Potty Training Works When You Break All the Rules


potty trainingWhen it came time to start potty training my son, I think I just about broke all the rules. In my neighborhood, there's pressure to potty train your child early because some of the fancier preschools will not accept children who are still in diapers. But there's also a kind of arms race among parents, a bit of playground competition, like every other child development milestone.

Well, potty training is not a competition. And all the rules are completely useless. Ideal age? Using the right pull-ups? Scheduled potty-sitting time? Forget it. I think you need to be a potty training renegade to get the job done. For me and my son, it was all about waiting until he was ready, watching his signals, and letting him figure it out himself.

Ditch the tricked-out training pull-ups. First of all, they're more expensive. I know kids love the cartoon characters, but I think they just enable your kid to prolong the diaper phase. They're just too cushy, comfortable, and fun. What really worked for me was to make going in your pants as uncomfortable and undesirable as possible. So no Buzz Lightyear flashing-lights trainers for us.

No rewards. I did not bribe my son into sitting on the potty. Well, actually, I tried to at first but then I stopped because it wasn't working. His real issue with sending his bowel movements to the right receptacle had more to do with the freaky sensation of sending it into the void. Existential poo angst! So I watched him for those pre-poo moments when he suddenly got really quiet and contemplative. Then I rushed him over to the potty and just hung out with him, making sure he felt extra comfortable and safe.

Naked time. I kept telling people about this technique and they kept saying, "Mmm hmmm, yeah, that's gross." But I swear, it works. Just roll up your rugs and give your kids some naked time for a few hours every day. They will totally make the connection between what comes out of them and where it goes.

No hurry. My son got phase one of potty training down in a flash at 2 1/2. Phase two (poo) took longer. And I can't even tell you how old he was before he stayed dry through the night for fear that he'll grow up, read this, and sue me. Seriously, it took years. And what's the hurry, anyway? Aside from those preschools who push early training, you're just swapping one inconvenience for another. So you're out of diapers now, hooray. Welcome to the world of constantly finding acceptable public restrooms. Welcome to the joy of public urination.

Are you potty-training by the book or are you a potty-training renegade?

Image via valentinapowers/Flickr

boys, potty training


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blmes... blmessick87

Thank you all for posting and sharing my son is set to turn two on Dec 24th and it's potty training time and I am going to use this advice for the upcoming battles of potty training. I wasn't sure how to start so THANK YOU!!!!!!

Kristen Duffy Velasco

I have twin boys that are 3 now.  Naked time worked best for us.  We did the pullups for a while but it just delayed the process.  Sure it was more convenient for us.  We taught them to sit down and pee that way they could master that first and then standing up could be mastered.  Best wishes!


Great article!!  The naked method works great, but if you really cannot do it due to living in a fully white carpeted house like I do, then "the wearing big boy underwear underneath pull ups method" works just as well since they can still feel extremely uncomfortable going in their pants.

neslo... neslonturf

I made my own rules, and found my own tricks. Not one of my 4 kids took longer than 2 weeks to potty train...day and night.

nonmember avatar Heaven

I thought I would never get my son potty trained. It came to him almost missing the cut on getting into headstart at 3 1/2 but during the summer he decided he was a big boy. Over night he, on his own I must add, decided that he wanted the cool underwear that big boys have. I had some nemo ones which was his favorite movie at the time. And that was it. Day and night. I tried all the tricks and everything everyone told me. But with a child who is ADHD it is hard to have them stop and take the time out of there speeding little minds and have them go potty. We have had 2 accidents sense he potty trained himself and it has been 7 months now. They know when there ready is my approach.

nonmember avatar Heather S.

I have tried every method with potty training and my daughter still just can't stand the thought of it! I just recently heard about a product called "Poo-Pourri Super Dooper Pooper Spray" designed for potty training that comes with a book and t-shirt too! Apparently the spray blocks all the stinky poo odors so I am hoping this will finally work!

nonmember avatar FloridaSunshine

Anyone have advice for a 29 month old that was just about trained before age two,, turned two and decided to completely refuse the potty but pitches a fit when you change his diaper? He's not mine, he's my nephew but I watch him quite a bit, and he is a terror. His mom wants him potty trained but doesn't discipline him at all and gives in when he demands the "treats" that I set aside as potty motivators... I guess I'm wondering if I should throw in the towel since I'm constantly undermined in this endeavor? The bright side is that a long day of whining and tantrums is awesome birth control!!

nonmember avatar Cat

Want to REALLY break all the rules? Go totally old-school and do what parents did before disposable diapers were invented. Buy a potty chair for your baby at around 9 months and sit them on it without a diaper once or twice a day, perhaps after a nap or right before their bath. They probably won't go, but if they do cheer, clap, make a big deal. If not, no big deal-you're just introducing the potty at this time so it's not a this big, scary thing at 2 1/2 when they are used to using a diaper as a toilet. This is also the time to start using the words you will use for elimination while changing their diaper. By 18 months most tots can say "pee-pee" and "poopies" and "potty" and pull down elastic-waist pants. This is the time to do the bare-bottom thing. Imagine how wonderful it will be to only have to buy one box of diapers a month for night when your child is only 2! You'll save so much money if you're using disposables, and so much time if you're using cloth.

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