I was at my sister’s house when I spotted her Oh Crap! Potty Training book by Jamie Glowacki sitting on her piano. I was instantly struck with guilt because her son is several months younger than mine, she was in the dead of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and was still committed to doing it. ‘There’s a window,’ she said, “Between 24 and 30 months, where they are old enough to get it, and not as resistant and into power struggles. And for most kids if you delay, you’ll end up with battles. So I’m doing it.”
I quickly counted… I was at 31 months. We were visiting family on holiday, but my husband had a work trip coming up soon after we returned. We worked out our best available weekend to start (more on this later) would be the weekend we got off the plane. So we started! Our plans were derailed by a younger sibling in hospital, but we have been making steady progress. We are at the stage where my son can go commando (short/pants but no undies), and will tell us himself when he needs to wee, without us prompting. We have done several outings. He has had a few accidents in new environments, and he still only wants to go in his little green potty. But we are NAPPY FREE day and NIGHT. And so far it has been 9 days since we started. Below are some tips and things we learned. However, it’s really good to read the book. Every child is different, and the book is full of ideas for “what if” scenarios. (Like, “what if I have to go out?” Or “what if my child won’t progress past needing to pee naked?”)
THE WEEK BEFORE:
1. COMMIT IN YOUR SOUL. If you don’t think your child is ready, your child will sense that. If your child is 24 months, they are ready. They can do it. Don’t start then stop. No going back. You (and your partner!) must BELIEVE, and press forward.
2. Hype up how big your child is. Maybe let them start eating off a special plate for “big kids” or remind them in other situations how great it is they are big and can do this or that. Tell them that because they are so big, in a week, you’re going to throw away all their nappies.
3. Start limiting drinks in the evening. Once you are potty training, you are going to want to have ZERO liquid 2 hours before bedtime. So if your child is used to massive amounts of milk at supper and tea before bed, start restricting this. We did not do this in advance, but we surprisingly did not have a fight. We just told our son that drinking too much would make him wee in his bed, so he could just have one cup of milk at supper. He was fine with it.
4. Purchase a plastic liner for their bed. Have a fleecy blanket on hand, if you don’t own one. Get a small plastic potty.
5. CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE. You will not be leaving home for at least 3 days. If you work (like I do) do it over a weekend. It’s also nice to start on a weekend, because your partner can help… it’s exhausting watching your child that whole time. And you MUST watch… if the method is failing it’s normally not because of the child, but because the parent is distracted.
THE NIGHT BEFORE:
1. Enjoy your sleep. If you are doing day and night potty training at the same time (which the book recommends) you will be waking up to sit your child on the potty.
2. Stock up on treats for your own emotional health. You will want chocolate at the end of the day!
1. When your child wakes up, tell them it’s the big day, and you’re throwing away their nappies. The whole day, do not put ANY pants, shorts, or undies on them. These give a false sense of security. The aim of the day is to help your child become aware of when they are peeing, what it feels like to pee and poop not in a nappy, and associate peeing with the potty. If they have pants, they will feel secure enough to just wee in their pants, and you’ll end up with more accidents.
2. Watch them like a hawk all day. Your job is to learn their cues— when they do a dance to pee, or if they stare in the distance… and then tell them, “Looks like you need to wee,” and sit them on the potty. If they start weeeing, say, “Looks like you are weeing! Hold it! Wee goes in the potty!” And rush them to the potty. This worked well for us. Our son had one “accident” outside where he looked down and realized he was weeing. After that, all the other wees he did that day was on the potty.
3. Give them a little extra to drink so they can get in more PRACTICE of going to the potty.
4. Rewards: She encourages you to avoid rewards. Give a high five, or say, “WOW! YOU ARE SO BIG I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THAT” when they go int he potty. When they have an accident, don’t say, “That’s okay”— because you’re trying to teach them it is not. Instead, have them help you clean it up, and say, “Wee only goes in the potty.” Obviously don’t heap shame on them or punish them- but help them know you disapprove. We did not follow this advice— we did give smarties on the first day for wees and 2 smarties for poops. Day 2ish the smarties ran out, and we just didn’t bring it up, he didn’t ask, and we didn’t give them out. So we may have dodged a bullet there.
5. PROMPT: Don’t ask them to go potty. Tell them, “It’s time to sit on the potty,” either when they are giving cues, or just periodically. If you say, “Do you need to wee?” They will just say no.
6. Liquid: Your child will absorb about 1/3rd of the liquid they drink normally. So imagine whatever you give, about 2/3rds will come out the other end.
The first stage could last one day or three, or more. Normally it doesn’t last longer than 4. Once your child is making most of their wees and poops prompted and unprompted, put pants on them. Once they are okay with this for a MONTH, try pants and undies.
Same as day. Limit liquid intake, and put the potty right next to their bed in their room. Wake them up at 10 and 2am, put them on the potty (even if not fully awake) and say, “It’s time to wee,” maybe make water noises. They may not wee. Put them back in bed. If they have an accident, she suggests NOT changing the sheets in the middle of the night because it will wake them up more fully. Wee is sterile. Just put a fleece blanket under them so they don’t feel the wee, and change sheets in the morning. Slowly work your way towards dropping one or the other waking.
We quickly realized that he was not weeing before 2am, so we stopped waking him up at 10, and instead just woke him up around 2am. So far he has not wanted to wee any time we have woken him up, but a few times he has woken himself up with a mini-accident saying, “I’m making a wee!” And finished his wee in the potty.
For tips on NAPS, and further tips on progressing from stage to stage, be sure to read her book. She also has some great tips on “Day two battles”— often the first day goes well, and then the second day, when your child realizes the nappies are not coming back, and feels pressure/is over prompted, they start rebelling. She has great tips for pressing through that!
So far we are still on the “no undies” level, and the making wees only in the small green potty. However, we have had outings, and he has weed successfully in many different environments. We noticed every time he was in a new environment, he was more likely to have a small accident. So we made a point to show him the potty in a new place, remind him he can always ask us, even if we are busy chatting, and that has seemed to help. We did have our first success on a public toilet today — yay! Her tip was to let them stand or squat on the seat while you hold them instead of sitting. I did this and it worked well! We’re still waking up in the night, but so far no major accidents in the night.
While I can’t claim it’s a perfect method (since we are not 100% done), I can say the journey so far has been less drama than I expected! And it has been SOO satisfying to not be wiping poop off a bum for the past few weeks!