Toddler Potty Training. Reader's Email.

10-0607-01fEmory isn’t yet potty trained. Of course, he’s not really supposed to be, at 21 months. We do have one of those Bjorn toddler toilets and have for almost a year but we’re not militant about putting it to use. I store it in our bathroom across from the regular toilet.

There have been a few times right before having a bath where he’ll sit down on it and pee. Which always results in cheers, songs, hugs and kisses. And I can only imagine what type of lasting neuroses we’re inflicting upon him.

Granted, I met one mother who used Jelly Beans as a reward. So, when her son as a grown man suddenly and inexplicably craves Jelly Belly’s every time he poops, we’ll all know why.

But I digress. For those of you without children, this may come as a surprise to you, but it’s true what they say about having kids and then never getting to use the bathroom alone. At first I brought him into the bathroom with me because I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone for 30 seconds. But now it’s become a ritual. He waddles in behind me and sits down on his potty while I use the big person potty. And then we have the following conversation:

“Mama goes potty?” (Pronounced “pah-ee?”)

“Yes, mama goes potty.”

“Dadda goes potty?”

“Yes, Dadda goes potty.”

“Emmy goes potty?”

“Yes, Emmy goes potty, too!”

“Murrrrl goes potty?”

“Yup, Murray goes potty.”

You get it. He asks about every cat and then starts over again. This is a common discussion. He enjoys it. As do I. And having said discussion warms him up to the idea. He now knows that people use a toilet. He just hasn’t yet figured out how to plan for it. He’s not yet saying, “Mama, I have to go potty.”

There have been a few times where he’ll be trying to go poop and I’ll scoop him up and sit him on the potty. Usually Toby Joe or I will sit down with him and read a book to relax him. Unfortunately, this is usually when he’s really constipated and therefore experiencing some pain. So it’s not always a pleasurable experience. We read to him to try and relax him so he doesn’t hit an emotional roadblock when it comes to pooping on the potty.

All in all, he’s probably used the potty a dozen times. I call that progress!

This is still a learning experience for all of us. We’re taking it day-by-day. I haven’t yet read a thing about how to actually successfully potty train a toddler. I am not sure what we’re waiting for, really. A sign he’s really ready? Maybe we’re lazy? I don’t know. I can honestly say, however, I’m not even sure at what age you’re supposed to begin such a feat, that’s how little research I have done on the subject.

So, all that said, I’m not sure how much I have to offer a mother who emailed me over the weekend regarding potty training. Here is her email:

Hi I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and your son is a little older than mine.  So, I find your advice and information helpful as what you’ll are learning doing we aren’t too far behind.  My son is 17 months old.  Anyways, I’ve been trying to read up on potty training and thought I’d ask you if you have any insight into the subject.  I found a Peter Potty urinal online at walmart and thought it looked pretty cool for baby boy then I’ve read it can be confusing to try to learn to use two separate potties (one for #1 & another for #2) but I also read little boys sometimes much prefer this method and train easier (don’t you just love all the conflicting info out there).  Anyways, my question is have you started the process yet and if so have you learned any tips or tricks to make it easier?

Can you help her? Do you have pointers for this momma? And perhaps I can rubberneck and learn a thing or two as well? heh.

Thanks, friends!


  1. Bribery is the key to happiness.


    All three of my boys were potty trained in a day. Here’s how our day went. Loaded them up with soda, water and salty foods that would make them want more soda and water. Hung out in the kitchen playing games all day (Bathroom was right by kitchen.) Every fifteen minutes, we went to the bathroom, where I read books. Several of them, to the tot. This lasted 5-10 minutes. Then, back to the kitchen for more games, drinks, food. 15 minutes later, back to the bathroom. When they went, they got M&M’s, or Small cookies. Something. Praise, tons of praise. Then, back to the kitchen.

    Eventually you can work your way up to 30 minutes, then 45 then an hour.

    By the end of the day. Boom. One potty trained kiddo.

    The bribes continued for a couple weeks after. One M&M if they went to the bathroom and TRIED. Two, if they actually went. This kept them interested in trying to go.


  2. Heather: I think I love you.


  3. Maybe I’m less ambitious, but it took me a much longer time to take potty training seriously. My daughter was born when my son was 2 so we didn’t even attempt training because of fear of backtracking. My son probably wore pull-ups for a year. When we suggested it he would pee on the potty, but he never volunteered. When he was apprx 39 mos I put him in real underwear. After a few accidents he was fully trained in about 2 days & pooped on the potty w/in 3 days after some concerns on his part. He was even dry at night, which probably means I waited longer than I had to. After that he rarely had accidents. Incidentally, he didn’t stand to pee until he started pre-school at almost 4. Not sure if that’s ‘standard’ but it worked for us. We tried rewards, but nothing worked until we used underwear. At that point we didn’t even have to bother w/bribery. Being wet was enough.
    My daughter was trained in a similar way & at 32 mos. Two days before she went to pre-school, after wearing pull-ups & practicing for awhile, I put her in underwear. She was also trained in 2 days & was dry at night. We did keep pull-ups on at night for about 2 weeks but she woke up dry. She had a couple of accidents in school, but it was mostly after she learned to hold it & then held it too long. She just had to learn her limits.
    I would also suggest that it’s really hard to train unless they can get to the potty easily AND can get their pants down. If they don’t have the clothing skills it might just be more frustrating & discouraging. In that case there is always the training w/o any clothes at all method which works, esp in the summer!


  4. Heather, How old were your boys when you did this? Very interesting! Thx.


  5. Thank you for posting this. (I am the mom who emailed the question) I am crossing my fingers when we do start it goes as smoothly as Heathers experience. I like the idea of having it and talking about it before actually “trying” seems like it would make them more comfortable about the idea.


  6. My pleasure, Momma A. I hope we get some information! :] And I promise you, once we start our trek, I will surely update on here as well.


  7. I think Theya was 2 and a half or so and I’d been trying a few different forms of bribery (stickers, M&Ms, sticker chart for books or toys) and after a week or so she’d lose interest.
    One day, while visiting the city-owned ranch, my husband suggested that we try a sticker chart to earn a pony ride and THAT clicked (what little girl doesn’t love ponies?!) We gave her an M&M for trying, one sticker for #1 and 2 for #2, when she had a chart of 100 stickers, she could have a pony ride.
    Within 2 weeks she was completely trained (by which I mean NO accidents). She wore a diaper to bed for a few more months, though.


  8. For this Heather, I honestly waited until it was more work for them than it was for me and that they could independently pull pants/undies up and down and get the gist of wiping and hand washing. My girls trained at 27 and 30 months and my youngest is 19 months and no way no how am I even bothering until he asks or Costco increases the price of Huggies again.


  9. I used a method similar to what Heather describes. I bought a book called Toilet Training in Less Than A Day and followed the plan. My boys were 2.5 and 3.5 at the time. I worked with my 3 1/2 year old first and it took about 6 hours before he got it. He is and always has been motivated by candy, so the bribery worked with him. With my 2 1/2 year old, who isn’t really motivated by candy, the process took more like a weekend. But, it worked and was fairly painless. Hope that’s helpful!


  10. Just spend the time, and before you know it they’ll pee in the potty like they have always known how. It’s all about you, and if your kid is over three and still in pul-ups in most cases it’s not your kid.


  11. My son is 18 months old and he’s about at the same stage as Emory only less successful potty attempts and less verbal. He likes to sit on his potty, go to the bathroom with me, talk about going potty, and having a book about going potty read to him.

    I think potty training is just something that happens when it happens. Work from your child’s cues and go from there. He will potty train eventually, right?

    I know I’m not in a rush. Diapers aren’t a big deal to me, and since we use cloth, not much money either.

    Even if you manage to potty train early kids regress if they are sick or they move or you go on vacation.

    I have two friends who mostly potty trained their boys by a year and they still have to wear diapers anyway due to accidents or being too distracted to signal that they have to go.


  12. I would be careful not to start too early. At Emory’s age, he is more imitating you than he is figuring out the function. Boys are known for late potty training. I agree with the statement to wait until he was ready and older and could help himself in the bathroom with wiping and pulling up and down his pants. When I trained my boy, I waited until summer, let him run around in just big boy pants, and used a loose method similar to Heather’s. I truly thought he might walk down the wedding aisle in a diaper, but he finally accomplished toilet training ! Patience.


  13. Andrea, if your child isn’t trained by 3 it may not be your kid, but it’s also not the end of the world. It’s about what’s right for your child & your family. It’s about following your instincts, knowing what you and your child can handle, and knowing what you’re both ready for.


  14. With the girl I babysit for, her parents waited until she was about 33 months and then started with pull-ups. The pull-ups had Dora on them and therefore she would do anything to wear them. She only got a pull-up if she used the potty first. They did this for about a month and then moved on to underwear. She had a few accidents but hasn’t had one in a while, although she still does wear pull-ups at night.


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