Is My Kid Ready for Potty Training?
So, here's what we've been doing. I chose not to tackle potty training Judah until now because he wasn't really talking, and I wanted him to be able to communicate with me through the potty training process. We also thought we'd be leaving for Indonesia at the end of the year and I wanted to wait until that major transition was over. I'd heard that kids regress during transitions. However, Judah's speech has really taken off and now that we know we're not leaving till March, Isaac was adamant that he wanted to try now.
I knew from my research that little boys generally pick up on potty training later than little girls, and age 3 is normal but earlier is possible. Some boys don't pick it up even till age five, so I wasn't worried about the age, really. I also heard that kids should probably be able to keep their diapers dry for a good period of time, indicating they have some control over their bowels. Also, they should indicate that they want to be changed, which shows some awareness of what's happening.
Judah was showing some bowel control and almost always dirtied his diaper during nap time, but he rarely asked to be changed. We bought a kiddy potty when Judah turned two and encouraged him to sit on it. He wasn't ever really interested, so a few months ago we started having him sit on it regularly before nap and convincing him to stay on it by having him watch a show on the kindle while he sat there. Well, only once did he ever do anything, and he was more surprised than we were to discover something in the potty under him. The potty quickly became an excuse to watch a show rather than an effective method of teaching him to go potty.
The Naked Method
Once we decided to tackle potty training, we went with the "Naked Method". We picked three days when we were going to be at home, brought home underwear and started talking about how he'd be wearing big boy pants soon. I put together several activities that could keep him entertained in the kitchen (the only space in our house that's not carpeted).
On the first day, we got him up and put him in underwear only, started playing in the kitchen, and kept the potty right next to him, asking him constantly if he had to go. He pretty much immediately got a couple of pairs of underwear wet, so we went totally naked instead (side note: after three years of diapers, underpants are adorable). Well, that worked like a charm for him. The first time he started to go, he panicked and ran to the potty and got the second half in while he squatted over top.
That was the way things went for the three days. We kept him in diapers for nap time and night time. As long as he was naked he'd go to the potty and hover over it, every time. We rewarded him with lots of congratulations, an M&M, and drew a star on our whiteboard for every success. It was work for him, obviously, because he'd fuss after getting up from bed about how he "need biper on" rather than underpants. It was pressure on him he wasn't used to, and he was learning, but very successfully! His quirk was that he wouldn't sit down, he always hovered over top of the potty - so funny.
By the end of the three naked days he was definitely in the rhythm and able to identify that he needed to go and get to the pot himself. He'd generally do it on his own when we weren't aware of it.
Step Two - Moving to Underpants
The second major hurdle was putting him in underpants. He did great naked, but as soon as we put him in underpants he'd treat them like a diaper and go freely. While we hardly had to clean up any messes during the naked method, the first couple of weeks led to multiple wet outfits while we were out. We kept at it because he would immediately tell us that he was wet and there was a "mesh" (mess), which indicated that he didn't like it and would probably soon learn to prevent the mess himself.
By two weeks in, he mostly got it. Judah stays dry when he's in underpants, and we keep him in them all day. Every now and then he has an accident when he's really excited or really involved in something and so not paying attention to his own body. He's doing great.
Step Three - Moving to the Big Potty
I suppose you could start on the big potty, but for us a little kid potty worked better. I was worried about how he'd transition to the big potty because when we offered it, he was obviously afraid of sitting up high and more unbalanced. However, after a little time passed and we were caught in a few situations where he had to go in the big potty or not at all and he managed to sit up there despite his worries, he took it without a problem and switched himself to wanting to go in the big potty and rejecting the little one. I have no idea how that happened... he just made the switch himself.
Challenges and Regression
The first challenge for us was that Judah developed great bowel control and for a solid week simply held it all the times when he was up and in underpants. He just waited till nap or bed time, when we put him down in a diaper, and then let loose. I figure developing bowel control is a part of the process so I wasn't too concerned. If he'd continued it we would have put him down naked for a while, with plastic under him, to teach control during sleep times.
We also had a major challenge in traveling. Two weeks after we started potty training, we left on a road trip across the country for Christmas with family and then traveling around the south support-raising. This meant an unpredictable schedule, times when bathrooms weren't available, a nast stomach bug, and lots of car sitting. We pretty much reverted back to diaper wearing during the road trip, and so now that we're home we're hopping back on the potty training train.
For the Kids
I think it really helped Judah to see other kids potty training and to take in fun media about it. We have Elmo's Potty Time DVD, a Potty Time book that makes a flush noise, and best of all, a Daniel Tiger episode we downloaded. This song from that show is fantastic and Judah now sings it and comes to us and announces he has to go using the lyrics.
"If you have to go potty, stop, and go right away... flush and wash and be on your way!"