Child-Led Potty Training

When I first became a mother, potty training was the thing I dreaded the most. We constantly heard stories of how difficult and messy it was, and there was so much pressure to have a child fully trained by a certain age. There were horror stories of training too early, and what would happen if we waited too long.

The summer before Nora turned 2, the questions began. Had we started training her yet? The summer was the perfect time! So I did a little research and bought her first tiny pair of underwear. I set a timer for every 15 minutes, and we began. I want to say we did this for a couple days, but all I can remember is Nora could not care less. We had towels everywhere, I was constantly cleaning up messes, and then she stopped even telling me that she was wet. I knew we couldn’t continue like this, but I felt like such a failure.

A few months later, I walked into her two year doctors appointment with my head hung low. I knew the question would come up, and I wouldn’t know how to respond.

We went through all the usual questions but when I exclaimed that no, she was not in fact potty trained and that she had no interest in it what’s so ever, her doctor just simply responded “so wait.” My face must have given my shock away because she laughed and proceed with telling me to wait until she was ready and that it was more common now for children to be potty trained closer to age 3. After that I was able to tell everyone who asked why she wasn’t trained yet “her doctor told us to wait until she was ready.” We may have gotten funny looks but no one argues with what a doctor says.

Sure enough, a month before she turned 3 it happened.

What is Child-Led Potty Training?

Child-Led Potty Training is letting your child initiate the process on their own instead of the parents deciding and forcing them into it. This means no power struggles, no shaming, and not doing it before they are 100% ready. Once the child starts showing interest in the toilet and using it, you support them and encourage them but never force them out of diapers until they are ready. This could mean going back and forth between going on the toilet and going in a diaper simultaneously. Potty learning is a process and every child will process it differently.

For us, we already had a seat for the big toilet but since that didn’t work the first time we let her pick out her own small potty. This worked well for us because she had options to where she wanted to sit. In child-led potty training it is recommended to skip the portable potty however. We also made sure to have a book about potty training. At the time she was still into Paw Patrol so we got this one:

Potty Patrol (PAW Patrol)

And then boom, that was it. We talked about it, she asked questions, had a few accidents here and there but nothing like the first time or how I imagined it would go. Here is the log I kept of her progress:

As you can see, not even a week later I stopped keeping tracking since it happened so flawlessly. There was no need for timers or rewards because she just knew. She natrually learnt the feeling of having to go and knew where to go because she had been exposed to it for months before-hand. Apparently I skipped a step the first time around where before going straight to underwear, you leave them with nothing on, then wearing loose pants, and only then put them in underwear. This was a crucial step for us. I would say that was what took the longest. Her favourite part of it though was the little happy dance we did everytime she went. We made sure to praise her when she did other things as well, to avoid putting any pressure on going to the potty. Even though she has been trained now for a few months now, I still can’t believe how easy it was!! In regards to going out in public we did that slowly and when she was ready too. We started going on small walks then drives, and then we just got used to it and stopped thinking about having to put a diaper on her before we went out.

Benjamin saw us doing the happy dance and decided he wanted some praise too so just before he turned 2 he decided he wanted to go on the potty as well. I kind of didn’t take him seriously however, since Nora trained later and I had heard boys were even harder than girls. Much to our surprise, he knew exactly what to do too. I left potty training two kids at the same time out of the begining of this simply because I don’t know if he is considered fully trained just yet as he still struggles the second he has pants on. Some days he still asks for diapers, and we did take a break over the holidays, but we are still following his lead. It may not be as quick and easy as it was with Nora but I think it is the perfect example of how each child is different which puts emphasis on soley following their cues.

I have become the worst at giving parenting advice because lately my new motto is: wait until they’re ready. It has been the most effective way in all the challenges we’ve faced so far! Have you tried this potty training method? How did it work for you?

xo, Julie

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