In 1999, when I began to think about potty training Caleb, I went to the library to get some information (back in the old days before I carried the internet around in my pocket!). My main concern with potty training was that I did not want to drag it out. I grew up in a daycare center that my mother operated in our home, and I had seen kids wear pull-ups for a year or more while they were "training". This seemed so ridiculous to me, and I knew there had to be a better way. Thankfully, I checked out a wonderful book called Toilet Training in Less Than a Day. Though I haven't followed this book to the letter, it gave me the foundation that I needed to come up with a plan. Now, five toddlers later, I think I can successfully say that I do know how to potty train kids. With every single one of them, I began on Monday and took them to church the next Sunday with underwear/panties on, and there was no looking back. That sure beats hauling spare clothes and pull-ups around for months! If you're interested in following this plan, I encourage you to read the book, but I will briefly outline the method.
First, however, there are some signs of readiness that you need to observe. You should notice your child going for at least 2 hours during the day without wetting his/her diaper. This indicates control over the bladder. The second indicator (and this is as much for the parent as for the child), is that your child will follow simple commands, such as "come", "sit", "clean up", "hush". This indicates that your child is mature enough to understand your instructions (and obviously this is a discipline/training issue as well).
Now, there are a few things to work on for the week prior to training:
1. Every day, find several occasions to teach your child "wet/dry" and "clean/dirty". For example, after a bath, you might pick up her dirty clothes out of the wet floor: "Yuck, feel these. They're wet. Gross! Let's put them here with the dirty clothes."
2. CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE and eliminate distractions. This is the #1 tip for success. It may be hard, but if you devote a week to successful training, it will definitely be worth it! Somewhere around Day 4 or 5, you may want to schedule a visit to Grandma's or church or somewhere familiar to let the child check out someone else's toilet. Don't be afraid to turn the ringer off, and don't schedule any company.
3. Decide on consistent names for the process and share these with everyone involved. If your child understands "peepee toilet", and Grandma asks if she needs to "potty in the commode", it could cause some confusion.
4. Let the child observe Dad/brothers (for boys) or Mom/sisters (for girls) sitting on the toilet. Sounds funny, but some children are truly terrified of sitting on a water-filled tank with a hole in the bottom that makes a loud noise, so this can help them get used to the idea. Though some children truly are scared, it has been my honest observation that most 2-year-olds are more terrified that their mom might realize they can actually be made to sit for a few minutes at a time! They'll act like they're dying a slow, horrible death just to keep that secret from coming out!
5. Things to gather:
--a stepping stool and toilet insert. You can use a potty chair, as the book suggests, but it isn't necessary unless you just enjoy carrying poop around in a pot. The stool is to climb easily onto the toilet and also to wash hands.
--training pants, in a size larger than normal. This is so the child can easily pull his own pants up and down independently.
--snacks and drinks, salty type stuff that will cause her to drink more and create more training opportunities
--pull-ups for nap and bedtime
Major ideas from the book that I did not use: a wetting baby doll. My boys don't do dolls. Period. So I just never went there. Also, the potty chair. It just made more sense to me to train them directly on the toilet with an insert. It's easily portable and makes it possible to potty anywhere you go. Plus I do NOT enjoy carrying poop around in a pot.
Here's the gist of the method: On Day 1, expect a rough day. It's going to be cold turkey! Let the child throw away her diaper and put her own training pants on. Have her feel the panties and confirm that they are "clean!" and "dry!" just like ____________ (Mama, Daddy, siblings, favorite people, etc.). Every 5 minutes, make her stop and feel her panties to inspect if they are clean and dry. Take her to the toilet and let her sit for a while to try to potty. Don't make her sit for more than 10 minutes at a time, as this can be torture for a 2 year old. When she does wet her panties, take her to the toilet immediately and say "potty toilet" or whatever, to establish that this is the goal. Then, have her get up, feel her wet panties ("gross!" "wet!"), put them in the dirty hamper, have her get a towel and clean up her own mess. This may sound extreme, but the whole point is to make the child responsible for keeping herself clean and dry. Obviously, you clean up thoroughly behind her, but she will begin to understand that she has made a mess. This is only TRAINING time, no discipline.
Have your child only wear a t-shirt and panties/underwear, so she can easily feel her panties and pull them up and down by herself. The book actually shows how to teach the child to reach their hand in the back and pull the pants up that way more easily. The independence is a key to this training. After an hour or two of checking every 5 minutes, go to 10 minutes, then 15. After a successful potty in the toilet (which may or may not even occur on Day 1...don't be disheartened if it doesn't!), go to checking every 30 minutes and toilet tries every hour. Watch your child closely for signs (you'll begin to recognize that look on her face), and be absolutely consistent with the timer and with the clean-up process. Guard against constipation, as the child will be tempted to hold back on going. You may want to add lots of juice or slip some probiotics into their milk to give more teachable moments in that area.
By Day 3 or 4, you should be seeing some real progress, but DON'T LET UP on the timer and bathroom trips. Be consistent and stay focused. ONLY use pull-ups for naptime and bedtime. Summer's have Woody on them, and we call them "Woody panties". If they are wet when she awakes, just quickly pull them off and put on real panties. This will come with time. Summer is in her 4th week of being trained, and we already skip the naptime pull-up.
Try to keep the mood in the house cheerful, and provide lots of fun activities to do. Movies probably aren't the best entertainment at this point, because they tend to put the child in passive mode. When you know your child has to poop, you may want to pull up a chair beside the toilet and just keep her entertained for a while. This is the biggest step, but a couple of successes should seal the deal.
When it's all said and done, you will have given your child something more than just the knowledge of peeing in the toilet, but also the gift of personal responsibility. Since training, Summer has become obsessed with "hosh hands" (translated: wash hands) and dressing herself and cleaning up spills. It's such a joy to watch! Mission accomplished!