Thursday, March 11, 2010


This blog is way overdue. I made comment on Facebook about our quick potty training success and received more than a few messages asking me about it. I'm no expert since I've only done this twice but this is our experience with a "modified one day" potty training plan! (Modified because there is one big day but several weeks of preparation leading up to the big day). This is what I've done:

The first thing you do is talk to everyone you know, scour the internet, read a bunch of books and read blogposts about potty training. Then you come up with a plan, your plan, and then you stop listening and smile when people tell you that you are doing it all wrong. My major influences in coming up with our plan were:
1. the time I spent with children in the developing world - all of whom were potty trained by age 2.
2. Several European pediatrician friends who could not understand why American kids were potty trained later than all the rest of the kids in the world.
3. I read that 50 years ago 95% of American children were potty trained before age 2 years (think the age of cloth diapers when you couldn't wait to get them out of diapers ASAP).
4. I read that physiologically the sphincter muscles involved were mature enough for potty training by age 18 months to 26 months in most children.

All of those things worked together to give me confidence that she really could do this! I liked the One Day Method because it seemed straightforward and logical to me. I have potty trained both of my kids (a boy and a girl) at age 2 years and 3 months. I found this to be an ideal age because
1. they can verbalize their needs ("pee pee" is all that is needed really)
2. they still really want to please you
3. They aren't old enough to turn it into a power play
4. they haven't become used to the feel of wearing a diaper or the feel of "going" in a diaper as a comfort yet. The older they are the more used to that security feeling they are.

Second thing you do is buy a potty. Put it in the bathroom and encourage him/her to sit on it when they are getting in the tub or getting dressed. Claire was hesitant at first so I rewarded her with M&Ms just for sitting on it. If you haven't lost all sense of privacy and dignity yet this would be the time to do it. Let them sit on the potty while you sit on the toilet. Be prepared for a narration and description of all things potty (see loss of privacy and dignity above). This is an important phase because you need to teach them what is going on down there. Teach them body parts and what comes out where ("pee pee front" and "poo poo back" is basic enough but effective). The One Day Method uses a pee pee doll to teach this concept but we skipped the doll because I felt that both of them understood what was going on and how all the plumbing worked.

During this time if I saw a "poo poo" face or other sign of imminent action I would make a quick run for it and try to get them a success on the potty. This is a good time to choreograph your potty dance or make up words to your potty song that you will be using a lot in the near future! The key during this time is just building excitement and a positive attitude about the potty.

Next go to the library and check out "Big Boys/Girls Use the Potty" (and tell Molly Matthews and Charlie Thomas I say "hello"). Read the book often and say things like "Pretty soon your are going to be a big boy/girl and use the potty too! How exciting! I'm so proud of you!". Excitement, excitement, excitement! I had Ford whipped into a tizzy he was so excited about using the potty.

Next step: Pick a date for the party. The potty party. Oh yes, there is a party. What a huge day - how could there not be a party! Start talking about the potty party and telling them that on their potty party day they will wear big boy/girl pants. Talk it up and get them excited!

The day finally comes and you change one last diaper and shed a few tears as you put on big pants for the first time! Then step back and see them BEAM at how proud they are! Then you start the first day! With Claire I set a timer every 20 minutes and took her and looking back that was a bit overkill. With Ford I just kind of kept my eye on the clock and watched how much how much he was drinking and took him after he ate etc. Claire had a few accidents the first day. Ford had one and has had NONE since (hence the Superstar classification) which is a bit unusual I would imagine. Expect a few accidents but don't worry - their bladders are small and the accidents are too. Just clean it up really quick and reassure them! "It's OK, you are a big boy/girl but you might have an accident! We just have to try again! I'm so proud of you!". This is not a time to back down or put on a diaper or pull up. You have spent all this time investing in them and encouraging them don't make them feel like you don't believe in them! Just keep going!

I do not push fluids or let them go bottomless. I think pushing fluids would make it more difficult because they would have to go more often and more urgently. The bottomless thing confuses me. I guess it is more convenient (?) but I would like them to learn that when they need to go they go into the bathroom and pull down their pants and go. Of course they need assistance (for a while) but this is the expectation. If you have done the body teaching or used the doll then they know already what is going on and they don't need to visualize it to know they need to go.

Help them succeed. Don't head out to playgroup or to the grocery store the first day. Take a few days off of normal activities so it will be better for everyone involved. Don't let the fear of an accident at school or nursery hold you back or make you feel like you should back track to make it easier for the teachers. I think that if you choose to work with 2 year olds then you should expect to be a part of potty training. Just bring some extra clothes and explain what is going on and you would be surprised how helpful everyone will be. If they aren't then you should probably suggest that they work with 4 year olds instead :) Claire had 4-5 accidents the first month or so and it seemed like most of them were in the church nursery. I think it was because there were 20 kids and they were pumped full of juice but we just kept at it and didn't back down.

Don't give up! NO diapers! NO pullups! No not even in the car! I had a piddle pad in the car seat just in case. I think it came in handy once. Get a one piece potty and keep it in your car. If they have to go pull over, let them go and pick up where you left off. My kids have peed on the sides of highways all around the world! It is actually better than using public toilets because it is quick and clean. We flew to Disney World less than a month after Claire went diaper-less and we just stuck with it. It would have been so easy to back down on the flight or in the parks but with a little planning it was fine.

So there is my philosophy (which I realize because I said all this probably means that Gus will be going to Kindergarten in a pull-up). I think the two keys for us have been excitement and consistency. I hoped I answered all the questions and gave some insight into a scary parenting hurdle! Good luck!


Shanan said...

Well said. Consider that one of the chapters in your book:) Your kids rock and so do you!

Lauren, Stephen, and Carden said...


Stacy said...

Like your method! Mine was pretty similar except we did it over a week sans party - will have to remember it for Frances. I think the underwear is hugely exciting for them. Do you go without pull-ups for naptime and night time on the first day?

Stephanie said...

i am passing this on to my SIL... I have told her about your "one day method", but did not know actually how you did it!
miss you!!

The Duckworth Family said...

Hmmmm.... you are brave and we are behind. Ella Reyn is clueless about her "functions" and she is 2 and 1 week. I guess we ought to start reading the potty book soon!