Potty training thoughts and reflections

When I decided to begin potty training Ruthie, I had no idea where to start. I went out and excitedly bought her some big girl underwear with her favorite characters on them, a potty seat, and a stool. Then, when I got home, it dawned on me that I had no idea where to start. I did some trial runs of putting Ruthie on the potty, but the results were inconclusive.

So, like any mom nowadays, I turned to google and Pinterest for help. Apparently, the so-called three day method is all the rage these days. I was pregnant with my third with a toddler and a baby at that time, and after reading up on the three day method, I decided that was definitely not an option. I could not be watching the baby while waddling after the toddler to catch her every time she started having an accident. So the potty training plans were put on hold until after the baby came.

This last week I resumed the potty training. I decided to just pick and choose the advice and parts of the methods I saw on the internet, and just tailor it to suit Ruthie’s needs. I noticed that there are a lot of resources out there claiming to unlock the secrets of potty training that were actually trying to sell you an expensive book, product, or DVD series. Now, I’m all for trying to make a buck, but this just seemed to be taking advantage of desperate mamas. I am by no means an expert since I have just begun this process, but I will offer you what I have learned so far, FOR FREE! Because I am generous like that.

1) Pull ups are great if you are going somewhere and don’t fully trust your potty trainer yet, but don’t use them TO potty train. The key to potty training is for your child to realize when she is peeing and pooping, and pull ups are too close to the feel of a diaper for her to do that. The three day method advises that the child goes bare bottom for the first day, but with girls I was too afraid of urinary tract infections to let her sit around bare butt all day. The underwear worked just as well because it was still pretty obvious when she was having an accident.

2) Reward system. I give her one marshmallow for pee and two for poop. It seems to be working. I even give her a marshmallow if she started peeing in her underwear and finishes in the toilet. She has gotten to the point where she will feel a little bit of wetness in her underwear and immediately run to the toilet. We’re still working on her going to the bathroom before that point.

3) Pooping. Other moms tell me that this is the skill that comes last, but Ruth seems to have taken to this better than the peeing. She will go straight to the potty and poop without any prompt from me sometimes. Other times I see her straining and take her to the potty. Which brings me to:

4) Distraction. If I know she needs to pee (like after a nap or if she hasn’t gone in a while), and she refuses, then I ask her what songs she would like to sing on the potty, and we sing songs until she pees. If she has been squatting and straining like she needs to poop, then I sit her on the potty with the iPad watching Curious George until she poops.

5) Praise. She seems to respond well to my praise, but I think the marshmallows work better. When we just did praise, she would pretend to pee and then start celebrating by herself. It just added to her confusion when we tried to correct her untimely celebration. I have been sticking to the calm correction when she has an accident and telling her the characters on her wet underwear are sad that they are wet. She will say that back to me, so I suppose that is making an impression.

6) Timer. Now, a lot of things I read recommended you take the child to the potty every 20 minutes or so for the first day or two. This DID NOT work for us at all. I did it religiously all day the first day, and not once to she go pee or poop in the toilet whenever I did it. It became a horrible battle of wills, and we both ended up frustrated and irritated at each other. What ended up working better for us was for me just to wait for an accident and explain to her what we were trying to accomplish every time she did it. After about three days, the resentment wore off and she understands what I expect from her, and she will pee immediately when I put her on the potty before leaving the house, eating meals, going to bed, or if I just feel it has been too long.

7) Sleep times. We still use diapers for naps and night time. She is still in her crib, and I didn’t want to change too many things at once. She usually wakes up dry from naps. I get her to pee right when she wakes up.

8) Stuff I’ve needed.
•undies (the more, the merrier. You cannot have too many undies. You will go through all of them in a day in the beginning).
•Two potty seats, one for each floor of your house. Cleaning out those little potties did not appeal to me, and I wanted her to be used to big potties. Also, you can take one with you for when you do leave the house. You know, in a few years.
• Flushable wipes. Obvi.
• Fun hand soap. Children thrive on routine, and the whole potty, wipe, flush, wash thing seems to help it stick in her head.
• Stool. This has been great for when I’m nursing the baby and Ruthie has an emergency. Although let’s be honest, at this point they’re all emergencies.
• Travel potty. Mine you can use as a seat for a big potty or stand it on its own with a baggy underneath it. Haven’t used it yet, so we’ll see how useful it is.

We have been diaper free for a week, and I have been loving not having three in diapers! Totally worth the effort. Please feel free to comment with any potty training tips you have learned! We can create a free momma potty training brain trust.



About sylcell

Wife, mom of four girls, Catholic, insatiable sweet tooth
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33 Responses to Potty training thoughts and reflections

  1. Pingback: Three Day Method, My A** | Tales from the Mommy Trenches

  2. morgan says:

    As others said before me: you have three of them, they will all be completely different.
    My eldest (who will turn 4 next week) decided over a year ago, that he doesn’t want to wear diapers anymore. What followed were three weeks of hell. The first three days he pooped constantly in his underwear (eeeh!) and it took him about three weeks to learn noticing when his bladder was full. And all that with another toddler and a newborn.
    About three months later our daughter decided that now she’s over that diaper thing – she just turned two then. Same procedure, but now our eldest had a recession, too. Oh great…
    Nowadays, our eldest is just too lazy to use the toilet (yes. that are his words), so we still have a hell of a washload. We even tried to threaten him that he’s got to wear diapers again “like a baby”. His answer? “Diapers? Great! Then I won’t have to use the toilet anymore!!!”
    Yes, we have a bonus-system. We tried everything. He’s disappointed when he doesn’t get the bonus, but it doesn’t change anything.
    Our daughter is diaper-free. At least during the days. At night, that’s another story, but we think we still have some time for that. All in all, she’s not three yet and her brother still pees in his pants on a more or less daily basis, so… 😉
    But what I learned so far: you have to wait for them to decide that it’s their time to get rid of the diapers. We tried potty-training against their will, and it just added to our washload.
    Maybe there are kids out there for who potty training works. But not the ones having my genes.


    • Lizz says:

      I only have 1 who will be 4 in two months, and she, too, like yours, could care less about reward or using the potty. I guess it runs on our “genes/jeans” too!


  3. Stephanie Cox says:

    Just be ready for your others to be completely different. I have three kids, the oldest two are girls. My oldest was potty trained shortly after turning 2 and her story is similar to Ruthie’s. My second on the other hand turned 3 in March and has been potty training since last October. She does great with pee…IF she isn’t constipated, but is afraid to go poop. I think it all started when she knew she shouldn’t be pooping in her underwear but sitting on the toilet was frankly just not the right position for her to poop in (she would usually go while kneeling with her head on the ground and her little bum up in the air). She started to hold things in and got backed up so then it hurt to poop. Then she was just afraid to poop regardless of whether it was in underwear, diapers, or the potty–it hurt to bad. For a while, I’m pretty sure she was convinced that if she just had more control, she could hold it in forever; she just wasn’t good enough at holding it in. We have had a lot of talks about the digestive track and how her body is always making more poop and if she holds poop in then it gets harder and bigger so it hurts more to come out.

    I read a lot about different medications and what not to try to get her regular before trying to learn to go on the potty again, but I was not happy with anything I found. Miralax for example has not been researched for long term use, or even for use in children. Who knows what kind of long term effects there might be. Eventually we decided to up her fiber (she already has a pretty high fiber diet), give her prune juice everday, and use a suppository initially to get her cleaned out. That was just a few days ago. I think we are now slowly recovering from her fear of pooping as she is realizing it is so soft now. I hope this gets us out of the rut we were in. I was getting very frustrated with the cycle of not pooping for a week and then having smears in her underwear until enough managed to work its way out that she could hold it all in again. Oh, and in the meanwhile, she had a terrible time keeping her underwear dry because she was constipated (one of the earlier comments gave me insight into this–studies show that being constipated makes it so they can’t tell when they have to pee). Please let us be done with that…


    • sylcell says:

      Thank you for your comment. I’m struggling with some serious regression with Rue after our vacation. And she is getting willful on me and demanding a pull up instead of underwear so she can pee in it. It is time to stop using pull ups, I’m afraid,


  4. Regina S. says:

    Savannah just turned three in April and she started potty training at 2. It took about she was fully potty trained by December. What worked was definitely the reward, we chose M&M’s. and consistency. Going before we ate every time, going before nap and bedtime every time. Once they wake several weeks without being wet, try the undies at night. But make sure you get her out of bed as soon as she wakes or she’ll pee the bed before you get there. The naked baby thing didn’t work for us either. It was like having a new puppy in the house. She thought is was funny when she peed on the floor.


  5. Amber says:

    My son just turned two. I have also been doing pull ups only of we go out, nap times, and at night. I, on the other hand, done give him treats if he goes, but what I do, do is let him flush! He LOVES to flush, so of he doesn’t go, I tell him “no! You didn’t go potty, so we don’t get to flush.” He has picked up one it pretty fast. Although I am a single mom and he just went with his dad for a week, so hopefully he doesn’t regress and his dad kept up with it. Good luck to you. 🙂


  6. We are getting ready to start pottying training our almost 2 year old, but at the same time, I have a almost 6 year old who still wets the bed each and every night. We have tried a bunch of things such as sticker charts, getting her up several times during the night, scolding, praising, pullups, no pullups, etc. She sleeps really heavily, and I just don’t think her body realizes she has to potty at night. The doctor isn’t concerned about it, but seriously, I don’t want her to go to sleepovers at other girls houses and be the only one in a pull-up. Any advice on this older child problem?


    • Regina S. says:

      My sister stops giving any beverages to her daughter after 6 oclock. her daughter goes to bed around 8:30 so its a 2 1/2 hour window. She takes her potty right before she goes to bed. And as I said in an earlier post, make sure you get her out of bed as soon as she starts moving around. Not sure if you have a monitor in her room, but with my 3 yr old I can tell when she is starting wake by all the tossing and turning she is doing.


    • Mary says:

      I have read online about a connection between constipation and chronic bed wetting. It is because when kids are backed up it stops them from feeling the need to pee. This doctor had tested lots of kids with chronic bed wetting (over the age of 6) and all of them were constipated. His suggestion was to get them cleaned out. We gave our son lots of fruit and veggies and now he is much better. Hope this helps. Oh…and even if they poop every day doesn’t mean they aren’t constipated.


    • Stephanie Cox says:

      Sometimes it just takes a lot of time–I have multiple siblings (I’m one of eight) who had this problem until around puberty age. My mom tried all sorts of things. I remember one of my brothers even had a device he would wear that would sound an alarm when he peed but that didn’t even seem to help. By the time she got to my youngest brother, she decided to just let it run its course and he wore pull-ups (or depends when he got to big for pull-ups) until he finally grew out of it as a teenager. There are definitely things out there you can try, just don’t get frustrated if none of it works.


    • D says:

      We had great luck with taking our son to a chiropractor? He would often sleep so deeply and wet the bed and we heard that sometimes something can be slightly out of alignment and they do not feel the sensation of needing to pee. The chiropractic adjustment completely fixed it. If it started happening again, we would just take him in, he would get an adjustment and the bed wetting would stop again.


  7. Renee says:

    It has been several years since I potty trained my 3. I am on grands now. One thing I do want to share is that they all will be different. Watch for signs of readiness, like when they start being uncomfortable to be wet or dirty and let you know. My son had aspergers syndrome and was much more difficult than my 2 girls. we had to really work with him, and actually started letting him go pee on the tree outside at first, the potty scared him. For those with boys in town, maybe one of the urinals that hang on the side of the big potty would help. I am going to try that with my grandson. The girls were both trained by the age of 2, our boy was 3 1/2. Patience is the key to everyone’s sanity. just keep at it. You may have to take a short break, but it will happen.


  8. Joy Long says:

    I also just found your blog by the “lady ashamed of 4th” post and noticed this post as well. I have been “training” my oldest for almost two years now. She will be 4 this month but just a couple weeks ago has achieved “fully trained status”. I had literally been in tears for months trying to get her to poop in the potty and she would outright refuse to cooperate; at one point I even put her back in diapers because my third baby was due and I couldn’t handle cleaning up poopy messes any more. After months of desperately scanning the internet and posts on facebook pleading for help, I came across an article on “encopresis” and took some pointers from the recommended treatment methods. I explained to my girl that we had to teach her bottom how to poop in the potty and we were going to try mommy’s way for a while. I put her on a once daily half dose of miralax; and after every meal or before leaving the house, she had to sit on her potty for 10 min. If she did not poop in that time she could get up, but if she pooped before that she could get up early. We set the timer on my oven to beep when her time was up so she would know herself, and that gave her a sense of control. Within 3 days she was beginning to go of her own initiative. I still remind her sometimes because I am terrified of her regressing, but so far we have been accident free for a couple weeks.


  9. Chrisey says:

    I am having the same problem with my son he turned 3 in March. He’s my second of 3. his big brother was a breeze to train we used a sticker chart and m&ms…. I know everyone says don’t push they’ll do it when they’re ready, but I’m sick of hearing that, I know all kids are different, but the problem is he’s stubborn like me so neither of us is happy


  10. Debbie says:

    My question is how do you get them to quit peeing the bed? Now she’s a little lazy and don’t exactly rush to the bathroom everytime she needs to go but I feel a 3 year old should be completely potty trained don’t you?


    • sylcell says:

      I haven’t night trained mine yet, but I’ve heard that if you take them to the potty later in the night when you are going to bed, it helps.


    • Risa says:

      I didn’t even try to potty train my oldest daughter until she turned 3 and she wasn’t out of pull-ups (at daycare only – we used undies at home) until she was about 3 1/2. She was just too busy playing to care about going potty. She wet the bed each night until she was about 4 1/2 so we used pull-ups at night. I feel that her body just wasn’t ready to make it all night. For some reason she didn’t wake up when she had to go. When it changed it literally changed overnight. After her first dry night we have only had one accident and that was just a partial accident (she finished in the potty). My youngest daughter, on the other hand, was potty trained by 2 1/2, but still wears a diaper at night.

      Basically, I think every child is ready in her/his own time. It may not be when you think they should be ready or it may be before you thought it was possible they would be ready. It doesn’t really matter if you think she should be ready, if she’s not, she’s not. I know it seems like it’s been forever, but the night wetting won’t last forever and it’s not worth stressing yourself or her over it.

      No one looks at you when your 21 and says “You wet the bed when you were 3??????”


  11. lisaburns3 says:

    No surprising tips to share, although I will say that after cleaning up a potty over and over again when I was training my oldest son, I decided to get a seat for the toilet that has a regular sized seat and a child sized seat. It’s nice not having to clean the other potty.
    Also, I think I was a little overly ambitious and started my oldest son too early (about 22 months). He did ok but it was several months before he was really accident free.
    Now I’m about to start the process with my second son (28 months). He will actually poop on the potty fine but isn’t very interested in sitting to pee. And honestly, I’m not that interested in pushing it. (Though we will insist he poops on the potty, because, gross!) I am confident it will happen in time.
    I wish you much potty training success!


  12. Ronni says:

    My daughter will be 3 in November. About two months ago she was (what I thought was) almost potty trained. Then, she just stopped and hasn’t used it since. Dr says don’t push it But now that summer is coming the idea of pee diapers in 100 degree heat doesn’t seem very appealing.


  13. Theda says:

    I have a 3 1/2 year old boy who REFUSES to use the potty. I am at my wits end on how to potty train him. Has anyone else had this problem? His DR said to not push the issue….he will do it when he is ready. Ummm HELLO?? Diapers in his size are expensive! He did have some sensory issues when he was younger but had made great strides since then. I am wondering if that may be part of his problem with potty training. I am just frustrated.


    • sylcell says:

      I saw the blog of this one woman who bought newborn size diapers and then tried to put them on her son and said, “look! Your diapers are too small!” She then had her husband have a “peepee party” weekend with her son and every time her husband went to the bathroom he brought his son. Good luck!


      • Theda says:

        That may work. “Oh my Jaden….these diapers are too small now that you are getting so big!” I will try that! Thanks!


    • Ashley says:

      my son is 3 1/2 years old too. and I have the same problem. He tells me the potty is too big for him. and the dr says the same thing don’t force him.


    • Kari says:

      Hi! My daughter is 3 1/2 and has SPD. She refuses, screams bloody murder actually, if we attempt to put her on or around any toilet, kid size or normal. Her dr and occupational therapist has told us not to push it. Also many many kids with sensory issues do take longer to become potty trained. For now we have backed off, and one time daily when I change her diaper I just ask her if today is the day she try’s the regular potty. At first she would very aggressively say no way, to where now she will pause for a few moments and then say not today momma but soon I will. Which is fine by me as I know it will come eventually, even if people all the time constantly say “isn’t she a little old to still be in diapers”. Good luck with your son!


  14. Crystal says:

    Hi! I just came across your blog because of the “to the lady pregnant with her 4th baby” post. Loved that and wanted to leave more about how old your girls were. That’s when I saw this post. How old was Ruth when you started the potty training? We have 3 girls as well! Evelyn is 21 months, Felicity is 9 months and Alaina is due Sept 15. Don’t really want 3 in diapers and would love more insight on why you waited till after the baby was born, etc!


    • sylcell says:

      Ruth will be three September 19, Rose is 20 months, and Wren will be five months on the 17th. We waited until after baby number three because I heard that they regress after a life changing event like a new baby if you train them before, and quite frankly I didn’t think I would be able to chase after a peeing toddler while having morning sickness or with a big belly. She has regressed a bit after our vacation.


      • Crystal says:

        Has it been hard with the newborn/infant? I have played out so many scenarios in my head, but I think we might just give it a whole day of trying and see where we get and if we need to wait a few more months we will.


      • sylcell says:

        The only thing that makes it tough with a newborn is if I’m nursing and she suddenly has to go potty. That is probably where one of those little potties comes in handy. She is hit or miss with getting up the stool onto the regular potty by herself.


  15. Sara says:

    Way to go RUE!!! (although to be honest 1/2 of the praise should be given to mama!)


  16. Jessica says:

    Woohoo! One out of diapers!! You deserve some marshmallows! And starbucks. Definitely, starbucks. 😉 Our approach with Kai was about the same and he took to pooping in the potty before peeing too, but he made a great poop face so those were easier to catch in time. He liked little sticker charts too as motivation.


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