We never expected that potty training out toddler boy would land us in the Emergency Room.
Don’t get me wrong, everything turned out all right in the end.
But most parents don’t know what to expect when it comes to the messy process of potty training.
When we potty trained our son, he had just turned 3 years old, and we felt pressured to do it despite our boy not being ready.
We learned a lot when we potty trained our toddler, and we eventually succeeded.
But it wasn’t at all what we were expecting.
Here’s everything we learned when potty training our boy!
6 Signs That Your Toddler is Totally Ready to Start Potty Training
1. Showing Signs that He or She Wants to Go Pee or Poo
Showing signs of wanting to go is a very important step in potty training, you may be seeing that your child hides in a corner to go pee or poo.
He may also cross his legs when he needs to go pee, or grunt when he’ss going number two.
All this means that he’s communicating that there’s something happening down there, and this is where it all begins!
2. Showing Interest When You Use the Potty
Is your child following you around the house and looking intently when you go potty?
My toddler followed me around before he starting asking potty questions, so this is a very difficult sign to interpret because they are curious and interested in most of the things you do.
But if he’s asking you what you’re doing, copying you or showing more interest than normal, he may be ready to potty train!
3. Having a Dry Diaper for Longer Periods Of Time
Another sign of readiness is waking up from naps with a dry diaper, or going long periods of time without a wet or dirty diaper.
This means that your toddler has more control of his body and is ready to wait until he gets to the potty to go.
4. Tells you or Signs You that They are About to Go or Have Just Gone
When Ollie communicated that he had just gone, we always told him that he needed to say it before!
But no matter if it happens before or after, it means he is recognizing that he needed to go and has gone, and that is a good sign.
5. Showing Signs of Being Uncomfortable In a Wet or Dirty Diaper
Toddlers who are ready to potty train will seem uncomfortable in dirty diapers.
They may pull or squirm, and even say that they want you to change him right away.
6. Has a word or sign for pee and poo.
It’s important that you can both communicate in the same language so that you can tell your toddler all about going to the potty.
And she can understand it and process it.
Having a word or sign for “pee” and “poo” is crucial for communicating through the whole process, and making sure that all caregivers are using the same word will boost your toddler’s success!
4 Things to Expect When Potty Training
This is the thing that we were expecting the most…
… and the thing that happened the least!
Some toddlers have a lot of accidents when they are potty training, some hold it as much as they can.
Either way, be prepared to clean some messes for several months after you begin!
Even toddlers who are completely ready get confused by potty training
They have spent all their lives without having to control anything and with comfort and easy diaper.
Now they have to learn something else entirely.
They will be confused about their underwear, the potty, how they feel, and will be expecting a diaper to go.
3. Holding Pee or Poo
This is the thing that we were expecting the least…
… and the one that happened the most!
Confusion may lead to holding everything inside.
When we were potty training, Ollie held everything for up to 14 hours.
We were desperately worried, and Ollie was angry, confused, and hurt.
We thought he might have an infection (and he was putting himself at risk of infection) and we rushed to the ER.
Honestly, we’d rather have the accidents.
4. Your Toddler Will Try To Find Ways to Avoid the Potty
Oh, toddlers are so smart.
Expect lots and lots of manipulation.
Crying, or being extra cuddly, asking you for a diaper just for a little bit, or not going to the potty in protest.
In fact, at first, most toddlers wait until they have a diaper on to do what they’ve been holding for hours!
9 Common Potty Training Mistakes You Want to Avoid
1. Not Waiting Until Your Toddler is Ready
We had to start before Ollie was ready, and I don’t recommend it.
School was starting in September, we had a summer trip in July, and he had just turned 3.
We had two months before our trip to get him as trained as possible, so we were under a lot of pressure and we tried rushing it.
It’s not like it didn’t work out in the end, but it was especially difficult.
Ollie did successfully potty train, but he was very confused, held his pee and poo for dangerously long periods of time, got clingy, whiny, and did more tantrums than normal.
By the way, if you want to know about how we handle toddler tantrums, you can check out this link.
If we would have waited until he was ready, I feel that everything would have been easier.
2. Not Being Prepared
Us parents also need to be ready to potty train.
That means having time to constantly supervise your toddler for at least two weeks.
Having extra clothes on every occasion, limiting your outings, having proper cleaning products at hand, and not planning big trips or events for at least one month.
It’s also best to skip potty training in the Holiday season since it’s so busy.
3. Using Pull-Ups
The thing about pull-ups is that they feel like diapers.
And toddlers are incredibly smart. They can hold it and go in their pull-ups as soon as you put them back in.
For potty training, it’s best to skip the pull-up phase, it also avoids confusion for your toddler.
4. Using Diapers at Naps, or at Convenient Times
The best to avoid confusion is to skip diapers altogether.
If your toddler is ready and you have decided that it is time, then go cold turkey.
Again, kids are really smart, they will just wait until they have a diaper on to go.
We did use a diaper with Ollie at night, but we put it after he fell asleep and removed it before he was awake.
Some moms recommend skipping the night diaper as well and protect your mattress with plastic, in case you’re not able to put a diaper on your toddler without waking her up.
5. Not Giving the Process Enough Time
Potty training doesn’t happen overnight.
We were about to give up plenty of times, and even though one day (two weeks in), Ollie finally got it, it took us months for him to be fully potty trained.
The thing is that potty training isn’t a binary thing, there are several “phases” we discovered that Ollie went through:
- First, toddlers need to understand what their potty is for.
- They need to pee most of the time in the potty.
- Then, they need to learn how to poo in the potty.
- They need to learn how to use another potty when they are traveling or outside of the house.
- They need to master potty training at nighttime as well!
6. Punishing or Getting Too Angry
Getting angry or punishing your toddler when he doesn’t go to the potty or when he has accidents can generate fear and anxiety around the potty.
Correction, more anxiety around the potty, because most toddlers are anxious about the whole thing anyway!
If you feel like you can take it any more, change roles with your partner and take a break!
7. Over Rewarding or Cheering
We did cheer whenever Ollie got it right.
But over rewarding or cheering exaggeratedly can also create false expectations for your toddlers.
He will be expecting you to do the same over and over again and may rebel and stop going to the potty if you don’t have a gift ready for him.
It may work at first, but it can cause regression later on.
8. Putting Too Much Pressure Into Your Toddler and Yourself
Don’t worry mama, he’ll get it!
If he feels pressured he may feel super anxious around the potty and hold his pee and poo.
9. Forcing Child To Sit in the Potty Against Her Will.
This generates fear and anxiety around the potty.
If you constantly try to force your toddler to sit and he doesn’t want to, it won’t make a pleasant memory for him, and then he’ll be afraid to go!
10. Using TVs or Tablets During Potty Time
This will get yout toddler to sit all right.
When we tried it, I was so sure it was going to work.
What actually happened to us was that Ollie was sitting on the potty long periods of time just playing with the tablet without going.
And then he didn’t want to go if he didn’t have the tablet.
9 Tips for Potty Training Success
1. Schedule It Up!
Understand your toddler’s potty schedule, and sit him in the potty when “it’s time to go”
Toddlers usually go to the potty as soon as they wake up, every two hours after that, and every time after a meal.
So, sit your toddler in the potty for 30 minutes after each meal and frequently during the day.
2. Set the Example
Tell your toddler whenever you need to go and ask her if she wants to join.
Overreact when you need to pee or poo.
Cross your legs, rub your belly, and explain what you are feeling to your toddler.
If you can, ask for your toddler’s permission to use her potty so that she can see how mommy does it.
3. Coordinate the Potty Training Process With All Caregivers.
As everything with toddlers, consistency is key.
If your toddler is in kindergarten, coordinate with her teachers and make sure that you are both doing the same things.
Talk to your parents, brothers, sisters, husband, and whoever takes care of your toddler about the potty training method, and make sure they follow.
4. Celebrate Every Attempt to Use the Toilet
In a calm but proudly happy manner, celebrate every attempt without over-celebrating.
If your toddler sat for 30 minutes grunting and did nothing, celebrate that.
Even if it’s just a little tiny drop, show it to your toddler and praise it!
We went as far as celebrating accidents since our son’s pee and poo holding was an issue during his potty training process.
5. Keep Your Potty Close
At first, what was most effective for us was to “catch” Ollie in the middle of an accident with our potty at hand.
It helps them relate the action to the location!
So keeping the potty close at all times is a good idea, in case your toddler has an immediate need to go.
6. Sit Your Child in the Potty After Every Accident
The way we handled accidents that turned out to be pretty effective for us was the following:
- We celebrated them.
- We brought the potty and told Ollie that the next time he should go in there.
- He sat for a few minutes just in case he had anything else to do.
This all helped, again, to connect the action with the location.
7. Make Potty Time a Fun Time
Use stickers, colors, songs, or whatever you can think to make the potty as fun as possible!
We bought some markers Ollie loved and we called them the “Potty markers” and he got to paint all over our bathroom floor with the special markers while he was in the potty.
These markers were only for Potty time.
He loved it!
8. Watch Your Toddler for Signs That He Wants To Go
If you see your toddler crossing his legs, jumping slightly, making grunting signs or showing any signs that he wants to go to the potty, sit him on the potty.
If you are certain he will go, tell him that you’ll leave the room so that he can have so privacy, taking the pressure off him (but stay close listening just in case)
9. Choose the Potty Together
Before you start, go potty hunting and choose the potty together with your toddler!
Make sure you choose the one that he feels more comfortable in!
We used a transition potty, in case you’re wondering, here’s a link to the exact model Ollie was trained on.
4 Tips that Didn’t Work For Us But Some People Swear By
There’s a lot of advice out there, and I’m just sharing here what worked the best for us, but every child is different and what didn’t work for us may work for you.
1. Using Bribes
No bribe worked, we tried candy, toys, favorite tv shows.
He just didn’t want to go.
2. Using Their Everyday Toys With the Potty
We had his “potty markers” but any other toy he could just use outside the potty he wouldn’t use it while going to the potty.
3. Running the Tap or Using Water Sounds to Promote Going to the Potty
This only made us want to pee, while Ollie happily hummed and played with his toys.
The One Thing That Worked The Best For Us
For our little one, what worked the best was pretending we didn’t care.
Giving him his privacy while nonchalantly walking to the next room where he wouldn’t see us biting our nails seemed to finally do the trick.
That’s a Wrap (And How Potty Training Landed Us In the ER)
Potty training is exciting, scary, confusing, and a despairing process for most parents!
Our process was so intense we had to go to the ER!
In fact, let me tell you how potty training landed us in the ER.
Ollie wasn’t ready, we knew it, but we decided to push through anyway.
He was so confused and adverse to go that he held his pee and poo for long periods of time.
Up to 14 hours!
He had a surgery in his penis when he was 12 months old and has had one Urinary tract infection. So we were very worried he could get another one.
And we were desperate for him to go.
We had to go to the ER, where they forced him to go (he went by himself seconds before they tried a urinary catheter).
He was screaming as if it were painful, so the doctors ran every test so make sure he didn’t have an infection.
He didn’t! He was just resisting the potty.
I’m not saying any of this to scare you off, but so you know that in extreme cases (and especially when kids aren’t ready) something like this could happen.
But now you know better, and it won’t happen to you!
And if we could do it, you can do it too!
It just takes a lot of patience!