But my experience with potty training has been very positive overall (!!!), and I'd love to support other parents in what is often (or is often viewed as) a difficult and stressful process.
My first, and most important, piece of advice is to buy the ebook "Three day potty training," by Lora Jensen. The author IS an expert, and her method is very straight forward, gentle, and effective. We followed this ebook to a T with both kids. I cannot recommend it enough. The Kindle version is $7.99-- you seriously can't beat that! Totally worth every single cent.
Based on the ebook and my own experience potty training Charlotte and Asher, here's what I think are the most important ideas.
1. "Readiness" is overrated. I decided to train both of my kids at times that worked for our family. It was summer, Joel had flexible hours, the weather was great so we could be outside, my friends were in town and could help with childcare, and we didn't have any big commitments or travel plans. Both Charlotte and Asher could communicate their needs/ wants and both were able to recognize when their diaper was poopy (and could verbalize when they were actually pooping!! ha!). Based on some reading, it seems that 20-30 months is the ideal time to potty train. Charlotte was exactly 30 months and Asher was just over 22 months. *I definitely wouldn't suggest going past the 30 month range-- for us, the 2.5-3 year window brought lots of defiance, which doesn't lend itself to learning such a big skill.* We had very little resistance from Asher at his young age. He's been very willing to use the potty and very enthusiastic about telling us when he has to go. I'd say it was actually easier to train him because he was so eager to please and willing to come along with me for things. Based just on my two kids, I absolutely don't support the sentiment that boys are harder to train-- frankly, I think the only thing more difficult is making sure to aim correctly so there's not a mess of urine all around the toilet. Ha!
2. Go cold turkey. Don't use pull-ups. Don't switch back and forth based on circumstances or location. Just stay home for a week so you can control the setting and not be anxious about accidents in public places. Accidents are absolutely vital to success in potty training-- kids must feel wet and recognize the necessity of keeping their underwear dry. Pull-ups do not help with this recognition; they feel like diapers. Also, a tip-- roll up your rugs and lock the door on carpeted rooms! Hardwood floors and tile are your BFFs during potty training. ;)
(*A note about our family: Charlotte was 2.5 years old when we trained her, and we did underwear at nap time and bedtime from the beginning. She woke up with a wet bed for three nights, then consistently got herself up to pee and went right back to bed/ sleep. Some nights she woke up to pee twice. She never went back to diapers and we didn't consider pull-ups at all. Just recently she started sleeping many nights all the way through, without waking to use the bathroom at all, but most nights she will use the bathroom once. Asher was under two years when we trained him, and the nights didn't go as smoothly. For a full week we put undies on him at bedtime, and he would wet his underwear but keep sleeping, then wake up hours later wet and cold and mad. It interrupted his (and our!) sleep dramatically. We tried many things, like partially waking him at our bedtime to pee, or partially waking him around 1am to try. None of those things worked, so we started putting one of his cloth diapers on at bedtime. He doesn't like it and asks for underwear, but it's made his sleep much easier. Sometimes he wakes up dry, but not always. I'd say in the last 14 days he's woken up dry at least 11, which is pretty good. We will try without underwear again after I travel to visit my parents, but with time changes and new sleeping arrangements for that trip, it doesn't make sense to rock the nighttime boat right now. My point in all of this is to try going cold turkey, following the directions of this ebook exactly. If nights don't work out, you can adapt. But your child might surprise you and be ready for 24-7 undies much sooner than you'd expect!*)
3. Get full time childcare for your other children during the three days of training. This is a big challenge, and probably the hardest part of potty training this way is adjusting the rhythm of the whole family, especially siblings who aren't being trained. But it was ESSENTIAL to my success, both times. Sometimes a long weekend is a great time to train, because one parent can do the full time training while the other takes care of other children and does the laundry, meal prep, errands, and household chores. We chose to train during a work week for Joel so we didn't have to sacrifice our weekends as a family, but it worked because he had shorter work hours and could be home in the early morning and late afternoon, and because I have friends who stay at home full time and who could add my kid to their household life for a few hours at a time.
4. Cut everything else out of your schedule for at least three days. We didn't leave home at all during the beginning of training, and after those three days we carefully picked outings where toilets were easily accessible, where I could give the training child my full attention, and where there were no carpets to ruin ;)! I didn't cook much, or clean at all (except doing laundry galore!!). We had a frozen lasagna for dinner one night and takeout another. Joel did a lot of the housework and fully cared for the non-potty training child when he was not at work.
5. Be consistent. This is a good parenting principal in general, but one I find to be very difficult sometimes. But deciding right away that we weren't going to use pull-ups and just dealing calmly with accidents proved to be amazingly effective, and also empowering to the kids. Lora Jensen, the author of the ebook, emphasizes consistency, and I think it's absolutely essential to the potty training process, especially if you want to have it be effective and relatively short.
6. Say, "Tell me when you have to go potty. Let me know when you have to pee. Keep your underwear dry. Tell me when you need to go!" a hundred million times a day, for a long, long time. To me, this phrase and this attitude completely eliminates the power struggles that often are associated with potty training. Giving children ownership by using this phrase (and following Lora Jensen's ebook EXACTLY ;) ) really puts the ball in their court and teaches them to identify their own need to use the bathroom. These days, I know Asher will need to use the bathroom every couple of hours, so I ask him and remind him and encourage him to go, in hopes of avoiding an accident while he's playing intently in the backyard. BUT during the three days of training I never set a timer to tell him he needed to go, I never said, "You need to try!!! Sit on the potty!!," etc., because that can so often lead to anger and frustration and a major conflict with toddler emotions and their desire for control. (As all parents can attest, am I right?!)
Finally, 6. Get a lot of underwear. I would say 15-20 pairs, and then do a load of laundry partway through the day so some of the wet undies get cleaned right away. My friend lent me some that her son didn't really like using anymore, and we added those to our stash. It was such a relief to know that the accidents were going to happen in order for learning to occur, but that we had plenty in the house. I even bought one extra package that we didn't open and I returned later, but it was nice to have a peace of mind that they were there if necessary. Asher's been trained for less than a month, and very rarely has an accident, so we aren't going through more than one pair of undies most days, but it was totally worth the money to buy extras for the first week of training.
Questions? Comments? Criticism? ;) Let's converse below!