Monday, November 26, 2012

Potty Training Tips

After the more "serious" nature of the Grace Parenting series,( part 1 and part 2 ), and (part 1 and part 2 ) of the Realities of Older Child Adoption series, I thought it would be fun to change gears today and talk about something a little less, shall we say, HEAVY? :) (And YES, I will be coming back to both of these series soon!)

How about potty training?

Yes, I finally potty trained little Miss Gabriella Mei.

I normally potty train my little ones right around their 2nd birthday. This triplet thing is a whole different story, though! I will admit, I waited until Gabbey turned three because I just didn't feel like doing it sooner. :)  (Public places are what make it challenging for me. Imagine three curious toddlers exploring public restrooms. Just.Plain.Yuck.)

But, it was time, so we plunged right in (no pun intended!) and Gabbey is now completely potty trained (with the exception of overnight).

Over the course of my parenting years so far, I have run the gamet of potty training experiences.

Eliana was trained at 23 months. With Nathaniel and Noah, I did infant potty training (also known as Elimination Communication) so they only used diapers part-time as babies. They were diaper free by their 2nd birthdays (but I hadn't changed a poopy diaper since they were under 6 months old---the best benefit to EC!)

Ethan's 2nd birthday fell soon after we brought Gabbey home from China (and right in the midst of our adoptions of Johanna and Alyssia), so I didn't attempt him until a few months after his birthday. (Actually, he was trained during Brent's trip to China for Lyssie. Initially, I was trying to train Gabbey that week, too, but it was just too much potty on the floor that first day so I put her training on hold until further notice. :))

Lyssie's foster parents used EC with her, so she actually came to us diaper-free day AND night (at 23 months). With all of the changes in her sweet little life, she regressed those first couple of weeks and had quite a few accidents, but she quickly went back to being accident-free (except for occasional trips to the park---the great outdoors seems to trigger her outdoor EC habits and she just goes!).

Just for fun (because I don't claim to be an expert, just a Momma with alot of potty experiences, lol), I'm going to share the potty training tips I've utilized over the years that have saved my sanity. :)


This is self-explanatory. If your toddler won't sit or stay when you tell them to, they're not going to listen when you try potty training. They have to be able to listen to basic commands and follow them pretty consistently first. :)


No half-hearted potty training will work quickly. If you go back and forth, or don't have the time to fully commit, WAIT. You're not doing yourself or your toddler any good if you aren't ready to be consistent. :)


I truly think the invention of pull-ups is what keeps toddlers in diapers until they're too old for them. The first day we start potty training is the last day I put a diaper on my toddler (with the exception of bedtime). Seriously, this helps. If MOMMA knows the toddler has underwear on, she will be MUCH more vigilant to help them keep dry. :) Don't put a diaper on in the car and tell the little one to "just use the diaper this time". This is WAY confusing to the child. Underwear and clothing feel gross when they're wet and that nasty feeling will trigger the "hold it!" mechanism.Trust me on this one.


Potty training should be FUN----don't have a negative spirit with your toddler! Stay patient, kind and calm. Give tangible rewards, sing and act silly when there is success, and praise, praise, praise your little one! :)

Okay, now that I've given some "tips", I'll share exactly how it works in the Bergey house. I'm sure potty training looks different for each family---there's truly no "right" or "wrong" way! :) This is just what works best for us.

 DAY  1: Bring out the new "special big kid" underwear, set up a treat jar, take away the diapers, and make a BIG, BIG, BIG deal about how the child is now going to get to wear big boy/girl underwear and go potty on the toilet.
Put the new underwear on the child, along with just a loose t-shirt. (This will save on laundry!) Give them a full sippy cup of liquid. (I don't usually give mine juice, but will do so for potty training as they'll drink more this way and need to "go" more.)
Explain the process in detailed, child-friendly language. ("You're a big girl now! You get to go potty on the toilet like Mommy does. When you feel the potty start to come out, tell Mommy right away!" etc)
Keep the child near you all day long. (I kept Gabbey on my lap or within 3 feet of me all day the first two days.) This way you can watch their body signals closely and instantly catch accidents. Keep track of how often they go, what they do right before they go (try to hide, wiggle, make a face, etc). Communicate that their potty "needs to come out!" and that is what they are feeling. Remember that your toddler is not used to controlling the muscle that keeps the potty IN, so it will come out unexpectedly at first. Rush to the toilet, even if the accident already occurred. (Gabbey pottied on my lap twice the first morning, lol.)
Take them potty about every hour. (My rule of thumb for potty training is that if my toddler is not staying dry for at least one hour at a time by day 3, they're not ready. Wait a couple of months and try again.) On day 1, let them sit on the potty for about 5 minutes each time. I give one "treat" for each potty attempt on the first day and two "treats" for each potty success. If they want to sit on the toilet more frequently, I say yes, even if that means they get more jelly beans than might be good for their teeth. :) I want them to WANT to sit on the toilet.
Expect several accidents on day 1. (This is why you keep the toddler near you so you're not cleaning up hidden messes.) Don't give up just yet! Day 1 is supposed to have accidents! Keep them in underwear and do laundry frequently if you need to. :)  All of mine have had their first success in the toilet sometime on day 1.
DAY 2: Keep yourself motivated, because today you are likely to gain much success! DON'T put a diaper back on your little one, even if you have to leave the house. Just pack several changes of clothes and deal with the accidents if they occur.
Continue taking the child to the toilet every hour or so (if they're already having successes, you can start to "space" it out a bit more, just a few minutes each day).
Continue to praise, praise, praise!
Continue to keep the child close to you all day long. Truly, this makes all the difference. You will find yourself in a continual cycle of cleaning up messes after the fact if you don't keep your child close. :)
Once your toddler is able to potty when you put them on the toilet, only reward the potty successes. If they start to regress (due to family stress, being away from home, new baby, etc), bring the treat jar back for a short time to help motivate them to try again. :)
DAY 3 and BEYOND:   Stay consistent. Even if your little one has occasional accidents, don't revert back to diapers. :) Let your toddler go back to playing away from you and see if they still stay dry. Gradually add time in between potty trips. A 2 to 3 year old can usually "hold it" for about 2 hours, depending on their liquid intake. Once they are consistently using the toilet, offer treats only when they either tell you they need to go or use the potty independantly. (With the exception of Alyssia, mine were all around 3 before they could go independantly. Alyssia was 2 and a half when she stopped needing help in the bathroom.)
----As for our little Miss Gabbey Mei? She had 4 accidents and 3 successes the first day, 2 accidents the second day, 1 accident the 5th day (we were at a restaurant for lunch and forgot to take her), and NO accidents since that time. It's been a full two weeks and she now stays dry for 2 to 2 1/2 hours at a time before she comes and finds me to let me know she needs to go. :) If she's wearing "easy" clothing, she can take herself to the bathroom, too! So proud of my littlest munchkin. No more diapers in the Bergey Bunch----must be time for another baby. LOL......


  1. Sounds like potty training around here. My 18 month old is now wanting to go potty every time his big brother does, and if I wasn't so dang pregnant I'm sure he'd be fully trained during the day by now.

    But you're right, as soon as everyone is diaper-free it is new baby time!

    Congrats to Miss Gabbey!! And yay for Mama!

  2. Congratuations! I do agree with your tips on what worked for you and I have had great success with many, many children in my daycare with EC, all in underwear by 18 months, no sweat, just happened. I, too, encourage the "no more diapers except at night" part of making it successful, whether they are cloth or disposable diapers.

  3. Love your blog! Your words are very helpful to me despite living all the way over here in Australia. Your series on Grace Parenting is what I needed to hear and I cant wait for more on the topic! I have 7 children, 12 and due in 7 weeks. I was reading through a couple of my favourite blogs and was surprised to see this post as I had decided to start potty training my 3year old boy today! I was not looking forward to the hard work of it all but found your words to be encouraging. We only had two accidents today and both when I left him alone. I was thinking on your words all day. I have trained very similar to you in the past (5 kids so far). We wait till they turn 3 as it is so much quicker to train them! The only difference is that we stop night diapers at the same time. We night train by making sure they have little liquids after 6pm, put them down to bed at 7pm...take them to the toilet when we go to bed (10pm) and then take them to the toilet as soon as they get up (7am). We put a plastic backed fabric matress protector on the bed so if they wet in the night the sheets stay mostly dry and it can quickly e changed. I dont know if it is just my kids but day and night training at the same time worked best. There was only one child we didnt take away the night diapers at the same time as the day (that was because I was too lazy to do night training). A year later I tried but it took ages and he is the only one who still sometimes has an accident in the night (he is now 7). Thanks again for your words. Blessings, Amanda.

  4. I loved ECing my son! It was one of the best things I was able to do. He was also diaper free by two. And I also didn't change many poopy diapers after 6 months. I fully hope to be able to EC another baby! Love your blog!!


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