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The Easiest Potty Training Method

admin July 24, 2015

Right now, I’m holding breath as I’m about to say this, for fear that as soon as I do, it will not be true any longer:

think my two-year-old is potty trained.

He’s become increasingly reliable about going during the day as long as he’s naked, and has had fewer and fewer accidents (and fewer incidents of peeing on the floor on purpose because he thinks it’s funny — thankfully he almost always does it in the kitchen where it’s easy to clean).  Then this week we went to the park for three hours, and I put a diaper on him because I didn’t think he’d remember to go with clothes on, while having fun.  But when we got home, he was dry, and immediately went potty.

Dare I hope?  He’s not even two-and-a-half yet.

Anyway, he’s the fourth kid I’ve trained with the same method.  I’ve gotten more adept with it each time, and it’s been easier each time.  And they’ve trained a bit earlier each time, too.  (Except my girl — she trained super fast at 2.5, but of my boys.)  This works.  And it is oh-so-easy.  Really.

The Easiest Potty Training Method

I can’t even really call this a method, per se.  It’s that easy.

A lot of moms work way too hard at potty training (in my opinion).  They come up with rewards charts, set timers, take their kids to the bathroom every 10 or 20 minutes, sit and watch their kids, get frustrated when things go poorly for days or weeks, get more frustrated when kids regress….

I’ve never done any of that.

Rewards

First, I don’t believe in rewards for potty training (or most other things).  Potty training is a skill that children will learn when they are physically capable of it.  The true “reward” is a feeling of accomplishment, and having dry/clean pants.  External rewards send the wrong message, leading kids to focus on “getting something” instead of achieving a new skill.  It also makes them “perform” only for these rewards.  Some kids will deliberately go several times, squeezing out a few drops of pee just to get the reward.  Some will start having accidents once there is no more reward.  That’s just training them to perform for the reward, instead of listening to their own bodies and using the toilet when they need to.

The only “reward” we have ever offered is new underwear and using the toilet paper — since these are things all people who use the toilet have/use.  But, it was “If you choose to use the potty, then you may wear underwear.  If you don’t want to, then you can wear a diaper.”  It was always a choice and not a bribe.

Naked Time

Being naked was a key part of this process.  Kids need to make the connection to what happens when they pee.  First, they will realize after that they made the puddle on the floor.  Then, they will look down and realize they are peeing.  We usually saw these first steps at bath time between 1 and 2 years old.

After awhile, they’ll realize they are about to pee.  Soon after, they’ll realize they can actually go potty when they need to pee (and later, poop too).  It’s important to be naked, because at first, most kids will simply not think about it when dressed, and will pee their pants.  They don’t remember they don’t have a diaper on.  It usually takes just a few weeks after they are reliable naked before they will be mostly reliable when dressed.

We leave potty training kids naked at home as much as possible.

Make a Potty Available

For my oldest, we had a little potty in the playroom.  It was hardest for her because she didn’t really have kids to observe — only adults.  We asked her little friends’ parents if she could observe them sometimes.  Once she understood, training only took a few days.  Our boys really didn’t use a little potty; we had a seat for the big toilet instead.  All the kids quickly moved to using the big toilet, with or without the seat — they straddled the toilet way at the back.  The boys learned to stand pretty quickly, basically as soon as they were tall enough.

Anyway, make sure the bathroom door is open so they can get in as needed, or that a potty is in their play area — whatever you choose needs to be accessible.

Ignore Them

This is the most important part — ignore them.

Don’t ask them constantly if they need to go.  Don’t ask them to “just try.”  Don’t have regular times that they should go.  Don’t set timers.  Don’t make this a “thing” at all.

You can suggest now and then that they might want to go.  You can tell them peeing on the floor isn’t a choice, so if they don’t want to go potty they can put on a diaper (don’t make a big deal out of which choice they make).  You can ask them to come with you when you go.

Of course, if they head for the bathroom, or ask you to take them, you do!  Stay as hands-off as possible, helping only if they ask you to.  It needs to be fully child-led.

Some will train with no warning — literally wake up one morning and announce they no longer wear diapers.  Some will go back and forth for months.  Most will get it in a few weeks.  It does not matter a bit if they go back and forth from using the potty and wearing diapers.  This will not confuse them; it just means they’re not fully ready to use the potty all the time.  They will get there, though.

(I used to think it mattered if they ‘went backward’ and that we had to keep pushing ahead.  My oldest son took much longer to train than my younger two boys because I made it more of a battle than it needed to be.  I’ve literally ignored my third boy unless he asked for help and he’s learned the fastest.)

The Beauty of It All

This method has many advantages.

  • More child independence — they can do it themselves and don’t need a lot of help or reminders from you.
  • No regression — they’re not trained until they’re trained, and starting/stopping is normal and not “regression” (nobody really learns anything in a perfectly linear, progressive fashion, they learn and grow in spurts and sometimes take breaks)
  • No battles — potty use isn’t a battleground whatsoever, so they don’t refuse to use it to exert control, or become stressed if your role in training them is interrupted (like by the arrival of a new sibling), etc.
  • Less messy — The choice is, use the potty or wear a diaper.  No judgment on either choice.  But if they’re not physically or emotionally into using the potty yet, they wear a diaper.  When they are ready, it usually goes pretty fast.  (And mine learned to have ‘accidents’ on hard floors instead of carpet or their pants, lol.)

My fourth decided he wanted to learn to use the potty a week or so before his little brother was born.  Everyone said “No!  Don’t do that now!  He’ll regress anyway.”  He didn’t because it was about him, not me.  He’s made fairly steady progress even right when his brother was born.  It just didn’t matter to him.  It wasn’t our idea, we didn’t push him, we weren’t the ones ‘training’ him.  He felt like it, so he did.  And if he had decided that he didn’t want to go when his brother was brand new, we wouldn’t have considered it regression, we would have just put a diaper on him and ignored it until he decided to try again.

Using the potty should not be a big deal.  A quiet word of “Good job!” is all that’s needed.  Don’t see it as a milestone that has to happen at a certain age, or compare your child to other children.  All typical children will train between 1 and 4 years of age.

If your child is on the older end of this range and still not doing well, it could be because of making it a battle.  Or, it could be a physical issue — food allergies or misaligned spines can contribute to accidents.  Both my oldest two boys had accidents at times after they were trained, but after they were adjusted by the chiropractor, it would immediately stop.  (And the chiro told me their little hips/low backs were out of alignment, often a lot — once, my oldest son even cried about his back hurting and couldn’t sleep.)

At any rate.  Be laid back.  Offer them a judgment-free choice.  Make the potty available.  Leave them naked.  And wait.  They will do it when they are ready.  I promise.  I’ve potty trained four, three of whom are boys! 🙂

Psst!  My brand-new book, Natural Remedies for Kids,” is coming out in August!  When you pre-order it, you get up to 25% off — plus, some amazing bonus offers (details coming soon).  It’s the best book for learning to use simple, natural remedies with your family (the one I wish I’d had when I was just getting started).  Get the details on the book here.

How do you potty train your kids?

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9 Comments

  1. Very timely article for us and our little one. I like this approach. Two questions…
    – How/when do you decide to start naked time? Do you just go ahead and do it? Or do you ask them if they want to be naked?
    – And how exactly do you avoid accidents on carpet or couches? We’ve got hard floors but some carpet too.

    Reply

    • Hi Denise,

      Thanks for reading!

      First, I started around two years old. My boys typically wanted to be naked at this age, I had trouble keeping clothes on them when we were at home! (But they knew they had to wear them when out.) If they weren’t wanting to be baked on their own, then I would start when they show interest in the potty. “This will make it easier for you to try the potty.”

      Second, we really didn’t have any accidents on furniture, except once on a leather chair with washable cover — so easy clean up. Some accidents on carpet, but not too many. (That’s easy to clean with hydrogen peroxide to neutralize, then baking soda to soak up, and vacuum.) If we noticed signs that they were about to go, then we would offer a diaper or potty and ask them to choose. If we caught them going, we would carry them to the bathroom.

      Some kids will have a lot of accidents and it probably means they’re not ready. One of mine was rather messy; the others were not. One of mine only had one pee and one poop accident and that was IT, going on the floor was so upsetting that the kid simply did not do it again. If yours is having a lot of misses, put the diaper back on and try again in a few weeks or so.

      Reply

  2. Thanks for the advice! We are going through training our fourth right now and it doesn’t seem to be going well. It’s hard to remember that it’s about her, not about us! This is a good reminder that it will happen when she’s ready.

    Reply

  3. Don’t mean this rudely but is teaching your children modest not an issue with you?

    Reply

    • Hi Charity,

      Not at this age, no. When they’re 2 we mostly worry about them being dressed if people are coming over, or if we are going out. They aren’t allowed to go play outside naked. And by the time they’re 3 or so, they are dressed around the house again. It’s a phase, and it does make potty training easy!

      Reply

  4. Sounds pretty much like how my son learned to use the potty. We got a potty for him around the time he turned 18 months or so, and it was always available. And we did lots and lots of diaper-free time. I did ask him periodically if he needed to go potty, but never with any kind of urgency; if we were going out, I’d ask if he wanted to try going potty before we left, but I didn’t push the matter if he wasn’t interested (we’d just pop a diaper on and go!). I also talked to him a lot. When changing his diaper, I’d talk about how some day he’d stop needing a diaper, and he’d be able to go in the big potty just like mommy and daddy. When he followed me into the bathroom, I’d point out that I was going pee pee in the potty, and someday, when he was ready, he’d use the big potty too. If he did pee on the floor while naked, I’d say something like “Look! You went pee pee on the floor! Let’s clean that up. If you need to go again anytime soon, remember that your potty is right here.” It didn’t take him long to start reliably peeing in the potty when he was naked; he clearly recognized the urge in his own body and responded to it. But if he was wearing clothes and a diaper, he’d just go as normal. Until he decided he was ready to go to the next level. About a month after his second birthday, we were on vacation and had just checked into our hotel when he announced that he needed to go pee pee, so I put him on the potty and he went! And pretty much since then, he’s been using the potty consistently. I put him in cloth training pants for a few weeks, then bought him some underwear, and he’s been doing great ever since then!

    Anyway, I agree with you: a relatively hands-off “method” is the way to go. 🙂

    Reply

  5. […] other day, I finally decided to get serious about potty training our little girl by following The Easiest Potty Training Method that Modern Alternative Mama wrote […]

    Reply

  6. Hi. Looking for some advice. My 2.5 yr old girl does not like to have nappy free time. She refuses. She did when she was younger but now she finds comfort in her nappies. I do like your method but she is strong willed and may need a more hands on approach. I am also expecting in November. Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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