Potty Training 101

By Jenny Harris

Alternate Title: Lu at the Loo

It’s February, and my New Year’s resolution (yes, there was only one) is complete! I am officially a Potty Trainer. Certificate of endorsement below. 

Full credit goes to this little girl—excuse me. Big girl.

Little girl in mismatched socks holding a potty training certificate

Few parenting tasks filled me with the trepidation that potty training inspired. “Lock yourself at home and expect pee everywhere” they said. Eew. But when sickness mandated quarantine, I made the most of it. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I prayed and then drafted a plan. On Monday, we jumped in. There were probably five accidents in total that first month.

Can God teach us even how to potty train our children? Yes, yes, He can.

Here’s what worked for us. I expect it will be different for every child, but I’ll look back at these notes again when baby #2 is ready.

Practice

Potty training was intensive for about a week, but there were six months of preparatory work. We followed the Montessori method of readiness (this article is super helpful!) and started changing diapers exclusively in the bathroom. At the advice of a friend, we also instigated potty-sitting four times a day: at wakeup, before naps, after naps, and before bed. There were occasional panty-wearing days, and we bought a step stool and potty seat to make the toilet more accessible. We also provided lots of modeling.

Modeling

I was in a graduate-level Human Development course when I first considered potty training. We were discussing Bandura’s notion of modeling (ie: providing an example) and the professor said, “Remember this when you are parents. Your children will imitate what they see you do, especially if you do it enthusiastically.”

So I leave the bathroom door open. And we speak of bathroom activities with zeal. It’s effective, and it’s funny. 

Outside of parental modeling, I recommend every book that your local library has about potties. You might also make YouTube playlist (here’s ours). Best of all, “potty-parties” with like-aged cousins and friends make toilet tasks so much cooler than Mom ever could.

Language

Potty training was partially effective because we talked about it. A LOT. Signing Time and Daniel Tiger were the best.

Intensive Training

For three days, we stayed at home. Lucy wore panties all day, and she sat on the potty every time the kitchen timer chimed. Initially I set the timer for every thirty minutes. To ensure success, she sat on the potty for at least 2 minutes (denoted by a pink hourglass), and she drank at least a few ounces every time she sat on the potty (we alternated between various fun cups: dixie cups, waterbottles, baby bottles…anything to keep it novel).

We used this adorable child potty for a few weeks, then transitioned to a seat insert for an adult-size toilet. Now she’s comfortable just about anywhere—except the gas station. Automatic flush terrifies her.

Poop

The best way to avoid poopy accidents was to recognize Lucy’s poop face and dash her to the bathroom whenever it countenanced. Constipation is common for potty-training kids, so I gave her a small dose of digestive tea for the first few weeks, and after a month she was regular again.  

Night Training

Lucy wet the bed a few times, but it was usually a product of forgetfulness. The most helpful thing was to enforce potty sitting first thing every morning, before and after naps, and any time she woke up at night.

Rewards & Consequences

Basic Psychology teaches us to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. Our rewards included lots of praise, visual documentation of her progress (the potty chart that we made together), mini M&Ms for pee, and board books for poo. Obviously we weaned off the candy and books, but praise is a constant.

For Lucy, having wet pants was sufficient punishment. Rather than berating accidents, we cleaned them up together. Accidents provided an opportunity to reemphasize the importance of growing up, listening to our bodies, and trying again. Without preaching, I have to say that there are eternal lessons to be learned in how we respond to our children’s accidents. Compassion and growth, compassion and growth.

I suspect that I’m the only one that will ever read this post, but if you’ve made it this far, then you have my well-wishes in your own potty endeavors. Happy, diaper-free days await you!!

Also, my apologies. I never wrote about poo before parenting.

Jenny Harris

Jenny Harris

Jenny is a star-gazing, book-clubbing mother of two. She has a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, which is mildly comical (but also a boon in parenting and relationships). Her kids will attest that she's crazy about reading aloud, time out of doors, and creative play. Her family's goal is the “abundant life,” as prescribed by Jesus. You can read more posts by Jenny here.
Jenny Harris

Jenny Harris

Jenny is a star-gazing, book-clubbing mother of two. She has a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, which is mildly comical (but also a boon in parenting and relationships). Her kids will attest that she's crazy about reading aloud, time out of doors, and creative play. Her family's goal is the “abundant life,” as prescribed by Jesus. You can read more posts by Jenny here.

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0 Responses

  1. Ah Jenny i am literally starting potty training with Emma this week and this is very encouraging 🙂

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