*When I started potty training 3 weeks ago and didn't really know what to expect, I desperately wanted to read something like this to see details of what worked for others and why. So for others in my position, and for my own reference, here are alllll the juicy details of potty training Tate.
Tatum started showing interest in the potty and actually went several times in a row when she was 18 months. I wasn't thrilled because finding toilets in NYC is pretty hard, and I just felt she was too young. Regardless, I wasn't going to STOP her from going, but I didn't totally get on board with prizes and non-stop attention. Sure enough, this phase lasted about 2 weeks and she reverted. I was happy changing diapers and with our busy summer schedule, it was a lot easier and more conducive to our lifestyle to use diapers.
Then I got pregnant. One reason we spread the kids 3 years apart is because I feel pretty strongly that I didn't want "two babies." So now, with an April 10 "deadline" Scott and I decided we wanted a little break (emotionally and financially) from diapers. Scott was really really insistent and eager to get her potty trained, and lets just say I was better at making sticker charts and buying prizes than I was at actually getting her to sit on and use the potty. Let alone wear underwear.
We took a girls shopping trip to H and M where she picked out 3 sets of underwear (some sold in a purse- great packaging!) that she was really excited about. She LOVED carrying around the purse, but anytime I took out the underwear she'd literally scream and run, shouting "no way!" I didn't want to make it an issue, so I just sort of ignored her and put it away for a few months.
Once we got home from Christmas in California, it was time. No more excuses. Age: 2.5- She is 30 months. We decided to forego the little potty and train her directly on the toilet. One less transition for her, less dealing with poop/pee for me, and less stuff in the bathroom. I think the little pottys work for a lot of people and had Tatum not accepted the kid seat on top of the regular toilet seat, I would have gone this route-- I'm just glad I didn't have to! We had a Cinderella doll she was really really excited about, and placed it in the front room on a visible shelf so she could always see it as a visual reminder of her motivation. She earned the Cinderella doll after (I think!) 4 days of filling up her potty sticker chart! Glitter stickers did the trick. She got a sticker for her chart, and one for her, every time she went on the potty. Actually went, or even just tried. We had to keep up the hype and constantly praise her, even calling family members consistently to lay on the admiration. She LOVED all the (positive) attention.
We unintentionally did the "3 Day Method" which I think was better for her and better for us. Here's how it went:
Monday: I go to a doctor's appointment and when I come home, she had actually gone pee in the potty three times! Praise Scott! She wore a shirt, but was naked on bottom. Scott made her a "special seat" on the couch with plastic bags covered in a purple blanket that she liked sitting on and kept our furniture safe. We spent the day reading books there, playing games, watching shows, and drinking water constantly. We gave her "juice"- a teeny squirt of that water flavoring- basically as often as she wanted this day, just to keep her hydrating and giving opportunity to practice! She went naked to her nap, and peed in bed.
Tuesday: We took about a 1 hour outing, but basically stayed home, focusing on the potty and paying attention to our bodies. No accidents, and earning lots of stickers!! Trying to stay completely off of diapers, we put her down naked for nap and bed, she peed both times. Lots of laundry. (Especially when it's not in your apartment.)
Wednesday: She wore no underwear or diaper, but a skirt on bottom since we had friends over. This broke up the monotony. I think this was the most important day to really lay on the praise. It is getting old for everyone by now, and it was important to keep her spirits up. At the end of this day, she earned the privilege of wearing underwear (for us, it was important to make this feel special, not just a new change). She chose princess underwear her first day, and was telling everyone she could and making up songs about her new underwear.
The rest of the week, she was sick -vomiting and diarrhea- so basically we were back in diapers and worried that all our progress was lost. Turns out it wasn't, but we took 3-5 days off, just living in survival mode. And doing loads of laundry. The next week, we recovered to where we had been in potty training, but still hadn't been on a long outing. It was time.
At this point, we had read up and accepted that sleeping time IS harder than awake time, and consented to do pull ups for naps and bed. We just couldn't sustain the laundry and she couldn't control it. Pull ups have been such a good in between because she still gets them on and off herself, and she understands that it is not a diaper. Now, three weeks later, she generally wakes up dry from naps but almost always wet from nighttime. She does find it uncomfortable and does sometimes wake up and call for us "I needa go potty!!" so I wonder how long she will stay wearing them. Im not in a huge rush to move on.
Our first outing in underwear she peed through both sets of extras that we packed. Underwear and pants. The second was on a seat in the subway. Super duper embarrassing. She told me she had to go, but there was literally no where to take her and I was getting her home as fast as I could. It was a no win situation. This day deflated her confidence, but we tried to stay positive, "I know it is so hard and I am proud of you for trying. Sometimes accidents happen but I know you'll make it in the potty the next time!"
There have been a few instances at home where a little pee sneaks out and her underwear are wet. Not full on accidents, but enough to change her underwear. In these situations I have her wash out her underwear and clean up... I thought this was a good idea, but she really loves playing in the sink and isn't grossed out at all, so I'm afraid this backfired on me and cleaning her underwear is actually a reward. It's back to me.
I kept our outings short every day the next week, and she had no more accidents. I was a warrior mom, doing my very best, no matter how inconvenient to find her a toilet when she needed it while we were out. She had little-to-no problem on foreign toilets, she just holds onto the sides and chants "Be Brave!" while sitting down. Now, she can hold it for longer periods if I'm constantly promising her that a toilet is close and we are hurrying!
Another thing, once she earned her Cinderella doll, she (for whatever reason) thought that she had to earn it every day for wearing underwear. This wasn't my intention, but it worked GREAT! Every night we put Cinderella up on the shelf together and then in the morning, once she sat on the potty first thing, she'd earn her doll back for the day. She was always excited to start the day sitting on the potty and even when playing with her doll, she'd remember she had to go! This was totally unintentional, but totally worked for us!
Two and a half weeks after starting, she did poop her pants. She was watching a show and I think just got distracted. She's had so few accidents that this really surprised me. I didn't badger her about it, we just took care of it and got new underwear. Then 10 minutes later she did it again! But this time saying "It's okay mom, its no big deal." That's when I responded, "No, this is NOT okay. It IS a big deal. Poop goes in the potty, you know that. This is very bad." This event was 3-4 days ago, we haven't had any trouble since, but I do worry that she could use poop against me in the future... we will see.
Now I have changed the reward system from going potty to keeping her underwear clean and dry. She earns 1 chocolate kiss (or even just a chip!) at the end of the day if her underwear were clean and dry all day long. The first 2 days we talked about it constantly, but now she kind of forgets (just like the stickers phased out) and we only give it to her if she asks. The sticker chart did last a good two weeks- I started slacking after 3-4 days but it was clear that we needed to keep up the consistency for her.
Overall, I am really glad we waited until 2.5 years old to really start- she is totally aware and ready and can communicate. She can get her pants down on her own, find the stool- she is way more ready and independent than even at age 2. Since potty training, I have seen such marked difference in her confidence in herself and independence in other areas. She now takes her shoes on and off, takes her plate to the kitchen, tries to get herself dressed... I can clearly see that she feels really empowered and I think is having a "flow experience" - where she feels like she conquered something really hard, and now she can do ANYTHING! I love my sweet girl and know there is probably still a little road ahead of us, but basically she is an all star!