getting ready for potty training | what worked for you?

Whether or not I am ready, this little boy has started to potty train himself.

little boy potty training

[13|52: peek-a-boo on the potty]

I admit, I’ve been avoiding potty training.

The thought of it used to cause me absolute dread. I guess I’ve pictured being chained to the potty ’round the clock, changing wet sheets in the middle of the night (every night), doing mounds of laundry from “accidents”, and pulling over on the side of the road in busy traffic for a potty stop behind the car because we just can’t quite make it home.

Dramatic, I know.

But until recently, the mere thought of potty training has made me want to break into a cold sweat, curl up into the fetal position, and eat a package of Oreos with my eyes closed.

I know it’s irrational to be so intimidated by it, but that’s just the truth.

The funny thing in all of this is that I used to think Levi would never potty train. (Well, not “never”, but you know what I mean.) He could go all day with a poopy diaper if I let him, and not care about it in the slightest. I wondered how he’d ever switch over to noticing it or being bothered by it (one of the readiness indicators).

I lamented that he’d surely be so hard to potty train and built the whole thing up in my head to something monumental. (As if parents the world over haven’t been potty training their kids for thousands of years. Hello woman, get a grip.)

But all of a sudden he’s almost potty training himself. He uses the little red turtle several times a day, and never leaves without peeing in it (often pooping as well).

potty training a little boy

Now that Judah’s a little bit older and “easier”, I’m nearly ready to commit and actually take this thing all the way. After all, so far it’s been really easy. It usually goes something like this:

Mama: “Levi, do you want to go potty?”

Levi: “Big poop?”

Mama: “Okay, let’s go try.”

Levi: “Mommy big poop?”

Mama: “No, Mama doesn’t need to poop right now. You can though, if you’d like.”

Levi: “Yeah! Big poop!”

And he does. Simple as that. At least a couple of times every day.

(By the way, we have no such thing as a small or medium poop these days. They are all “big poop”. Ha!)

I’m thinking I’ll probably do it by immersion – just a really focused weekend of doing nothing but potty training and some play in between potty trips.

Then again, I could probably just continue as we’re doing now and he’d easily learn by gradual weaning from diaper to potty the more I ask and give him opportunity. I mean, he’s already pretty much doing it on his own, right?

potty training


Dear friends, tell me: baptism by fire? Or slow goes the tortoise? Did you do a gradual, gentle approach to potty training? Or did you jump in the deep end and do an intensive few days? (And were you as irrationally frightened of it as I am??! Ha!)


peek-a-boo on the potty: #13 of my 52 fotos project.
Linking in with other Project 52ers: Styleberry Blog and Courtney Kirkland.


About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Stephanie
    31 March 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Oh I was so scared. And for my firstborn potty training was a huge struggle (probably more my fault than his) and took over two years. That is not said to scare you, I made A LOT of mistakes when I went about it.

    To me it sounds like you guys are going the same way training my second child went. And it was great. I let her lead the way and there was so much less stress for everyone involved. Biggest advice I have to give is that if there is a set back to not get stressed or upset. He will get there!
    Stephanie recently posted..The Boots AppreciatedMy Profile

    • Adriel @ The Memos
      1 April 2012 at 9:54 pm

      so you just sort of went slowly? though i’m not officially PTing at the moment, we are working toward it, and yes, there’s no stress! (which is great!)
      Adriel @ The Memos recently posted..when it all goes to… you-know-where | mamas in the trenchesMy Profile

      • Stephanie
        1 April 2012 at 10:11 pm

        With our first child we did hard core right from the get go. It did NOT go well and I believe we actually caused problems and made it a much longer process because of how we went about it. With our second child we let her lead the way, much as it sounds like you are doing right now, in total the process took about 6 months. She got the pee down pat in a week, pooping on the potty took the rest of that time 😛 But she has no accidents ever (we are 4 months post potty training right now) and our first (who is two years older) had daytime accidents regularly up until about two months ago.

        So, that big long comment just to say…I would continue to let him lead for them most part (with some gentle coaching). Because it sounds like it is working 🙂 If he stalls a bit at some point, maybe try the three day method ( I think one of your other readers suggested this as well). Since he sounds very open to going on the potty he may respond well to that.
        Stephanie recently posted..Lemon Chicken and a BirthdayMy Profile

        • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
          10 April 2012 at 2:16 pm

          thanks stephanie. that makes a lot of sense. even though i wouldn’t actually say we’re potty training right now, i guess we sort of are. but very, very gently. some days i’m so busy that i never remember to ask until just before bath time… so obviously I’M not ready to start potty training yet! i think we’ll continue as we are for a while (i really want to keep it positive and not pressured) and then like you said, do an intensive a bit further down the track… thanks for sharing your experience. it helps!!
          Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos recently posted..what are you doing for easter?My Profile

  • David Frew
    31 March 2012 at 10:42 pm

    With our first child it was so hard. We discerned in the end that he was just being defient. Against all good advice, we gave him a smack if he soiled his nappy after being put on the potty. After 3 days of tears (mostly ours) he changed his ways! Nice thing is his younger brother (by 2 years) saw all the fuss and toilet trained himself! Two for the price of one…Bonus!!!

  • Rachel
    31 March 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I have some very different thoughts on toileting that I can share with you if you like. Let me know, however honestly, it seems like you are doing fine. I will say doing the way it seems you’re doing it, take three days (or a week if need be) and go cold turkey! Especially now before winter comes and it’s a little cooler. I know, I know…you’re in the tropics! But it’s still a weather change! And these things are often easier to do during a transition period of the weather anyway. But don’t let the ‘boys are hard’ theory throw you off! At 15 months, Xave was totally out of nappies during the day and only sleeps in them at night. If only I could convince him to let someone else other than me take him to the toilet…if I don’t take him, he will literally hold on for hours (five is the longest!!!).
    Rachel recently posted..friday photo bliss…coming soon…My Profile

    • Adriel @ The Memos
      1 April 2012 at 9:58 pm

      oh, really? he won’t go with jason?? didn’t you guys do elimination communication?

      i’ve never heard about the weather change thing. why would that be? interesting…

      and yeah, so far levi is really easy so i’m not going to let the “boys are harder” thing get me down!

      love to hear your thoughts rachel…. i’m leaning toward a cold turkey – maybe this coming month sometime…

      • Rachel
        1 April 2012 at 10:14 pm

        Yeah, we did EC — everyone else in China was doing it and the more I talked to Chinese grandma’s (because they are usually the ones in charge of toileting) the more it made total sense. The market grandma’s told me that babies are born knowing when they need to eliminate just as clearly as they know when they need to eat or sleep etc. You have to watch for their cues…that remains the same up till toddler hood…even when I worked in daycare, we always knew to ask the child who was dancing around and talking really fast if he need to pee!

        If you’re interested, you can google EC for toddlers. It’s a bit differenting than the regular PT approach but on the other hand, you must do what works for you guys. They all end up toilet trained, one way or another!

        The weather thing is true in a lot of cases like dieting and exercising — they say (they? I have to admit I don’t really know who ‘they’ are!) that it’s a mind over matter thing — new season, new you — plus it’s easier to have littles running around with less (or none if Xave could have his way) clothes to whip the pants down quick! That’s why I say go for it now. He’s old enough to be really excited about undies and new shorts. Don’t worry about nighttime, that will come shortly after daytime I think. And it’s supposed to be natural so i’m opposed to rewards and bribery other than praises. I figure then you have to wean them off candy or toys etc.

        I’m really bummed Xave won’t go for Jason but the Chinese grandma’s did warn me that would happen…i just hoped he’d have grown out of it by now! But I have to say, with all the nausea, I’m really happy I’m not changing poopy nappies right now!!!
        Rachel recently posted..friday photo bliss v.13My Profile

        • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
          10 April 2012 at 2:29 pm

          thanks rachel. i’ll have to google EC for toddlers. never heard of that so of course i’m curious. 😉

          yeah, the weather is actually perfect right now. i think we probably will go for it in the next couple of months. i’m nearly there. poor levi… just waiting on his mama! 😉 for now i’m pretty happy being casual about it though. there is no pressure (and therefore no power struggles!), it’s fun for him (good associations), and he’s getting it.

          as for the rewards/prizes, i feel similarly to you. right now he’s pleased about it all anyway and so rewards don’t seem “necessary”. i won’t rule it out though. i’m learning as a mom that the less i “rule” out, the better. different kids, different techniques, different successes! 😉

          thanks again for sharing your experiences. it really helps! off to google EC for toddlers now…
          Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos recently posted..watching brothers become mates | nurturing your children’s relationshipsMy Profile

  • alison
    31 March 2012 at 11:40 pm

    we did a potty chart on the fridge for hannah and chandler (although hannah was MUCH easier to potty train! chan’s 4.5 years old and he still has a pull up on at night). they’d put a sticker on the chart everytime they went on the potty. when they filled up a row, they got a candy treat. when they filled up the whole chart, we had a potty party! grandparents came over and we had cookie cake and they got gifts of big girl and big boy underwear. i’m not sure how to do ava’s potty training though. she’s doing kind of like levi…already going on the potty fairly regularly. but everytime she gets panties on…she pees on them immediately. i’m thinking a potty boot camp once i’m off work for the summer 😉
    alison recently posted..{beach} bumsMy Profile

  • Jessica W
    1 April 2012 at 1:37 am

    We did a three day potty party. I built it up for a while then brought out balloons and a banner and prizes. I made sure we were ready with towels etc then it was cold turkey in underwear. She got stickers on a chart every time she went on the potty then got a prize after so many stickers. So she knew she was working toward something, the first day there were a few accidents as she learned to hold it. Then day 2 and 3 were amazing. I can count the number of accidents she’s had since on one hand. Here’s my blog post about the whole thing. Good luck!
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  • leishell
    1 April 2012 at 4:59 am

    We are in it it right now, and since he’s still young for it ( 21 mos), we are gradual. He goes as long as I take him, but doesn’t tell me until after…so I’m sure it will come when he’s ready, like your son. So good luck, it sounds as though you’re on the right track!
    leishell recently posted..Embarking Into the UnknownMy Profile

  • Erin
    1 April 2012 at 5:09 am

    I’m still in the “dreading it” stage. Getting up in the middle of the night to pee? Leaving the playground to find a bathroom, or just as scary, using the port-a-potty? Dangling him over a yucky public toilet? My son is 26 mo and not showing any signs of being ready, which is fine with me. I need him to be a very willing participant.
    Erin recently posted..What I’m Listening To: PerlaMy Profile

    • Adriel @ The Memos
      1 April 2012 at 10:04 pm

      yeah, i was like you – needing him to be VERY ready. i just didn’t want drama or any more stress! (having a toddler and newborn was stress enough… now i don’t have a newborn, i have a 6mo so….) i think he’s really there. now just waiting on his mama to work up the courage!!
      Adriel @ The Memos recently posted..i was totally “that mom”My Profile

  • Katherine
    1 April 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I was also irrational frightened of potty training, but now (from the other side) it is no big deal. Rarely did we have to pull over and jump out of the car in a potty panic.

    We did a weekend focus when we were away with my family on vacation. Every time R would go in the potty, all 6 of her older cousins would pile into the bathroom to cheer for her. If she went, she got a Skittle. For encouraging her, the cousins got a Skittle as well. Everyone was very motivated:) My sister in law did this routine with her where she took her around the house, repeating the same phrases over and over about “where do we go potty?” and giving her juice and water.

    I have to say, however, that it didn’t really “take” until my dad upped the ante and gave her, like 10 Skittles one time. Then she decided it was worth it.

    So we did the bulk of it in one big blitz of a couple of days, then just had to sort of keep it up after that. If she had really put the brakes on, I would have stopped and tried again later. But I think she was ready.
    Katherine recently posted..It Ain’t Rocket ScienceMy Profile

  • A Little R & R
    1 April 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I’m sending you a ticket this week to come stay at my house for a couple of weeks. We have great pull-out beds – comfy….and I’m a great cook, so you’ll eat good. Whadda ya say? ROFLOL I just started 3 days ago… is…….what it is. 😛
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  • Nicole {at} Modern Style Mama
    2 April 2012 at 11:55 am

    Adriel its really not that bad. The key is to make sure they are truly ready. Many people have issues why they push potty training to much and the child just isnt ready. It’s one of the things you simply cant make them do. We have done the cold turkey, no turning back now approach. I actually just had a few 3 posts recently about potty training

     Is Your Child Ready To Begin Potty Training

     Mastering Potty Training Part 1 – My Story Potty Training Boys

     Mastering Potty Training Part 2 – 10 Potty Training Tips & Tricks

     Potty Training Help – Mama Insight Q & A

    Hope they can help. 🙂
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  • Krystle
    3 April 2012 at 6:28 am

    So, my tip is….let him do it when he’s ready.
    I tried to get Jack to be trained before the babies were born but it didn’t happen.
    One day he decided he didn’t want his diaper on. I told him, “Fine, but don’t you go potty or poop on my carpet or you are in big trouble!” He said, “okay” I told him if he doesn’t wear a diaper he has to use to toilet…which he went and did (Baby Bjorn Potty)

    Then we used the whole candy reward thing. Every time he sat (even if he didn’t go) he got an M&M. The jar sat in the bathroom as a visual. Then we switched to stickers and after 10 stickers he got a little bigger “treat”. Soon, he forgot all about the “treats” and did it without prompting.

    I reminded and asked him a lot. Every 5 minutes or so for the first few weeks. Kept pullups for naps and bedtime so that he could still easily take those off to use the potty.

    And within 2 weeks we were done.

    I thought, well…I didn’t do much. He was ready and so we went! And now I won’t do a thing with the twins, just let them show me they are ready! 🙂

    Good luck!

  • Krystle
    3 April 2012 at 6:29 am

    Oh, also….I know some people use the intense weekend thing, and that might work for some kids…but I think the pressure can be a lot for some (especially boys) And the Mom can get intense and it’s just a lot. And the child can sense that…so sometimes it may backfire. 🙂
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  • Angel
    5 April 2012 at 5:23 am

    Oh wow! That is so great that he has initiated it!! My girl will sit on the potty but really has no interest in actually using it. The thought of tackling it is a source of great anxiety for me, for all the reasons you stated. She couldn’t care less if she pooped, she will tell you she didn’t more often than not. They say the best time to start is spring/summer so they can walk around in just a diaper and t-shirt, which I guess isn’t too much of an issue in Australia 🙂 but in Michigan we are still trying to shake off the last vestiges of winter. They say that when they are “ready” they will let you know, I don’t think she is quite there yet but am hopeful (even though it scares the crud out of me) that she will be soon. We bought a Potty Patty doll, they also have Potty Scotty dolls. The doll goes potty on demand and helps your toddler associate what they are supposed to do, kind of like you let them help the doll learn which in turn helps them learn. I will let you know how it works out. Good luck Chick, and don’t stress, it sounds like Levi is going to do wonderfully already!
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  • Jessica Sliman
    10 April 2012 at 5:14 am

    I am in a very similar boat! I have a two and a half year old little girl who could run around in a poopy diaper all day. And then all of a sudden (I think because there were M&M’s involved), she has started using the potty. I am easing into it…very slowly. Basically, I’m taking it completely child initiated. When she wants to, she uses it. Some days, I just let her run around naked and she uses the potty and it’s terrific. Other days – when I have running around to do or I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do around the house and might not remember to ask her every few minutes – I just put a diaper on her. It’s worked for us so far. I think after a few more weeks or a month, if she doesn’t have it completely down, I’ll just do a weekend of total immersion. But for now, I’m not willing to tie myself down to the process! And some of my friends who potty trained early wind up getting so frustrated with the process and the accidents.

    Anyway, good luck! I found you through styleberry. I look forward to following your blog!
    Jessica Sliman recently posted..The French Laundry cookbook does not belong on our counter. An exception follows.My Profile

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      10 April 2012 at 2:24 pm

      mmm, that sounds exactly like me. not quite willing to tie myself down to the process just yet. but nearly. 😉 i’m happy with the gentle, gradual approach right now, and like you, may try the immersion in the next couple of months. for now, if i’m honest, i still like the convenience of diapers. i get so busy that i forget to go to the bathroom myself… so how am i supposed to remember for someone else? lol.
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  • kate
    6 June 2014 at 2:36 pm

    okay that first paragraph is kinda my life right now, so no not so dramatic. It’s the intensive approach. working on it right now. My eldest was the slow go and basically it meant the preschool did most of the heavy lifting. For this one I’m trying intensive to avoid the potty fines at preschool.If he’s pretty much getting it, try without diapers for a few days (diapers at night still, some kids can get the night time thing at the same time, from what I’ve heard, most don’t) good luck. It’s an exciting and exhausting time!


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