Why It Took A Year To Potty Train

Potty Training
"Potty Training is a developmental process,
not a race! - Deedee & Dooley


FINALLY! In the last 2 - 3 weeks, my 32 month old daughter is going to the bathroom ALL on her own. At home, she doesn't even tell me she has to go anymore (of course that means I find poop unflushed or more toilet paper than any small, tiny, bottom needs - challenges for another day!)

One year ago I started training my daughter. For those who struggle with mental math (like me), she was 20 months. Let me give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor, because yes that is super early.



And, when exactly is that?

Age: 18 - 36 months - from everything I read, they say trying to train a 3 year old comes with added complications. NOTE!!! If you're going to train on the early side, it's not so much training them as it is you. They know they have to go, but they don't have the muscles to hold it yet, so just get in the habit of taking them every hour to two hours depending on how much fluid they can hold and how much they've had to drink.
Interest: They show interest. If they're in daycare they'll take interest when other kids are going and if they're at home they'll take interest when you're going.
Signs: You pick up on their cues of when they're peeing and/or pooping. Meaning they have a quiet place they go to poop, or they get quiet, or they stand very still as examples. 
Prepared: They can sit up on their own, walk, and tell you, "I have to pee." Ideally, they can also push their own pants down. If you want to train early then once they start walking, start showing them how to do this. E went potty great... naked. The minute we put pants on her it was accident town.

Research: Do your homework, beyond this newsletter. There's a couple different approaches, which I'll cover in the next few sections. Talk to your friends. See what worked for them. 
Same Page: Whatever method you decide, make sure it's a joint decision between you and your partner. You both want to know how the method works and what steps you need to take to train toddler otherwise you'll just fight and contradict one another. Like all training (potty, sleep, eat, ect.) you'll want to be on the same page so you're not confusing toddler or pinning each other against one another.
Mental Preparedness: You need to be ready, all of you, all parties involved (you, partner, nanny, daycare, etc.). It's a mindset. Accidents are going to happen. You're going to make mistakes. They're going to make mistakes and everyone is going to learn. You're all in this together. It's not one size fits all, no silver bullet. You'll need to find what works for you and toddler and you need to be prepared that this could take awhile, or conclude they're not ready and put them back and diapers and try again later.


There's a book called "Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right" This was the approach I started with. It's a phased approach. The first week toddler runs around naked that way you can see when they're peeing/pooping and can literally RUN them to the potty (have it close by). This helps toddler make the connecting between I'm peeing and pee goes in the potty. After a few days or week of naked, then you add just pants (no underwear, Commando style) so they can practice pushing their pants down with out a ton of layers and without underwear they're not having the same feeling of wearing a diaper. Once they've mastered this (could take up to a month) then you add underwear.

There's a few nuances in each phase. You'll want to read the book to really have the full understanding of how to approach this.

  • Logically this makes sense. Teaching a child from knowing nothing about the potty to being fully trained in a month or so. They go from nothing, to "I peed", to "I'm peeing," to "I have to pee." After the first day, E knew the "I have to pee" feeling.
  • It's proven. The women who wrote the book does potty training for a living. She's seen it all.
  • This method does not promote rewarding, which for me is a pro because if I make a promise the first time, then they expect that every-time and not just for potty training, for anything I ask them to do that they don't want to. For some people, offering small prizes like M&Ms or being able to watch TV helps motivate their kids. It's what works for you.
  • Because this is is an all or nothing approach - meaning you basically say goodbye to diapers (apart from naps or bedtime if you take that approach) the cost savings and trash depletion is huge! 
  • In the first stage - naked - you can't leave the house for a week according to this book. My kids are outdoor babies. They LIVE for outside and going out. Being at home for 7 days was impossible - we didn't make it 24 hours.
  • She said i could take about a month, starting as early as 18 months old... it took us a year starting at 20 months old. Once we got into a rhythm of every 90 minutes, an hour and 45 minutes tops, we had way less accidents. If they fought me, meaning I'd say time for potty and kids say, "NOOOOOOO!OO!O!O" Then I just took off their pants, because they go potty all on their own no problem when they're pants free - lately that's lead them to just go potty right away because they don't want to be naked.
  • Baby is running around the house naked for a whole week. Lay down all the towels or make soft unwashable things off limits. We have washable couch cushions - I still laid down towels, but certainly helped. We also had hardwood floors which certainly helped too.
  • Once they're in underwear and/or pants, you'll want to ALWAYS have one to two sets of clothes with you once you do start leaving the house.    


This is a book I stumbled upon in my research that I wish I had on hand the first time around. I found this book from a woman who trained her son in one week. Instead of phased approach - naked, Comando, underwear - it's a sessions approach, start with morning or afternoon, and have essentially, "practice sessions" where you put them on the potty every 15 minutes. By day three, go naked for a full day. This approach also recommends a reward system. Stars or prizes for good potty going behavior. They also say you really can't potty train until between 2-3, anytime before that is more you, the parent, catching the pee or poop rather then the toddler knowing they have to go, holding it, getting to a potty, pushing their pants down, sitting, and going. With first hand experience - I would agree with this. Having started at 20 months - unless they were naked - we basically just had a schedule of every 90 minutes and stuck to it.

  • There are some similarities to Oh Crap!, like the naked part. The big difference I feel like is there's more of a easing into it approach rather than all or nothing. This book talks about once they're walking to have them go to the bathroom with you. Talk about how a diaper works. Every time you change them, show them the pee or poop. Let them help you throw it away or flush the waste.   
  • It's specific to boys and some of the challenges boys specifically face, like being late to the potty training party or wanting to pee standing up like daddy. How their mental state is different than girls. They don't want to stop what they're doing to go to the bathroom - and I can attest to this. My son would rather have an accident than drop what he's doing, pee, and return. We even sing the Daniel Tiger song to him.
  • Way more flexible. Because it's sessions it talks about working in your schedule to practice. Not being bound to your house for DAYS at a time then slowly working your way outside. This would have worked way better for us.
  • This book mentions, which is different than Oh Crap!, that it doesn't matter how early you train, it'll take you about the same time to get there. Looking at my kids as examples, I'll agree with this. Up until recently with my daughter we really were "catching" the pee, meaning we just had them go every 90 minutes or so. I will say they actually got the hang of pooping in the potty pretty early on, mostly because it takes more effort to poop. It doesn't' just "fall out" like pee does, so they have time to run to the potty, push their pants down, sit, and poop. They mastered poop very early, especially my son.
  • Not really a money saver because they're in diapers longer whether you decide to potty train early like me, or even wait. This is not an all or nothing approach so hold onto those diapers until toddler has mastered potty training and is ready to give those diapers away to a younger friend or sibling.
  • Maybe this isn't a con, it's really just a differentiating factor, but it promotes giving awards for good behavior. There's been controversy about rewarding kids for doing something they should naturally be doing. It can create a battle of constant negotiations for everything... Okay, I'll do it, buuuuuuuuuut I waaaaaaant x." There are things like rewards that we can give kids that aren't necessarily tangible and over the top, like high-fives and hugs. For my daughter it can be as simple as, "You get to wash your hands." Not really a reward because it's just what you do when you go to the bathroom, but she loves to play in water so for her it feels like one.
  • While this is tailored to boys, the method itself you could apply to girls.


These obviously aren't the only ways of potty training, but they hold a lot of the same methodology most people talk about. There are obvious pros and cons to both methods.

If I were to go back in time and do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I would have:

1.) Talked more about what it means to go potty, taken them with me more often, and explained what I was doing.

2.) To have been done with diapers so early was awesome and I don't think I would change that. What I would change is my mental state. I didn't understand that they weren't actually trainable yet. They didn't have the muscle capacity to hold in their pee or they did until they burst and had massive accidents. I also just read that this could cause UTIs, which is super painful and not something I'd want my child to experience. I got lucky in avoiding those with them. I put a lot of pressure on my little ones to figure this thing out and it was unfair. I learned much later about getting them on a schedule of 90 - 105 minutes and just sticking to it and I wish I just did this from the beginning after they made it through the naked stage.

3.) All or nothing? I actually ended up doing the second method naturally because my husband was like, our kids having to be inside all day for a week is just not feasible. He broke me down (because I was being an A-type bull headed mother) and we put a diaper on her and left the house for the afternoon. We all had a great time. It was the break we needed and you know what, 3 hours later when we got home, she was dry. I put her on the potty and she let out alllllllll the tinkle. Since we started so early, this idea of practicing when at home really could have gone a long way for us.

4.) I'm not sure commando makes a difference. In retrospect I think I would have just bought bigger underwear and clothes to make learning to push pants down much easier for all parties, whether they did it or we did it for them.

5. Pressure free. The more pressure we applied to make your kids "get it" the more of an uphill battle it was. It wasn't until 6 - 8 months in did I adopt the naked rule. If they fight me to go potty, then I remove their pants until they go on their own. My son is a little frustrated by this now, but generally it means he goes right away because he wants Thomas back on.

6. Finally, now that they're of the right age, I'm going to go back to basics and properly train my son. If I forget to have him go at that 90 minute mark or he has more to drink that I didn't account for he has accidents all the time I really think it just comes to needing to practice naked again. Not a big deal. Oh Crap! Talks about how potty training is never really over and sometimes you have to run through the phases again and each time you do, they go a bit quicker. I did this with my daughter a few weeks ago, just after naps, we didn't put her on the potty right away, we just took off her cloth diaper and she went when she was ready. Just that small amount of afternoon practice seemed to guide her and now she goes all on her own.

In our experience, the second method is right. Even though we started potty training a year ago, at about 32 months, they're getting it. I'm telling them less, they're telling me more, they're going on their own, and less accidents are happening. We definitely got there the hard way, but we saved so much money and waste on diapers and for that I'm very grateful.

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