TRANSITIONS | My Unofficial & Unscientific Potty Training Case Study


What do you get when several moms with different perspectives weigh in on the same topic? A great conversation!

This post is part of our MomSense series on transitions. From what they eat and where they sleep, to who takes care of them and how they learn, parenting young kids means navigating a series of important transitions. If you think about it, you’re probably in the middle of one (or more!) right now. Keep reading for one contributor’s experience, and click here to read all posts in this series.

I have pretty much the world’s best playgroup. The mamas in it are my best friends, and the kids have “played” together since they were lined up on a blanket staring at the ceiling. We wipe each other’s kids’ noses and bottoms when duty calls; we celebrate new babies and new houses. We notice new haircuts and new diaper bags; we share recipes and sleepless nights horror stories. These families are my tribe, my peeps, my support system, my social network, my speed-dial list, and on oh so many days, my saving grace.

So what does this have to do with potty training?
Well, with a group our size – six families – you get a pretty good cross section of the baby and toddler population. And when it comes to the big toddler transition of potty training, we have nearly every scenario represented. In our group of six kids, currently ages 2 years 8 months to 3 years 1 month, here’s how it breaks down: 

  • Girl #1 – Potty trained very easily at 22 months using a gradual, laid back approach over a couple of weeks. Very few accidents and/or regression since.
  • Girl #2 – Potty trained at 28 months using a cold-turkey, 3-day intensive method. Had shown signs of readiness prior to training but the gradual/laid back approach wasn’t working. “Boot camp” method was successful. One bout of frequent accidents/regression a month or so after training.
  • Boy #1 – Potty trained at 2 years 9 months fairly easily for pee. Still asks to put on a Pull-Up to poop (will hold it until wearing the Pull-Up but will not poop on the potty yet).
  • Boy #2 – Showed interest and readiness at 2.5 years and has had many successes, including full days of using the potty all day, but is still currently in Pull-Ups and not consistent enough with the potty to be considered fully trained.
  • Girl #3 – At 2 years 9 months, uses underwear and the potty often at home but still in diapers when out and about. Often asks to wear diapers instead of underwear, even though she is capable of using the potty.
  • Girl #4 – Potty trained quickly and easily at 2.5 years using a 3-day method.

I should note that I’m over-simplifying a bit, and that names have been omitted to protect the innocent little bottoms we’re discussing! But you get the idea: the kids are all over the map, the girls tend to be a little easier than the boys, and there is no magic method or time period when you can pat yourself on the back and say, “whew! we’re potty trained!”. Like all the transitions we’ll be talking about in this series, it’s a process that includes high-fives and victory dances as well as messes, tears and lots of laundry. And it’s been that way for all six of these kids and mamas – even the relatively “easy” ones.

My daughter was Girl #2 above. I chose one of the “boot camp” methods for her because it seemed like a good fit for her personality and our family’s situation at the time. She is highly verbal and could talk paragraphs about the potty and what it was for by the time she was 28 months, but when we tried the more laid-back approaches of “wear underwear (or run naked) around the house, sit on the potty for a while, read a book and see what happens”, she never actually did the deed. Then five minutes later she’d pee on the floor. For her I think she had trouble identifying the physical sensation of needing to go until it was too late. We had great success with our method (which was really a combination of two different methods I read*), but I don’t think it’s necessary for everybody or even the right fit for many kids.

When it comes to these kinds of transitions, I’m always trying to balance two seemingly opposite inclinations. I’m an academic at heart and I love to learn, so I do the research. I read articles online, check the relevant chapters in the big baby books on my shelf, talk to other mamas, etc. I feel better knowing what the “experts” say, even if I choose to completely ignore them. And once I feel informed (enough), I go with what feels right for our family and our little ones. After all, as parents we alone have the privilege of knowing what will work best for our kids, and the responsibility of helping them navigate these transitions.

Where are you in the potty training journey? Any tips or tricks to share with our readers? Any questions for the moms who have been through it and seen the other side?

* If you’d like more on the 3-day/cold-turkey/boot camp method we used, just email me at sarah{at}scottsdalemomsblog{dot}com and I’d be happy to share!