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Potty Training Boot Camp
June 6, 2012 4:03 pm | by
The plan was always to have a second baby before my first turned three.
As we started to get closer to having to pull the trigger on working to get pregnant again, the plan quickly evolved to having my first, a boy- Kendall, potty trained before his younger sibling arrived.
Yes, I know that’s pretty young to potty train, especially a boy, when it comes to the advice I’ve read. We were really lucky, though, because he seemed more than ready. At not even 2, we left him for the first time, in the care of my mother. My husband and I escaped to Sonoma for a few days, and Kendall stayed back with NaNa and went poop on the potty, willingly, several times.

Sidenote: I’ve told my mother she should open a potty-training camp for other people’s children. She would make a killing.
Pooping on the potty a few times does not a potty-trained child make, but I knew Kendall had jumped onto the potty training train while we were gone and I wasn’t about to make him disembark only to try to find a way to get him back on later. So, we just went for it. And by “went for it” I mean full-out, 100%, BOOT CAMP style.
A friend broke down this system for me, and the requirements included:
A few days at home with no pants on. No diapers, no undies, no training pants, NO PULL UPS. Just bare naked heiney time all day.
When accidents happen, have the child help you clean them up, but don’t scold them. Just gently remind them where the potties should go.
Frequently take them to the potty.
When the child successfully pees or poops on the potty it is a BIG FREAKING DEAL. Act like a foolishly happy parent accordingly.
Rewards! One of ours was ice-cream for successful poops in the potty.
Once we had a few days under our belt and accidents weren’t frequent, we did the unthinkable. We put some big boy undies on him (not training pants, not Pull Ups), and out into public we went. (Always bringing a change of clothes, wet wipes, anti-bacterial hand gel, and lollipops to reward using public restrooms. Nothing got my kid excited like a lollipop back then, and I’m shameless.)
It. was. terrifying. I spent an entire trip to Target asking every minute (really not even an exaggeration), “Do you have to go potty? You tell mommy if you have to go, okay? Are you sure?”
In the beginning, I just went ahead and took him to the potty immediately upon arriving somewhere, and then again right before we left. And about every 30 minutes in between.
After a couple weeks, we’d made it through with no major accidents (just a few partially wet pairs of undies). Except for that one time he pooped his pants inside the Chick Fil A play structure. That was swell.
I had to learn to embrace public restrooms. Carting around a plastic potty wasn’t for me (I was pregnant during all of this, so the less I had to cart around the better). Instead, I loaded my bag up with anti-bacterial gel and anti-bacterial hand wipes. My kid just sat his bare bottom on public toilet seats after I wiped them off with an anti-bac wipe.
I was comfortable saying he was 100% potty trained (during the day) by the time he was 2.5, and before his little sister arrived!
For us, this method worked wonderfully… the first time around. Of course, I have no idea how it will work when it comes time to potty train my 2nd baby- my daughter Leyna- when it comes time. She’ll be turning 2 in the middle of winter, so it will be a lot harder to have her run around without pants on. Who knows if she’ll be ready by then anyway? I know that this method worked so well for us, largely, because Kendall was ready.
I think what’s so great about it is you commit 100% to it. You’re not sending mixed signals to your child that it’s *sometimes* okay to potty in your pants by putting training pants on. It also forces you to focus on the singular goal of potty training for a short period of time.
The downside is, of course, the time it takes. Many parents who work outside of the home may not be able to commit to a program like this unless they can get a nanny or daycare provider on board with it.
I’ll end this with a note about nighttime training. Kendall didn’t start sleeping through the night without a diaper on until he was nearly 3 and a half almost a year after being daytime potty trained (at which point his bumGenius 4.0s still fit!). He was always a heavy wetter at night and rarely ever woke with a dry diaper, so we didn’t see the point in putting ourselves through that. We waited until he started waking with dry diapers, and until he was old enough to wake himself up and walk himself to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Now, he’s not only potty-trained, but he wipes his own butt (relatively well), too! I can not even express the feeling of freedom that brings.
Have you potty trained a child with this method? What are some tips and tricks you’d share?

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  • Vicente said...
    June 11, 2012 at 10:33 am

    It can also indirectly encourage misbehaving and result in confusion and frustration for the child.
    essure arizona

  • Jess @ MomEinstein said...
    June 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I feel like this is the way to go. I am going to remember this for when we need it.

  • Love{&}Bugs said...
    June 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I have thought about doing this (#2 is 20 months) and I am just not brave enough. That’s all it comes down to.
    My oldest (3.5) is still wearing diapers at night. I am half tempted to just put him in undies and see what happens but he always wakes up wet. He knows it’s okay to pee in his diapers though so maybe if he had undies on at night too….. again, just not brave enough!

  • Heidi said...
    June 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I basically did the same method with my daughter, who trained at 21 months. I borrowed The Diaper-Free Baby book ( from the library and a lot of what they were saying in there matched up with what I was already thinking, so I went for it, and she was potty trained in two days! I was amazed!
    For the winter, you could use BabyLegs and skirts to keep her warm while still going diaper/panty-less!

  • Ama said...
    June 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I love Mya’s “peepee grass” story! I love how kids get the funniest unexplainable ideas into their heads. Our son is 4 months and we started ECing at about 6 weeks old. It was great because I did the super lazy method of just putting a little potty by his changing pad and putting him on it every time I change his diaper, especially right after he wakes up. He pees buckets after waking up every time and a lot of times in between, and ever since his first day of ECing he almost exclusively poops in his potty. Now he even holds his poop (not pees) through the night and wakes up kicking and grunting til I take him to potty and then he poops like an old man, grunting and groaning! It’s hysterical. I hope since he seems to love the sensation of eliminating without getting all wet and dirty that potty training will be that much easier. It sure is worth the few extra minutes holding him on the potty chair during dipe changes to not have to clean poopy diapers anymore! I will say I miss his cues at times and he still poops in the diaper once in a while. And he pees so often that I don’t worry about catching all of those at this point or we’d spend all day on the potty. But I highly recommend ECing even for busy moms; the less poopy diapers the better and if they’re young enough they actually pick up on it better than if they’re older. Some experts think before 3 months old is best, and then after that it becomes too much of a habit of pooping in their pants to make sense until traditional potty training time. But my lazy method is working wonders!

  • Amy said...
    June 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    My daughter announced she was ready for the potty at 27 months- so we went straight to cotton training pants/underwear (gerber makes nice ones with just a little extra cotton in the middle, so that it slows the mess down, but she could definitely tell that she was wet and did NOT like it). It just took a few days for her to figure it all out. Three months later, she does great, although still has a phobia about really loud and crowded public restrooms. I had to break down and get her a travel potty seat, because otherwise she would get scared and then throw a tantrum and end up peeing on the floor of the public restroom anyway. But, she is slowly weaning off of this, and hopefully by the time baby #2 is here in Sept. I won’t be carrying a potty anymore! She still wears a diaper at night, but this pregnant Mommy is TOTALLY ok with that and I would much rather everyone get a full night sleep at this point that get up and go to the potty! She will get it eventually.

  • Mya Burgoon said...
    June 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    We’re doing that now with my 21 month old son! Only he has decided that he will only go outside. “peepee grass!” So while he rarely has accidents inside the house, I still haven’t gotten him to use the potty unless its raining! Not quite sure what the next step is 🙂

    • Anonymous said...
      June 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Mya, my youngest son posed the same problem for me. I went into overkill making it pants-less in the house and only overalls allowed outside. He hated peeing in his pants and would ask to go inside to get out of the overalls, which he couldn’t work on his own. Now we are fully clothed inside and out and potty trained both day and night all by 21 months!

  • Anonymous said...
    June 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. 🙂

    My daughter was fully potty trained (day and night) by her 2nd birthday. I think it’s because we did a lot of ECing early on and then finally did a method like the one you describe to really finalize the deal. One change for us is that my husband couldn’t believe I’d just let her “pee everywhere!” and completely freaked out so I put her in tiny underwear with the old school plastic pants on over it. Totally made any accident immediately obvious with NO mess. It was a little annoying and no good for outside since they were big and crinkly but it was great to have an option that didn’t mess up the system by putting her back into diapers when dad was home and all paranoid. 🙂

  • Anonymous said...
    June 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    My two oldest boys have been potty trained by 24-25 months. With the first, we did no diapers, etc. and it was very nerve racking. The second son decided to potty train himself… two weeks before #3 was due. So I didn’t put a lot of energy into potty training, but he was done by 24 months and I can’t believe I have two boys in underwear! Ditto the night time dryness at around 3 years. Suggestion for winter potty training–use BabyLegs on her legs with the bare bum. Worked well for us!

  • Amber said...
    June 6, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I did this basic method with my oldest son (yes, boy!) when he was 21 months old. It was a while (a few months) before I’d have called him “reliably” potty trained (as in I could stop reminding/asking him), but it was still great to have him out of diapers. He’s 3 1/2 now and completely potty independent. He just recently transitioned out of his night-time diaper.
    The biggest thing I’d say about it is that it goes much better if you have hard floors (vs. carpet). We have hardwood floors on most of our main floor and that made it MUCH easier to deal with accidents. I always try to remember to invite friends with newly potty-trained little ones over for play dates at our house so that they can practice getting out of the house somewhere they know accidents won’t be a problem.
    Getting ready to try the method again with our middle child who recently turned 2. I predict it’ll be a little more challenging with a 3 1/2-year old and 6 month old to keep up with while potty training, but that would be true regardless of the method!

  • Jenny Bradford said...
    June 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Love it, thanks for sharing your success! We have hope it will happen eventually!

  • Dawn said...
    June 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve done “potty training in less than a day”….an old school 70’s book, basically what you’re describing, except you use real undies. Oh yeah, and you get the kid to “train a doll” so they can see the rewards / consequences in action. Accidents require “practicing going potty” – running from the mess to the potty and getting that underwear up and down quickly and rewards include treats and phoning someone special to brag. Usually within a few days they’re trained and in a couple of weeks dry at night. Worked like a charm for my 4 girls. Tried it on the boy, didn’t work, so we just went back to diapers, no pull ups, we will try him again soon.

  • Wendy said...
    June 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I’m trying to use this ‘naked all of the time’ method because this is what my sister suggested to me. I have a new baby so taking time to potty train is difficult anyway. My daughter will tell me when she needs to be changed. She hates to lie down to be changed. She will sometimes go sit on the potty when I tell her but a lot of times she will scream and say “I don’t want to sit on the potty!’ I know she’s ready, at least for daytime training, but I don’t know what to do when she refuses to sit on the potty or have a diaper changed!