Can you potty train a child without all the Pull-ups, potty chairs, candy, and sugary soda?
I think you can.
I’ve potty trained 4 children. (There are people clapping in my head right now.) Sure there are supermoms who have trained more. There are those who trained them faster. But…the truth remains…I have potty trained 4 children. Hooray!
I’ll be honest. It’s one of the things in parenting that scared me to death. I was pretty well convinced that there was no way I could do it. Horror stories filled my mind. Visions of germ filled gas station restrooms and soiled underwear kept me from running down to ToysRUS for one of those singing potty chairs.
In fact, I was fine with diapers. By the time the child is old enough to be potty trained,they are only wearing 3-4 a day anyway. Seemed like a minor expense compared to the hassle of potty training. Plus it’s cheaper to keep them in diapers than to go to Starbucks everyday. Easy trade off for a woman who hates coffee, right?
Alas, the day finally came when it was determined that they couldn’t wear diapers forever and I had to face the “potty.”
After browsing the aisle of how-to books, I felt sure that I didn’t want to invest 4+ hours of reading in a complicated plan for potty training. Buy this…do this. I just didn’t have the time. I had another toddler and one on the way. I needed simple. No extra stuff. No gimmicks (regardless of effectiveness). No fuss.
And I found it in the most surprising methods.
Our story looks something like this:
Baby #1 (girl)…trained at 29 months. It took 3 days for dry daytimes, 1 month for dry sleep times
Baby #2 (girl)…trained at 30 months. It took 1 day for dry daytimes, 1 week for dry sleep times
Baby #3 (boy)…trained at 36 months. It took 4 days for dry daytimes, 3 weeks for dry sleep times
Baby #4 (boy)…trained at 36 months. It took 3 weeks for dry daytimes, 9 weeks for dry sleep times **
When I say dry, I mean no accidents. Occasionally a child will have an episode down the road, but that doesn’t change the norm.
So what is the secret to No Fuss Potty Training That Works?
Yep. That’s my biggest secret. Wait. Want no fuss potty training? It doesn’t happen at age 2. In fact, it doesn’t happen at any pre-determined age. It happens when the child is ready. *gasp* I know. How inconvenient. And it can be. One of my kids potty trained the day her new brother came home from the hospital. Seriously? She was 2.5 and had declared that she was no longer a baby. She put underwear on and had only one accident. Period. Yep. It was that easy. Done. But it had to be on her time…not mine.
Could I have potty trained her at 2? Maybe. But why put myself through the wet underwear, emergency trips to the potty, and constant pressure on mom? I waited until she was ready…and there was no fuss! Even the day her brother way born!
My other children were much the same way. I waited until they expressed an interest, then I told them how and it was simple. Each of my children had only a handful of accidents…except #4 (see the questions below for more about him.)
Once we go to underwear…we don’t go back. We don’t wear Pull-ups. In fact, I think they are a waste of money and hinder the potty training process. Ask anyone who used them how long it took to train their child. The answers will be enough to keep you off of that aisle in the store.
Think of it like junk food. If you are going on a diet, do you want to keep a bag of Oreos in the pantry just in case? No way! You’re going to eat it if it’s there. Potty training is the same way. Put on a pull-up and they are going to use it.
Generally I hear parents say that it took anywhere from months to over a year to potty train their child with pull-ups. No way did I want potty training to take that long.
No potty seats
Another commonly used potty training item is a potty seat. They certainly seem easier for those tiny little bottoms, I agree. But unless you have the freedom of staying home 24/7, your child will likely use the restroom where a potty seat is unavailable. Often, this can be scary…which results in an accident. Think your kids are too little physically? I promise they aren’t. Two of my kids have always been below the 10th percentile in weight. When they potty trained, size 2-3 undies were too big! Yet, both of them were safe on a regular potty. Neither of them fell in ever. I promise. Your regular potty is fine.
I’ve used a stool for the smaller ones. My two average sized kids didn’t even need that past the first week.
Now I realize I am opening a can of worms here. First I want to say, if you’d like to give your child treats for using the potty, please do. But if you would like the freedom of not doing so…I want to reassure you that it’s possible. All 4 of my kids learned without a single bribe: no candy, no treats, no toys.
Honestly, I think that a bribe says to the child, “hey, this is up to you. Do it if you want.” Well, I really don’t want to portray that message when it comes to going to the bathroom in the toilet. I’d rather empower them to believe that this is just another part of growing up. When I was in college, the professors always said, “never start anything with a child that you aren’t willing to do with them forever.” I think that philosophy kept me from giving candy for success on the potty. I mean, I certainly wasn’t planning to provide M&M’s until they were 30! Haha. Seriously though, I found that the verbal praise from me (and then from their siblings) was a great and treasured reward. We even called extended family members and celebrated with them, too.
The tough potty training questions:
What about nap time and night time?
I use diapers at night and at nap time for my children until they are dry at night. Once they have gone 4-5 nights completely dry, I put them in undies. Of course, make sure you have them go potty before bed just to be sure you don’t have any accidents. Be patient with this, it can take some time for a child to be completely dry at night. It really depends more on how deep they sleep than how much control they have.
What if my child is over the age of 3?
I know that I’m hardly one to talk since all of my kids trained either before or at age 3. But I was prepared to let them wait until they were ready. I see nothing wrong with a child being over 3 and still in diapers. Who cares? There is actually quite a bit of argument in the medical world that says that training BEFORE 3 could be harmful to your child. (I won’t get into that argument here.) The point is—> Don’t fret about age. Your child will learn. Really.
Why did baby #4 take so much longer than the rest?
If you look at my family history, it’s clear to see that baby #4 was quite a bit slower than the rest. Of course, I’m not God, so I can only provide a few ideas for the why of this difference. First, he has had more significant health issues compared to the others, including a gluten intolerance which made his bowel movements less solid than average. Second, he did not have the privilege of being with mom 24/7 as the others, which of course makes training inconsistent. (Read my story if you want more info on that.) Also, we can’t leave out the fact that extreme family turmoil can hinder this process. Always give your child grace on that if you find yourself in a similar situation.
How do I know if he/she is ready?
As I mentioned above, one of my children told me that it was time. Point blank. The other three were a little more subtle. For my oldest, we were shopping and she saw some underwear that she liked. (I suggest browsing that section of the store often if your little one is near 3.) She said she wanted to wear them and I told her that she could, but that they were only for little girls who didn’t wear diapers and could potty in the toilet. She was convinced. Only a few accidents later, she as totally trained.
The boys were also motivated by not peeing on Thomas. Since they had older siblings, they already knew what it meant to go on the potty. Both of them expressed that they needed to go there like everyone else.
No older siblings? Don’t worry. They are likely exposed to children going potty at church, playgroups or daycare. Trust me, they know what it is and have already decided if they want to do it…for now anyway.
I started too early, can I back track?
With my oldest child we fell into the trap of training too early. It actually started with a diaper rash issue. I was looking desperately for remedies to a rash that had gone on for weeks and was getting worse by the minute. I decided to start taking her diaper off for a while and consequently potty training her. The purpose was relief from the rash. She was 20 months old and I was pleasantly surprised at the success. Until it became obvious that it was mostly MOMMY who was potty trained. I had to stay very close and watch her in order to prevent accidents. When we went on a trip a few weeks later, I used Pull-ups on the plane and that was the end. She never went back. Neither did I. At least not until she was quite a bit older.
This happened a little with my youngest. He said he needed to go on the potty and I let him. I quickly realized that he wasn’t ready though. After too many accidents, I simply told him that I thought he should wait until his bladder was ready to go on the potty and that it might take a few more weeks. He was fine with that and eventually trained about 3 months later. Without a bunch of accidents.
Is there ever a time to use Pull-ups?
Honestly, diapers are significantly cheaper. I really don’t see a need for the most part. However, I think that if you have a child that is older and still working on nighttime control, this would be a good time for Pull-ups. He/she could wear them to bed and still feel like they aren’t wearing diapers. Remember, urologists say that it is not at all a concern for a child to need nighttime protection until they are at least 6. Some even say 7. So don’t fret if this is hard for your little one.
How do you navigate public restrooms?
Well, this is no easy task. First, the longer you wait, the easier this is. I mean, a 3 year old is much bigger than a 2 year old, leaving far less chance of falling into the toilet or some other crazy mishap. My best tip is to try and have all children go the the restroom before you leave the house. Then, if possible, buy a portable potty seat and set it up in the back of your van. Oh yeah. I’ve known plenty to do this. The thought might not be as pleasant, but the germs will be less. Of course, you can go with the faith method, too. Just pray that God will protect your little people from all the extra germs and wash their hands until it hurts (haha…maybe stop just before it hurts).
Don’t worry, my friend. Your child will not walk down the aisle wearing diapers! Be encouraged. This season of life will pass before our eyes in a blink…even though it seems now like an eternity. Praying that you have wisdom as you navigate this parenting thing.
Your turn—> Got a potty training question or a tip to share? Please join the discussion and leave a comment below.
Disclaimer: (Just to make sure that no feathers get ruffled.) I am not claiming that this is the only way to potty train your child. Always do what is best for your family. This is just one way. Also, if your child has special needs that hinder their bladder control, none of this applies of course!