Thursday, February 7, 2013

How to potty train

Ahhh potty training... Fun, fun, fun...

If you are getting ready to potty train your child, here is what you'll need:

  • A potty seat
  • Pull-ups
  • Padded underwear (Potty Training underwear)
  • Lots and lots of patience
  • A few good kid books in the bathroom
  • Some nice colorful stickers

Although I’ve had some ideas and techniques that I read about for potty training for a while now, I didn’t really feel it would be appropriate of me to write about it until my own kid is potty trained. I think I am now at the point where I am “qualified”… At least potty training for the daytime has been completed successfully. Potty situation at night is a bit different, but I think it is completely natural and we probably don’t have to cross that bridge quite yet. In the meantime, Allie has stayed dry all day, every single day for the last 3 weeks (minus just a couple little accidents). Wearing big girl underpants and all! MJ and I are so proud of her.
I am sure the potty training age I am referring to (2 years old) will shock some readers in some countries, I know it’s considered pretty late in many cultures. But I think for the US (well, from what I hear and what I read and what I see), 2 seems to be an average age to do it, maybe even on a early side.  Most moms have a very short maternity leave and like myself, they do not spend long enough time with their kids to be able to potty train them too early.
Well, I am going to share our potty training story and tell you how it happened with us and you decide if you find any of the information helpful for yourself.
Let’s start by saying that I initially started to attempt to train Allie around age 1. That’s the age that my sister and I were already potty trained by, like most babies in our culture. I had read  A LOT of books, blogs and websites and used little techniques and tricks that I learnt now and then. While that was quite frustrating and didn’t really work too much, I think in the long run it was helpful to start doing it early to get Allie used to the potty and just to show her what it’s all about.  I would rush her to the bathroom right after she woke up from her nap, I would try to get her there soon after she had something to drink, etc. Sometimes I caught her on time, sometimes I didn’t. Many ups and downs.  During the “ups” I always made sure to reward her for doing it on a potty.  I kept a bunch of nice big stickers in the bathroom and gave one to Allie as a reward. She really liked getting stickers, but it was more like “If I pee on a potty, I get a sticker – great! But if I pee in a diaper and don’t get one, that’s no biggie … Whatevs…” Allie would think.
Eventually I just stopped after my friend at work, who had already potty trained once, told me to just chill out and wait until Allie is ready and wants to do it herself. So I chilled out.
One day a few weeks ago when Allie was 2 years and 1 month something must’ve just clicked in her head. She was ready! She came to me and said “Mama, I want to pee” (only she said “want” in English, “pee” in Russian and the rest in Allie-ish).  So I took her to the bathroom and *Ta-da!* like a total pro, Allie peed on a potty! I was pretty excited. But not as excited as when for the 2nd time that day she asked me to go pee again. This is when I knew it was happening. So I was very conscious of her “peeing times” and made sure to take her to the bathroom every hour or so. Even if she didn’t go right away, we’d hang on a potty and read books and stuff.
Now I knew from all my “potty literature” that I should expect set backs. But you know, we didn’t really have many at all! Right after that first day of success I went to the store and got a pack of pull-ups, so Allie could start learning taking her pants off and putting them on by herself. Our daycare gives us little “report cards” that include the info about the dry/wet/bm situation and the times of occurrences, so after seeing those cards and noticing a very quick improvement with each day, I bought some real underwear for Allie (I started with the padded kind) and brought them to the daycare. We only ended up being in the pull-ups stage for 1 week.  Now she only wears the underwear during the daytime (even nap), a diaper goes on for the night only.  During the last few weeks we had a couple accidents, and weirdly enough, unlike what they say about #2 potty training typically  being taken care of before the #1,  they were "the number 2" kinds of accidents, with  but overall it’s been great!  Oh my god, we are going to save so much money on diapers! I am psyched!
Allie is so proud of herself! She told MJ the other day “Daddy, I pee on a potty  like a big Bird!” (a Sesame Street fan’s interpretation of a “Big girl”).
So the lessons that I learnt from this whole experience:

  • Not to rush your child, apparently they DO let you know when they are ready. But at the same time, start the occasional visits to the bathroom early, just to demonstrate what it is for.
  • Not to get too graphic, but doing it on a potty together with mommy or daddy have seemed more motivational tp Allie.
  • Be encouraging and attentive. If you are seeing any signs for readiness, make sure to help your child to follow the new routine. Take them to the bathroom frequently.
  • “A reward system” in the beginning is great. Reward her with a sticker or something  fun when they “accomplish the mission". Some people talk about rewarding with some food item that wouldn't be allowed otherwise, but I don't like the whole idea of mixing potty matters and food.
  • Be patient. In the beginning you may spend a lot of your time in the bathroom, reading books and cheering on. But it’s good to get them used to the potty and have it associated with positive emotions.  Although there has to be a balance. You don’t want them to start thinking that potty is mostly meant for reading. It’s just a little added benefit.
  • Pull-ups are such a great invention for a “transitional period”, when they start going to the potty, but still have accidents. But I wouldn’t get stuck on them for too long. Once the pull-up/pull-down skill is learnt, it may be the time to move on to real underwear (and whoever invented the padded underwear for kids was a genius).
  • Don’t be angry or punish your child if she had an accident, but do let her know that she is a big girl/big boy/big bird (apparently) now, so she needs to use a potty
  • I think there is no need to rush with the nighttime potty training. It will come eventually. Allie is starting to wake us up early because she needs to potty. And frankly at 5 am I really wish that she would just do it in a diaper… But of course, I praise her desire to potty in the right place.
  • This is a piece of advice and note to self:  include hand washing in the potty routine. Make it clear right from the get-go that we wash our hands right after using the potty. I need to get on that with Allie….
Good luck!


  1. Congratulations to all of you - it really is a family effort. I agree that pull ups are very helpful in the beginning & at night. Good idea too about washing your hands after you go to the bathroom. I agree it is a great feeling when you realize how much money you can save when diapers are no longer needed.

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