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I wouldn’t consider myself an expert potty-trainer by any sort (that would make for an interesting business card, though, wouldn’t it?). I successfully potty-trained myself (ok, so I had a little help from my mom) and two of my boys. Disclaimer that I’m not an expert aside, I’ll share what works for me.
My oldest was so, so hard to potty-train. He is strong-willed to the nth degree. He resisted every one of my attempts to get him to use the potty. Finally, right before his 3rd birthday, he decided he wanted to do it. It was his idea, and he was successful (except for a summer of pottying out in the yard, like the dog).
My middle son is potty-training now. We tried several months ago, and he was doing well for awhile, but then started having so many accidents that I tabled the idea, and brought back the diapers for a few more months. Several weeks ago (right before his 3rd birthday), he decided he wanted to go to the bathroom like his big brother, and off he went. He’s been using the toilet ever since, with a few accidents here and there.
So what specifically works for me?
- My experience with boys, as well as the advice of our pediatrician and several mom friends of multiple boys, is that it works best to wait until boys are closer to age 3. Of course, you can introduce them to the idea before that, but I have not had much success with actual training until they’re very close to their 3rd birthday.
- Forgo the little kids’ toilet and just buy a seat that you can put on the regular toilet seat. I read in
Michelle Duggar’s (the supermom of 18+ kids) book--The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families--How they Do It that she waits to potty-train until her kids can get up to the toilet and handle the specifics on their own. I think that is good advice.
- As I have potty-trained the boys, I have found it works best when they can initiate it (“Mom, I have to pee”) rather than me taking them to the bathroom every half hour to “see.” Of course, in the beginning, you will still have to initiate the trip every hour or so, but it still helps if they have an awareness of whether or not they have to go.
- With my first, we checked out lots of books from the library to introduce the idea to him. I think this works well for visual learners as well as only/oldest children. For subsequent kids, older siblings are a great motivator.
- Candy. I let the boys pick out one bag of potty-training treats. They get one piece if they successfully go (or even if they give it a good try, because I'm a pushover like that). Right now, it’s Jolly Ranchers. Bad for their teeth, I know, but it provides a great incentive.
- When they’re serious about potty-training, switch them to undies right away. Yes, you may have to go through several changes a day, but you want them to it to feel slightly uncomfortable when wet. Change them into a dry pair, have a little talk about trying to get to the potty earlier, and just keep asking if they have to go to the bathroom. Take them if a few hours pass without them admitting they have to go.
- Teach them to listen to and obey their “signal.” In her book, Michelle Duggar also wrote that they use potty-training to teach spiritual lessons: that God gives us a signal that we have to go to the bathroom, and we need to listen and obey that signal if we don’t want to have an accident. Similarly, God gives us as Christians the Holy Spirit, and we need to train ourselves to listen and obey His still, small voice in our lives, or we’ll run into trouble.