If you follow me on You Tube, you may have seen my Potty SOS video. After successfully potty training three children, I've hit a wall with my fourth. A major wall. MAY-JERRRRRR. Recently a reader reached out with her approach and once I read it I thought, this actually might work for us (and we have tried it ALL). Click through to read Jessica's no nonsense, well thought out approach to getting that toddler on the potty.
2 1/2 is a good age to begin encouraging some independence in a few parts of Talley's day. Self-Care is a great place to start; self-feeding, brushing teeth, hair, and dressing and undressing. This skill is a prerequisite to potty training success. If Talley is not able to completely undress and dress herself wait to begin potty training until she is. Note that amount of time isn't really an issue. Whether it takes her 2 minutes or 30 minutes the most important thing is that she is eventually doing it completely on her own (socks can be tricky).
So she is dressing and undressing herself! Great! Next, arm yourself with lots of underwear, sweatpants, socks, and shirts that Talley can manage on her own. So no complicated overalls, buttons, snaps etc. When I say lots I mean like at least 10 pairs of pants and underwear. (Socks and shirts wont usually get dirty when she has an accident but I have seen it happen ;-) Also set up a place in your home (ideally as close to the bathroom, if not IN the bathroom, as possible) where she has a dirty clothes basket and a drawer with clean clothes. If its a bottom drawer on a dresser, drawer dividers would work great to keep each separate item where she can access it, and see it clearly. Also the basket should be on the floor and easy for her to put dirty things in it.
Okay next, take down all the potty charts. I have never met any two year old who is goal orientated and able to give a chart more than a moment of their time let alone use it to reach a goal. And show her a calendar. If you want her to start potty training this week and can get everything together and set up then show her a calendar of this week. If two, three, four weeks are acceptable then fix your calendar accordingly. Say, "Talley its time for you to start using the potty. I'm going to show you how. This is a calendar. A calendar shows us the days. This is today (circle today with a big beautiful color) Do you want to choose what day you start using the potty or do you want me to choose? Whatever the result its within YOUR acceptable time frame. Circle the Day Talley Starts Using the Potty with a big beautiful color. Count down each day with her so she knows when it is coming. If you want...X off each day before bed time. Explain to her on this day she is not wearing diapers or pull ups during the day anymore. Its cold turkey time. (Lots of parents use pull ups at night...but if you're brave and determined you can go cold turkey on those too. Though you will be changing sheets in the middle of the night. I usually advise that is another project for another day and especially since she is only 2.)
You can wrap any remaining diapers up and give them to a friend who needs them or put them somewhere special for her little sister...make it as ceremonious as you would like. But she no longer needs them.
Leading up to the big day show her the toilet, show her how to use toilet paper, show her how to wash/dry her hands when shes finished. Ask if she'd like to practice sitting on the potty, using toilet paper, washing her hands...encourage this!
The night before the big day show her the new system you set up for her. Show her where dirty pee clothes go, show her the drawer and where to put on her clean clothes. Explain to her (very matter of factly) that this is her job now and mommy/daddy/ whomever will be here to help her if she needs help but its her job. The next morning put her in underwear when she wakes up and show her the potty and the clothes system again. Remind her when her body tells her she needs to go to the bathroom she uses the bathroom. It may be best to choose the bathroom that is closest to where she spends most of her day playing, eating etc.
Remind her A LOT to go try the potty. Remind her every 15-20 minutes. At this point don't say, "Do you need to use the potty?" Because she is still learning what that feels like and does the really have an answer to this question. Say, "Talley, its time to go try to push pee/poop out" If she resists do not fight her on it. Just remind her again in 15-20 more minutes. This is not a battle to be won. This is a team effort. Getting her on the toilet as often as possible will help her learn to experience success rather than constantly having accidents.
When she has an accident..go with her to show her what to do but let her do as much of the work as possible. Eventually work up to where its completely her job. Make it simple and matter of fact. No shame when there is an accident and no big celebration when she uses the toilet. (a quiet, mommy-only moment with a hug and a big smile might make you both feel good :-)
The idea is that she is going to realize how uncomfortable wet clothes are (especially this time of year!) And if she is given the opportunity to take care of it herself she will also realize how much of a pain it is to have to change yourself every time (takes you away from the fun stuff!) If every time a child has an accident their parent changes them just like they change their diaper whats the point in learning anything different?
When you go out...bring a change of clothes so she can change herself (maybe pack it in a special bag so she knows where it is) Ideally try to hang at home for a week or so as much as possible.
It's Mom's job to make sure everyone is on board with this system. The most important thing that will help Talley be successful is that whomever is with her (mommy, daddy, babysitter, etc) will hold her to the same standard. Anything else is confusing to Talley and will not work.
Poop is a different story. If she poops her pants go with her to the bathroom because poop can make other people sick and you need to make sure it all gets cleaned up off her body. Show her how to clean herself with a wet washcloth (but you should mostly do the cleaning of her body) and then once she is clean its business as usual. Poop clothes go in the dirty basket (or lets be honest...sometimes in the trash) and she can change into clean clothes.
So, we are going to give this a shot, and I'm going to keep you guys posted on our progress. We are picking a start date this week because we are just about to run out of diapers and mama ain't buyin' any more! Stay tuned to see how it goes, and thank you to Jessica for giving us this plan!
Jessica Blake holds her 2-6 year old Montessori Certification from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, CO. She has taught many wonderful children and worked with their families in Colorado and Boston. She was raised in Saratoga Springs and recently returned to the area with her husband to raise their 11 month old son, Jack.