My experience with potty training was very similar to that of sleep training and weaning. I feel like I have found many tricks and tips that worked with all four of my boys and would probably work for you too! I do have a strong stance on when to potty train and why the age to begin potty training has been moved later and later. Having such a large age gap between my boys the change has been really apparent to me.

For our grandparents, potty training happened quite young. I knew anecdotally that it was under two years old for the majority. For this post, I wanted to see what the stats really were. I found that it was even younger than I thought with 90% of babies potty trained by 18 months. That’s 1.5 years old, people. There are a couple of main reasons for this; most moms were home with their babies and paired with only having cloth diapers created the perfect motivators. There is a direct correlation between the advent of disposable diapers and the potty training age. The more widespread disposable diapers became the later families were starting to potty train.

I went to a Well-Child check for both Barrett, almost 3.5 at the time, and Grayson, 1.5 years. This was our first visit with this pediatrician. We had been talking about Barrett but then she started asking if I had thought about potty training him yet. I figured I had misunderstood and she was referring to Grayson. I stared at her and asked if she was asking about Barrett. She was. He was nearly 4! I really didn’t mean to laugh out loud but I was so thrown by the question that I couldn’t help it! I shared he had been fully potty trained for nearly 2 years and I was prepping to start Grayson soon. I had a conversation with her about why folks are waiting. There is an idea that children are not developmentally ready until much older, but I find this hard to believe when history and my own experience contradict it.

I will say, my friends, that I understand there are many reasons to wait. I am not even remotely saying that all children should be potty trained before 2 years old. I am saying that the vast majority could be fully potty trained well before 2.5. It’s a matter of educating and encouraging parents on how to use their judgment and tools for successful potty training.

How it Went With My Individual Boys

Marcus was ahead of the average age for many of his milestones. This makes him tricky to compare siblings to….that’s why you are not supposed to compare. It just doesn’t always work out. Marcus was about 18 months when I started, I did the 3-Day Method and that was that for him. Here is a link to a great site explaining the 3-Day Method in detail. He was fully potty trained in those 3 days. His biggest issue was having some poop accidents at daycare for a bit. But other than that he was day and night potty trained before two years old. He also had a bladder of steal and could hold it for another hour or more after waking up and never needed to go while on drives.

Autzen showed all of the signs of potty training readiness at 17 months. He pulled at his diaper, he wanted to sit on the toilet, he was fascinated when his big brother or I went to the bathroom, and he would tell me when he would need to go. I started potty training and, well, it was a flop. He kept at it and was always happy to sit and try. However, he had accidents. A lot of accidents. I always think I should have waited but all the signs were there and he was happy as a clam to keep going. He was fully daytime potty trained by age 3. I am drawing a blank on if it was closer to being a new 3 or an old 3. He had night accidents throughout his childhood. Lo and behold, there is a connection between bedwetting and ADHD! Who knew?!?! He also inherited my bladder and has to pee all of the time. I learned to limit liquids in the evenings and before getting in the car.

Barrett aligned more with my experience with Marcus. He was fully potty trained by 22 months during the day and at night shortly after that. I used the same 3-Day Method that I did with the older two. I found a high interest motivator for Barrett that didn’t cost me any money and wasn’t laden with sugar. He earned a video chat with my mom every time he went on the potty or toilet. It was very short and my mom was prepped beforehand on congratulating him and then basically saying goodbye. She was a great sport receiving several calls during the day!

Grayson, oh my little Grayson boo. My mom shared a story about how my aunt potty trained my cousin at 16 months. She had been a stay at home mom and was stuck indoors through a rainy season while living in a trailer. Potty training relieved her of diapers and gave her something to do. This got in my head and I decided that since I was a SAHM and had the time to focus on it I was going to potty train Grayson at 16 months. I laugh now thinking about it. I was incredibly wrong. He had a good month of gains and I thought we were close! He was not ready and he refused to sit on the potty chair, like go stiff refuse, or have anything to do with any of it. I completely stopped and ignored all things potty related unless he brought it up. At about 19 months I tried again and he was into it. He was not fully potty trained until closer to 22 months though. He stayed in pull-ups until closer to 2.5 and then one night he told me no more pull-ups. I followed his lead and he’s been a rock star! He has an accident at night every few weeks, but that’s it.

Tips, Tricks, and My Random Thoughts

Below I have listed out all of the tips, tricks, and random thoughts that I have about potty training. You may not find it all helpful but I’m sure you’ll leave with at least a thing or two to try!

  • I have found the magic age to be 22 months. It seems that letting them explore at a younger age is very appropriate and then going all out with the 3 Day Method at 22 months if you hadn’t already.
  • If they show interest allow them to watch you and their other parent use the toilet. When you’re done say, “All done! Your turn!” and let them sit on the toilet.
  • Here is the link to the 3 Day Method¬†
  • I found that I really preferred the simplest potty chairs. Here is what I used:

  • I know some families that like to have several potty chairs and keep them in multiple rooms and even in the car. I found that having just one and keeping it in the living room worked best for those first three days and then from there I went with whatever worked best for us.
  • This is a trick that should be on billboards: sit your kiddo on the toilet backward. They won’t fall in and feel very secure sitting that way. And although it’s gross they can climb onto the toilet independently better than trying to sit traditionally.
  • I found these attachment toilet seats and thought I hit the jackpot! I even bought two of them so that each bathroom had one. I ended up not loving it as much as I thought I would. Grayson preferred getting on the toilet without help which meant sitting backwards. To use the seat attachment I needed to help him on or he had to do the stepstool which never seemed to work for him. I still think it’s the greatest invention!

  • I have a strong dislike of the term “go potty”. We have a potty chair and we go pee or “use the toilet”. I think this started when I had kindergartners and 1st graders saying they had to go potty and it felt like baby talk. This is totally a me thing, people. But now you know.
  • When sitting on the potty chair I’d gently push on and touch their little abdomen and say things like, “These are your muscles, use these to push your pee/poop out.” Both Barrett and Grayson learned really fast to engage their muscles. I wish I had these words when working with Marcus and Autzen.

Breaking it Down Even More

Choose 3 days when you can be home. It’s important to not have to leave the house for these 3 days.
Keep them naked or pantless, long shirts or dresses are good if you prefer them covered.
Give them juice and liquids to make them pee more. This will give them so many opportunities to try!
Sit at the potty chair and watch TV, play games, and work on little lessons, until they pee. Try sitting down and doing an activity about 10 to 15 minutes after drinking. You can give them the drink and then time them to see when it hits their bladder. I lived by the timer during these days! Here is the setup for one of our activities. Grayson would sit at this little table while on his potty. In this activity, he could hammer large nails into a pumpkin.
Find a reward that you can give frequently and you won’t regret it later. Grayson got to watch horse videos while he sat, and Barrett got to video chat with his Nana anytime he peed.
When you start you’ll have them try before doing anything. This builds in motivators throughout the day and helps keep a bathroom schedule if you tend to forget to prompt them to go. Here are some example phrases that I used:
  • We have to sit on the potty and pee before we go outside.
  • First, we’re going to pee. Then we’ll have a snack.
  • First, we sit on the toilet. Then we get in the bath.
  • Before we get in the car we need to go pee.
  • We can look at the toy aisle after we go pee.
Skip pullups except for sleep. I go straight to underwear. I believe them feeling the discomfort of being wet helps tremendously. (You’ll know if this works for you or not.) If you choose to use something at night and naps, especially to use up your diaper stash, then I changed the name from diaper to Sleep Diaper.
I throw away pooped-in underwear 90% of the time.
I line the car seat with a plastic bag and a hand towel. On long trips, I did use pull-ups. But not always. I used my judgment.
They live naked at home forever basically.

You’ve Got This!

It is a daunting task. Just thinking back to the days leading up to potty training and mentally preparing myself makes me tired. Read up on the 3 Day Method and jump on in. If you have any questions or more tips for other parents, please share them in the comments!

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