Potty Training, The Easy Way!

It was a funny coincidence that Ean decided to stop peeing in the diaper right at the time when I wrote the previous article, asking for advice about your experiences with potty training. I got a lot of response and feedback from people both in the comments and especially in messages and I thank you all for indulging me with your experiences and giving me more knowledge and feedback to weigh into my own ideas of how to get this done and this is how it went.

Let’s start at the beginning. On purpose, for as long as I’ve been able to hold Ean with one arm, I’ve been taking him to the bathroom with me to see and understand the connection of how to use the toilet. Once he had started to walk, which was quite late, about 1 year and 3 months, I thought it would be time to start working on the toilet skills. At about 1 year and a half I started putting him on the potty and the toilet on a regular basis but he was very reluctant, simply because he hadn’t developed the muscle control needed yet. He was still heavily relying on the diaper and didn’t have control over when it was time to pee or poop.

Once summer came around the bend and it got hotter, I let him run around naked in hopes that he would be more inclined to just run to the potty and do his business, but I could have him on the toilet for 5-15 minutes and still as soon as he got off the toilet, he could have an accident somewhere around the house. I was stupid and thought I could teach him by making negative associations, not scolding him, but showing disappointment and frustration with his actions, as I do with behavioural discipline to teach him when he’s doing something bad but here is the key point…

Don’t do that, it’s wrong. It’s like trying to guiding someone to learning a new skill, simply by showing them that failing is something bad, without knowing HOW to succeed in the first place, which I now understand and feel guilty about.

I believe using the toilet has two aspects, one is the intellectual understanding of what needs to be done and the other is the biological ability to actually do it.

So, you simply have to break it down into those two components. It doesn’t matter how intellectually evolved he is in his understanding of bodily fluids and toilets, if he hasn’t learned to control the muscles that hold it in and let it go… and vice versa. Both aspects have to be present to be able to be potty trained.

This is why I encourage you to, as soon as your kid has some independent mobility like stable walking, to start practicing using the toilet. Don’t just give them a toy to sit there waiting for them to just figure it out. I used play and practice to help him activate the desired muscles by showing, making sounds, pointing and poking. I didn’t know if it was helping because I wasn’t seeing any results at the time but I think it was all sinking in slowly and getting ready to manifest itself.

I did this once or a few times a day as a part of any learning exercise but it wasn’t until the diaper started to be more and more dry, that things started to progress faster. That is the first real sign I believe, that it’s time to complete the potty training because you now know for sure that your child wants and knows how to wait to dispose of his waste elsewhere. I think this was the best way to go about it because it meant zero accidents because he knew how to hold it until we got to the toilet, and we didn’t have to be on red alert 24/7.

We didn’t use stickers, rewards or any of those things, just verbal and physical encouragement, a hug, a high five and a hurray for mission accomplished. He would take pride in his success and that in itself was a reward for him. I find that, kids always want to imitate adults and Ean is no exception. Even when it came to the underwear, I asked him, do you want to wear underwear or a diaper? He would say underwear every single time because that’s what dad wears.

Anyway, getting him to pee in the toilet was pretty easy once he had muscle control and he just started to do it without any transition, but when it came to the poop, it was more of a learning curve. I read that children can experience fear for various reasons when they poop because a part of them comes out. I won’t get into the specifics here but let’s just say there was a bigger sense of urgency when it was time to drop duces. There were a few accidents during that week but first of all I calmed him down when he freaked out and applauded his attempt and said, next time in the toilet. Then, Ana came up with a great technique to calm him down and take his time on the toilet when pooping, simply by counting slowly together. It distracted him from what was going on and gave his bowels enough time to do their thing so he could finally go.

He was simply not able yet to isolate the muscles needed to poop on command but within a week he has now pretty much nailed it. When he goes to the toilet now to pee, he tries to poop as well, so he doesn’t get the code red run to the toilet emergency. It’s still not 100% perfected but he is officially diaper free.

In some of the feedback I got, some people said they just let their kids decide when they were ready to leave the diapers for the toilet, even around age 3-4 and while that is convenient for you as a busy parent, I think it might be environmentally irresponsible and a bit lazy as a parent. By the same token, I don’t believe you can force a child that is simple not intellectually or biologically ready.

So my advice to you is, be active as early on as possible for your child to make the connection, try it for a few days and stop for a few weeks or a month. Keep doing that until your child has reached the right level of development, which like everything else with kids varies a lot from child to child. Then, once the diaper is getting more and more dry, you know the kid can hold it in and it’s time for the final phase.

I know this was a bit messy (pun intended) but I hope it made sense to you and hopefully can help you in your own potty training mission. If you think this post might be helpful to someone you know, feel free to share it with them.