Real Life Potty Training Stories

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About This Series

This is the eleventh installment in our series of real-life stories about how real parents helped their children move from diapers to potty trained. We created it in recognition of the fact that all kids are unique and that no two potty training journeys are exactly the same. There truly is no better way to grasp what needs to be done (and to motivate yourself) than learning how other parents tackled this major milestone!

Introducing Sarah

Our eleventh story is from Sarah. Let's find out how she potty trained her two daughters using a Montessori-inspired approach!

Question #1 - Please Tell Us About Yourself and Your Family!?

Boy Inspecting Potty Chair

Hello, my name is Sarah and I’m a Registered Nurse and Montessori-inspired Mom to two girls (2 and nearly 4 years). We started our Montessori-inspired journey when my eldest was roughly a year old. It’s been a transformative journey of learning and growing alongside them!

Question #2 - When Did You Start Potty Training?

We started around 22 months with my eldest and 18 months with my youngest. 

Question #3 - What Helped You The Most?

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Looking out for signs of readiness: Pulling at their diaper when soiled, resisting diaper changes, trying to remove their diaper, squatting or going to a private area when they poop, telling us they need to pee or poop, and waking up dry from naps/ overnight. 

There’s a certain level of mental preparation that needs to occur for both parents/ caregivers and the child. It’s important to remember this is a process and toilet learning is a skill that takes time and lots of practice. Creating a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them are important qualities in setting our children up for success. 

Question #4 - How Long Did It Take to Click?

It took a few months for the daytime toilet learning for my eldest. We introduced the night time toilet learning several months later. My youngest caught on (day and night toilet learning) within a few days. It’s a process and can vary depending if there’s disruption to their routine (ex: traveling, teething, new family member, and illness). 

Question #5 - When Were You Really Confident They Were Trained?

I think once they stayed dry overnight and were able to use a public toilet consistently, I felt way more confident! They still have occasionally “mistakes.” This mostly happens if they’re playing or really engaged in an activity for an extended period of time! 

Question #6 - How Did You Tackle Poop?

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Poop is always a tricky one! Both girls were hesitant to poop in the toilet in the beginning. Some tips that helped us included:

  • Explaining what is poop and why we do it.
  • Supporting their curiosity- answering questions and even looking at their poop. As a nurse, you can learn a lot by someones poop consistency!
  • Preventing constipation by making sure they’re well hydrated, staying physical activity, eating fruits and maintaining a high fiber diet. If children are constipated, they’re more reluctant to poop because it hurts!
  • Have a flexible routine. In the beginning, we may need to queue them more regularly, especially during transitional periods. Eventually, they will learn to trust their body and know when they need to go.
  • If they poop in their underwear or pants, do your best to stay calm and supportive. We can describe what happened in an objective manner - also known as sportscasting. We can say, “There’s poop in your underwear, let’s take them off and get some clean underwear.” We can transfer the poop ( unless it’s really sticky… then you may need to take other actions) into their potty. Usually, they’ll sit on the toilet for a period of time afterwards. If areas need to be cleaned, invite them to help and model working alongside them!
  • We did not do any brides or rewards. Stay neutral and objective! I know it’s tough and, you are not alone!

Question #7 - What About Training Outside Your Home?

Oh yes, this was a bit tricky too! My eldest did not like using the public bathroom and this took some time. We didn’t venture out too far or too long in the beginning. Some tips:

  • Go to the bathroom before leaving the house. 
  • Go to places where there’s plenty of restrooms.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Take breaks when needed and watch for signs!
  • Let them choose which stall they want to use!
  • Use a travel potty seat!
  • Cover the toilet sensor.
  • Stay calm and bring extra clothes.
  • Give them time.

Question #8 - How About Nighttime Training?

We didn’t start night toilet learning for some time with my eldest. She wore pull-ups initially during nap time and overnight. We slowly began to introduce underwear during nap time and once she was waking up dry most mornings, we gave it a try! My youngest started off night time trained! She had a dry diaper overnight for several days leading up to us starting the toilet learning process.  Some tips:

  • Assess readiness. Specifically for night time, are they waking up with a dry in the morning?
  • Make it a routine to go to the bathroom before bed.
  • Reduce water intake at night.
  • Buy extra sheets.
  • Use a waterproof mattress pad.
  • Set realistic expectations.

Question #9 - Any Potty Training Hacks You Can Share?

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  • Involve them in the process. This includes shopping for underwear together, preparing the space, and cleaning up any wet spots TOGETHER!
  • Create a potty basket. We had underwear, some wet wipes, a few folded sheets of toilet paper, a potty book, and some simple cleaning supplies (spray bottle and towel).
  • Use loose fitting pants for easy removal.
  • Use a small potty or a toilet seat with support.
  • When my children were first learning to use the toilet, I would go to the bathroom with them say “do you hear that?” We would be quiet and then hear the pee stream. They got excited and became very attentive. Even now, they’ll point to their ears and say "listen." 
  • Covering the automatic flusher sensor with toilet paper or a sticky pad. It happens so fast so it’s good to be prepared! 
  • Create a flexible routine and scaffold skills. Introduce one skill at a time and slowly add to it.
  • Use a travel potty seat to practice newly learned skills outside home.

Question #10 - Any Last Words For Parents Just About To Embark On Their Potty Training Journey?  

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Follow your child, they will let you know when they are ready. At the end of the day, you need to do what works for you! Every child is unique with their unique pace. For more tips on how to implement Montessori principles at home, stop by @reallifemontimama and say hi!

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The eighth installment in our series. See how this mom blogger is potty training her son at his own pace using the 'gradual parent-led' method!

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Real Potty Training Story No. 9

The ninth installment in our series. See how this preschool director potty trained her two sons!