If you’ve ever been discouraged with potty training, you have to check out child-led potty training. This is a stress-free, laid-back approach to toilet learning! Hang in there, Mama. There is a light at the end of the potty training tunnel!
It’s been often said that your child won’t go to kindergarten in diapers, and, for most of us, that is true.
But when you’re knee-deep in pee, poop, and tears, and your child will still not use the potty, it’s easy to think they will never learn how to use the toilet.
Like I said in yesterday’s letter to the mom discouraged with potty training, it took me two entire years to potty train my firstborn.
So when my second child came along, I went back to the drawing board. Clearly, none of the methods I tried with my firstborn had worked, so I decided that this time around I wouldn’t push potty training at all.
Yes, you read that right: I would let her train herself.
It occurred to me one day that I believe strongly in baby-led weaning from the breast. Why would it be any different with potty training? Why would I want to push my girls into doing something before they were ready for it?
Although she was not quite as late of a trainer as my firstborn (who ended up training at 4 years and 2 months), my second child learned to use the potty at older than the norm–3 years and 4 months–but she did it herself.
She woke up one day and started using the potty. For about a week she worked on it, and I encouraged her. She had several accidents, but at the end of that week, she was potty trained.
My 3rd daughter just did the same–at 2 years and 9 months. Her training came overnight. She woke up one morning and said she was ready.
This is not considered anything extraordinary. Plenty of children are potty trained at a much younger age.
But guess what? She did it all by herself as well, and it equated to a stress-free, laid-back toilet learning experience for the entire family.
When I wrote about our potty training yesterday, a lot of moms (especially on Facebook) commented that they feel embarrassed when their children have trained later than age 2 when so many other moms are training their children at a younger age.
My thoughts? Who cares what the mom down the street is doing! Each child and each mother are unique, and I believe different training methods work better for different personalties.
The laid-back approach has been best for our family.
Where I went wrong with potty training our firstborn
Although she did have undiagnosed food sensitivities that I do believe played some part in her delayed potty training, one major mistake we made with potty training our firstborn was that we simply started too early.
As soon as she turned two, we started pushing the potty. It seemed to be what everyone else was doing, so why wouldn’t we do it as well?
But there was one big roadblock: She was not ready.
And her personality does not do well with pushing.
The more we tried to force her to potty train, the more she resisted.
Tips for Child-Led Potty Training
Yes, our second and third children did potty train themselves, but there are certain things we did to set them up for success.
1. Talk about going potty–a LOT.
While we never put any pressure on our second or third children to use the potty, we made it a part of our everyday conversations.
Starting at around age 2 1/2, each time I changed their diapers, I would say things like: “You know you can go potty one day!” or “You can go pee and poop in a potty like your sisters whenever you want!” or “You can put your poop in the potty and it won’t feel so messy.”
I always said these things in an encouraging tone, and when the girls would say: “No! I don’t want to go potty!” (which they would say sometimes!), I just laughed and said: “Ok! You don’t have to! It’s OK. You can stay in diapers for as long as you like.”
2. Let them see you and their older siblings go potty.
I don’t know about your kids, but mine love to follow me into the bathroom. Hopefully, the day will come when I can get some bathroom privacy again, but, for now, watching me use the toilet has helped my girls learn that sitting on the potty is a normal part of life.
When I sat on the toilet or when they saw their big sister sit on it, I would also initiate light conversation, saying things like: “You will go on the potty like Mommy and Big Sister one day! One day you will get to wear big girl panties, too! You get to decide when!”
3. Wait. Yes, wait.
There is no rushing with child-led potty training. You must exercise patience.
The whole point is that your child will train when he or she is ready–not when Mommy is ready.
It might be hard to keep buying diapers when your friends’ kids are in panties, but I guarantee that you will eliminate so much stress and experience fewer messes if you can just wait until your child is ready enough to initiate the potty training process.
(And if you want to eliminate the expense of diapers altogether, try cloth diapers! They really aren’t that scary!)
4. Ask your child if he or she wants to use the potty. But don’t push.
5. Encourage them.
When I had such a hard time potty training my firstborn, several people suggested I spank her. I could never bring myself to do that. In fact, I do not believe in disciplining in this way for potty training.
Instead of giving my girls negative feedback when they’ve had accidents, I made no big deal of the accidents and, instead, showered them with “It’s OK! We will try again! Let’s go find some new panties!” encouragement and praise for when they made it through a day dry.
What about potty training tools? Don’t waste your money!
I don’t even want to know how much money we spend on potty training tools with our firstborn: We bought two potty seats–one for upstairs and one for downstairs. We then ended up buying the potty seat attachments that go on top of the adult toilet.
We bought a travel potty. We bought stickers. We bought a sticker chart.
Although we did keep these things around for our second child, I realized that we really didn’t need them.
I am now convinced that if your child is truly ready to use the potty, these extras just aren’t necessary!
So I got rid of them when our third was still a baby.
When she was ready to train, she hopped up on the regular toilet and did it. There was no emptying poop from a child’s potty chair into the regular toilet.
It was absolutely mess-free. (And I spent hours and hours scrubbing accidents from the carpet my first go-around!)
The only potty training tools we kept around were some storybooks that we would start reading every once in a while once our girls turned two.
We actually kept these books in the bathroom, so I could read them to the girls while I was using the toilet.
Now, they can “read” them to themselves! The only three books we have used and love are:
I think I have this one memorized. We’ve used it with all three girls. The child in the story actually has an accident, but the mom makes no big deal out of it! Three cheers for child-led potty training!
My mom bought this one for our 3rd on her second birthday. The panties the princess is wearing feel like real panties, so that makes it extra fun for little girls who are learning.
This is another one we have used with all three girls. You can actually move the potty seat around from page to page, and the storyline asks the question of “what is a potty for?” It’s a really cute read.
I hope that these tips will help you see a light at the end of the potty training tunnel and encourage you to give child-led potty training a try!
Have you ever tried child-led potty training? What are your tips for stress-free, laid-back toilet learning?
Don’t miss these other encouraging posts for the potty training mama:
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