How I Potty-Trained My Toddler

how to potty train a girl, potty training tips

I’ve been getting my daughter used to the idea of a potty since she was 6 months old, thanks to her Ukrainian grandma (you totally know what I’m talking about if you come from a Slavic background).  It definitely didn’t work out at 6 months old, mainly because I had no idea how she would be able to communicate to me that she had an urge to pee or poo.  It was too convenient to use disposable diapers, anyway.   In the old days, our moms spent a lot of time washing our pilyonki, which were basically cloth diapers, so I get why it was top priority for them to start potty-training as soon as their babies could sit.

Now a week later we are pretty much potty-trained.  I feel like I can’t really believe it and am always expecting accidents, but she has exceeded my expectations.  The whole family and other people involved in her life were on board, so it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone’s efforts.  It really does take a village to raise kids.  Continue reading to hear more about our potty training efforts this past week.

 

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If you’re Russian-speaking, please first watch this video I found on the first day I started potty training.  I feel like they do a great job discussing the gap between our generations:

 


 

When I was pregnant with my son, I wanted to have her diaper-free before I had another baby to take care of… but that also didn’t happen for various reasons.  I didn’t want to force it on my daughter, because she still wasn’t communicating with me before she had to go to the bathroom, only that she had gone and wanted to be changed sometimes.  I also didn’t want her to have a negative feeling towards the potty and toilet if I pushed too far.

When she started changing her own diaper (hilarious, right?) and talking more about what she wanted and didn’t want, I felt like it was a good time to go all in.  We had been using Pull-Ups for months, hoping that she would get used to being able to pull them up and down to use the potty like underwear.  Every time I bought a box of Pull-Ups from Costco, I would tell myself this is the last box.  No such luck.  She thoughts of Pull-Ups just the same as diapers.  I mean, they basically feel the same, so I get it.  I also was honestly pretty comfortable with just changing her diaper and not worrying about cleaning up extra messes on top of regular life messes.

When my son was born, my whole routine was thrown out of equilibrium, so I figured so was hers, and it definitely wasn’t a good time to do it then.  I waited 3 months for her to get used to being a big sister, since it was such a big life change for all of us.  She had some funny regressions since he was born and wanted to be just like her baby brother, including starting to be obsessed with his pacifiers, bottles, diapers, bouncey chairs and toys, some of which she had shown zero interest in when she was a baby herself.  How things change… I remember being so frustrated with her not wanting to take any bottles of my pumped milk and my mom feeding her with a spoon the few times I had to leave her with her.  Go figure.

Something about turning 30 soon lit a fire of urgency within me to start hardcore potty-training — no excuses, cold turkey.  I felt like we were both ready to go head first.  A few days before I turned 30, I decided it was time to potty train and announced it to my husband, who was very supportive and (happily) surprised.  First thing I did was hide all the Pull-Ups, letting Vienna know they were gone.  I replaced them with her stack of training underwear and set up a fun potty training area in our living room with her cute little my-size toilet, a roll of toilet paper, and some old toys I had hidden for the past few months because I was sick of cleaning them up.  One of those toys was her doll that drinks and pees in a diaper.  I used that doll to demonstrate how she drank water and peed in Vienna’s potty to make her extra excited while playing cute potty-training YouTube videos basically all day the first day and once in a while the next two days as a reminder.  She loved it.  It was honestly all about making it a fun and positive experience for her.

 

how to potty train a girl, potty training tips

how to potty train a girl, potty training tips

 

These were some of our favorite YouTube videos to play over and over in the first few days.  Vienna really enjoyed them, and I could tell they helped her feel better about the potty.

I still sing that “Potty, potty, wipe, wipe, flush, flush, wash, wash” song to her.  Silly, but it worked.

I didn’t put diapers on Vienna when she napped and slept either.  This usually surprises most people I tell.  I told you I went all in.  What made me comfortable about doing so was making sure she used her potty right before bed and knowing that her crib mattress was waterproof, a smart choice I made when I was still pregnant with her (not to worry if your crib mattress isn’t waterproof; there’s also waterproof crib mattress covers you can buy).  She only had an accident once at night so far, and now I think she understands it’s not fun to wake up all wet.  We put her on the potty as soon as she wakes up and every night before bed.  I’m so proud of her, you guys.

I was doing a load or two of extra laundry between underwear and the things she had accidents on those first few days.  Now a week later she doesn’t make as much of a mess — maybe one outfit a day, sometimes none at all.  I went in expecting extra messes to clean up, and there were messes, but having that expectation made it not so frustrating for me.  I also made sure to call it an accident, just like the YouTube videos, but say something like, “Oh, no, you had an accident {sweet tone}. It’s ok, mama will clean it up {understanding tone}. Next time tell mama you need to use the potty, ok? {positive tone}”  Over and over.  Repetition is key.  Positive vibes are key.

The biggest hurdle for us was pooping, and I hear from other moms and her preschool (which just started 2 days ago) is a pretty common thing.  Peeing was no problem for her, and she was so happy and proud of herself whenever she did it, saying “Pisya” (Russian for pee-pee) in a really excited tone and clapping her hands, which is something my husband and I did for her whenever she was successful at the potty.  Kids this age are major sponges, I tell ya, and they definitely love a good celebration of accomplishments.  I would even FaceTime my husband at work with her and show him the pee or poo and have her tell him about it while we both clapped and “celebrated.”

Back to pooping.  She really preferred going number two near the window by our couch, and it would get real quiet when it was happening.  The first few days she either pooped in her training underwear or on the floor standing up underwear-less.  She had accidents at grocery stores and at the park, but I brought extra clothes and underwear everywhere we went.  I told her it’s ok and all part of the learning process and kept telling her what a good big sister she was and how proud I was of her using her potty.  Positive affirmation is something a lot of our Slavic parents didn’t do for us (my parents and most other parents of people my age — not their fault, just the way they were raised), but I promise it won’t make your child spoiled if you make them feel good about doing something good.  It will just make them want to keep doing that good thing.  There’s a time and place for punishment, and potty training isn’t it.

She actually told me, “Mama, I’m scared,” over and over with tears in her eyes when I spent over an hour on probably the third day encouraging her to keep sitting on the toilet until there was poop.   I wanted her to understand that pooping wasn’t scary and actually felt good. I read or heard somewhere in my potty training searches that kids often feel like they are losing a body part when they poop.  Some people laughed at me when I told them this, but I honestly think it makes sense.

how to potty train a girl, potty training tips

Vienna was two and a half years old when we successfully potty-trained her, which is pretty average.  A child should be both physically and emotionally ready for toilet training.  The internet says most children are ready to start when they are between 22 and 30 months of age, but every child is different.  If we didn’t have a new baby join our family, I feel like we may have been successful a bit earlier.  You have to really gauge what’s going on in their life to figure out if your family is ready to take on this new adventure.  And yes, it’s a family effort.

 

 

 


 

Here are my potty training tips in a condensed format:

  1. Wait for the right time and make it a positive experience.

    1. Kids need to be ready to potty train emotionally as well as physiologically.  Some are successful before 2 years old, some do it closer to 3 years.  Be mindful of big life changes like new siblings or moving house.  I hear boys take a little longer to potty train, but that isn’t necessarily true for all.
  2. Let them watch and learn from you.

    1. We have an open-door bathroom policy in our home with our family.  We don’t shame or hide nudity but also don’t flaunt certain body parts, i.e. my husband prefers to hide his penis, because my daughter is always interested in it due to the pure novelty of it, but I am often naked in front of my daughter while getting dressed and tell her what certain body parts are if she’s wondering.  I also showed her how I use the toilet in a fun, lighthearted way.
    2. I also told her that everybody goes poop, listing all of our family members as well as firemen, which is what she is currently obsessed with (firetrucks and dinosaurs, hilarious).  Make a connection for them that they can comprehend at their level, and explain that all of us go to the bathroom as well as why/how we do it (we eat food, the food goes through our intestines, and it comes out as poop).
    3. Use a doll to show how we drink and pee in a potty.
    4. Have older kids demonstrate how they use the toilet if older siblings are present.
  3. Buy the right potty equipment.

    1. I purchased a total of 3 potty devices before finding the one that made it most fun for her.  One was this small potty that my mom also has at her house for her, the second was this attachment for big toilets to make them smaller for toddlers, and lastly was this mini size toilet that makes a flushing sound and even has a storage compartment on top.  I let my daughter play with the potty before ever starting real potty training so she thought of it as a fun toy.
  4. Motivate with cool underwear and say bye, bye to diapers together.

    1. We are using these training underwear and these regular underwear.  I hid her diapers in a kitchen cupboard when she wasn’t looking and replaced her diaper stack with the training underwear.  This made her cry for a few seconds, but I turned it around and made it a positive thing for her right away by pointing out the colors and patterns and making her excited to be matching with mommy.
  5. Offer a reward for successful potty sessions.

    1. My daughter loves raisins, so that’s kind of been her reward for successful pees and poos.  Her main reward in all honesty is all the celebrating we do with positive words and clapping hands.
  6. Set up a training schedule.

    1. This doesn’t have to be something super rigid.  I just make sure to take her to her potty or the big toilet very regularly anywhere we are (every 30 minutes or so) and especially right after she drinks something or if she’s going to hear a faucet running.  Make sure they use the potty before bed and as soon as they wake up and if they wake up in the night.  A week into potty training, she now asks me to go to the potty!
  7. Teach them to sit, use the potty, wipe, flush, and wash hands in that order.

    1. Kids love schedules and order and especially catchy jingles.  I sing that “Potty, potty, wipe, wipe, flush, flush, wash, wash” song to her often, and she loves it.
  8. Expect messy situations and prepare.

    1. I had my cleaning solution and paper towels always ready and was doing lots of laundry at first.  I also scheduled carpet cleaning for after she was potty trained, because we really needed it anyway and just in case she had accidents on the bedroom carpet.
    2. When we left the house, I brought a change of clothes and underwear as well as made an effort to put her in her rubber shoes so that her other nicer shoes wouldn’t get messy.
    3. I was also mentally prepared to wash her car seat if we needed to.
  9. Celebrate triumphs, making them big deal for the whole family, and point out accidents without punishment or harsh tones.

    1. We say “Yay!” and clap our hands.  I also FaceTime my husband when she reaches big milestones if he’s not home so we can all celebrate as a family, as well as include our newborn in the fun by telling my toddler that he’s proud of her, etc.  When she has accidents, I tell her it’s ok and that I’ll clean it up but to tell mama next time she has that butterfly feeling.  Now she says yay and claps for herself as well as for me when I use the toilet, haha.

 


 

My main takeaways for potty-training are to make it a positive experience, to expect that it’s definitely going to be messy, and to be very consistent.  Kids like knowing what’s going to happen and understanding why at their own level.  Everyone learns best and fastest with positive reinforcement, so try not to make your kid feel too badly about accidents and also expect that it’ll be a challenge for everyone, yourself included.  It’s also a challenge to change stinky, dirty toddler diapers, though, so the challenge of potty-training is well worth it in the end.  We mainly love that our trash doesn’t need to be thrown out immediately after my daughter’s diaper goes in it and that we get to save a bit of money from buying two sizes of diapers.  Ugh.

Good luck, mamas!  If you’ve already potty-trained, I’m sure all of us would love to hear what worked for you, so please comment below this post. Our kid’s personalities and mom styles are all a little different and we can all learn a little more from other women’s stories and experiences.

 

 

xoxoirinakiss

6 Comments

  • svitlanalazaresku@gmail.com'
    Reply August 9, 2017

    Svitlana

    Great post and great timing! I am in the process of potty training my son who is 18 months old.

    • Reply August 9, 2017

      Irina Bond

      So glad to hear it! Good luck, and share your tips with us mamas if you’d like. Especially boy potty-training tips. xo

  • karennavarro14@outlook.com'
    Reply August 22, 2017

    Karen

    Thanks for the tips, i really want to start potty training with my 20 months daughter. Does your girl use the kids potty or goes directly to the toilet? And how do you do it when you aren’t home, do you let her sit in public restrooms??

    • Reply August 22, 2017

      Irina Bond

      Aww, thanks for reading! At home she likes to still use her potty most of the time, but when we’re out she uses the regular toilets. Yes, I let her sit in public restrooms; I always line the chair with the disposable paper and wash her hands really well. She was scared the first time I tried at the grocery store, but now she’s fine. At her preschool they have kid-size toilets, so I think that helped her get used to them. xo

  • editor@parentingpassage.com'
    Reply September 1, 2017

    parentingpassage.com

    Great post! Thanks for sharing those videos. They’re really helpful.

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