Potty training is a rite of passage for all kids, and the first time around can be scary for everyone.
Thinking about potty training my son ZJ made me quake in my boots.
In my head, it was a complicated, drawn-out business that I didn’t have the energy or time for.
I would have ZJ wear diapers for years if I had the choice.
Luckily my son’s daycare teacher gave me one piece of advice that made it so much easier.
Do I really have to potty train my kid?
When ZJ was 2 and a half years old, I realized I should start thinking about potty training. And I did for a few days.
I bought one of those kid potties and gave it a home in the corner of our bathroom.
We gently encouraged him to sit on this tyke-size toilet with his bare bottom but he was not having any of this potty business.
Every time we tried to train him, he had an emotional reaction, which affected his sleep, eating and general mood. They tried at preschool, and he reacted the same.
We decided to hold off potty training because it was not working for him, or us. We left the potty in the corner of the bathroom for months, collecting dust.
Then I received this piece of important advice
As my son approached three, I talked to my son’s daycare teacher who has helped potty train numbers of kids over the last 20 years.
Her advice was simple: just wait.
My son was not emotionally ready to potty train. It didn’t occur to me that using the bathroom is a gigantic developmental leap and ZJ hadn’t hit that mile marker yet.
I could have forced it. I could have read a million books on how to potty train your kid and spent hours coaxing him onto the baby potty. And it probably would have worked.
But we decided to wait. I knew my son and I knew he wasn’t ready.
Honestly, I was just as scared as he was. I wasn’t ready either.
How do you know when your kid is ready to potty train?
You can look for signs, such as talking about the potty or wanting to sit on the toilet, which my son did.
But I took some specific advice from my son’s teacher that I’d never read before. There is a general time frame that kids are mentally ready to fully embrace the potty.
She said boys typically are ready at 3 years and 2 months. It’s a magical age, she said.
Girls are typically ready between two and a half to three years old, which is a much wider range.
That’s not scientific or proven. Just an observation from someone who has done this for decades.
And she was right.
At exactly 3 years and 2 months, a switch flipped in my son’s head and he wanted to use the bathroom.
No meltdowns or signs of emotional distress. He was ready and there wasn’t a fight. It gave me a sense of confidence that we did the right thing to wait.
And it took a lot less work on my part.
Yes, you can potty train at any age and I’ve heard many success stories from parents of children of all ages. It also makes a difference if you have more than one kid.
For us, if we started earlier, it would have taken much more time and effort.
We choice the path of least resistance. For this family with two parents working outside the home, it made the most sense to wait.
What to do when your kid is ready
At three years and two months, my kid was ready.
But I was naive. A newbie in the dark about what it really takes to potty train your kid.
Just because your kid wants to use the potty, it doesn’t mean he automatically knows what to do. He doesn’t understand his urges and can easily underestimate how much time he needs to get from the kitchen to the bathroom before release.
ZJ really thought he knew when he had to go, but luckily our hardwood floors were easy to clean.
Yes, there is some training involved.
We used Becky Mansfield’s “Potty Train in a Weekend“ as a guide. Her book gave a simple breakdown of what to do and when to do it. I found it an invaluable help.
I chose a three-day weekend to train because I was off from work and had the time and space to dedicate to his toilet education. We altered Mansfield’s steps a bit because he was a little more advanced at his age.
- Day one: We put him on the potty a lot, as laid out by the book. He was naked all day long.
- Day two: He wore undies and we went to the bathroom less frequently. We had a few accidents.
- Day three: He wore undies and pants and he started to figure out when we needed to go.
- Day four and beyond: He understood that he should potty in the toilet. Every time.
I was struck that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. He still had accidents and had lessons to learn but he was technically potty trained.
Even with our success, it’s important to know that potty training can never be fully done in a weekend. Yes, your child may confidently use the toilet but it takes weeks, months or even years after to tweak.
I won’t delve into how we got our son to poop on the potty, and I still spend a significant time in the bathroom with my son.
Nine months later, he still wears diapers or pull-ups at night. He’s close, but not quite ready wear undies underneath his pajamas.
But Becky Mansfield’s method helped him get a great head start. I feel confident he is right on track.
Tools you can use to make potty training easier
I quickly found out that the cute little portable kid potty that collected dust in my bathroom wasn’t going to work for my son. He wanted to sit on the potty like a big boy. So we bought him this step-up toilet trainer and we all loved it.
We got one for each bathroom and we take one on road trips to the grandparents.
Tip: By training your child directly on the toilet, you save so much time cleaning. No, you won’t have to empty out and clean the little trainer potties.
We invested in this seat for when we travel. We don’t use it that often but we are glad to have it. As ZJ as grown, he has learned how to stand up, which makes all of our lives easier.
And here is Becky Mansfield’s book that we used.
Potty training wasn’t as bad as I expected. I knew my son and I knew it was better to wait.
Do you have any tips to make potty training easier? Please comment!