There weren’t a lot of helpful blogs out there that I could find which presented various options, ideas, or methods. Sharing what worked and what didn’t. Especially for boys and ESPECIALLY for boys with a speech delay. It’s intimidating. It’s messy. It’s patience. It’s grace. Potty training can be tough, and wildly different for each child and parent. For our household, we were very nervous and to be honest, had no idea where to start. My son says certain words and is just now piecing them together. However, he can’t say things like “mom I have to go potty”. If it’s easier to listen, check out my video covering all of the details below:
HOW DO I START?
I think it’s important to say you don’t need to rush!!! I think so many parents see signs and jump to the conclusion that they need to start potty training. Or you’re like me and you’re just over changing your 40 lb toddler. Jack does go to school part-time and part of the requirement is that he needs to be fully potty trained by the age of 3. This motivated me to start around 2 ½ to give myself and Jack ample time to figure this thing out together.
I started by picking a series of weeks where I knew we had no travel plans or things going on. In the days leading up to your start day, make a point to show your child whenever you have to go to the bathroom. We would constantly talk through everything we did when we went to the bathroom and took Jack with us so he would get a sense of what to do. Again, Jack can’t communicate very well, so I taught him to sign the word “potty” from youtube (I’ll link a short video below)
HOW TO PREPARE
For the first couple of days of starting, I bought pull-ups, a little stool, and a detachable toilet seat as well as little books to encourage potty time. “Daniel Tiger Goes Potty” was SUCH a hit and made this entire experience so smooth. Reward systems look different for everyone. Some use toys, stickers, and treats, and some say you shouldn’t reward your child for doing what they are supposed to do. For Jack, two things worked
1.) Sticker system
2.) Potty pops.
We used stickers when he went pee and offered a “potty pop” when he pooped in the toilet. What is potty pop? Well…..it’s something I made up. I quickly realized sweets were a disaster. As soon as I gave him one m&m he wanted the whole bag, and when mom said no, he lost his ever-loving mind. We aren’t super into sugar in our household, but since it’s the summertime in AZ I thought popsicles might be a nice reward. I bought some Pedialyte popsicles from Target and would give him half once the deed was done which happened to be an amazing motivator for Jack.
I picked a random Saturday and decided to dive right in. I saw a lot of methods floating around, but knowing my son’s personality I decided to start with a gradual method. On the first day, Jack hung out at the house in his birthday suit. Lots of movies and playtime and LOTS of water and fluids. I set a timer on my phone to go off every 20 minutes. I made sure to show Jack the same amount of excitement for potty time as I would if my husband told me I could have the whole day off and get a massage. Even if he didn’t have to go, we would sit for a bit and read Daniel Tiger. After a minute or two, we would get off and wash our hands. Routine helped Jack get into a rhythm quickly. After hours of no luck, I turned my back for one second and jack was off in the corner peeing. I rushed him to the toilet and repeated “this is where we go potty” and “on the toilet”. We repeated the same actions…read a book, washed our hands, and flushed the toilet.
By the end of the day, we FINALLY got him to pee a little in the toilet. For nap times, and nighttime, we used the pull-ups and fully ditched the diapers. Maybe this is a little cold turkey for some, but Jack adjusted well. I also want to clarify that Jack continued to pee everywhere but the toilet for the remainder of the day. If this happens, give yourself grace, have patience and continue to encourage and remind them of where they need to pee and poop. Remember they have always gone in their diaper and are having to relearn everything they once knew.
We woke him up first thing in the morning and went straight to the potty with the same excitement. The first thing Jack did was poop! We were shocked! If you could imagine your favorite sports team scoring right as the clock runs out, that was the same reaction for our little guy. I think encouragement and excitement are so important during this process. When they get it wrong and ESPECIALLY when they get it right! He was so encouraged and motivated to keep trying after seeing our response. We wiped, flushed, and washed our hands. Gave jack a potty pop (yes even in the morning) and kicked off day #2 of potty training in his birthday suit.
After taking Jack every 20 minutes he started to get a hang of the routine as well as know how to communicate with us when he had to go. He quickly associated the sign language with the action and started to use it (after we repeated it about 1000X). Repetition is key here. Jack went down for his nap in his pull-ups again and when he woke up we told him it was time to celebrate and take him to Target to pick out some underwear.
Another part of building excitement and buy-in was making it fun and Including Jack in the process. He was ecstatic when he saw all of the underwear options as well as his little toilet and stickers. I’ll link all of his top picks from Amazon here!
We continued the same routine of going potty first thing in the morning, except this time we made sure to wear underwear right after. I prepared myself for a potential accident but wanted Jack to start associating going to the bathroom with the toilet and not when he had any type of security blanket such as pull-ups. I made a little potty chart and taped it above his toilet, and also set up a little book station for him to read while he’s waiting. We had a couple of accidents in his underwear throughout the day, but after gentle reminders, continued 20-minute timers, and lots of patience, he got the hang of it the second half of the day.
TO SIT OR TO STAND?
Now I went through various scenarios in my head and after being a month into this I’m very pleased with our decision to potty train Jack by sitting down to pee. Some people have different methods and I realize in the future we may need to teach him how to stand, but for the sake of avoiding confusion and complications on outings, peeing while sitting was the way to go. I truly felt it would be complicated to teach Jack to sit when he poops but stand when he pees but sit when we are in a public restroom and the toilet is too big but stand when he is at school. If he decides he wants to start standing, we can do that, but sitting and tucking is what has worked so far.
TRAVELING // LEAVING THE HOUSE
Pack the pull-ups for long trips and keep them in the underwear for the short ones. Continue to ask them throughout your trip if they have to go potty and even if they say no, try to take them when you can. Two weeks into potty training we traveled to CA which is roughly a 5-hour drive. We only made one stop halfway through. We brought his detachable potty seat with us and put him in pull-ups for the drive. Dad took him to the bathroom with his detachable seat and we changed into new pullups. We try to avoid a lot of liquid for longer trips that way potty breaks are less frequent.
If you are just leaving your house for a couple of hours, you are amazing. You are doing it! Be sure to pack an extra pair of clothes and undies just in case of an accident. Keep with your methods and remember repetition is key. Even if they say they don’t have to go potty, keep taking them every 20 minutes just to be safe.
HOW IS HE DOING NOW?
We are almost 2 months into potty training and Jack is thriving. We’ve still had accidents here and there and that is OKAY. I would find myself getting a little frustrated if he had an accident but I have to remind myself I’m trying to undo almost 3 years of behavior. We have graduated to underwear at naptime and his teachers at school say he is the most potty trained out of his entire class. The next adventure for us is teaching him to pull his pants up and down and wipe himself. Again, he will need to know this before he is 3 for school so we have plenty of time.
What worked & What didn’t?
- Naked to start
- Sitting to pee (teach them to tuck it down)
- Sign language
- Potty chart
- Reward system (stickers, potty pops)
- Standing to pee
- Sweets as a reward
- Underwear to start
- Starting during a busy week/ season of life
- Know the signs (hiding in shame, curious, pulling diaper off)
- Don’t rush to start
- Once you commit, commit all the way
- Start with the basics
- Naked for the first couple of days
- Reward system
- Include them in the process
- Let them pick out toilet/stickers/underwear/pullups
- Pullups for sleep times
This process is all a mindset. If you think it’s going to be awful, it will be. If you think it’s going to be an exciting chapter and memory you get to make with your child, it will be. At the end of the day, you will find what works best for you and it could take 3 days or 3 weeks, but know that your child WILL get it and they WILL still have accidents. Give yourself space to be frustrated and also space to figure it out together. YOU CAN DO THIS!