how I potty-trained my two-year-old


I ready so many articles like this when I first started thinking about introducing my then 20-month-old to the potty routine. Many well-meaning moms who had some form of success with potty-training tout the three-day method, or write books about their special theory, or routine, or what-have-you. Just do it such-and-such a way or in so many days, and BAM, you’ll be rid of diapers for good! I think it’s bullshit, frankly. You can certainly encourage and provide opportunities to your toddler, but they’ll start peeing and poo-ing in the potty when they’re good and ready, I’m convinced of that!

So yeah, my two-year-old is now “potty-trained” before her half birthday, meaning she no longer wears diapers/pull-ups during the day, not even for naps, not for long car rides, not for any reason. But I’d like to state, for the record, that I don’t think I can take a ton of credit for this one. I don’t know that what I did/didn’t do with her would ever work again for any other child. After hearing all of the stories from moms whose kids were super success stories or horrific “failures”, I’m kind of convinced that we’re duping ourselves into thinking we have that much control over the whole process. My theory is that when the kid is ready, the kid is ready, and all you can do is provide the supportive environment that will help facilitate the learning process when the toddler wants to participate in it.

Here’s what I did: At age 18 months or so I started putting M on a potty that has a mini-ladder and sits over the real toilet. I chose this type of potty as opposed to a separate little potty because… um, because I just liked it better. I also kind of wanted to her to use a real toilet so she a) wouldn’t have to make as big of an adjustment to the real one and b) I just want to flush the toilet, not clean out a separate basin of poo/pee. So I put her on this potty before and after her bath. That’s it. She’d sit on it for like, half a second, and be done. I didn’t even try to encourage her to do anything there. In the meantime, I took advantage of the toddler’s way of staring at you while you use the toilet yourself to point out what I was doing and show her the pee pee coming out and going into the toilet bowl.

Shortly before her second birthday I got the brilliant idea that we were going to “potty train” in three days. I read success stories and articles and was like, yeah, we can do this. Three days, here we go! We stayed on hard floors, I gave her tons of liquids, I tried to think of fun activities to do indoors, and… I had a few successes. She started peeing in the potty on a somewhat regular basis and I would make a big deal out of it and it was kind of encouraging. I offered rewards but she didn’t really seem to care about them (I know, weird kid) but she did seem to like the positive reinforcement and doing something the adults were doing. But… the three day method kind of didn’t work, in the sense that she wasn’t nearly ready to be out of diapers anywhere but at home. In fact, we went to a little restaurant during this time, sans diapers, and visited the potty no less than 10 times, and still we had a waterfall of pee cascading off of her high chair at one point. Super awesome story for her wedding day someday.

And yet, I was still glad we did the three days because it really jump-started the connection between pee/poo-ing and using the toilet for her. She got into the habit of asking for the “pah-ee?” and I get into the habit of taking her to it. Pretty soon, we were going nakey from the waist down at all times at home, and since she found a puddle of pee on the floor somewhat disturbing (I love this about her) she started really making it to the toilet almost all the time. Unfortunately, with undies on, she would mistake them for diapers and soak them.

After doing the nakey thing at home for a while, and encouraging her to use the toilet when we went to stores and on errands, I decided to get her used to underwear. This is like, 5 months later. She had a few accidents, but eventually, success! She really enjoys the fact that she can put them on herself. Once she stopped using the underwear as a diaper, I knew we had to try again at school. (She was still in pull-ups at school after too many accidents…) Our first day in (padded, trainer) undies at school was a great success! (Our second day was a pee success, but she poo’d in her undies, so… yeah).

Here’s the whole point of my blog today: If she had decided she wanted to go in a diaper and not on the toilet, that’s what she’d be doing. I gave her the opportunity to use the toilet, pushed the idea a bit, but she was ready. If she hadn’t been ready, she would’ve resisted and it wouldn’t have worked. There’s nothing I could’ve really done to “potty-train” her. I really think that all we can do is support their readiness. Honestly, I’m just lucky that my two-year-old is so very independent and wants to be just like the adults… she never needed rewards because being able to do “what the grown-ups do” is its own motivation for her. She was willing to use the potty when I asked her to, so I went with it. When she wasn’t ready or able to hold it at school or in cars in order to be fully trained, I held off. I didn’t push, but I tried to give her opportunities to use the toilet as much as possible. It worked because she is who she is, and she wanted it.

So, if your two-year-old isn’t potty-trained, it’s nothing you’re doing or not doing, as long as you’re providing opportunities and watching for readiness. I have plenty of challenges with this child in other areas… so I’m going to take this one and run with it!

Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

9 thoughts on “how I potty-trained my two-year-old”

  1. Yeah I’m learning that I have no control in this arena. I’ve offered Evelyn the potty SO many times. We talk about it daily, read books, I offer rewards, etc…And she flat out refuses to even SIT on it. I can’t force her to do it (I wish I could!), so diapers it is for us. I really hope she comes around soon, though. I don’t want to be changing a 3-year-olds diapers.

  2. I think the 3 day method is bunk. I don’t like the pushing of liquids either. But I also think it’s bunk to not start potty training until a kid is almost three. Everyone without a medical issue or disability, will potty train eventually but not inaltroducing it until after 2 means, for a lot of kids, they will be too obstinate and resistant to potty train easily. I like that I started him on it really early, before he could walk. I have worked with enough kids in this age group to know I didn’t like changing poopy diapers of 2-4year olds! I think that how our culture parents is also a big factor in these late potty training tendencies. Anyway, I agree that no method works for any one child. It would be cool to see a book or article outlining all the potty training options and pros and cons of each, along with how to know which would work for your child.

    1. My Nepali family had their daughter fully trained before she was 18 months. The trick seemed to be doing it before kids could walk (sitting them on a potty with things to play with until they go, then they get positive reinforcement).

      1. And they don’t lose the body connection that three years in diapers ignoring their signals causes! I read some of an elimination communication book and it made a lot of sense even if you don’t do it full time. I felt it kept that connection working for him. Now I realized that his constipation was probably part of his low muscle tone (aka likely CP).

      2. It’s definitely good, but their society also supports the workload that goes with it, like a steady stream of aunts, siblings, cousins, grandparents, neighbors, etc who all share childcare responsibilities. It’s no wonder that children where diapers so long in western cultures, where mothers are far more isolated.

  3. Ugg. We have to start this soon. Dex has learned to take his diaper off. lol There is a 10.5 month old at daycare that is FULLY potty trained!!! Never has an accident. Seriously????

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