Potty Training in One DAY? MY A&$@R%#!

You’ve seen those videos, right, or read the articles, or saw Dr. Phil talk about it (and sheesh, who were those families who’d videotape their kids failing to make it to the potty in time??!!).

Can you really teach your child to use the potty in one day?

Heck, no!

I don’t care how ready your kid thinks she is — it just doesn’t happen that after all this time of just letting things go, your toddler will suddenly, miraculously, pay attention to their bodies and make a beeline for the bathroom. And there really is some meaning to that term “anal-retentive phase”! For some reason, they don’t like to lie down and get clean after a big poop.

Let me make a few observations based on my two girls’ experience, with the youngest one still as they say “working on it.”

First, it’s important that you don’t go back if you’re pretty sure that they are ready. They do have to be old enough to be able to physically do it – 18 months is the earliest – but once you’ve read the signs that they are ready, go forward.

You might misread your toddler, especially if she has an older sibling she sees using the bathroom. We tried with our youngest at 2 years and 2 months, and she was doing okay, but regressed when she started nursery school. So we pulled back for a couple months. After repeated diaper changes for the nursery school teachers, we decided to give it another shot. She’s more prepared to deal with it, and she likes going, though she does not always initiate a trip.

Whether you are ready or not is of course another story, but you have to be: we put off for different reasons with the oldest, but finally, I started her when I was off for a month in January, and we had things going, even on our trip to Disney and my in-laws’. She was fine by her third birthday.

A word on pull-ups: They are GREAT for long trips and overnight, but they don’t always know when they’ve wet themselves in one. They can easily tell this if they are wearing cloth training pants.

Praise, praise, praise, every time they make on that bowl! The child developmental specialists always talk about there being too much praise, but here’s one area where you are generally allowed to GO NUTS! Make it a big deal that Johnny uses the john. Don’t get sad when they don’t make it there – just say, oh, that’s okay, you’ll get it next time – but if you have celebrated big-time they will remember that and try to achieve that moment again. Of course the thrill will be gone soon, but by that time, they’re on their way.

Don’t be afraid to throw out anything that gets too dirty. Training pants may not be as disposable as diapers, but you can probably afford to “dump” a couple. This is especially the case if you’re on the last kid! What are you saving them for??

A thick disposable sheet on a couch you love almost as much as your precious one will save both of them.

While toys can provide a great incentive to go and sit, they can also be a distraction. They do have business to do. Instead, try reading a favorite book.

And speaking of books, there are many, many books for kids and potty issues. One of my favorites is EVERYONE POOPS by Taro Gomi. It’s “graphic” – that is, it uses great pictures for kids to enjoy and to talk about poop.

The hardest part for me is when they run away from you after they have made that number two! Maybe they’re embarrassed, or afraid, or it just hurts too much to want to do anything about it, but it’s the hardest thing to do. My big problem at first was that it seems the easiest thing to do is to stick them in the shower to wash them, but then it becomes too… well, fun! If the kid likes the shower, what’s the incentive to poop on the potty?

What’s the big secret? Patience. That’s what you need. And Calm, too. If you’re nervous, they’ll get nervous. You just have to get dirty for a while.

As more than one pediatrician has surely said, before they get married, they’ll learn!

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About T.B. White

lives in the New York City area with his wife and two daughters, 6 and 3. He is a college professor who has written essays about Media and the O.J. Simpson case, Woody Allen, and other areas of popular culture. He brings a unique perspective about parenting to families.com as the "fathers" blogger. Calling himself "Working Dad" is his way of turning a common phrase on its head. Most dads work, of course, but like many working moms, he finds himself constantly balancing his career and his family, oftentimes doing both on his couch.