Potty Training 101: Getting Down and Dirty

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PottytrainingI cannot claim to be a parent who has everything figured out. In fact, I am guaranteed to screw something up nearly every day. I pray that my children don’t remember it when they grow up and process my mistakes on the couch of a therapist. For as imperfect as I am, I do feel confident in my ability to potty train toddlers.

Actually, I kind of enjoy it.

I can hear you now, saying, “Are you crazy? Why would you love potty training?!”

To answer your first question, no, I’m not crazy. And to answer your second, I enjoy potty training because it’s a challenge. I enjoy it because it’s a necessary developmental milestone. But most importantly, I enjoy it because diapers are expensive! If I’m being totally honest, I also enjoy the smug feeling I get when people brag about their accomplishments; meanwhile, I sit back and think, “Oh yeah? That’s impressive? I’ve taught two small humans to listen to their bodies and to stop pooping in their pants. Top that!” (Drops mic.)

Now potty training two kids doesn’t make me an expert by any means. It does, though, give me some credibility on the subject, so I’d love to share five tips from my own experience potty training my boys. Hopefully, they will prove useful to you, as well!

Five Tips: 

  1. Wait until your child expresses interest. For my older son, I bowed to peer pressure and tried to train him before he was ready. Big mistake. When I realized the training experience was creating anxiety and frustration for both of us, I stopped, let him wear diapers, and then tried again a month later. Much better the second attempt.
  2. Dedicate your time, energy, and focus entirely to the potty training process. Dirty dishes in the sink? Leave them be. Laundry piling up? Don’t touch it. This might also mean not leaving your house for a few days, but it’s worth it and necessary for the training process. Fix crock pot meals, order take out, and do whatever it takes to focus on the needs of your potty training kiddo. Your child and your carpets will thank you.
  3. Use a reminder timer. On the first few days of training, set a timer for thirty minutes. When the timer buzzes, take your child to the toilet. The time you set can depend on the child, obviously. After a few days of setting the timer, both of my sons started taking themselves to the bathroom when they needed to go, unprompted by a timer or me.
  4. Make it fun. Buy your child’s favorite snacks and drinks to make the potty training experience more like an enjoyable event and less like a daunting chore. I bought some salty snacks to encourage more liquid intake (What goes in must come out, right?) This increased my son’s need to use the bathroom, thereby increasing his practice each day. When buying fun snacks for your toilet training tyke, don’t forget yourself. I was well-supplied with flavored coffees and peanut M&Ms during both of my boys’ toilet training days.
  5. Ditch the pull-ups and let your child go au-natural instead. Letting my sons be naked while potty training gave them the ability to know, without a doubt, what their bodies were doing. It took both of them just a couple of times of having an accident before they realized that 1) they didn’t like that sensation, and 2) they knew where they needed to go the next time their bodies started feeling that way. (Potty training during summer months has been wonderful with my second son. We moved our training outside where accidents were a breeze to clean-up!)

Most importantly, give yourself and your toddler some grace during this process. It’s uncharted territory, and when accidents happen, they feel ashamed. Comfort them when they have accidents and use them as teaching moments, without adding to their embarrassment.

While I am not planning on having any more little ones to potty train, I’d love to hear what worked for you all. Any tested and approved tips from you? Comment below!

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Although her Kansas roots and upbringing are strong, Megan has proudly called Colorado Springs home since the winter of 2008 when she and her husband returned after serving for two years as Peace Corps volunteers in Eastern Europe. Her roles in life include wife, mother, friend, and teacher, and she feels honored by each of these hats she gets to wear. With a background in Secondary English Education, Megan spends her days working with junior high students, an age group she absolutely adores. After work, she returns home to her husband and two sons who enjoy playing board games, building with Legos, or simply snuggling on the couch and watching Jeopardy. When she isn't wearing her teaching or mom hats, Megan looks forward to spending time with friends, working in her garden, or indulging her introverted side by relaxing with a good book on her porch with a hot (often re-heated multiple times) cup of coffee. She does her best to find balance in life and live every moment to the fullest, enjoying them each as they come and reminding herself that every day of life is truly a gift, one that isn't ever guaranteed.

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