Background - why did I choose to train early? First, I had the time. Secondly, I really do NOT like changing poopy diapers. T Rex Dad usually does those. And I hate contributing to the landfills (I did not cloth diaper T Rex - next child I probably will). Plus, all three of us (my sister, brother, and myself) were toilet trained by 14 months. (Yes, I had the super mom! She says that she also hated changing diapers, too!)
Books I've used: "The No-Cry Potty Training Solution" - this is where much of my information comes from. Initially I was inspired by the Baby Whisperer's book on problem solving.
The Baby Whisperer actually recommends early training versus later training because when kids are little they are much more compliant and receptive to praise. She recommends starting around age 9 months. I found that to be a little early to actually start sitting on the potty though.
Why start early? Well, according to the Baby Whisperer you don't give a child a spoon only after he's learned to feed himself. Rather you give him the spoon and he learns to use it gradually. At first there are lots of messes but eventually he learns. Remember when your little one was just starting to walk, you did not just decide to one day teach him to walk? No it took several weeks or months of prep work to build those muscles and coordinate that balance. Potty training is a lot like that.
According to the "No Cry" book, potty training takes on average about 3 to 12 months. Thus, I decided to start T Rex when he was 14 months with the goal of being done in 12 months. I think is this totally reasonable.
Both books refer to readiness clues:
- Obvious one - if they tell you they are wet or messy
- When child has bowel moment, it is obvious to you (i.e. goes off in a corner)
- BMs are predictable
- Child can follow simple requests (i.e. put the toy in the box)
- Helps when dressing himself
- Listens when reading books
- Likes to imitate others
- Interested when someone is using the toilet
- Consistently stays dry for 2+ hours at a time
- Can communicate needs
- Parental feelings toward changing diapers
- Parental readiness for potty training - do you have the time to commit?
- Child's level of independence
- Family stress level - do you have any life changing events coming up in 3 months?
These are just readiness clues - one should not expect the child to be able to do all of these.
Around age 12 months we started having T Rex follow us into the restroom and simply observe what we were doing. Then we started having him flush. He could have his own square of toilet paper to look at while we did our thing. This was an excellent introduction to being in the bathroom and not being afraid.
We also started reading "potty" books together - these are still some of our favorites, especially the Karen Katz one.
Generally kids do not have night time control until they are 2 years old so we are deferring even trying that until T Rex is no longer in a crib - pointless if he cannot get out of bed to go GP, right?
When T Rex was 14 months I was no longer working and had plenty of time to devote to PT. I purchased a free standing potty chair and just started having him sit - fully clothed - on it. We did this for 1-2 weeks also taking inventory of when he did "his business". Thus, we could know the predictable times when he would likely leave a deposit in the potty.
Then we moved onto sitting on the potty minus his diaper for a minute at a time. Yes, I set a timer up in the bathroom. We would read or sing songs. In fact, it started to be a time he looked forward to because he would get to choose the book or activity before hand and had our complete and undivided attention.
Training pants: At 14 months I also started putting him in training pants to know the difference between dry and wet. Disposable diapers are way too absorbent these days. We tried pull-ups but he could not tell he was wet; they were too much like diapers. Pull-ups are great for outings.We use waterproof training pants by T L Care. I purchased a pack of six on eBay. I've also tried the Gerber training pants. These work best when you really have a grasp on things and are less likely to have accidents. You could put a vinyl cover over the Gerbers but I find that's a lot to take off in a hurry.
Appropriate clothing: Make life easy for both of you and avoid body suits or coveralls. We generally put T Rex in elastic waist pants and a T shirt. If he needs an undershirt I have T-shirts for that, rather than onesies. In the beginning I even turned a few onesies into T-shirts. Leg warmers work great because they don't have to come off. However, I do not put the "guard" up on the potty because T Rex has bumped himself too many times. Thus, we take his pants completely off to avoid them getting wet. Eventually I will teach him to point his unit down but for the time being we are having him simply keep his legs together.
Potty seats and chairs: We purchased the simplest potty chair off Amazon. It is plain white and the seat can be removed and put onto the toilet. I did not want anything that would be confused as a toy (i.e. played music, etc.).
The books all say you should never have them sit for more than 3-5 minutes at a time. I was doing this but T Rex would never go. I found that it takes him about 7-10 minutes of sitting to actually relax enough to GP ("go potty") #1 or #2 or both. Now we set the timer for 10 minutes. I actually don't like for him to sit longer than that - he does get bored - unless he is going #2. Sometime a BM can take a while.
The goal for us has been to get to the toilet when he needs to go, get him to relax, and then have him make a deposit. After which, we do the "potty dance" - i.e. jumping up and down, clapping, and saying "yeah" over and over. We've found that no reward works better than this. Since T Rex does not like candy, and toys were just not clicking as a reward, we went to "the dance".
Here is our GP schedule:
- First thing in the morning
- 9:00 am
- 11:00 am
- After nap
- 5:00 pm
- 6:30 pm
- 7:30 pm if did not go at 6:30
** and any time in between when he shows that me might need to go
Right now he just kind of sticks to the schedule. Hence I categorize this more as "toilet training" rather than "potty training". When he no longer needs the schedule and can tell me when he needs to go, that is "potty training". Now, I can usually predict better than he can tell. But, there are times when he does grab my hand and walk me to the bathroom. So it is transitioning.
When I take him to the toilet I tell him we're going to "GP". That is our terminology. Sometimes he will say "GP" if he needs to go. Recently, he's just been going into the bathroom and setting up his seat. We have moved onto a removable seat that rests on the toilet (I was tired of scrubbing the bin to the little potty chair every time he went).
Toilet with removable seat on it - ready for T Rex use. To the right are the flushable wipes and his stool, pardon the pun, to climb on and off the toilet.
I also like the removable seat because it transports easily. So if we are going for a playdate, the seat fits in his bag. I also pack some flushable wipes and a book for entertainment on the go.
I would say T Rex is about 75% there - consistently. We have days that are 100% and some days where we are 30% but mostly about 75%. If he is particularly enthralled by something he will happily wet his pants just to continue whatever activity that has him so enamored.
It can be a fairly tedious at times as well as exhausting but I've found when we achieve success it just helps to push us to keep going.
Remember this is training for both of parent and child, not just the little one!
(If you've had success with your little ones, please feel free to leave any comment you feel might be helpful for those, like myself, who are working on training.)