Category Archives: Potty Training

Parenting Book Review: Diaper-Free Before 3

So I never got around to finishing this post about how I potty-trained Noah, but now that Ender’s potty training has begun, I’m ready to approach the subject again. I checked out Early Start Potty Training again from the library to refresh my memory, and I saw this book–Diaper Free Before 3 by Jill M Lekovic, MD–on the shelf next to it. Boy, am I glad I did! I’ve finally found a potty-training book that embodies my personal philosophy of the process.

The philosophy behind Diaper-Free Before 3 is simple: earlier potty-training means fewer diapers. Fewer diapers are better for the environment and mean greater freedom for both the parent and the child. I personally have also found that it is easier to potty train at a younger age because 1) your child is less independent and more willing to respond to direction, and 2) you are more patient because you expect slower progress with a younger child.

Note that I said it’s easier, not that it’s faster. It took me 6 months to train Georgie at age 2.5, and it took me 6 months to train Noah at age 1.5. However, Georgie’s 6 month potty training was filled with yelling, bribery, and tantrums on both of our parts, and Noah’s was a gradual, pleasant, laid-back experience. I know which way I’d rather spend 6 months.

So what is the Diaper-Free Before 3 method of potty training? You’ll have to read the book for the long version, but here’s my cheat sheet:

  1. Learning to sit on the potty – Starting as early as 6 months, set aside 10 minutes a day to practice sitting on the potty. After a meal or before or after naptime are the best times to ensure your child will have some success. Bring a book and comfort your child as he gets used to sitting on the toilet. If something ends up in the potty, great, deal with that, but otherwise just focus on the routine of using the potty once per day.
  2. Increasing potty opportunities for success – Once the child is willing to sit on the potty when asked, increase the your 10 minute potty sessions. I like to introduce a new one every week or so, again after a meal or before or after a naptime. Soon your child will be a pro at the routine of sitting, and even be successful some of the time. Use the phrase, “It’s time to go use the potty” rather than asking your child, “Do you want/need to use the potty?” They don’t know, and the default answer to a parent question is often “No!” Just make it part of your day, like eating lunch or brushing teeth. However, there’s no need to force your child to sit for long periods, just like you shouldn’t force your child to eat if they don’t want to. Just go and try, then finish and be done when they are done.
  3. Training sessions – When your child makes the connection between the potty and what goes in it and is having lots of potty trips each day, add a period in your day when you allow your child to wear training underwear or go naked. (No pull-ups, please!) This will allow your child to realize when they are going in their diaper and hopefully begin to make the association that they need to use the bathroom.
  4. Full time underwear – After your child understands the process and has few accidents per day, transition to full-daytime underwear!

Notice there are no bribes, rewards, or elaborate systems. This is what I love about this system. No coercion, just a normal expectation that they will learn eventually. It’s a slow process, but because you start early, it’s much less stressful because you have all the time in the world.

I also love Dr. Lekovic’s relaxed tone. She takes a very middle of the road approach to many parenting debates (cloth diapers vs disposable, early potty training vs readiness) which makes her a delightfully refreshing voice. I love how she bases her opinions and evidence rather than philosophies and guesses.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to potty train a child. It doesn’t matter if your child is older than 6 months; just start now. I started with Ender a few weeks ago (14 months old). At first, he was terrified of sitting on the potty, but he’s calmed down now and even had a few successes. And he loves washing his hands! I’m excited to see where this adventure takes us.

What are your favorite potty training tips and tricks? What parenting books I should read next?

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Montessori, Potty Training, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Potty Training the Slow Way: Faster is Not Always Better

I started this post in April when I starting potty-training Sailor, but I’ve been hesitant to post it until we met with success. How could I talk about this stuff if I didn’t know how it would end? This week, Sailor has been almost 100% diaper free with few accidents, and I ‘m ready to declare success. So without further ado, here’s a little mini-series on my new thoughts on potty-training.

I have to admit, when I was potty training Monkey, I was totally caught up in all the “potty train your child in a week/day/hour” methods that are out there.  I loved the idea that I could just be done and not deal with all the messes.  Yuck.

These methods did not work for us for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t have the patience to focus exclusively on potty training for any amount of time.  Most of “instant” methods I read about required a lot of time dedication from the parent. When I tried it, I found that all I could do if I wanted the method to work was watch my child for accidents and babble about the potty. Any distraction led to failures. I felt bored and trapped, and it made me mad and impatient.  Ditto for Monkey. Even a day was too much to ask; we have better things to do.
  2. I had a hard time understanding the real challenge of potty training is not getting them to go on demand, but getting them to understand when they need to go.  Monkey had the first part down in about 30 minutes; knowing when to go took six months or more.  It was baffling to me why he couldn’t put two and two together.  I didn’t help that Monkey is so naturally bright–I expected him to comprehend this as quickly as he had picked up reading. He didn’t.

After all the yelling and crying associated with Monkey’s extended potty-training period (6 months, a year if you count our first few attempts), I was ready to find something else for training Sailor.  I did not want to go through it again, and more importantly, I didn’t want to put my cute little Sailor through it.  In a whim of random library trawling (whoever coordinated our library so that the parenting section of non-fiction lies next to the kids area was a genius), I picked up a couple of books on potty training from the library including Early-Start Potty Training. It’s a very interesting book, mostly focusing on infant elimination control, the idea of potty training babies starting at 2-4 months. (If you thought babies had no bladder control, consider how quickly your child stops peeing during diaper changes. It only takes a few months before your baby learns that this gets a very negative reaction and they have the control to avoid it.)

I don’t know if I’m quite hardcore enough to take on potty training an infant, but their section on training 18-to-24-month-olds was exactly what I was looking for. A few things I liked about it:

  1. Less time consuming – Instead of potty-training suddenly occupying your whole existence, you start extremely gradually and move up, enfolding it into your daily routine. If you’re doing fast potty training, you’re cumulatively taking hours out of your child’s day for this rather boring activity.  After the first novelty wore off, I’d be put out about it, wouldn’t you? Slow potty training solves this by introducing potty time slowly, so the burden is gradually placed on your child.
  2. More patience – Maybe it’s just me, but it was so much easier for me to be patient with an 18-month-old than a 2.5 year old. I didn’t expect him to understand and I felt fine taking it slow since he had so much more time before he hit the age where it was socially unacceptable for him to be in diapers. I treated it like an interesting experiment to see if he could learn, not expecting any results at all, just establishing habits.
  3. Conditioning, not logic – Frankly when we potty-trained Monkey, there was a lot of arguing and reasoning, bribing and rewarding. But in the end, the reflexes involved are a mostly involuntary system and logic isn’t very helpful. Young toddlers are better programmed to learn by imitation and conditioning than 2 and 3 year olds. Early-Start Potty Training frequently uses the analogy of house breaking a puppy versus housebreaking a fully-grown dog: the dog will understand what you want better but be less able to comply because of habit, whereas the puppy won’t understand but is easier to condition. (I take this on faith, since I’ve never had a dog.)
  4. Balance between child-led and parent-directed – Finally, slow potty training isn’t as in-your-face, “you will do this” as some of the fast potty training methods, but it’s not as wishy-washy as the “let your child tell you when it’s time” methods that will have your child still in diapers at age 4.  It’s definitely parent directed, but the demands upon the child are incremental and therefore a lot less onerous and less likely to draw resistance fire from your toddler.

One thing you must have to accept before you go the slow potty training way: there will be accidents, there will be mess, but it won’t be as bad as you think. Since reading Early-Start Potty Training, I’m beginning to think that all of our modern potty training woes stem from our desire to avoid mess. We start at a later age, hoping they will comprehend quicker and reduce mess. We invented “training pants” which are basically still diapers–they work great to avoid mess, but they eliminate the natural consequences that speed potty learning.

Next week: the steps I modified from Early-Start Potty Training to form my new go-to potty training plan.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Potty Training, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)