Alexie is our little firecracker. She’s confident, sweet and funny. She’s also strong-willed and stubborn (I wonder where she gets that from? Me? LOL.) She was showing all the potty-readiness signs for months! At 18-months, she was already telling us when she was going, she happily would sit on her potty seat and occasionally would pee in it especially before bath time. So we decided to try to our first try at potty training.
Our Failed Potty Training Attempts
So in January 2017, we started. It was basically 3 days of me spot cleaning the floor. She was starting to get the idea a little but after day 4 Alexie changed her mind. She decided that potty training was too much work, that it took away from her playing time. Like a switch, she started screaming and crying every time we would get close to the potty or even suggest going for a try. We decided to give up. She was clearly not emotionally ready to potty train.
Our second attempt came in July, just before her 2nd birthday. For us as parents, this seemed like great timing. Sté would be home for summer holidays, and all our activities were over, meaning we had a much slower schedule. But Alexie was having none of it. She flat out refused. We tried everything. We’d sit for hours by the potty reading book after book, watching video after video, trying to encourage her to sit for more than a second or two. She would sit on the potty, reading books for half an hour, stand-up and pee on the floor.
And no amount of bribing was working either. We would offer her chocolate chips, candies, stickers. We even made a potty chart, with a picture of a Paw Patrol toy at the bottom. She got 4 stickers in over a week, four successes in 7 days. This was actually a significant regression from her successes in January. She went from happily sitting on the potty to making a huge fight every time we brought it close to her. We gave up for the second time.
Finally Potty Training Sucess
December 31st, New Year’s Eve, we were busy getting ready for our Noon Years Eve party. As we were setting up, I jokingly suggested to Alexie that her New Year’s resolution should be to learn to use the potty. She looked at me, sighed and said. “I guess so.” It was like she was finally, reluctantly giving in to the inevitable.
The first day, our only focus was getting her to sit on the potty for a few minutes. Luckily, we had discovered her love of jelly beans. She had gotten a whole bunch for Christmas and we had a nice little stockpile of her favourite treat. We would give her a jelly bean just for sitting on the potty. And she happily sat there with a book and her jelly bean.
The next day, she sat again. And this time, she had a little pee in the potty. Later that day we had a poop success and it was like a switch went off. In a few days, she had gotten over a dozen stickers. And by the end of the month, her 72-space shart was full.
Well, we are nearing the end of February, and I can say confidently that Alexie is potty trained, both day and night! We never expected or planned to potty train overnight, but that sort of just happened. She is only 2 and a half, so we wanted to have realistic expectations. But about 6 weeks in I realized it had been several days since she had wet a diaper while sleeping. It’s been almost 2 weeks of no diapers at all and only one accident (which was when she was in the nursery at church and she didn’t know to tell the teachers). We are thrilled and Alexie is happily peeing on her potty as we speak.
Looking back on our potty training adventure there were a few things that really helped our third try to become a success.
1. Find Incentives and Rewards that Work
We finally got some incentives that Alexie really loved! Like I said, jelly beans were a favourite of Alexie and were a good little bribe for her. But we struggled with finding a good reward. Eventually, we discovered Alexie loved to blow out a birthday candle (really? Don’t ask me why it worked but it did.) and a popsicle, which was really half of a mini-freezie. And of course, she got a sticker.
We started with lots of rewards. But by the end of a week, we’d only give a reward if she asked for one other than the sticker which was tracking her success. By the end of the month, all it took was a sticker.
We did 2 potty charts to track her success. The first, she got a sticker for every potty success. At the end, we had a little celebration where we went to her favourite restaurant (Pita Pit) and her favourite store (Chapters) where she got to pick out a Paw Patrol toy.
For the second chart, she got a sticker for every day that she went without an accident. She asked that her prize at the end be a bath bomb, and I was just fine with that.
2. Find a Way to get them to stay on the potty.
We discovered that we were really on the right track with the books and videos. You do want to have an activity that encourages your child to sit on the potty, especially in those early days. They are still learning to “release” their pee so they needed to spend a lot of time sitting. We had a combination of favourite books and a few favourite YouTube potty videos like Princess Polly and Pirate Pete. We also had a few small Paw Patrol figures that she could play with while sitting. Like I said, in those early days, we would spend upwards of 30 minutes on the potty. But by the end of the month, potty sessions lasted less than 10 minutes. Now it’s just a few minutes because she’s learned to do her business quickly and get back to playing.
3. Have Real Underwear they love.
I totally believe that kids need real underwear. We had a few pairs from our first few attempts but it wasn’t until I got a pack of Paw Patrol panties, did we really get some real success. One morning Alexie forgot she was wearing her panties. I had sent her to her room to get some socks. When she came back, I asked if she needed to potty. She responded with “No. I pooped in my room.” To which I responded, “In your Paw Patrol panties?” and the look of horror on her face told me she totally forgot and was devasted. It was one of the last times she had an accident because she didn’t want to pee or poo on her Paw Patrol panties.
4. Have Toilets that Are their Size
Another thing that was helpful was having easy access to a potty Alexie felt comfortable on. So we had 2 potties (one on our main floor and one in our basement). This meant that I didn’t have to lug a potty around the house or run up the stairs every time she had to pee. We didn’t spend a lot on them, about $15 each so having more than one was totally worth it.
We also had a folding, portable toilet cover for when we didn’t have access to our potty seat. It was perfect for when she needed to use a public toilet because those things are huge for a little toddler.
Now Alexie is still nervous about big toilets even at home, so we actually purchased some awesome toilets seats that have a build in toddler seat. She loves that she can sit on the big toilet but doesn’t feel like she going to fall in. Because honestly, that’s a big hole for a little toddler butt.
5. Find out what turns them off
It wasn’t until our third try that we discovered that Alexie doesn’t like when we get excited about her potty successes. She was finally old enough to tell us, “No! Stop!” whenever we would shout “hurray!” and clap. Apparently, she doesn’t like it. All she wants is a little high five and her reward. Any more than that and she gets embarrassed. It was a little strange but for her, the excitement turned her off potty training. It was weird to tell our parents and friends not to get excited but sometimes you do what you got to do.
As a parent, there were days when I was so frustrated. I can’t tell you how many times I had to wash streams of pee off the floor (I swear every time Alexie had an accident, she was always running. So it was never a puddle.) But we kept at it, had realistic expectations and were ready to take a break when things went sideways. Hopefully, you can learn from our long road and have great potty training success.