I have white carpet – so you know I did not embark on this ‘bare-bottom, early potty training’ thing lightly. I researched the different options for potty learning for toddlers and this seemed the right one for us. Yes, it is intensive but that kind of full-on, go for broke approach works for me. I am very much that type of person: jump in with two feet, go all out and then take a break and focus all that energy on something else. Yep. “I can totally do three very intense, non-stop, bottom-watching days if that means I am pretty much done after that”, I thought. Good thought, right?
It has been three weeks since we started this ’3-day’ potty learning method (apparently I am not allowed to use the words’ 3-day potty training’ – see comments for details). I want to let you in to how it went for us. I want to write the post I was looking for before we started this method - a ‘warts-and-all, how it really happens’ post - a post I could not find at the time. If you remember, this is a potty learning approach that promises that in three days your little one will get the hang of it and that in ten days to two weeks there will be few or no accidents. It is based on working with your toddler’s natural desire to be naked/diaper-free and is a gentle approach that does not use threats, shame or tangible rewards to bribe your child (more on that later) and it is said to work best on kids between 15 and 27 months of age.
Here is a post in which I outline how this method works and why we felt it was for us. Nica (uh, still working on that nickname) was 19 months old when we started our 3-day intensive potty-learning kick-off weekend.
I have heard online from a few friends for whom this approach worked perfectly. This is the reality of where we are at, now:
- We have been a diaper-free household for three weeks (technically we have been ‘day-diaper’-free for three weeks and have been completely diaper-free for over two weeks, now.)
- Nica seems to be fully night trained and actually now sleeps bare-butt (accident-free). I was not expecting this. It just happened. On day two (!!!) her morning diaper which previously was always really, very full was completely empty. I thought it was a fluke and kept putting night-diapers on her for the first few days until I realised they kept being dry, so I decided to take the leap. We have been completely diaper-free, including for naps and night sleep (with no wake-ups for potty) since then.
- She is 60 to 95% home-trained – meaning that if we stay home she gets between 6 and 9.5 out of every 10 pees in the potty (yes you can get only half a pee in the potty… trust me). It varies widely from day to day, though. The main ‘misses’ happen when she is stressed, tired or distracted – and to be fair there has been a lot going on, the last few weeks.
- We have had very few poop-misplacement incidents (PMIs – hah). We have, over the last three weeks, had one or two but it is clearly much easier for her to recognise that a poo is coming and to want to get it in the potty.
- We can safely go out for short periods of time of up to an hour or two, wearing nothing but loose fitting trousers (no pull-ups, underpants or diapers), reasonably confident that there will be no accidents.
- We can go out for longer periods of time, taking a potty with us and Nica will either tell/show us she needs to go (by tugging at her trousers and saying ‘off, off’ or by saying ‘potty’ or ‘pee-pee’) or she will go when I offer her the potty.
- … However, we are yet to have a completely ‘spill’-free day (though we have come very close, a few times).
- She can hold it in overnight
- During the day, Nica can sense that the urge is coming and spontaneously walk to the potty and do her business and/or…
- She can communicate when she needs to go with a few seconds lead-in (30 seconds at most, I would say, still) so I can pull her trousers down and get her to the potty
- If she does start peeing somewhere other than the potty and NinjaDad or I spot it, she will stop midstream and hold it in until we get her over the potty
- She can pee when prompted (i.e. if I ask her to sit on the potty, she will and if there is a need, she will pee then)
… she can do all of those things but that doesn’t mean she always does… And so it goes. There are still good days and bad days. Today has been a great day. For most of her pees and for her daily poo she walked to the potty herself (spontaneously and unprompted) and did her thing and then often helped me go and flush it away, too. She also went, when prompted, in the potty while we were out (once in the boot of the car, once in a public toilet at a shopping center). She did have two small accidents: the first was when she was down for her nap, lying down but not asleep – it seems to be much harder for her to anticipate that a pee is coming when she is sitting or lying down; the other was when we just got home after going to the store – she said she needed the potty, I just couldn’t get her there in time… So, especially that last accident, actually doesn’t discourage me very much at all: after all she still knew it was coming and communicated it to me, even if I just couldn’t get her trousers off and move her to the potty quite quickly enough. We have been having more and more of these terrifically successful days – they are not 100% accident-free but I am still so proud of her EVERY time she goes in the potty, spontaneously of her own accord. It is just great.
There have also been days when she still demonstrates many of these skills (like walking to the potty when the urge comes, unprompted) but mixed in there are some spectacular cases of her acting like she has never seen – or doesn’t want to see - a potty. Yeah, just as soon as I thought she was taking it all in her stride, she suddenly would refuse the potty when offered and then pee on the floor two minutes later or something like that. More distressing still, a few nights back she started yelling ‘no potty, no potty, no potty’ in her sleep… anxiety-dream?? That made me so sad. I’d like to think she was just processing this strange, new change in her daily habits. It is a big change. I mean, she also likes to take her bear to the potty – where he can poo, fart, pee (complete with sound effects) – and then she walks him off to the toilet to flush the pee away, wipe his bum and wash his hands. Adorable – and clearly another way of processing the shift in behaviour! But her night shenanigans made me wonder if she was more stressed about it than she is showing during the day?
Those times (refusals or anxiety dreams) had me wondering whether I should call the whole thing off? I want this process to feel right to Nica, too. It is not just about the goal (being diaper-free) it is also about how we get there and if she is struggling or I am stressed then is this really the right method for us, after all?
But the last two days it has all seemed so natural, so stress-free that it completely feels right again, too. We have got here with no threats, no bribes (cheerios or smarties?) and no shaming for mishaps. We have tried to keep it always as easy-going and ‘normal’ as possible. I did go through a phase (after a terrible day 5 of the process) of doing a bit of a ‘potty party’ and doing a (home-made) potty-song every time she peed or pooed in the potty, even the slightest bit… but I am an Alfie Kohn unconditional parenting afficionada and that wasn’t quite sitting right with me. So, now I have gone back to supporting the inherent intrinsic motivation for mastering this skill and I simply describe what is happening to her “you felt the urge to pee, you walked over and you peed” and then I rejoice and share in her happiness if she choses to ‘celebrate’ or I move on with her if she choses to treat it (rightly?) like the most natural thing in the world. We have re-ditched the ‘good job’. And the rest of the time there is no pressure. If she says she doesn’t need to go I take her word for it – which puts less pressure on her and helps ensure she is in charge of the pace of this process. It is her process after all.
So, it hasn’t been smooth going. It hasn’t happened easily, in three days… but it is happening. We are diaper-free, she is going to the potty on her own, spontaneously, naturally and of her own volition and overall I am proud of us for making this transition earlier rather than later for her, for her confidence, hygiene and autonomy, for the environment and for us parents, too, as this promises to be easier in many ways in the long run (not least on our wallet). The three-week method is working just fine for us!