This is going to sound absolutely insane — my 2 year old potty trained herself.
Yep, you read it!
One day she said to me,
“Mama, I no wear diapers. I go on potty now.”
We stared blankly at each other for a few moments and I said:
Ok…let’s go on the potty!
I kid you not, for the first few weeks we had almost NO accidents. And the accidents we did have were when she couldn’t get undressed fast enough and she tinkled a little in her undies.
It was absolutely insane!
I pride my blog on complete honesty and transparency, so I must disclose with you that there was a regression.
It was frustrating. I was annoyed.
We didn’t get through the potty training period with no accidents. But who does?
She knew how to go on the potty but was choosing not to when she was having fun and didn’t want to stop playing, or she would flat out say “I’m going potty right now” and would just pee her pants. This is normal 2 year old testing behavior. I’ll discuss how I managed that further down in this post, but it’s really annoying (yet totally normal) behavior.
We still wear diapers at naptime and bedtime, but I’m totally cool with that (and she wakes up dry sometimes!). She sleeps in really great, long stretches, and I’d rather her not wake up because she has to pee.
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So, what did I do that made her want to use the potty?
When she was around 18 months, she started expressing interest in potty training. She told me when she was going to go in her diaper, would tell me if it was “tinkles” or “poo poo,” and would promptly want her diaper changed.
I thought, oh boy…here I am with a newborn, and my 18 month old is showing signs she’s ready to potty train?!
We gave it a try for a few days, and she ultimately wasn’t ready. I took her to Target and let her pick out some Moana underwear, a puppy dog potty seat, and a treat for when she went potty.
Here and there she’d ask to go potty, but I never ever put pressure on her. After all, it was easier for her to be in diapers. She eventually started sitting on the potty just to get her “treat.”
However, here is what I DID do.
Every single time I’d change her diaper I’d say:
Ellie, if you ever want to go on the potty, you just have to let me know. Once you start going on the potty, you don’t have to wear a diaper anymore. You can wear your Moana undies! Let me know if you ever want to try!
She would always respond, “Ok, mama!” and go on her way.
Then one day, she simply said, “mama, I no wear diapers. I go on potty now.”
That was it, folks! She decided she was ready, and we got started.
How do you know if your child is ready to potty train?
There are many ways to determine if your child is ready to potty train. Here are a few:
- Your child can identify when they have to pee or poop
- Your child tells you when they have soiled their diaper
- Your child does not want to wear diapers anymore
- Your child shows interest in the toilet
- Keeping a dry diaper for long periods of time
- Showing interest in other people using the toilet
- Talking about the potty
- Your child can tell you when they are going pee or poop
If your child isn’t ready yet, there is no need to force it! Everyone is ready at their own time. You can encourage readiness by:
- Talking about using the toilet when you go (example: “I’m going to the bathroom now because I have to pee! I don’t wear a diaper, so I need to sit on the toilet to go pee.”)
- Talking about it when you change your child’s diaper (example: “I see you went poop! I go poop on the potty. If you want to try pooping on the potty next time, tell me before you have to go and you can go on the potty, too!”
- Making elimination seem normal and acceptable
We made potty training completely in her control
I did not set a timer for 30 minutes and make her sit, I did not make her sit on one potty or another… I let her lead the way entirely.
If I noticed that she hadn’t gone potty in awhile, I’d suggest she go by saying something like:
Before we do that activity, why don’t we try sitting on the potty!
While your lunch is heating up, let’s go tinkles.
Are you starting to feel like you have to go potty??
Make sure you let someone know if you feel like you have to use the potty.
Most of the time she would agree to go, but if she flat-out refused to, I would say, “OK, but we’re going to go on the potty soon. Let me know when you’re ready.”
I know this is against a lot of “common” potty training methods. You’ll read over and over again to set a timer for 30 minutes, offer lots of praise and reward, let them run around without a diaper on, etc.
That method works GREAT for many people. But if you have headstrong, stubborn, independent kids like my Ellie, that probably will turn into a series of meltdowns and power struggles.
Giving your child control over their body is a great thing to teach them, and it can start with potty training.
I never made potty training a power struggle
And I think that’s why it was so easy!
If she tells me she has to go, I trust her. Sometimes she insists she has to go just minutes after she’s already gone, but I let her try anyways.
And I also trust her if she says she doesn’t have to go.
Does this mean we have accidents sometimes? Sure! But if I dragged her to the toilet against her will, she would not go. I tried it a few times, and it was apparent that she was not going to use the toilet if it wasn’t on her terms
Let there be choices!
We have three bathrooms in our house, and we let her pick out a super special potty seat! When it’s time to go potty, we say “which potty do you want to use?!” and she will excitedly pick one!
We also made a special trip to the best place on Earth (Target, obvs) to pick out “fancy underwear.” She now gets to pick between Moana, Frozen, assorted Disney princesses, and unicorns or mermaid undies every morning. I always say, “wow, these are really great underwear! We’ll have to be really careful not to have an accident in these undies!”
Toddlers love to express their autonomy at this age, and by giving choice you are acknowledging that they are capable of making decisions! It makes a huge difference in their attitude about potty training.
How I handled accidents
I try very hard not to embarrass or shame my daughter. Most of our accidents happened out of the house (one time at my in-laws she had THREE accidents!!) and it can be really embarrassing.
Trying very hard to keep my cool, I’d bring her into the bathroom quietly and tell her that she can always tell an adult if she has to go potty, and we’re going to have to go clean up her mess.
Whenever she has accidents, we change back into underwear (not a diaper! Diapers are not punishment!) and I would hand her a towel to clean the mess. When she was finished, I would tell her thank you and then finish cleaning the mess.
The most important thing: don’t yell or scream, and try not to make a huge deal of it! You don’t want your child to start having accidents as an easy way to get attention, or as a way to assert their authority over yours.
I will say, we rarely had accidents. If we did have accidents, it was because we were out of our normal environment where she didn’t want to take a break because she was having so much fun. For the most part, she knew to go on the potty or tell someone to take her!
I am confident in her ability to use the potty, and it projects onto her as well!
Some kids are scared of the big potty! This may help:
Summer Infant makes a training potty that can help prevent fear of toilets.
It looks like an adult toilet which can help your little one get used to the look and feel of a potty, but it’s the perfect size for a toddler!
It has a built-in splash guard to prevent any spillage as your little one learns to sit on the potty. The seat can also be removed and placed onto a large toilet to work as a trainer seat when your child is ready to move on up!
There is also a wipe compartment in the “tank” of the toilet, so it’s easy to keep things right where you need them.
It even has a little handle to practice flushing with! I mean, how cute is that!!
The reviews on this bad boy are overwhelmingly positive — this is a really great option for people who don’t have a potty on every level of their home, or if your child is afraid of using a large toilet!
Click here to order your training potty! It comes in white and pink (and they’re seriously adorable!)
Small toilets like these are great to keep in the car, too! There will inevitably come a time when you are out somewhere and don’t have immediate access to the bathroom – keep a potty in the car and you won’t get stuck with wet undies!
Pro tip: put a diaper in the bottom of the pot to catch the pee and throw it in the garbage when you’re done. Easy peasy!
Remember, potty training is a learned skill, and it takes a lot of practice! Offer a lot of praise, don’t make a huge stink about accidents, and within no time it will be mastered.
Every child is different, and there is no “one size fits all” for potty training. The best you can do is take bits and pieces from everywhere and make a plan that works for your family. It may take some trial and error – but what doesn’t?!
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Good luck, and happy toilet training!