Lessons learned from "Potty Training Day"

(Or rather "Potty Training Week")

  • Pull-ups don’t help much with potty training–they feel and act too much like diapers (except they don’t hold as much…)
  • The bare-bottomed method actually works pretty well, as long as you have plenty of toilet paper/wet wipes/sanitizing wipes available.
  • Clean-up in the kitchen is a lot easier than on the carpet!
  • Being locked in the kitchen, however, gets pretty boring for everyone.
  • I’m really bad at thinking up fun activities when being locked in the kitchen.
  • If you are working with two children, you need two portable toilets.  They will need to use them at the same time.
  • Don’t put toys, blankets, pillows–anything, really–on the kitchen floor.  This defeats the purpose of being in the kitchen.
  • Just because a child "gets it" when they are bare doesn’t mean that will continue when they have something on, or when they leave the kitchen.
  • Be prepared to be surprised–sometimes the one who starts out least promising will be the one to actually get it!

I’ve been in partial "potty-training" mode for almost two years now.  Jonathan started to show some interest in the toilet around the time that Emma was born and had his first "success" when she was about four months old.  I was excited–maybe I wouldn’t have two in diapers for long, after all.  But his interest soon waned.  Over the next year or so it came and went, but no real progress was made.  In fact, just before we moved, Emma started to show more interest (and have more success) than he did! 

Sometime around September or October of last year, one of Jonathan’s good friends was potty trained using a "cold turkey" method–you talk about "potty training day" and pack up all the diapers (even throw them away) so they are no longer a choice.  Then you bring out exciting underwear and have the child sit on the toilet every 20 minutes or so, giving high praise whenever it is used.  This actually worked for his friend–he knew that he wasn’t supposed to go in his underwear and he transitioned well (though it wasn’t perfectly easy, of course).  So I tried it with Jonathan, suspecting that he was physically ready but choosing not to because of the convenience of diapers.  Not a good choice.  Two days, at least 12 pairs of underwear, carpet and couch cleanups, and lots of emotional trauma later, we brought out the diapers again for Jonathan.  He had gotten to the point that he wouldn’t touch the toilet, let alone use it.

Little by little, over many months, we convinced him that he could sit on the toilet without hyperventilating.  No successes, but at least he was willing to go near the thing again.  Finally, in the last few months, we were able to get him back to the fair-weather enthusiasm that he had last August.  Emma, in the meantime, had success after success (and earned quite a few potty training prizes that had originally been meant for Jonathan). 

A few weeks ago, another friend talked about using the "bare bottomed" method with her 3-year-old girl–they camped out in the kitchen for a day (maybe more) and did lots of fun things (like cooking, crafts).  There was at least one accident, but being bare made the little girl much more aware of it and the method worked.  As my previous personal problems had been with wet underwear and carpet/couch spots, this sounded like a great idea.

About two weeks ago I decided it was time.  I definitely wanted to take advantage of Annie’s help (she’s visiting for the summer), and the Fourth of July weekend was actually the least busy–in other words, we had at least three days with no appointments we had to be to.  We jumped on it.  So Thursday, July 3rd was "potty training day."

Bryan and I set up the kitchen the night before by removing the "big table" and chairs and setting up the children’s little, metallic table and chairs–more space in the kitchen, more fun for the children, and easier clean-up.  (The downsides, of course, being that our living room was cluttered with our table/chairs and we adults had to eat sitting on the floor or standing.)

The first day was hard.  Potty messes are no fun, even when they are "easy" to clean up.  And I learned I’m really bad at thinking up and actually doing fun crafts.  We all felt really cooped up.  But… there was progress.  By the end of the day, Emma no longer had accidents, and Jonathan could mostly make it to the toilet in time.  We did learn from hard experience that we needed a second "baby" toilet in the kitchen–two of Emma’s three accidents were due to Jonathan occupying the toilet (but not successfully) when she needed it.

The second day went much like the first.  Emma seemed practically trained, while Jonathan still cried and had issues whenever he needed to go.  But no big accidents, just leaks (on Jonathan’s part).  We were starting to go stir-crazy, though. 

The third day started with a bang.  Jonathan woke up in the middle of the night crying, then proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach.  Multiple times.  I was about ready to throw in the towel with him–how could I continue doing this with a sick child?  But luckily that issue resolved itself by morning–exhausted parents, but seemingly healthy children.  So, we went forward again.  This time we tried adding underwear for Emma.  This was not as successful as when she was bare, but she still kept pretty dry.

The fourth day was Sunday.  We started them out bare, but obviously had to move to pull-ups for church.  To Emma, a pull-up is the same as a diaper, and she quickly lost ground.  Jonathan shocked us, however.  After church, we were surprised by a completely dry pull-up and an overall willingness to use the toilet.  That night, again, the pull-up was still dry. 

Monday dawned.  Jonathan woke up dry.  There were a few incidents during the day (not big–more like not getting to the toilet in time) and we had to work through fears a few times, but each time he gained more confidence.  Emma, on the other hand, regressed.  The only way she’d remember to try the toilet was if she was bare–and even then, we had a couple of accidents. 

And thus continued the rest of the week.  Emma has surprised us a few times with success, but is pretty much back to diapers.  We’ve accepted this.  None of us wanted to continue being stuck in the kitchen any longer.  :)  And she is still only one year old (for another week and a half). 

Jonathan is the opposite.  He has had only a few accidents (one of which wasn’t his fault–he was stuck in his room because he was in trouble and couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time).  He even stays dry at night!  It no longer matters whether he’s wearing a pull-up or underwear.  He is fully confident and finally happy to call himself a "big boy" who can use the toilet.  It’s wonderful.

If all continues as we hope, we will not have three children in diapers in a few months.  Now that is a relief! 




Random, funny incident:

Emma, completely naked, puts on a hat, sunglasses and watch and proclaims, "I’m dressed!"

5 Responses to “Lessons learned from "Potty Training Day"”

  1. What a relief!! Nice job Jonathan :)

  2. Wow! Way to stick to it. I don’t have that much patience. I have been trying with Jack, but we haven’t been sucessful. I am going to try your methods. I got him a little potty that makes noises and has flashing lights and he loves it…loves it so much there is no way he will go potty in it. I really think he believes it is a really cool toy that he can sit on, so the whole concept of going to the bathroom in it just makes him really upset. Should have gone with the cheap potty :)

  3. Oh, but Dantzel he’s still just 1 1/2. That’s early for a girl, and from what I’ve heard (and experienced!) boys tend to be longer. Though if he is interested, go for it, of course. :) But remember–we got Jonathan potty trained (as far as we can tell…), but he’s four. We pulled back on Emma–who is going to be two this month. She’s not quite ready yet, I think.

    As for the cool potty thing, though, that’s really funny! When I went out on Thursday to get the second seat I almost got a little nicer one (I don’t think it did lights and music, but it did hold a roll of toilet paper, which was a plus for me), then I realized that if I didn’t get a clone of the one we had at home we’d be dead. They’d be forever fighting over whichever was their favorite. Even with the clones, they still decided one was “theirs” (at first, they both wanted the newer one). Luckily that faded quickly. :) It’s so nice now, though, because Jonathan has realized he’s big enough to get on, hold himself over, and use the “big potties” by himself. Oh, so nice not to have to constantly clean out the little ones! :)

    Good luck with the really amazing “chair,” though. It’s hard to know how children will react to things until you actually try it out!

  4. Actually, the bare bottom method is exactly what I learned from my own mother and what I used on my children! I put them in long night shirts so they wouldn’t feel naked.:)

  5. Wow. Now why did I not remember that? I thought I asked you about potty training, but apparently I missed it. :) So, how did you deal with accidents–did you keep us in certain places that were easier to clean up? I really don’t remember that at all–though I do remember small treats for successes (for one of the younger siblings). :)

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