A year of potty-training

When I tell people that we took a year to potty-train D, they often think we had a horrible time doing it. But that’s definitely not the case. We just did things in stages, and kept everything very casual and slowwww for our kind-of-rigid really rigid toddler.

(He’s the kind of kid who freaks out if his bedtime cereal is served in a plastic bowl (it must be glass), so if your kid is anything like this, you may want to take notes.)

The end result was a little boy who has had very few accidents, no freak-outs over not wanting to use the potty, and no problems.

Here’s how it all went down:

24 months (June): D turned two in June, and his baby sister, C, was just six weeks old. Darling Husband and I had sort of discussed maybe potty-training him in the warm weather, since everyone says it’s easier. So we just started letting him run around the house totally naked sometimes, and leaving a Baby Bjorn potty in the middle of the (hardwood-floored) living room. We told him if he had to pee, just sit there and pee, but kept it very casual. He quickly discovered he did NOT like the feeling of pee running down his legs (or the puddle it turned into at his feet), so he began using it easily. I’ll never forget the (hilarious) shocked expression when he first peed all over himself while standing next to the couch.

25-26 months (July & August): We continued to give D lots of “naked time” with the potty, and encouraged him to sit on it occasionally while he watched TV. He was cool with that (it was basically a chair, after all). He started using the potty seats that fit onto the regular toilets. We bought him Elmo underwear, but he was terrified of it and didn’t want to wear it. No biggie. We’ll put it away! Just, you know, use the potty, Nudie.

27 months (September): D eventually came around on the underwear front (that Elmo is a tempting guy), and began wearing undies around the house. OMIGOD little boy undies are the cutest thing ever. I spent these months practically hugging myself at the cuteness of those little blue elastic waistbands. We put the Baby Bjorn potty in the basement bathroom, since he didn’t need it in the living room anymore as a constant reminder. He had very few accidents, and often didn’t want to use the potty seat — he liked “hanging low” by dipping his little butt right inside the regular toilet seat. He continued to wear a cloth diaper for naps and when we left the house, and wear a disposable at night.

28-34 months (October through April): D continued wearing underwear all day, and he now wore his undies out of the house, too. In public! I think he only had one pee accident in public, but I can’t actually remember it happening, so it must not have been traumatic for me. Darling Husband and I were VERY nervous, because even though he was great at home, we were sure he’d get distracted out in public. But he seemed to like using “the mall potty” and “the restaurant potty,” so it was smooth sailing — except for constantly asking him if he had to go! He still wore a cloth diaper for nap, and a disposable at night.

35 months (May): We took the plunge and decided he was ready to try wearing underwear at naptime. He was probably ready earlier, but naptime is when I work (I’m a freelance journalist, if you’re just tuning in). So I was REALLY hesitant about banishing the diaper and needing to be on-call for the potty. But I was also REALLY tired of changing disgusting poopy diapers from someone who could carry on a conversation with me! One morning, after a particularly foul diaper, I just said “OK! We’re all done with diapers. You don’t need them anymore.” D was a little bewildered, but agreed to wear underwear for his nap that afternoon. He peed while he was sleeping, but it didn’t wake him up, so I felt victorious! He wore underwear that night, too, and hasn’t asked for a diaper once.


Yes, he still pees the bed here and there — I’d say he had a 70% success ratio off the bat, and it’s more like 90% now — and he’s had a sleeping poop accident twice (not fun!). But overall, it’s been much less scary than I had imagined.

D has had a childproof lock on his bedroom door since he was 18 months old (when he went into a twin-sized bed), and we actually just took it off the other day so he could slip out to use the bathroom when he needed to go.

It’s saved us *some* running up and down the stairs, since he occasionally uses the potty and then heads straight back to bed. But it’s also caused some mischief, since our little guy loves to get into things (garbage cans, drawers, cabinets, um everything). The other day, he stood on the kitchen counter to reach the medicine cabinet, took a small pair of scissors, and cut his own hair!

All in all, I’m happy with the very low-key, low-pressure, slowwww approach we took with D. Yes, he was in underwear shortly after he turned two, but he also wasn’t night-trained until just before he turned three. I have friends who have waited until their kids were at least 2 1/2 and then trained them in a matter of days, and I’m very impressed by that. But I know D, and I know how he doesn’t like changes in routine. He handled this mellow approach beautifully.

No more diapers! Well, for him, at least. Little C still has a good 12-15ish months left in them. But I have to say, no more disgusting adult-sized gross BIG KID diapers is certainly a nice change!


One Comment on “A year of potty-training

  1. Thanks for this, Heather. We're just beginning the process with J. As much as I love the thought of training her in a week, I have a feeling she'll respond better to a more gradual approach also, so I'll be trying some of your tricks!


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