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potty training, part one

June 22, 2021

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What a time to be a parent! Teaching your child primal behavior after they’ve been in the comfort of their diaper since minutes after they were born is no small task, no matter what the books tell you. One of the many reasons I created Settle Up was to create a village of women to support each other with resources so they could make a choice on what is best for them. This potty training post is just that. I will share what worked for us and Jack and offer alternatives for you to consider.

This post is referred to as “Part One” because we’re only halfway through this process to Jack being completely potty trained. I will share “Part Two” once we’ve crossed the finish line. Let’s get into it!

Choosing Your Potty Training Method

Like in most parenting milestones, there are many theories and methods to choose from once you decide potty training is in your near future. I took a shortcut and, instead of doing the research myself, I asked other boy moms whose sons were successfully potty trained what method they used. I asked them questions about success, challenges, and their sons’ personality traits. Here are some commonly asked questions I’ve received since we began potty training.

Why do personality traits matter for potty training? Each child is different, and I believe this was a factor in choosing a method that worked successfully for Jack. Knowing how he’s handled other developmental milestones was integral to choosing a method.

Why only ask boy moms? I have tried to be as gender-neutral as possible for Jack and not tie him to gender norms. However, the “mechanics” of teaching a boy are different than a girl. I did talk to a few girl mom friends, too, and while their perspective was valuable, it was different than the shared, similar experiences with the boy moms.

How did you know Jack was ready? This is by far the most frequently asked question. Jack began showing interest in following Zach and me into the bathroom. He wanted to learn the steps (push pants down, sit down, wipe, flush, etc.) and he was proud to learn all the steps and later began to “direct us” in all the steps. He also began to resist his diapers and quite literally asked for “big boy undaaaweeeear.” The other indicator was the method I chose recommends beginning potty training between 20-30 months due to where they are in their development. This age range wants to be helpful, they enjoy praise, and they are not so independent that they resist everything you ask them to do. All of these signs allowed us to feel confident to start potty training at 28 months.

What method did you choose? Based on recommendations and Jack’s personality, we chose Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki. She has over 20-years of experience in potty training and is a mother herself. She speaks inclusively, with humor, and is incredibly pragmatic. She doesn’t believe in rewards for using the potty (no “sprinkles for tinkles” because you didn’t do this when they learned to crawl or walk), she doesn’t believe you let your child decide when they’re ready (and keep them in diapers until they’re 5 or 6), and her book is written in sections that make you confident in you and your child. If this already doesn’t sound like it’s for you, visit here for alternative methods.

How involved was your partner? This is a big one. Full transparency, Zach and I were not able to take off work for a week to fully immerse in training. My schedule is more flexible so I did the heavy lifting on the weekdays. However, Zach was fully on board with our method and read the how-to chapters to be just as prepared as me. If you have a partner in the picture, I highly recommend working together on your method, strategy, and schedule ahead of time. I could not have done it without being in alignment with Zach. If you do not have a partner, I would encourage you to enlist a family member or friend to support you throughout so you can have a break. A crucial element in the process is being well-rested so you can be ready for anything that comes your way throughout the process. Use your village and ask for help!

Supplies

Once you’ve decided on your method, you’ll need to prep with supplies. The list below includes recommendations from friends and the Oh Crap! Method. Our supplies will look different once we do poop and night training so I will share those in my Part Two post.

  • Training potty. We had one at our house and then purchased the same potty for the grandparents’ houses.
  • Toilet seat topper. I don’t know the technical name for this but this one was highly recommended by a good friend. It’s easy to use for the child and the adults, once your child is ready to use the “big potty.”
  • Waist band-friendly shorts for easy pushing and pulling. This was the most interesting (and fun!) learning curve. We practiced pushing the pants down and pulling them up a few weeks before we started potty training.

The First Day and Weekend

I’m not going to sugar-coat it. This was hard. It was harder than I thought it would be despite the warnings in the book. I was certain that since J was already so interested that he would be thrilled to participate. The Oh Crap! Method strongly suggests you take the first three days off from your social calendar, work, and personal devices (i.e. phone and computer) in order to be present while your child learns. I will not get into all the details of the book, but I will share high-level what this looked like for us.

Weeks leading up to that first day, we shared with J that we will get rid of his diapers and begin potty training so he could “use the potty like a big boy!” He was excited though he had no idea what it meant. On the first day, we shared “today’s the day!” and he was bottomless the whole day; no pants, no diaper. Who knew staring at your naked child could be more exhausting than sleep training. Essentially, he was learning what it feels and looks like to pee/poop, how to notice when he needs to pee/poop, and with our help, what it is like to pee/poop in the potty. He did as expected; a lot of accidents and two successful pees in the potty. Side note: During a final attempt on the real toilet before bedtime, the toilet began to overflow. One “flushable wipe”, two stressed-out parents, and a $350 plumber visit later, we were wiped out. I appreciated that the author noted we should have alcohol stocked up and on the ready for the end of the day. Oof. We needed it! P.S. No such thing as a flushable wipe. We will never use those again!

The rest of the weekend was tough. J, who is a naturally stubborn child, began to resist using the potty at all. The recommended phrases to encourage him to use the potty weren’t working and we felt stuck, frustrated, and exhausted. I have to give my husband credit here, he was much more patient than I was. However, by the end of the weekend, he wondered if we should reconsider and go back to diapers and try potty training in another month.

This is one of those moments where I believe your mom instincts kick in and you go with your gut. My gut told me he was capable and we would get through this resistance phase. I believed we just needed to reframe our approach to meet him where he’s at. The Oh Crap! Method offers supplemental tools on their website and I found some new phrases and approaches for us to try. After a few days of adjusting our behavior and language, J’s reaction changed too. That week and the ones that followed, J slowly began to use the potty without resistance, he could tell us when he needed to go, and he was pushing down his own pants and walking to the potty. HALLELUJAH.

Here’s an example of a shift in our language and approach.

“Hey! It looks like you have to go potty. Let’s go together.” We would take his hand and walk to the potty. This is where J resisted hard. He would scream “no!”, fight us all the way to the potty, and refuse to sit down.

Instead: “Hey buddy! In 10 minutes, we’re going to use the potty and then have lunch.” We would give an additional 5-minute warning and once the time was up, he would gladly use the potty. Attaching the potty to a part of his existing routine was a huge win for us.

Where We’re At Now

Today marks one month since we began this potty training journey. The Oh Crap! Method uses building blocks rather than timestamps to mark your child’s journey to being fully potty-trained. Block One is being bottomless until they graduate to Block Two when they are able to hold their pee and use the potty. We are currently in Block Two. Jack is successfully using the potty to pee but still wears diapers when he naps and sleeps, which is also the only time he will poop. We will likely begin poop and night training next month. We’re going on a couple of family vacations and this is our first time using the potty away from home. We didn’t want to introduce another new thing until after vacation. Plus, parents and J sleeping on vacation also sounds nice.

Yes, there are still accidents but they are rare. The few times J has had a pee accident is when he is having too much fun playing to stop and use the potty or if we forget to use the potty before we leave the house. This requires Zach and me to be on a higher alert to remind, suggest, and walk him to the potty. Our diaper bag now has spare shorts instead of diapers.

I am proud of our stamina and how hard Jack is working to really put all the pieces together. It is a wild transition for a toddler to work their way through and cross the finish line to be completely potty trained. I try to remember that in the moments when I get frustrated. We celebrate when things go well and we work through the accidents. After all, we’re learning this process together.

Have you been through potty-training yet? Would love to hear recommendations or things that worked for you and your little(s).

Thinking of starting? Just remember, you know your child best. Go with your gut every step of the way! You got this. Comment below with questions. I’d love to offer support throughout the process.

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