lead – never pressure your child if he/she doesn’t want to sit on the toilet

2.       many children are ready by the age of two or two and a half.  Some kids aren’t ready until the age of three but remember – you child will get there!

3.       incentives work well with many children during the potty training phase however, don’t discount verbal praises either.  Your children want to make you happy and proud of them so ensure that you continue to acknowledge their initiative to sit on the toilet regardless if they go or not

4.       let your child go with you to the bathroom.  I really think this put Kayla at ease because she saw that I was doing the same thing that she was

5.       once you decide to go with underwear, don’t go back.  Just be sure that your child is ready for underwear

6.       ensure that you work with your care provider during potty training so that a consistent message is communicated to your child

7.       explain, explain, explain! children feel most comfortable when they know what to expect so always explain to your child what is happening before and during potty training so he can ask questions

8.       books/stories about potty training are a great way to prepare your child.  Read them whenever you can or give your child the potty book when he’s on the potty

9.       When you first begin potty training, pick several times during the day and continue to take your child to the bathroom because I believe that consistency will help set the ‘routine’.  Also monitor your child’s fluid in-take – if she had a large drink during lunch, wait about 20 minutes or so and announce that it’s potty time.

10.   make potty training fun and exciting!  let your child pick out the toilet seat or potty, underwear and even pull-up design.  Make if fun so that it won’t seem as intimidating

11.   never force your child to sit on the toilet until he goes.  That will only increase the pressure and may cause your child to regress or even resent/fear the toilet. ”

For further questions or tips about potty training, please feel free to email me at or visit my blog at



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