Our experience potty training a two year old, complete with what worked and what didn’t.
At 4 days in, I’m hardly a seasoned veteran, but before I forget what the beginning was like, I wanted to share our experience with potty training at two and a half years old.
It’s not the prettiest subject to discuss, but I’ll do my best to keep it tactful. There won’t be any shots of Hailey on the potty (too personal in my opinion) and I’ll use the language we use (tee-tee, potty and poopie – yes, go ahead and cringe, I still do).
The Lead Up: We’ve been thinking about potty training for a while and why we chose to wait until I was 35 weeks pregnant? I have no idea. About a week before tackling it, we started talking to Hailey about using the big girl potty like mommy. In doing this she’d get to wear her BIG GIRL undies (this is a BIG deal and we talked it up majorly). She seemed interested, even excited, so we decided to go for it. Up to this point, she had sat on the potty, but never actually did anything in it.
The Set Up: We have two potties: the Minnie Mouse potty (above) where she needs assistance getting on and off and a Baby Bjorn simple small potty, which she can run to on her own. Personally I prefer the Minnie Mouse because I don’t have to clean it out, but I wanted her to have options. She uses both.
The Plan: A modified three day method. I say modified because we didn’t actually read up on it ahead of time. I just knew when Friday morning came, we’d start off with a trip to the potty and the diapers would be gone for good. The days beforehand, we really talked up about how Hailey would get to wear BIG GIRL undies and how exciting it was that she would get to use the big girl potty like mommy, Nana and Mema (sorry to drag y’all into this too, but I needed all the female power I could get!)
On Friday morning I went to get her up at the normal 8:00am. Her diaper was dry so in my cheeriest voice I proclaimed it POTTY DAY and we went straight to sit on the potty. I explained to her (again) that teetee goes in the potty and she looked at my, smiled and said ‘it’s coming, mommy.’ From there, I learned I needed to be patient. 3-4 minutes later, she went teetee, in the potty and the dance party David and I had to celebrate was nothing less than epic. Pride beamed across her face as she proclaimed ‘I did it!’
From there she got to pick out which undies to wear (Elmo was a favorite, followed closely by Cinderella).
Instead of walking through the three days, which were full of ups, downs, accidents, successes and learning experiences, let me share a little of what worked for us and what didn’t.
What Didn’t Work for Us:
Forcing her to try to potty every XX minutes. I think this may be helpful at a younger age, but at two and half, she has rather good bladder control. After a wet morning diaper, she’d go hours without wetting it again, so having her sit every 15-30 minutes was futile and frustrating for her. To avoid a power struggle, we did away with this quickly.
Treats. I know many people will roll their eyes (David did), but I really wanted to try my best not to give her food as a reward for going potty. Not only do I not like to use food as a reward in general, but I was afraid it would lead to more trouble than good. I didn’t want her running to sit on the potty just to get a treat, so we went with excessive celebration over M&Ms. If we do need to go the reward route in the future, I’ll probably try stickers or other little toys, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can avoid them altogether. Again, we are still learning, so I’ll let you know.
Poopie: We have yet to have a successful #2 in the potty. I hear this is common. Since we are putting her in pull-ups (not diapers) for nap and bed, she’s waited until she has it on to go. It’s predictable and not too much of a pain right now, so we are riding it out until we have the rest of potty training down pat.
What Did Work for Us:
Excessive Celebration: I’m talking, over-the-top, best day ever, jumping up and down celebration when she went in the potty. We clapped and told her how proud we were and even called skyped with Mema so we could tell her all about it.
Plenty to Drink: We aren’t juice drinkers around here usually, but on potty weekend, we loaded her up with milk, water and juice. The more liquids going in, the more potty tries we had.
Going bottomless: Completely bottomless- naked. This wasn’t possible all weekend, but Saturday was sunny and warmer, so she played outside with Dad most of the day, and had NO accidents all day long. She even ran to her little potty on her own to teetee.
Crocs: Comfy and ridiculously easy to clean up after accidents.
Asking her to tell me when she needed to go, rather than asking her to try: If your two year old is anything like mine, they are like mini teenagers, wanting to assert their independence and willing to turn anything into a power struggle. The last thing I wanted was to turn it into a power struggle, but on day 3, I found I had done just that. Asking her to try and begging her to sit on the potty ‘just real quick’ backfired and she screamed about wanting to GET DOWN. The negativity beginning to be associated with the potty did not sit well with me, so I switched things up.
Instead of asking her to try, I’d very casually say (about 100 times a day), “Hailey, will you tell mommy when you need to go teetee?” I’d make sure she heard me and she’d answer with a ‘I will, mom” or “yes” and I’d cheerfully say OK! and we’d move on. This would remind her, but let her feel in control. I was unsure if it would work, but we were at Target yesterday afternoon and I said “oh look Hailey, they have potties here!” (overly excited… yes, it’s exhausting) “Will you tell mommy if you need to go teetee?” and to my complete surprise she said “yes, go potty now.” We ran in, I covered the seat with toilet paper and held her up on it, worried that would freak her out, but to my surprise, she went! And smiled the biggest smile ever. SUCCESS! I high fived her, told her how proud I was of her and we washed her hands with extra soap as a reward.
Outdoor time: Chalk, swings, pedicures, walks, anything we could do to stay outdoors seemed to work well for us. It kept her happy, entertained and able to run to her little potty anytime she felt the need. Plus, clean ups were no issue on the porch or driveway- a win for mom and dad!
Positive Reinforcement: Again, I really wanted to stay away from any negative association so instead I went the other direction with overly positive reinforcement. Sometimes I’ll just stop and ask her if her undies and still dry and she will chipperly say they are, to which I’ll respond with high fives and “you’re such a big girl; I’m so proud of you!”
Well, that turned out longer than I anticipated, but it’s an overview of the past few days. Overall, I’m really pleased that it has gone more smoothly than I anticipated. I now just make sure to carry a spare outfit with me (top, bottom, undies, socks AND shoes) everywhere I go and I feel very fortunate that gym child watch and her school are very pro-active in working with potty training.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we keep progressing, but I really think she was ready, which makes a big difference. She had two accidents the first day, none the second and one yesterday. I can handle that. With things like this, it’s really tempting to compare. We have friends that had their kids potty trained by 18 months, but I’ve found it’s better to wait until your child is ready, whenever that may be!
Moms, when did you tackle potty training?
What worked for you?
I loved reading this and seeing the pride of success in Hailey’s smile! Feel free to draw me in to any “female” power you need. Go Hailey–and mama & daddy!
Erin Bohland says
I am going thru the same thing with my son who just turned 3 on friday. I will have to say the praise is one of the things that helps. He feels so good about himself. I do it everytime. I also am letting him tell me when he has to go. He is stubborn and was getting mad when I would ask him every few minutes if he had to go. He is doing so good now. Of course the cool underware help. My only struggle now is getting him to go poo poo in the potty . But we are working on that. 🙂
So HAPPY you wrote a post about this as I was trying yesterday with potty training but think I will be waiting till Keely is 2.5 (this summer – thinking June seems good). She is ready for a big girl bed and potty training as we talk about it a lot but I think big girl bed is first then potty training is shortly after that step. You are such an amazing mom and this post will totally help me in two-three months. 🙂
Brittany Dixon says
June sounds ideal!! If I had a bit more time, I would have waited until it was consistently warm and she could be outside without bottoms on. I’m sure K will do wonderfully!! 🙂
High five for the end of toddler diapers! My daughter has been ready for a while, but we’ve had to wait until her daycare could work on potty training too. She just turns 2.5 and “graduated” from the toddler class to the next class where the teachers take the children to go potty several times a day. I know Amy was ready months ago…She’s been going #1 and 2 at home on the potty for almost a year. But I didn’t want to confuse her so we waited. can’t wait to be diaper free!
Who ever thought talking about going to the bathroom would be so excited? Lol
Brittany Dixon says
Way to go! Any tips on encouraging a #2 in the potty? Ah, I remember when I used to discuss current events and other grown up topics, now it’s potty talk 😉
My son was 2.5 when he was fully potty trained. What helped him with going poop in the potty was that I told him that if he needed to poop (even when wearing a diaper/pull-up) he needed to go in the bathroom. After a couple of days something clicked and he was pooping on the potty. Kids just really need to be ready! Sounds like you are doing great!
I wish I had some, but I think I just lucked out. She was eating dinner one night and told me she had to go poop and I said ok….wanna go on the potty? ( not expecting a yes…she had never gone on it before but we had been talking about it) and she said yes. I guess she was ready.
Katie @ Pick Any Two says
My son is only 20 months so we haven’t started this process yet, but I am bookmarking this post for when the time comes! I too try to avoid giving food as a reward, so we will definitely try the excessive celebration technique.
Loved reading this! We’re getting closer and closer to potty training in our house, so it’s always helpful to hear what other people have done to get ideas. Our son is going to be 2 at the end of the month and we’ve had a potty for him in the bathroom for a while just to get him used to seeing it. Every now and then he’ll sit on it and we’ll ask him if he wants to sit on it – sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. He’s pooped on the potty once at day care, so we just kind of went with that. We’re really just waiting until he shows more signs of williness – we don’t want a battle and for it to turn into a negative experience, but it seems like we’re almost there.
I definitely agree with not wanting to use food as a reward, though. I could see our son running to the potty every 10 minutes just to get more treats, so I like the idea of excessive celebration.
Sara @ lifebetweenthemiles says
This is great thank you so much for sharing. My son just turned two and we have been talking to him a lot about using the potty. We aren’t quite there yet, but we are getting close I think and this is a great guide as to some things that I hope I can use that will work!
My son is only 19 months, so we’ve still got a little ways to go. And I hear rumors that boys are tougher to train than girls. Who the heck knows if that is true?! But this is helpful. I also do not want to use food as a reward! So good job there.
Brittany Dixon says
I’ve heard boys can be more challenging too, but clearly don’t have any first hand experience. I do fully support waiting until your child is ready. I have had friends try earlier and it’s one giant battle. Not worth it in my opinion! Good luck when the time comes! 🙂
Laura @FitMamaLove says
Sounds like it’s going well for you! We had quite a few ups and downs when we potty trained. We tried 3 times and the last time was the charm, when my son was three.
I also wanted to avoid food treats, but by the third time, I was willing to try anything!
I think with my daughter, we’ll just start later. 2.5 seems like a good age to start.
I need to bookmark this for when the time comes! I don’t want him growing up fast AT ALL, but potty training could come sooner rather than later.
Thanks for posting this! It gives me some new ideas to try as we struggle to potty train out very stubborn 3 year old boy. Case in poin
I got so tired of hearing everyone asking me when my son would be potty trained. I tried countless times from the day he turned 2.5 and it just wasn’t working. Finally, at 3, it happened on its own. I didn’t have to ask if he had to go, I didn’t have to clean up accidents, I didn’t have to reward him, he just wanted to go on his own. It was so easy and so natural. It’s what worked for us, despite all the pressure from moms around me. My daughter is almost 2.5 and is not interested at all so I am going to let her lead the way. Every kid is so, so different!
Brittany Dixon says
Another great testimony to waiting for when the time is right! I think it makes a huge difference in the outcome. Thanks for sharing!
Kimberly @ Healthy Strides says
Miles was 99 percent potty trained by 2.5, which I guess is early for a boy. Who knows. We encouraged going to the bathroom at the start of 2 and just let him go if he wanted. Gradually, he went more and more, and it was never an actual process. Leading up to the switch to undies, we did lots of naked time in the morning (I take him to daycare at 9) and checking in. We’re hit and miss on whether he wakes up wet. He went a few weeks dry and I almost stopped buying diapers but now he’s back to wet. I just go with the flow.
My daughter pooped through her diaper and onto the rug in her room this morning (we hadn’t put pants on yet…) – ugh. She’s almost 2 and I am so antsy to toilet train her!!!! But- with a 2mo old in the house, we’re going to wait until the summer….. or until the next poop explosion when I lose the last of my patience!! Ha!
Thanks for a great post on this. 🙂
My daughter was 2 1/2 when I tackled PT. I forced the “cold turkey” route – NO diapers ever again. It was May – nice and warm out – so I put her in a t-shirt and big girl undies. I lifted the rug i. the family room (we have hard wood floors) i. case of an accident. I placed the Baby Bjorn in the center of the room so that she had wuick access to it. She had 2 accidents in a row and hated getting all wet. Never had an accident again. She wore pull-ups to bed and in public for a while and also to go #2 until we nipped that and refused to put her i. a pull-up to poop. Took a out 6-8 days to really master it.
Jaclyn @ BumpSweat says
She looks so proud of herself; how adorable!! Thanks for sharing your insight on potty-training; I need to save this for future reference. When my sister started potty-training my niece, the pediatrician recommended holding my younger nephew on the potty, as if he were going to use the big potty before she did. It worked! So if you have any troubles down the road, after baby’s here, maybe that’s a trick to try.
Brittany Dixon says
I haven’t heard that one, but will definitely keep it in mind. Thank you!
Lauren B. says
I am pinning this now! Such great suggestions!
Since I have another little boy coming in 13 weeks (!), my pediatrician recommended that I get Jackson (19 months) potty trained before he comes. Her reasoning makes sense, but I truly don’t feel like Jackson is ready, and changing a diaper while breast feeding a newborn is easier than taking him to the potty many times a day. We did go ahead and get him a cool potty, and we “practice” a few times a day, so hopefully when I’m ready to train him down the road he’ll be totally ready and excited.
Brittany Dixon says
Only 13 weeks?! I guess if I’m progressing than you are too, but WOW, that sounds so soon! How wonderful 🙂 I wouldn’t stress about having to get things done before baby because I agree, right now diapers would be easier than potty training. Better to wait than to make life more difficult before baby boy arrives. Good luck!
So glad it is going well so far! Get ready to use the bathroom in every single store you enter for the next few months. 🙂 Our biggest hurdle was our first road trip. Claire very quickly figured out that if she said she needed to potty she could get out of the car/her carseat for a few minutes. Then, she would say she needed to go every 30 mins. I wanted to put her in a pull-up for the rest of the ride, but Ben was adamently against it. Best of luck that H keeps up the good work!
Brittany Dixon says
I don’t look forward to long car trips! But with the baby arriving sooner than later, hopefully we can avoid those for a little while. How are you feeling? Well, I hope!!
I’m doing well! 31 weeks, but who’s counting? 😉 Glad to see you are holding up well too. I can’t wait to see your food prep post. We absolutely need to do that!
Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries says
Potty training is one thing I’m SUPER intimidated and overwhelmed at the thought of doing when the time comes. I really appreciated this post! Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like Hailey is doing a great job so far!
Kathleen Ojo @ My Ojos says
Great post! My daughter is 20 months right now and is taking interest in the potty. At around 18 months she was very excited about sitting on it and even had a couple successful poopoos, but now the novelty has worn off and she’s not very excited about it anymore. I’ll probably keep sitting her on it every day and asking her if she has to go, but I’m not going to make a really concentrated effort until she’s 2 at least.
Also, I’m really curious if any other moms want to chime in with advice on how to potty train when you have multiple caregivers for your child. I work full time, so my daughter is with my mom all day Monday, daycare all day on Tues-Weds, with my husband all day THurs and Fri, home with both parents on Sat and Sun. I have a feeling that consistency is going to be a big challenge for us because of this arrangement, and I’d love to know how others made it work.
Brittany Dixon says
I was hoping some moms in similar positions would chime in, but for us, I tried to make sure everyone who would be watching her (gym child care and her mom’s morning out ‘school’) were on the same page. When I brought an extra outfit to them, I explained what’s been working for us- no treats, no forcing, gentle reminders, etc. I might have been seen as the crazy mom, but I really wanted to keep things as consistent as possible for H!
Our daycare has the kids sit on the potty during every diaper change and today he actually went! We aren’t formally potty training, but we have a little potty that he asks to go on sometimes. Overall, we have a very laid back approach, so it’s not too tough to work it out with caregivers. I think once we decide to truly do away with diapers, we’ll have to have a more in-depth conversation with them.
Good job Hailey, sounds like you are doing great mama!
We just recently tackled potty training at 23 months for my little man. Like you, we did our own modified 3 day potty training. After 3 days we were about 95% potty trained. I wouldn’t say we are completely there yet because some days just aren’t his days, but then others are great. I think the main key to it is just having them be ready to make the jump and not pushing it too early! Keep up the good work Momma, I know it’s exciting!
Hailey is doing great! You should be proud. You are right waiting until she is ready. My mom actually watched my kids when they were little so since they did not go to daycare we were in no hurry. My son was not trained until he was 4!!! My daughter was 3. They turned out fine. :).
My daughter was 2.5 but really 3 by the time she was we had a major power struggle with her my son was 2.5 and soooo much easier I do think its all about them being ready and consistent . Good job keep it up !!
Kate @ Indulgent Wellness says
We still struggle with #2 and Hailey has been going peepee on the potty for months without accident. I think one experience with minor constipation made her nervous that it is going to hurt. I just keep mental tabs on how long it has been and if a couple days have passed, I offer plenty of watermelon, pears, water and some apple cider to make the urge unavoidable!
Katie Bearden says
My son turned two in early February and I am due with another little boy the end of May. I struggled with whether to attempt training him but have decided to wait.
What signs was she showing for readiness? Hudson goes poop at predictable times and is very aware of it.. he even says “no no” when going now? The times I have tried to put him on his potty he is not happy or willing to sit at all. I guess that’s my answer!
Anyways hoping the process will go smoother once we are closer to 3 but I have to be honest pretty nervous about it!
Glad Hailey is doing so great 🙂
Brittany Dixon says
I have heard boys are more challenging, so I have no advice to offer in that arena! Just good luck vibes I’ll be sending your way 😉
Her signs of readiness were mostly talking about it more. She talked about her friends that used the potty and was really excited about the idea of wearing big girl panties (WITH ELMO!). We talked it up big time with how exciting is was and then just kind of jumped in.
Rebekah Anderson says
Potty training has been a marathon in our house. We are all dry and going fine during the day, but still working on out of the house and naptime/bedtime. Also, I didn’t rush #2 either, but she really would rather do it on the potty, once she discovered it. Our problem is, my girl (also 2.5) has an aversion to the time required and mess involved with #2. So, all day we battle it. Right now, my days are revolving around the *big event* (going #2). Oh, my. When she doesn’t go, we have an over-full tummy and she is cranky. When she needs to go, we deal with crying and working on building her confidence that it will be okay. She is very good at holding it in (unfortunately on this one!). Sigh. Not sure! My mom encourages me that it will happen.
My 2nd was born when my daughter was 25 months. She was NOT ready at 20–25 months, so I did not even try, but I think you’re definitely blessed to be able to get there before baby is born. Baby #2 is amazingly fun, but keeps you hopping!
Congrats on your baby girl, and good luck with finishing up training with Hailey!
Brittany Dixon says
David was excited about potty training because he thought it would be so much easier. Even though she is doing well, I’m not convinced it will be easier when baby arrives. I think you might have had the right idea with diapers 😉 I’m keeping fingers crossed that we don’t deal with too much regression. I hope #2 starts getting easier for your girl- it’s amazing how as moms we have to plan our days around things like potty schedules! Just part of the job description I suppose 😉 Good luck!!
Brittany Dixon says
Wow, only 1.5 weeks at 18 months?! Way to go mama!!
char eats greens says
This is amazing!! So happy for you….and Hailey!! We tried doing Elimination Communication when Nia was younger and I think it got her on the right track for a while (she hated sitting in a wet diaper which I think was a result of her getting the feeling of peeing on a potty at 6 months), but then with my school being so busy, I slacked on the potty training. Now at 16.5 months, she has had pees in the potty, but I think she’s ultimately used to peeing in a diaper again, so Tyler and I are trying hard to change that again. We’ve had a lot of just sitting on the potty and no pees at all lately, and because she can’t talk yet, I sign ‘potty’ and ‘peepee’ all the time so that she knows what the signs are and will hopefully use them for me to indicate when she has to go. Sorry for the novel on this post! I find potty training so fascinating, and of course, I would do it differently if I could do it over (go figure haha).
Great post! My daughter will be 2 in June and she has no interest in the potty yet. When she moves to the 2’s room in daycare, they do potty training, when the kids are ready. I’m really excited for her to want to do it and will only start when she is interested. Right now, I ask her if she has to go pee pee, she says no and when I pull off her diaper, she stands still and pees on the floor. 🙂 I’ve saved your post for some encouragement when we ARE ready.
My daughter was potty trained just before her 3rd b-day, & it took about another year before she stayed dry overnight (I swear she woke up in the morning & laid there & peed in her pullup before getting out of bed!). 😛
Jennifer Z says
Such a great post! Thanks so much for posting this. We are about to start with my 2 and a half year old son. I really like seeing what has worked and what hasn’t worked with other people in the past.
I love your approach. It seems very laid back which I totally think is the right way to go with most things you need to train kids in. I just came across this blog because the nursery I send my daughter to has started getting her to use the potty, but we’ve had no success at home so far (I guess it helps that she watches her peers to it in nursery). So I might try some of your tips.
PS. your daughter is just beautiful!
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