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How I potty trained both my boys by the time they were 2 1/2.

Potty Training. It’s the milestone we as parents are working for, hoping for, and crossing every finger and toe for. I remember the getting to the point with my oldest where I just felt like if I changed one more stinky diaper, I might actually loose my sense of smell for good. That was the catalyst for us to really encourage him to get potty trained. I was done with the stinky diapers!

Now, it took another several months honestly after that point to get him 100% potty trained and pooping in the toilet. I don’t have any tips for potty training quickly in 3 days or getting them to poop in the toilet before they are two. (If you do and want to send them my way, I still have 1 more to potty train.)

Now please know that a few of these tricks are specific to boys. My daughter is still a bit away from potty training, so I haven’t had the pleasure of potty training a girl yet.

How We Potty Train

1. Start introducing the concept early

We started introducing the concept of potty training at about 18 months. However, we do not even say that we are “potty training” at this point. When people ask, we simply tell them we are “practicing” or “introducing” the concept. Part of it is to set up expectations for ourselves and others that we do not expect them to be potty trained anytime soon. In fact, we introduced going potty in the potty to our second at about 18 months and I would just now call him potty trained at 2 months after turning 2 (ok ok 26 months but I absolutely hate when people can’t stop counting their kid’s age in months!). We are still working on the whole pooping in the potty thing, but we are down to pullups at nap time, night time, and visiting other people’s houses. I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning pee out of other people’s carpet.

The other reason we start introducing early is because we don’t want to miss the perfect potty-training opportunity. Our experience in working with and knowing lots of other kids has been that there is a small window of “perfect timing” and missing it seems to cause more headaches for parents. We introduce and wait for that window of time when they still think going potty is so much fun and are old enough and aware enough to know when they have to go. For me a key sign is asking to use the potty even if they don’t end up going. Once they ask, I know they are either in or approaching that window. Once it hit with my second, he was “house trained” in less than a week. We went 4 days with no accidents, had 1 bad day, and then have been mostly accident free since (meaning 2 times a week or less). I will specify this is only for pee though. It seems to take just a few more months to get the whole poop thing down.

2. If you can potty train in the summer/warm weather

I would say for most kids, you can either start a little early (we did this with our second) or wait a little bit till the weather warms up and let them run around outside without any bottoms on. Yep when it got to be 115, we let both our boys run around buck naked most of the summer. We didn’t see a day under 90 the entirety of June that year. This accomplishes 2 things. It makes both you and the child aware of when/how often they are peeing and gives you the chance to praise them every time they pee. This is always how we start our serious potty-training endeavors.

Some days I convinced the boys to wear tank tops but most days they spent running around the yard in their skivvies and loving every second of it. It’s important for you as a parent to know how often your little one is peeing. If they are still going tiny bits every couple minutes, then odds are they are not ready to potty train. That was how our second started the beginning of the summer. But by the time the weather finally cooled off in mid-October he was holding it and no longer just peeing but peeing with purpose outside. We started adding underwear to the mix as well sometime in September, when we finally had a few days that made it down to about 85. This led to a rather smooth transition to peeing indoors. Now we still took him potty inside this whole time, but I didn’t let him run around naked all over the carpet at our new house.

3. Know the real signs of readiness

I have heard time and time again that one of the “signs” of readiness for potty training is that their diaper is dry in the morning. I would still be waiting for my 3-year-old to potty train if that was the case. He is 3 and a half, and we are just now really putting forth efforts to get him night trained. (Update: we have accomplished this goal in about a week. We still ocassionally have night accidents but we are dealing with some scared of the dark issues so we are mostly attributing them to he is too scared to leave his room. Of course he has a night light and we leave the bathroom light but still working on it.) So, what are the signs of readiness?

A. They have an interest in what you are doing in the bathroom.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had a kid follow me to the bathroom. Good Lord, just 2 min to pee in peace is all I ask! However, that interest is a good thing. Ask them if they want to try. Don’t push in my opinion, but let them try if they want. We were forever letting our second “try” when older brother went potty but now, they go together all the time.

B. They start to hold it or want a change immediately after soiling their diaper or pullup.

Both our boys started to get in the habit of holding it when we let them run naked in the backyard because neither liked the pee just running down their legs. When they did that and continued that trend once back inside in a pull up, I knew we were ready for a harder push.

C. They have the communication skills.

They need to be able to tell you that they have to go potty. If they cannot communicate that need effectively. They don’t have to be able to pronounce anything specifically, but they need to be able to somehow let you know they have to go potty. My two-year-old happily shouts to whoever is near that he has to PEEEEEEEEEEE! My 3-year-old will now simply sneak off to the bathroom on his own, or he will quietly ask me or hubby. If they can’t tell you then it is a losing battle to try and fight.

Bonus Tips:

Bribe them. Yup, we bribed both our boys into potty training. With out first he got 1 skittle for peeing and 2 for pooping. Somehow our second convinced us he needed 2 for peeing and 3 for poop. Either way they are barely getting a handful of skittles over the course of the day, so I am not too worried about it. We also bribed our older son into taking his younger brother potty every time he went potty. They both got treats if he helped. Of course, most of those visits still had adult supervision (otherwise I had a bathroom with pee everywhere but the toilet) but it was a great reminder when I got busy or distracted that the second need to be taken potty.

There are lots of systems out there to have your child potty trained in 3-5 days. Those are all wonderful, but they just didn’t fit well with our life style, or I felt they required that you wait until the child was much older. If those worked for you, that is awesome! I am all for whatever works for your family. However, if you’re more like us and laid back about it, then these tips are definitely for you.

Give them a try and see what happens.

Want to remember this post for when you’re ready to potty train your boys? Pin this to your favorite board?

Potty Training Boys: our laid back, no hassle, low mess method. Little boy in the backyard in swimming mask.
Potty Training Boys: Our laid back, no hassle, low mess method. Toilet tank with ladder to the left and wire basket on top.

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