Real Life Potty Training STories
About This Series
This is the first installment in our series of real-life stories about how real parents helped their children move from diapers to fully 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!
Our first story is from Jihyun, a co-founder of One Proud Toddler. Let's find out how she potty trained her two kids!
Question #1 - Please Tell Us About Yourself !?
Hi! My name is Jihyun and I live in San Diego, California. I’m the mom of two awesome kiddos, a seven-year-old son and two-and-a-half year old daughter. I am also a co-founder of One Proud Toddler with my husband Ryan. I’m originally from South Korea and that allows me to see how things are done a little differently in other cultures including potty training and parenting. For example, co-sleeping is common in my culture and potty training early is also very common for parents in my generation and earlier since diapers were either historically very expensive or cloth requiring constant washing.
Question #2 - When Did You Start Potty Training?
My son was right around 24 months old when I started. I decided it was time to try when I witnessed my cousin’s son, who is a month older than my son, using the potty nearly all by himself during a visit to South Korea. I had moved away from Korea before having kids and had never really realized how early many parents there start potty training.
My daughter was right around 21 months old when we decided to give it a go because she had a doctor’s orders for no diapers and because of our positive experience with her brother. She a bad case of hand, foot and mouth disease at the time and a severe bottom rash was one of her symptoms.
Question #3 - What Helped You The Most?
For me, watching my cousin potty train her son and realizing it could be done at around 24 months was probably the most helpful aspect of my potty training journey with my children. When I returned home after watching her potty train her son I stated right away with mine. I asked her bunch of questions on the phone and she helped guide me through some of the basics, her tips and tricks, and an expected timeline (e.g. how long it took to go pee, poop in the potty, good time to start nighttime training, etc.). It was super helpful!
Question #4 - How Long Did It Take to Click?
For our son, pee took two or three days. Poop took three-to-five days to click. For our daughter, pee took a day or two and poop took two to three days.
The first couple of hours of training were actually some of the easiest in terms of prompting to go / sitting on the potty because my kids thought it was a new and fun activity. As time went by during the first few days it became more of a challenge because they were more interested in whatever activity they were doing and seemed bothered and stressed to be asked to use the potty.
During this phase, I learned that instead of insisting and fighting with them to try to get them to go potty right that second, it worked better if I reminded them gently where the potty was if they wanted to use it. Or using an Alexa or phone alarm to remind them. After five days or so, prompting and going to the potty had already become part of our daily routine.
Question #5 - When Were You Really Confident They Were Trained?
I think it probably took about a month or two with my son and two or three months with my daughter. The first month was all about me being on top of their bodily signals and their daily potty schedule. It was a "preemptive" approach in the sense that I was trying to catch and avoid possible accidents. The second month was more of me responding to just their signals (frustrated looks, potty dances or verbal communications) to make sure we made it to the potty in time.
Question #6 - How Did You Tackle Poop?
Poop was a hard cookie for the lack of a better phrase. I initially had no idea how to even tackle it. Then I asked people around me, and my mom told me that she noticed my son tended to go soon after meals, so I should try at those times. I also remembered how he would run to the pantry or behind the couch to go. It turns out those were the two important clues!
With this knowledge in hand, after a big meal I took his pants off to see if I could catch him in time to get the poop in the potty, hoping that once he saw it there he would connect the dots. Soon after, I found him doing a poop dance because without a diaper, he didn't know where to go. That is when I told him to sit on the potty and try to go. Even though his potty dance was getting a little crazy because he really had to go, he refused to sit and looked shocked, just like an adult being asked to poop in diaper 😂. I had no option but to push him down to sit on the potty chair assuring him it was okay against his resistance. Then he pooped in the potty and we celebrated!
After repeating this a few more times, I still found myself having to catch him trying to go to the pantry or behind the couch, so I decided to have him go bare bottom after each meal (before this we had him in training underwear and loose pants). With this change, he seemed to realize that the way he used to poop was really no longer an option. It took an additional 3 to 5 days of no pants after meals and me watching him constantly for him to get things down. We had few poop accidents during this time, and used these as teaching opportunities. By the end though, he seemed comfortable to sit on the potty chair and even proud to use potty, empty the pot and flush, of course saying "bye bye" to the poop.
The process was very similar with my daughter.
Question #7 - What About Training Outside Your Home?
Going outside was big part of our potty training journey. When the kids were around potty training age, outdoor activities like going to the library, zoo, playground, trips to the store, etc. were a big part of our daily life. I knew that I had to make sure they understood using the potty outside was a continuous thing wherever we went. To do this, we made trips to various places to show them where the big potties were and where we had to run if we had to go.
I used to carry my potty bag with an extra pair of clothes, empty plastic bottle with a wide opening for my son (i.e. emergency pee bottle), folding potty seat and plastic bags as well as hand sanitizer. I used to put a waterproof changing pad underneath my kids wherever they were sitting, like the car seat or stroller, just in case. Sometimes I did put on pull-ups when things were kinda out of my control like on the airplane. It gave me piece of mind and fortunately they were also able to remember that they still had to run with me to the bathroom even with the pull-ups on.
Question #8 - How About Nighttime Training?
It was very different with my son and daughter. In fact, my experience of night time training my daughter made me realize how my son’s story almost sounds too good to be true. When my son was around 26 months old, I started night time training by taking his diapers off at night. This was after about one month of training, when I was pretty confident he was really starting to connect the dots during the day and consistently trying to make it to the potty. In short, after two or three mistakes in the middle of the night, he started waking himself up to ask to go potty. No dedicated nighttime training was needed and there have been no more accidents at night since then.
My daughter has been a different story! We also took her nighttime diaper off at around 26 months, but she just peed in her pajamas without even noticing despite numerous accidents. I was washing soiled pajamas and blankets week after week without any sign of her getting the hang of it. Then I thought I might start to pick her up and let her sit on the potty in her sleep as many potty training books recommend. When we did this, she would pee in the potty right away while half sleeping and then go right back to sleep. It’s been 2 months or so of doing this routine, she’s now 29 months old, and she’s staring to ask for the potty in the middle of the night. She still has accidents, but they are becoming fewer and fewer. We still have some way to go, she’s definitely starting to get it.
One thing I think helped with nighttime training for both of my kids is that we co-slept as is common in South Korea. This made it easy for me to check on them and didn't require me to make trips across the hallway late a night.
Question #9 - Any Potty Training Hacks You Can Share?
When I started potty training my son, instead of having him go naked I took his diaper off and put on two layers of thin pajama pants. Using this method, I was able to see him straining to pee and would see his pants start to change color right away, so that I could rush him to the bathroom. I feel that the light fabric we used for his pajama pants allowed him to literally feel when they started to become wet, warm and heavy after an accident. He did not like that feeling and then would know something was wrong because it felt so different compared with a diaper. With this technique I ended up with piles of clothes wet with pee, but was happy to throw these into the washer with less damage to the rugs or couches!
I now know that going 'bare bottom' is a thing in the potty training world and I also used this method when it came to poop prompts, it was very helpful!
I’ve made a series of Reels videos on Instagram @oneproudtoddler showing detailing more random potty training hacks. Check it out if you have time!
Question #10 - Any Last Words For Parents Just About To Embark On Their Potty Training Journey?
First, congratulations on the upcoming milestone! Potty training is probably the first major learning exercise in your child's life. Please know that mistakes will happen and it’s part of the plan as we learn the most from mistakes – always turn them into learning opportunities. And just like any other learning exercise, constant and focused practice makes perfect!
More Interesting Reads
Real Potty Training Story No. 2
The second installment in our series showing how real parents potty trained their kids. If you think training one child is a challenge, imagine training two at the same time!
Real Potty Training Story No. 3
The third installment in our series showing how real parents potty trained their kids. See how this family potty trained their son during the height of the pandemic in New York City!
Real Potty Training story No. 4
The fourth installment in our series showing how real parents potty trained their kids. See how this father of five, potty trained his children.