January 24, 2018

How I Potty Trained My Toddler In One Week

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I'm going to keep it real: potty training is hard. Like, really, really HARD. It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I'd say it's even harder than sleep training. I'll get into all the details below, but the reason why I wanted to preface the fact that potty training is difficult is because one of the books I read talked about how you should think of potty training as a "fun experience" that you have the privilege of going through with your kid. Well, I call BS. Nothing about the experience is "fun", at least for the parents who are doing the training. It takes hard work. In the end it's worth it because you have a kid who now knows how to use the toilet (plus, you can't have them in diapers forever), but I don't want to sugar coat the difficulty of the process. And while it may be difficult, it's obviously not impossible. You can do this, mama; just be prepared haha.

So I actually introduced the concept of potty training pretty early on with Adam, at about 18 months. I bought him potty training books and a potty chair just to start familiarizing him with the concept. I would try to casually get him onto the potty and at first he just had no clue what to do, and then the older he got he started to refuse it. So in hindsight the whole casually introducing it thing was just a waste of time. After I read up on the "bootcamp" method, I just decided to go all in when the time was right. I decided to forego the chair I had bought him and instead bought a potty seat to place right onto the toilet. I did this for two reasons: (1) I didn't want to clean up the potty chair; and (2) I wanted to teach him to go in the bathroom, on the toilet.

I initially wanted to potty train before Hannah was born but by the time I got around to seriously thinking about it, I was SO pregnant and exhausted that I just put it off. Plus, I considered the possibility of him regressing once the baby came home, so I decided to wait until after she was born and he had a chance to adjust to our new normal. The next challenge was finding three consecutive days where we could be home to do this. I definitely wanted to do it over a weekend where George could be home with me to help. It's a 3-day bootcamp method where you have to constantly watch your kid, and since I also have a baby (who I'm still nursing), I needed the help (I kept having visions of myself nursing Hannah with Adam taking a dump in the corner lol). So we waited until after the holidays were over and decided to go all in shortly after the new year. For reference, he'll be 3 in April.

Now onto the method. Like I mentioned, you're supposed to set aside a minimum of 3 days where you can be home for the training. With the method I initially planned on using, you're supposed to let your kid start off naked. You then basically watch them like a hawk and the second they start to pee, you rush them to the potty. I ended up using the same method but instead of having him go commando, I put him in underwear (you can read more on the method here and here). I did this because I read in some mommy boards that some kids who were trained commando would start to have accidents once they were in underwear because it felt like a diaper. So the underwear method is supposed to teach them to keep their underwear dry and to go to the potty once they feel the sensation.

On Day 1, you throw away any leftover diapers together and explain to your kid that he's now a big boy and gets to wear big boy underwear and that he has to keep them dry. At no point are you supposed to ask if they need to go potty because the answer will be, "no." Instead, you're supposed to "empower" them by saying, "tell mommy when you need to go potty, okay?!" You're going to repeat this all. Day. Every. Day. Like a broken record. It honestly gets annoying for you and them, but that's your way of reminding them about the potty. You're also supposed to ask them if their underwear is dry and give them a ton of praise to drive the point home.

Obviously, there are going to be accidents, so I bought maybe 30-40 pairs of underwear because you're going to go through them. You need to watch your kid carefully because once they start to pee, you need to "catch it" and rush them to the potty so that they can start to put two-and-two together: the pee sensation is supposed to be associated with the potty. The process is honestly exhausting because you're spending every waking moment with your kid. You can't be distracted with TV or your phone because you need to catch all the accidents. It's a very involved process. You also need to stay SUPER positive throughout it all and not use any negative words. Accidents are expected, but you just tell them it's okay and to let you know next time they need to go potty.

Since we went all in, we also left him in his underwear for naps and bedtime. We try to make sure he goes before his nap and at bedtime we were waking him once in the middle of the night to go. He's of course had accidents, but for the most part he's waking up dry. Also, I honestly don't think it's a 3-day method; that's a little unrealistic. For Adam, it took more like a week for him to solidify the skills. I want to put that out there because I felt like I was doing something wrong when it wasn't completely clicking for him by the end of the third day and I don't want other moms to feel that way. Just keep at it and give yourself 7-10 days.

So here's a rundown of how our week went:

Day 1: we started at 10am. We had him throw away the diapers and put him in his big boy underwear. We told him he was such a big boy and to tell mommy when he needs to go potty. He of course started off by peeing on himself and we would rush him to the potty. If he made any of it into the potty, we made a huge deal out of it and rewarded him with stickers (he LOVES stickers). He had about 3 accidents before he started to tell us he needed to go potty. He went down for a nap and woke up dry, so we had him pee right after. He went to sleep at 8:30pm and we had gone through 10 pairs of underwear that day. That night was pretty rough: he had 4 accidents.

Day 2: he woke up dry and we took him straight to the potty. He had accidents during the day because he was distracted by a movie. He would also start to pee in his underwear and THEN tell us he needed to potty. He also pooped in his underwear. We went through 12 pairs this day. He went down for the night at 8pm. We woke him at 11pm to pee. I then woke him for the day at 9am and he was dry so I took him straight to the potty.

Day 3: he seemed to hold it in for most of the day. He would again start in his underwear then tell us he needed to potty. But then he started to keep dry and told us when he needed to go. He did wake from his nap wet on this day. He went down for bed at 8:40pm, we woke him at 1am to pee, and he woke for the day at 7:45 dry.

Day 4: he woke up dry and went in the potty first thing in the morning. At 11am he got his underwear a little wet and then told me he needed to potty and he finished in there. Almost an hour later I noticed he needed to poop. This was it. The moment I had been waiting for. Since I knew he needed to go, I stayed on him like white on rice. I can't tell you how many times I would take him to the toilet and he resisted saying he didn't need to go. There was a lot of back and forth but he finally sat on the potty, crying. I've read that pooping on the potty is scary for kids because it feels like they're losing a part of their body. So I tried to just hug him and tell him to push it out. When he finally did, I of course made the biggest deal over it. I gave him a special prize and we called grandma and daddy to tell them how he went poo-poo in the potty. You need to be over the top and just rave about your kid throughout this whole process. After his nap he woke up dry but he later peed then told me he needed to go potty. I swear this whole process is one step forward, two back. You need to be PATIENT.

Day 5: this was my hardest day. This was the day that broke me. It seemed like he completely regressed and I was so tempted to revert back to diapers. This day he woke up wet. He held it all morning and then he came into the bathroom (while I was using it) to wash his hands and started to pee all over himself. Since I was on the toilet myself, I told him to hold it while I tried to rush off but he didn't. He later woke up from his nap soaked. Later in the day he would tell me he needs to go potty as he's peeing in his underwear. That night we tried to wake him to use the potty and he refused. It was an extremely difficult day. Not only had I been locked up in the house for 5 days trying to get my kid to learn how to use the potty, but I felt like any progress we had made was erased. I definitely had a breakdown this day but I knew I couldn't go back to diapers. Once you start, there's no going back.

Day 6: he woke up dry at 8am. He held it all morning and went to use the potty at 11:30 after I reminded him. An hour later, he asked to go potty while he was washing his hands and he went in the toilet again before his nap. He woke up dry and went again right after his nap. This day was a good day, especially considering the fiasco from the day before.

Day 7: he woke up dry and peed in the potty 3 times before nap time. He woke up from his nap dry. He had a couple damp pairs of underwear before he'd tell me he needed to go potty, but overall a good day.

Day 8: he woke up wet, but I think he had wet himself in the middle of the night because he actually woke up asking to use the potty and he went in the toilet. Later in the day he asked to go potty and he ended up pooping! There were still some tears involved but he was really happy afterwards. Later that evening he told me on his own that he needed to go potty so I took him in. While on the toilet he said he needed to pee so I told him to go. I think he meant poop because he actually ended up pooping again, on his own, with no tears involved! Major score!

As you can see from our week, there were a lot of highs and lows. Day 5 was much, much worse than  Day 1; in fact, day 1 was pretty easy. You honestly just need to stick to it. You're going to live and breathe by the potty. You're going to make up potty songs. You're going to have your ass handed to you. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just need to stay consistent.  

Potty training is hands down one of the hardest parenting experiences I've gone through. And while it's frustrating and I know I have to be prepared for future accidents, I'm really proud of my little guy. Just a week-and-a-half ago he was in diapers full-time, and now he tells me when he needs to go potty for pee AND poop, and is completely diaper-free, even at nap and bedtime. So if you're contemplating the bootcamp method, I say go for it, mama. Just be mentally prepared for the difficult week ahead but if you keep at it, it WILL click.

Good luck!


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