Please guide me through the magical world of potty training
August 5, 2010 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me alllllllll about potty training.

Little llama is two and we are edging toward the world of potty training. Unfortunately, we don't actually know how one goes about that.

I know the standard advice is 'you'll know when they're ready' but with today's super awesome diapers she probably won't be 'ready' until she's in high school.

We've started talking up 'potty' as a verb and noun, and she has a little pink Bjorn potty and a little chair like thing that would sit on the toilet. Unfortunately she wears the plastic insert in the Bjorn thing as a hat.

She's quite adept physically and verbally and quite sharp.

We're not planning on pushing her, we mainly want to create an environment where she might take an interest. I guess. Just sort of ease into the whole thing.

So tell me what you know about potty training, strategies that have worked, etc.

Even if it involves me reading Elmo's potty time book to her. I can take it. I've lived through Dora.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I feel your pain. My little capitalist is 2 as well and so far likes to watch Elmo while sitting fully clothed on her potty chair in the living room. I guess there is one thing we've tried that has worked-stickers. She is nuts over them and the rule is she can have a sticker when she sits on the toilet. She gets to stick the sticker to a little chart I made for her so she can see how often she tries it. It's gotten her to sit on it but not potty on it yet. Honestly, I think it's turning her into a sticker junkie because she pesters me to sit and get a sticker but refuses to potty there. Sigh. Good luck.
posted by supercapitalist at 2:58 PM on August 5, 2010

I've heard a lot of good things about letting them be naked for a week.
posted by k8t at 2:58 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's what I know: it's messy, and your kid will sometimes appear to be insane, and car trips sans diaper will be very suspenseful.

Also, beer helps.

My son was 3.5 before he really got the hang of it. Don't despair.

Once they get used to the potty, kids prefer it; wet diapers are nasty to wear, after all.

Here's where I admit I'm a bad mommy; my kid at the time was impervious to bribes of candy or stickers, but did enjoy Thomas videos. So we let him watch whole DVDs on the potty. In the living room. Pretty much every day.

And then when he managed to produce something, we praised him and let him help carry it to the toilet. And gave him a cookie.

He was in daycare, so he got to see other kids going, which helped.

It still took forever. Even longer to get him into the idea of standing up peeing (which isn't your problem thankfully).

The hardest part was getting him to *tell* us when he needed to go. We had a lot of accidents.

So always ALWAYS carry a spare outfit including socks. A towel and wipes doesn't hurt either.

He's nearly 5, and he's still not able to wake up at night and go, so we still use a sleep diaper. But that's actually not that unusual.
posted by emjaybee at 3:01 PM on August 5, 2010

From your profile I can't tell where you are, but even if you aren't in the parts of the US that are still enduring record heat--take the diaper off! Let her walk around in a dress and when it looks like something's about to happen say "Time to go potty, here we go!" or your own brand of parental nonsense. Yes, there will be some cleanup involved. She will be more interested than you in her "products," which so far have been tucked away in power diapers. It goes fast, believe me.
Those little ones generally like to travel light. (Been through it four times, one girla and three boys, and yes I did read some silly "potty books," but happily I've since forgotten.")

Good luck, and always bear in mind that some things may last forever but this is not one of them.
posted by emhutchinson at 3:03 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a quick note -- we are in the super-heated northeast right now and we have been trying the diaper free approach when we're at home in the afternoon.

So far, she just pees on the floor and cheerfully goes on with life.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but I don't really see a way around it--poop is actually more of a concern in the free-range department, so if we have her free-range it's post-poop. I don't know if there's a natural progression from number 1 to number 2 or if it makes a difference or what.

The sentences that I find myself typing.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

If my current experience is anything to go by, it means having everything you own be covered with urine at least once. We finally had to ditch diapers, pull-ups, etc completely and just go all-undies all the time. It's pretty tense.
posted by KathrynT at 3:14 PM on August 5, 2010

Does she tell you when she's got a poopy diaper? Does she wander off or try to hide when she does her business? Can she pull her own pants up and down? Does she wake up from naps dry? Does she seem interested in the toilet or want to watch when you're going? These were all things that let me know when my kids were ready to start Potty Training.

The first thing I did was switch from diapers to Pull Up style so they could get used to pulling them up and down. Then I put the potty chair out in their public play area. First thing after they woke up I'd put them on the potty and let them watch TV so they'd be relaxed. If they left something in the potty we'd sing and dance and make a huge deal about it. If after 15-20 minutes there was still nothing I'd just put the pull up on them and move the potty against the wall. I always kept it close to their play area so that they could use it if they wanted. Every half hour I'd have them sit on the potty for a few minutes and see if they'd go. If they hadn't gone by an hour and a half I'd change it to every 15 minutes, after three 15 minute tries I'd move down to 10 minutes, then 5. Sometimes I think they'd go just to keep me from interrupting their playing. Always no big deal if they didn't do anything or had an accident (poop is the worst!) and lots of celebrating when they did.

After they went in the potty a few times (usually a couple of weeks) I switched to training pants, the kind that are plastic on the outside and soft cotton inside. These let them feel what it was like to be wet, but saved my carpets. I still kept them in the pull up style for sleeping and going places.

As they started going more regularly in the potty I slowly moved it down the hallway towards the bathroom, maybe 6 inches a day. Eventually it made it all the way to the bathroom. Here's where my kids were different. My daughter was really excited to use the big potty and couldn't wait to put the little potty seat on but my son was terrified and used his little potty in the bathroom for quite a while (months) before we could convince him to use the big toilet. IIRC we used stickers as a treat for using the toilet instead of the little potty.

After they were keeping the training pants dry 95% of the time we switched to the ones that are just really thick cloth, then to regular underwear. After they stayed dry during naps for a few weeks I'd let them keep the training pants on for naps too, but they weren't dry all night for about a year after they'd been potty trained. My daughter didn't stay dry at night until the winter before she started kindergarten.

Read her books about potty training, and talk to her a lot. Ask her questions and tell her what's going on when you change her diapers.

Try to be really relaxed about it and she'll figure it out in her own time. Also, stock up on Kids N Pets.

My niece was trained in about a day using the drink 'n' pee doll method. I think it was featured on Oprah. I would have loved to try that, but I couldn't find the doll.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:23 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

We're slowly ramping up our efforts with our 2 year old. We've had her sitting diaper-less on the potty and done diaper-free time and mostly she thinks of potty time as "Mommy Reads Me a Book" time. Occasionally she pees in the potty and we've even had a few poops. I think the keys is to have her use it when you're pretty sure she'll need it, to build in the potential for success. So right after meals, or immediately post-nap, we do a potty stop.

We also have quite a few books that discuss potty activities (Yes, Elmo) and those seem to be interesting. We also bought a book called Stress-Free Potty Training that has a lot of good tips, based on your child's temperament.

Work on teaching your child how to take her pants off and just getting comfortable on the potty and just used to the ritual of taking off clothes and sitting down. In addition to a stand-alone potty we also have an Elmo potty ring that you place on top of the toilet. That seems to be a hit.

You might also consider cotton training pants, which will at least hold the poop but once peed in, while make your child uncomfortable since they'll be wet right next to her skin, unlike disposables. That's supposedly a motivator.

From what I've read, you work on pee first and then once that's somewhat under control, then move to poop. But I guess some kids are the opposite, so who knows...

I'm told M&Ms or similar motivators can be effective.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:25 PM on August 5, 2010

If diaperless is not doing the trick my question would be: Is she aware yet--in advance--of her need to go? Aware enough that if you encourage her to tell/signal you somehow, she will?

Does she ever see you sitting on the pot, so to speak? (Not her potty, but eventually.)

First children often take longer; there's no one relatively their size running to the potty.
My daughter definitely took the longest. My second two boys, three years apart, were dry at 18 months through no effort on our part. (Wiping, well, that takes longer . . . What was that you said about believing what you were typing?)

Anyway, if your little llama is not truly aware of her impending need to go, just wait?
posted by emhutchinson at 3:27 PM on August 5, 2010

I've helped two kids learn the ins and outs of the potty, with dramatically different results each time. The firstborn was edging up on three-and-a-half and with the demand from his preschool-to-be that he be out of diapers during school hours. Plus, I had a newborn. Diapers were taking up entirely too much of my time. We decided to take the summer to train him. Plenty of time, right?

We got the potty chair, we made a BIG DEAL out of it, we talked and talked and talked. We offered bribes, we offered rewards; we begged and pleaded. We ended up in tears and with a kid who just could not use that damned potty with anything resembling regularity. We sent him to school with our fingers crossed and with a change of clothes in his backpack (his school day consisted of exactly three hours of needing to be dry). He had accidents, he raged about them, and we discovered then that our fears that our kid was different were entirely accurate. He has sensory integration dysfunction and it was no wonder he couldn't get to the potty in time. He simply could not recognize what his body was telling him. So we started just sitting him on the potty at regular intervals. Eventually, it clicked. It took a very long time and he still had accidents sometimes, well past the age when you think that won't happen again.

The second-born kid woke up one morning about three months before her third birthday and announced, "No more diapers!" and that was it. Really. She had a couple night-time accidents, never ever had a daytime accident (ever), and that was it. I think a couple things were going on. First, she's really, really independent. Very. Stupefyingly so. Second, she had an older sibling to emulate. I hear that kids in daycare are potty trained well before stay-at-home kids. Third, we didn't start the conversation. We had been burned by the first attempt and I decided that she would tell me when she was ready. She had been making observations for a few weeks, like, "Bubby goes on the potty," or "Big girls go on the potty." She was making the connection on her own and I think that's what did it for her.

I don't know what your kid's personality is like, but stubborn kids are hard to train. Motivated, independent kids are not. I have seen lots of kids go through the potty years and very few of them were younger than three when they reached success.

Good luck!
posted by cooker girl at 3:27 PM on August 5, 2010

Does she have friends who are potty trained? Or training? My little one (23mo) just got INCREDIBLY interested in it when two of her friends went through potty training. We were having a playdate at one place in the midst of it, and so babby-pode got to watch Megan go pee-pee on the potty a few times, and came home demanding "potty! potty!" herself. So we got it out and every time she asked to sit on it we'd put her on it. She pooped on it twice teh first day.
She still won't pee on it though, which I understand is the opposite of most kids.
posted by gaspode at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2010

Thanks for asking this. We're in the long process of training our 3+ year old. He has a great track record when wearing nothing below the waist -- to the point where if I'm in the kitchen making dinner and he's playing by himself, he'll actually go to the potty on his own and I won't know about it until I hear him shouting "Hey Daddy, come look!"

Unfortunately, the half-nude solution does not work well for places outside the home. Once he gets covered up, he reverts back to diaper mode no matter what he has on him -- diapers, pull-ups, underpants. I think it would help if we were more consistent, but we're afraid we'll need to send him off to daycare with seven changes of clothes every day.

So far marshmallows have been the best potty reward for us -- stickers worked for a while, but he tired of them.
posted by Jugwine at 5:02 PM on August 5, 2010

We tried lots of solutions with our twins, but it just didn't take. Finally a neighbor with a child a few years older than ours took 'em for an afternoon, and they saw her child do it, and came home enthused and ready to go -- then it was a snap.

It was certainly not at age two, though; it was later, and it wasn't a matter of capability (they COULD but WOULDN'T) but desire.
posted by davejay at 5:05 PM on August 5, 2010

Oh, and my mother told me (after I had kids of course) that she would sit me on the potty for hours and I'd do nothing, then the moment she took me off, I'd pee all over. So desire does count a bunch.
posted by davejay at 5:06 PM on August 5, 2010

Also: a friend of mine is having great luck with the LeapFrog Tag Pen; his son loves to sit on the potty for endless amounts of time while using the pen and books to learn to read. A bit better than candy or television bribes, I think.
posted by davejay at 5:07 PM on August 5, 2010

Seconding the peer pressure approach. Have you looked into preschools or any kind of park district toddler play-time? Maybe some friends with a slightly-older child that you can hang out with? My daughter was much more interested in the whole process once there were other kids around, although we had laid the groundwork with everything mentioned in this thread so far.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:10 PM on August 5, 2010

Stickers worked for my nephew when he was 27 months old. It only took a couple of weeks.
posted by halogen at 5:18 PM on August 5, 2010

Peer pressure might really do nothing for a kid who can't help it, especially if they are eager to be out of diapers yet their body doesn't comply, that can be really disheartening for them.

My kid half-heartedly did the sticker chart but just wasn't that interested (he was also scared of the toilet at his daycare, which was rough), but one day he just decided to do it and *bam.* This kid must have a bladder of steel, too, never wet the bed ever. It's not bad to follow the kid's lead, especially if they have particular fears or just can't make it to the potty in time. One thing that might help is having them choose what kind of potty; some kids hate the sit down kind and prefer the one you can put on the adult toilet. Good luck!
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:18 PM on August 5, 2010

We decided to wait with our son, taking a very hands off approach. Right before he turned 3.5 we started talking up the fact that he was going to go diaper free on his 3.5 birthday. He was all, like, "yea, sure, whatevs," and kept using his diaper. A few days before the big day, my wife told him that he's going to be in control when he's not wearing a diaper and we'll have to go to the bathroom whenever he says he needs to. He stopped wearing diapers the next day, by his own request. He had three accidents over the next few months, and that was that.
posted by mollweide at 5:41 PM on August 5, 2010

I approached it with the assumption that "training" was a scam and, given an example to follow and access, I wouldn't need to lift a finger. This was totally right.

Around 2.5 a flip-down little seat was installed on the toilet; by then, minimal diapers were being used (usually on a requested and quickly used and discarded basis, and I found out by accident that a bare bum at night -- that is, nighties not pajamas -- meant no nighttime diaper was required after around 2) by that point. Cautious experimental pees were made here and there.

I was anti-potty (how do you take them places, I wondered) but eventually I was told that the flush was a bit scary, and I got one of the $3 Ikea jobbies (a bit before 2 3/4). She was very taken with "the little [her name]-size toilet that doesn't do flush" and immediately wanted to know "Can I do poos in it as well?" And that was it, and I hustled the remaining diapers out the door to a neighbouring toddler, and everything has been tickety-boo. Without me doing anything the kid started sneaking off and using the regular toilet a couple of weeks after that. One post-beach day some sand got in the potty and this was an aesthetic offence; I did not rush to clean out the sand, and it was never used again.

It was not tense, there were no bribes, and I think twice in the early weeks there was a sobbing "I forgot to go to the toilet!" and wet pants; really not messy. Trips out were painless: capacious bladder, and public toilets were figured out fairly quickly.

My suspicion is that for this to work you really, really have to stay quiet about it, and really believe that it is just like walking or jumping and there's nothing you can do to hasten (or stop) the milestone. Once you get involved with coaxing and Elmo books and stickers and so on I think you are on a different potty planet, psychologically. I was prepared to change diapers for quite a long time and did not push -- I did offer underpants, but that was it for hustling her along, and I think that was helpful.
posted by kmennie at 5:55 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

The average age is three, so don't feel pressure if it doesn't work right away. As Dr. Sears points out, somebody has to be the last kid on the block still in diapers.

I'm a fan of waiting until the kid shows interest in it -- it makes it so much easier on everyone. You end up with a potty trained kid at the same time anyway, but you save yourself months and months of hassle. (My daughter's preschool teacher, who has 25+ years of professional experience plus raised children of her own, is the one who pointed this out to me.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:00 PM on August 5, 2010

Mine played around with it without learning anything (except how to lie about the state of her diaper) from about 2 to shortly after her 3rd birthday. I suspect a lot of it was timing, but what seems to have tipped the balance was getting her some Dora the Explorer underwear (look! Underwear --you can be Just Like Mommy!) and explaining to her that Dora does not like being peed on. She is very protective of all things Dora, including her underwear.
posted by Ys at 6:05 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

My little guy was ready a little after three - he began to ask about the toilet and wanted training pants and to sit on his potty seat as play, and just naturally kinda started going. He had some accidents, but then we picked up this book (actually it was for my older son, who is autistic and has a host of unique toileting problems all his own). It's advice is pretty run of the mill but it has a magnetic chart with magnet tokens, and when he finished a row he got to pick out a (small!) new toy. Boy he loved those magnets, not just the reward aspect but he liked moving the tokens around and filling the board. Good luck!
posted by kittyloop at 6:27 PM on August 5, 2010

My 1st picked it up very quickly (age 2, while in daycare) & we finalized it over one weekend spent only in the Minnie Mouse "big girl underpants!" she picked out. She'd freak when Minnie got wet, we only had 1 accident and she was fine from there on out. Until she got a bladder infection at age 4, but I digress...

The 2nd didn't show any interest until she was closer to 3; again we hyped the big girl underpants, let her pick them (Dora represent!) and spent a weekend at home throwing her on the pot every 30 minutes & bribing her with chocolate chips when she was successful. There were quite a few accidents over the following week or so but eventually she got it.

Long story short: Make them excited over it (she 'picked out' underpants at Target for months beforehand; we exclaimed over how much she'd love when she was ready to potty), don't make them feel bad when they have an accident, and stick 'em on the pot at every opportunity. They'll figure it out before high school, I promise.
posted by Mamapotomus at 6:30 PM on August 5, 2010

We made it a point to make sure our kids saw us "go potty" as often as possible, long before the potty-training age approached. The point was to show them that it was the way big people took care of their business. We then made sure that they knew about their own potty seat. Then, we just let nature take its course. We weren't in a hurry, and we didn't push them to switch to the potty. They did it when they were ready.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:42 PM on August 5, 2010

We waited until my son was ready and that was at 3.25 years. We guided and reminded him to use the potty (he'd forget during play time) and our rule was that any event we were in was over immediately at accident time, and high praise at success time. He's 3.5 now and is pretty much 100% independent about it, although he plays the "I can't do it alone" card which translates as "pay attention to me"

My daughter is at the beginning of training - she's 7. She has Down syndrome and had a stroke at birth so pulling up and pushing down underwear is really hard for her. After attending a conference, we read two "24 hour" books and the more lenient of the two is working so far. The first is "Toilet Training in Less than a Day" the other is Potty Bootcamp or some such and is more suitable for those without special needs or physical disabilities. I'm writing this out so if someone else in our boat sees it, they'll see what we've done.

It goes like this - we got her a doll that can pee. Mrs. Plinth spent the better part of a day with her teaching the doll to use the toilet and practicing using the toilet. Undies (not pull-ups) down sit up, get down, undies up, high praise (and if it works, a piece of candy). This was all done in the potty. Then they started ranging a little further, getting drinks and periodically checking for wet/dry and making sure the language of dirty and clean were clear.

Accidents are handled this way:
1. strong disapproval, labeling it as dirty.
2. 10x positive practice - this is done with wet underwear on. You go from different places in the house to the toilet, pull down, sit up, get down, pull up, praise. You don't help other than to coach and praise - the child does the work. "Hurry! Hurry to toilet! Hurry and practice. Let's go!" etc. It's hard for her to do this much without shutting down, so we can have her practice with the doll too.
3. 10x practice wet/dry check. Are you wet or dry? Check. Wet? Did you feel it? Praise for answering correctly.
4. They clean up the mess. It's dirty. Clean it up. You can do it. One book recommends asking what their heroes would think. We don't buy this much shame.

As follow up at natural transitions of the day s/he should get a wet/dry check and praise on dry.

My daughter is LOVING the praise. She's disliking the practice although she's confused by all the praise in it - which is the right thing, I think, as the practice is an inconvenience and the way to avoid doing it is to be dry and the way to be dry is to go on the toilet.

Ultimately, thought, the process teaches independence. After 10x of getting your pants down and underwear down and up, you can do it on your own.
posted by plinth at 7:19 PM on August 5, 2010

You might also consider cotton training pants, which will at least hold the poop but once peed in, while make your child uncomfortable since they'll be wet right next to her skin, unlike disposables. That's supposedly a motivator.

posted by otherwordlyglow.

Oh, this, 10 times over. My son's family daycarer (who was a nurse and mother since long before I was born) recommended losing the Pullups and putting my 3.5 year old son in ordinary underpants, particularly ones with superhero designs that he had chosen himself.

That did the trick. Having an uncomfortably wet bum motivated him (in one day!) to go to the toilet before 'going', instead of 'going' and then cheerily saying 'wet Pullup, mum!'.

I have to disagree with those recommending telling the child post-peeing/pooping "that's dirty". In my experience, that led to peeing on cushions quietly so no-one knew... until visitors sat on them.

Take your time, don't rush, don't stress. It's one of the less fun parts of parenthood but, damn, it's good when it's over!
posted by malibustacey9999 at 8:22 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

M&Ms were powerful motivators for successfully pooping in the potty.

We had no success with pullups and potty training (after having been basically accident-free using the "run around naked with strategically placed potties" plan) but underpants really helped
posted by leahwrenn at 8:35 PM on August 5, 2010

We tried nakedness, pull-ups, sticker charts, and pretty underwear. In the end my very independent child waited until she was good and ready (and was unstressed), age 3.25 or 3.5, I'm not sure. If I had to do it again, I'd make sure we had a potty around, and that she knew what it was, and just left it at that. It was way too much stress, it made us all crazy, and it would have been better to just change diapers without worrying for another year instead. (Though this is in part because her personality is such that she doesn't like to stop anything that she's doing, whether it's drawing to try the potty, or trying the potty to go draw. Apparently more distractable children, who can just try the potty for thirty seconds and then run off, work much better on the whole trying it many times a day approach.)

So I suggest having a potty, reading a few potty books if you want (Go Girl, Go Potty! is funny), and just letting it sort itself out. Whether that takes a year or two, or just a few months.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:29 PM on August 5, 2010

First step is to teach her to connect the feeling with the result. (Hey, that feeling means pee!) she will be able to earn rewards more efficiently by sitting on the potty when she is likely to be able to pee. Until she connects the two, she will just sit on it whenever. That is okay but not necessarily that efficient.

--Make sure that she's feeling cooperative and eager to please and relatively patient
--Make sure that you're feeling cooperative and eager to please and very patient
--Think of lots of entertaining things to do while she's on the potty like bubbles, songs, books.
--Load her up with lots and lots of fluids
--Put her on the potty ten minutes (or whatever, depends on the kid) and ask her to sit there and keep sitting there
--Entertain her, I think videos are counterproductive because they want to keep watching them until the end and will hold it, then once it's over they want to get up
--Run water in the sink
--If she gets too antsy, let her get up and praise her for sitting so long
--Keep trying
--Once you get pee, make sure that she sees what she's doing; describe it so she knows what you mean when you say "pee on the potty"

Good luck!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:24 PM on August 5, 2010

--Put her on the potty ten minutes after she drinks lots of fluids
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:25 PM on August 5, 2010

In retrospect I'm convinced that first time parents tend to think this is 90% on them when it is in fact 90% on the child and there is relatively little you can do to alter the timeline.

Go to the library and check out absolutely the most boring book you can find on the topic for parents - something like this. You don't need any other information, it is really fairly straightforward. You make the potty available, you encourage sitting on it, you talk about it and read books and sing little songs or whatever, you provide little rewards. For some reason the internet is particularly useless on this topic and personal anecdotes are really not your friend. The most important thing to remember is that everybody gets it eventually, and stress and anxiety of any sort never help.
posted by nanojath at 11:36 PM on August 5, 2010

Sign up for a cotton diapering service - buying the necessities for cotton diapering at this stage probably isn't worth it. It will likely still take some time, but they'll feel wet right away getting them closer to learning the early warning signs.

May weird out some: Leave the bathroom door open when you are 'going'. I think it helped show mine just what that white porcelain thing in the corner is for. He'd ask me what I was doing, and we talked about all the normal functions. Not surprisingly, after he got the hang of toileting it took a little while to re-teach the boy this was a private room, not a public one.
posted by csmason at 6:19 AM on August 6, 2010

I Just came to say all kids are different. I've potty trained or helped potty train (as a nanny) 5 kids. Kids respond to different things.

My most recent potty training attempt is with my 2 1/2 year old son. I would have never started with him because in my experience boys are ready later but he gave us lots of clues. I was not anxious to potty train because I hate icky public restrooms, RUSHING to public restroom because OMG poopies coming!, and you don't have the same control on cleanliness as you do with diapers when it comes to wiping. But he was pretty anxious about pooping in his diaper in a public place, etc so we went ahead and got him in super hero underwear.

What worked for one of our twins did NOT work with the other. One was potty trained at 3.5 and the other almost 4. And the third kid I tried to delay a bit seems potty trained before 3. So don't worry if parents say THIS is what works, etc. Kids are all different and respond to different things.

If I was trying to get my kid to be potty trained (especially a girl) I think I would get fabric markers and fabric paint and decorate some plain girls underwear. Then who wants to mess up their own creation?
posted by beccaj at 6:56 AM on August 6, 2010

Chiming in with others who have said that the child will decide when he or she is ready. I like kmennie's advice.

With my now 4 year old we started putting the potty out when he was about two. A year later after stickers and smarties, big boy underpants, potty books of various types and a lot of cheering for pee and poo (very hard to cheer for bowel movements for a year, let me tell you) he was trained. My now two year old trained herself a month before her 2nd birthday (she still wears a diaper at nighttime though). I had absolutely nothing to do with it, it just happened and she was happy to climb onto the toilet from the get-go. If I were to have another child I think I'd just let them figure it out in their own good time. I'm not sure any of my pushing or bribes made any difference whatsoever for my older child. Looking on the bright side, my hardwood floor has never been cleaner than the year I was cleaning up human urine and feces on a regular basis. Ah, parenthood.
posted by Cuke at 4:00 PM on August 6, 2010

No, the child will not decide. You are the boss, you will watch for the signs, you will know, you will decide. Stickers and nice underwear are irrelevant. Your 2 year old wants to be like you, wants to BE YOU. You will let the child watch you pee. You will make a big deal about how cool, fun, easy, smart and grown up peeing in the bowl is. You will watch for the "I gotta go" signs and scoop the kid up before he/she knows what's going on, and plunk him/her down. You will sit on the edge of the tub and make small talk, encouraging noises, run the faucet, put little fingers in the warn running water, and when you hear the slightest tinkle, you will be MADLY impressed. You will do this for two weeks and your kid will be potty trained.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:06 PM on August 6, 2010

Thinkpiece, be careful of absolutes. We did all that stuff for the better part of nine months and ended up with a child so determined not to do what we said that she caused herself medical problems withholding urine and feces. On the advice of our pediatrician, we just quit caring -- no rewards, no praise, no diapers, no nothing -- and made her clean up the mess when she had an accident, and a month later, trained.

Every kid is different. Saying "this WILL occur" is madness when it comes to parenting.
posted by KathrynT at 5:13 PM on August 6, 2010

KathrynT, I take your point, and true that, absolutes suck. I just get NUTS when I see adults expecting 2 year olds to "decide" anything as meaningful and important a milestone as potty training. I mean really -- putting that kind of burden on such a little person, who is not fully formed, who has inchoate desires and needs, and should not be made to bear the responsibility! That's why there are parents, for goodness' sakes.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:29 PM on August 6, 2010

This It's pretty tense. and this car trips sans diaper will be very suspenseful really amused me. Gave the whole thing an air of adventure.

I can't mark best answers because I have no idea but we're going to try a bunch of things listed above, and I think we're going to start with some awesome new Dora panties and/or cotton training pants or cloth diapers - something a little less completely awesome than her current diapers. We'll get a couple of the books mentioned, including Elmo, and have more diaper free time. I don't think we're going to go with rewards -- we'll sit with the more passive approaches and mild feigned enthusiasm for now. She's independent and incredibly stubborn, so she's not very susceptible to manipulation or rewards. Her teenage years are going to be interesting. Plus we're pretty half-assed, so win-win.

Because she's got a pretty high level of physical prowess I think maybe we'll skip the little potty and go right to the thing-that-sits-on-the toilet and stepstool, if she can swing it. I think that would appeal to her inclinations to master the new more - when I think about it, the little potty is probably boring. She already knows how to sit on a chair, and she has an actual kid sized chair of her own, so there's nothing special about this little plastic thing and it's probably uncomfortable compared to her baby comfy chair.

She's an only child and not in day care so she hasn't seen anyone else potty, other than me, an occasion I invite her to and talk up. I assure you it's very dignified and hasn't affected my sense of self at all. Pointing at my ass and proudly exclaiming "No dipe!!" allows me to explore the idea of "dignity".

I'll try to update if figure out answers before the thread closes. In the meantime, I do agree with those who say that every child has different and has different motivations - we all do. To which I'd also add every parent is different and there are parental 'takes' we just wouldn't be able to sell because she'd take one look at us and know we didn't believe what we were selling, even though they might totally feel right to other parents.

beer helps.

So true, emjaybee.

Thanks everyone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:05 AM on August 7, 2010

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