Six boys. Count em. I have potty trained SIX boys! (well, to be fair...number six is still in training.) So I feel pretty certain I can share some knowledge with you on how I have done it since as I look back it is one area as a mother I have actually had a pretty successful go of. (Excluding the spirited four year old who took a whole year to be PT at night. But he has that all under control now so let's forget that ugly year even happened!)
Anyhoo...let's reminisce shall we? Approximately 12 years ago I had a 2 1/2 year old boy and a newborn. I knew I wanted to PT Grant soon after Garrett was born because HELLO? who wants to pay to diaper TWO children at once? No one. No one who has a choice anyway! Right after Garrett was born we had two trips to go on and when we returned I was intent to begin the PT process. I was armed with nothing more than a desire to NOT have two kids in diapers...no real knowledge or experience was on my side...just pure willpower! We returned from the second trip on a Sunday and Monday morning I thought, "I am not ready to tackle this just yet." But I gave Grant a bath and he was running around in the buff when he announced he needed a diaper on! Poor little guy didn't know he had played his hand! If he knew he needed to go potty then that meant he had control over those muscles and it meant he had an awareness it was coming. That was all I needed to know to proceed quickly! I grabbed the potty seat (BTW the SAME potty seat Grayson now abides on!) and quickly set him on it. Voila! The deed was done! Then he begged for a diaper to which I firmly said NO WAY! He refused big boy underwear. He was in no way motivated by the thought of being a big boy and he immediately caught on that this new found ability meant more work for him and he was not excited. Thus was born the main way I went on to PT all the other boys. I told Grant that he couldn't wear a diaper and that if he didn't want underwear on then he had to be naked. He chose the latter! And I am glad he did because it was the key to helping me PT the other boys!
SO....here is my advice in as concise a form as I can muster.
1. I watch for three signs they are ready.
~they know they HAVE peed or pooed. (exhibited by signs such as wanting their diaper changed or acknowledging it when you ask them if they have)
~they know when they ARE peeing or pooing. (exhibited by signs such as disappearing behind the chair or standing very still and working hard to make it happen. Also, this is a good time to acknowledge ANY chance you get when you see them doing this. When they pee in the tub...call it by name..."Oh look, you are peeing!" Or if you see them straining to poo then say so. When you change their diaper tell them..."You peed or pooed." Giving the action a name helps them in the future.)
~ And finally...the BIGGIE...they know when they ARE GETTING READY TO pee or poo. Now, you may not always get to see this one exhibited but if you do...don't turn back. (This has been exhibited just as I shared with you that Grant knew he needed to have his diaper on which told me he felt it coming and he knew how to stop it. This was also how Grayson began his PT by being naked after the pool and I saw him looking down at his penis as if he was waiting on the pee to come. I saw this and immediately said, "Do you need to pee?" He said uh-huh and I ran to get the seat and put him on it and now we are on the journey!)
2. When you see at least two of these signs, and hopefully all three, you should JUMP quickly. In fact, as I said, if you see that last sign clearly, as I have with a few of my boys...do it immediately if you can. Get the seat out, let them pee or poo, and consider yourself in the throes of PT! Seriously. Last night when Grayson peed on the potty (and did it so easily) I knew I had to keep going. If you hem and haw about it they will LET YOU flounder forever! They will ask for their diaper back and they will refuse you but they must see you resolute! Believe me, I was in no way mentally ready to tackle PT with a lot of my boys but as soon as I knew they were ready I knew I had to go for it. The amazing thing is with ALL SIX of my boys, they all were ready around 2 1/2. Like clockwork. Of all the ways my boys are so different, this was not one of them!
3. The best way I have found to remind my sons and myself that we are now potty training is to leave them naked. Grant's stubborn refusal to wear undies and my stubborn refusal to allow him to wear a diaper led to this great discovery for me. I have NEVER used Pull-Ups to PT....except at bedtime. And honestly, even underwear is a problem. If they are naked they know something is up. They are constantly reminded they are supposed to be thinking about something. They know if a puddle forms beneath them that UH OH...they forgot. And if you see your child half naked all day then you are reminded to remind them to get on the potty. I mean, teaching them how to pee and poo is one part of PT. But the other, equally as daunting task, is to teach them to REMEMBER to get to the potty. And for a child who has been freely peeing in their diaper for two years and a momma who has changed their diapers, it is hard to remember to have them sit on the potty...A LOT. And I know you think cleaning up puddles...or worse...sounds worse than cleaning undies out...you are mistaken! It is all awful! But, I'd rather mop a puddle or pull out my little carpet cleaner if necessary than clean out dirty britches. Plus, the point here is this...if they are naked you will hopefully have less of these messes to clean up because you will remember to have them sit on the potty...a lot...did I say that enough?
So that is really it. No tricks. No prizes. No gimmicks. TONS of praise and hugs and kisses. Tons of books read while they sit and sit and sit. And perhaps a ton of messes and mistakes. But, if you are lucky then maybe it won't be so bad after all. Once you see the readiness signs then strip them naked and go for it! There is no magic key except to make them sit on the potty a lot. Some of your kids will know how to work their muscles easily. Others will struggle. There is no way to help them than to have them sitting there on the potty and trying. If Icould just keep them on the potty then I knew eventually they'd go. And once they went I knew I had a precious 15 minutes or so before I needed to ask them to sit again! :) Honestly, it takes about one week for me to get my boys to the point of getting it. Grant and Grayson were/are star students. Grayson has complete control over it. I just have to teach him to remember. And honestly, I look over and he will be on the potty without me even telling him. He loves the whole thing. Amazing. (that's just luck by the way...) The thing about the readiness signs is that if you KNOW that you KNOW that you KNOW your child is ready then you dont' have to feel badly about pushing them. At some point it is as much your will as theirs that is involved. Don't let them convince you that it is all about their will. Once you feel they are ready then assert your will as a parent and make it happen. (I fully acknowledge that some of you are saying..."But my child doesn't exhibit any of these signs and he is FOUR!" Or, "My child exhibits the signs but refuses to cooperate." I apologize that I can't help you there-except to say at some stinkin' point you are going to have to take charge. All six of my boys showed some readiness by the age of 2 1/2 and (nearly)all of them asserted their will against it...but momma won out. I don't have any children with limited capacities as far as physical or mental limitations so I would never presume to tell you how to PT your child if that is an issue for you.)
Overall I'd say, don't be scared. Be patient. Be ready to devote a week to being as focused as you can on PT. Obviously, if your child is naked then going outdoors is troublesome. If I needed to go somewhere with that child then I put them in a pull-up or underwear and I made them try to go once we got there. I tried avoiding that they'd go in their pull-up if at all possible. Then as soon as we were home I'd go back to naked land! Always have spare clothes and plastic bags and wipes on the ready. If your child is really reluctant then rewards and incentives may be good. I never found it necessary but do what you think is best. I haven't said everything I could say so feel free to ask questions and pick my brain! Good luck! ~M.