Ok, first of all, let's be clear. I am NOT any sort of expert on potty training. I have one child and it just happened to go very smoothly, very early - much earlier than I expected. However, so many moms have asked me how we potty trained Danny and how we did it so early that I do want to share worked for us. I will definitely use the same method with other children in the future.
I read about toilet training on Mckmama's site, and Kingdom Mama's site, and took a lot of guidance from the Toddlerwise book.
I define a child to be potty trained when he stays accident-free for over 48 hours and does not need continual prompting to tell an adult he needs to use the toilet, but rather, will generally do so on his own with only an occasional exception.
I also sort of mentally break the process into three phases. Pre-potty training, potty training, and trained.
Pre-potty training starts as early as the child is interested in anything that happens in the bathroom and continues until the formal training starts. I think we pre-trained Danny for around a year. As soon as Danny was old enough to sit on the toilet and want to mimic us, we bought a child's toilet seat and let him sit on it before baths. If we happened to catch him at a time when we knew he had to go and he was willing to sit and try, we let him. This resulted in the occasional success of something landing in the toilet, although we didn't really care if it happened or not.
We also got a child's seat that goes on the big toilet, not a child's training toilet that sits independent of a real toilet and needs to be emptied. I didn't want to have to train him onto one thing only to have to train him off of it and onto the big one later.
Pre-potty training also included a lot of (ahem) narration of our own happenings in the bathroom. (Am I really writing this on the world wide web?! Yes. Yes, I am. I do think this contributed to our success quite a bit.) Whenever Danny was in the bathroom while either one of us was using the toilet (which, when you have a toddler is all the time), we'd excitedly point and explain what was happening. We also talked about it a lot during diaper changes. For example, "Danny, do you have a wet diaper? Oh, look! You went peepee! Good job!!"
And yes, there were more than one occasion that I thought, "Oh my goodness, am I really truly excitedly narrating my bowel movement to my son?? Yes. Yes, I am. Welcome to parent-hood, Renee." But hey, Danny has never had any fear or qualms about eliminating on the toilet. Talking about it quelled any fear that might have been.
We do call it peepee, poopoo, and potty. These are simple words that he can say clearly and everyone knows what he's talking about. I didn't want him to have to fumble with the word urinate just to tell us what he needed.
Another thing we did that I think really contributed to our success was we waited and put off potty training for quite a while. I think we spent about two months telling each other, "He really is ready. We just need to pick a weekend and go for it." I guess I put it off for so long because I wanted to be sure as sure can be that he was ready. I wanted it to be a one-shot-deal and I did NOT want to have any false starts. So, I waited until I knew that we'd be successful at it. I didn't expect him to be ready as early as he was either. I'm just guessing, but I'd be willing to bet that all the pre-potty training helped him be ready early.
What were the signs? Well he was waking up dry, both in the morning and after naps. He would wet his diaper shortly after waking up, especially if he ended up playing in his crib for too long, but the key was that he was holding it until he woke. He never really stopped or squatted to go in his diaper, but that is often a good sign a child is ready. He did, however, tell me when he needed a diaper changed, particularly when it was a dirty one. We do use cloth diapers and it's said that cloth diapers aide in potty training because the child feels more wet than in a disposable. I have nothing to compare to, so I don't know, but it might well be true. Lastly, I knew he was ready because the morning we decided he was ready, he woke up dry and I promptly took off his diaper and said, "Let's go to the potty!" He held it until we got there and when I sat him down, he looked down, intentionally went, and then looked up and told me he was done. When I considered that and the fact that I had nothing planned that day, I decided it was time to go for it and I left him naked from the waist down for the rest of the day until nap time.
This brings me to the day of potty-training. Yes, it only really took one day and yes, I do use the let-your-child-run-naked method. With nothing on, he was very aware of anything that might be going on in the pottying vicinity and this helped a great deal. Right after the first use of the toilet, we went downstairs (him with only a t-shirt on) and went about breakfast as usual. I placed a towel for him to sit on top of on his booster seat just for comfort and gave him one of his favorite breakfasts and lots of juice, so he'd eat and drink a lot.
During breakfast I filled a plastic cup with water and several drops of yellow food coloring in it. I placed the yellow water, several books, the child potty seat and his reward (we used dried cranberries - they are sweet and make you thirsty, which makes him drink, which in turn makes him urinate more often) in the bathroom on our main level. We spent that whole day playing downstairs, where there are linoleum floors instead of carpet, or on the back deck just in case. Right after breakfast, I said, "ok, let's go potty!" Off we went. Danny sat, but did nothing. Then I sat and urinated. The rule for potty training day is that when anyone goes potty, everyone gets a treat. So after I went, I got a treat and of course so did he. His stuffed bear also got a treat (which of course Danny got to eat) so Danny was excited about that.
Then we played for a while. I made sure I did not try to multi-task that day, but rather played with him all day. It was a very special day for him and he got LOTS of quality time with Mama. This also helped me pay close attention to him and his behavior. After a bit, we tried again, this time with success! Also this time, his stuffed bear "went potty." I gave the bear a pretend drink of water. Then I said, "Bear has to go potty!" We took the bear into the bathroom, I held him over the toilet, and as I made a "ssss" sound, I poured a little bit of yellow water into the toilet. Then I said, "All done!" I cheered and pointed to the color in the toilet. Danny's eyes were as big as saucers! It was SO cute! He was really excited when all three of us (Danny, the bear and I) got a treat because the bear went potty. After that, Danny sat down and went and so did I, all with the rewards to follow. By this time, Danny definitely understood and we just repeated the process for the rest of the day.
I made sure he went right before his nap - I actually delayed his nap a bit so he would do so - and then put him in a diaper to sleep in. I paid close attention when he woke up so he wouldn't have to wait in his crib and accidentally wet in his diaper. I think he did a little but then went on the toilet afterwards anyway.
I realized that part of the point of having a potty training day was to train me. I needed to learn how he behaves when he has to go, and since he had always been in a diaper, I never really paid much attention. It also helped me realize when he has to go. Most of us have fairly regular elimination patterns and this includes kids. One of the reasons I love the Babywise method is because it provides regular eating and sleeping patterns for kids. This causes regular elimination habits as well and then potty training is pretty easy.
Danny did go a second day without bottoms on. When I put bottoms back on, I only put shorts (no underwear or training pants). This actually was just by accident - because Danny is so tiny we had to order them from the internet - but it worked perfectly. Danny had clothes on, but it still felt very different from having a diaper on. It wasn't until 4 or 5 days later that we actually put underwear on him and by then he had the whole potty thing down so it didn't matter what he was wearing.
Eventually (after two or three days) the treats ran out or we forgot to have them with us and it didn't seem to matter. Actually I think Danny forgot or got tired of the treats before I did, which was nice. I guess the novelty just wore off. Maybe this is because we used a dried fruit instead of something as sweet as candy. The key is to find something he loves, something you don't care if he eats a TON of,j and something that will make him thirsty.
So here's the timeline: We started pre-training Danny when he was somewhere between 12 and 15 months. Potty training day was a Monday after he turned 25 months. Monday he was accident free. Between Tuesday and Friday he had 3 accidents that didn't happen at night or at nap time (I don't count those). Friday he had his last daytime accident. By the following Monday I quit asking him if he had to go, for the most part. Just to avoid a potential mess, we have been putting a diaper cover over his underwear to sleep in, but tonight (2 or 3 weeks after training day) he is sleeping without a diaper cover on for the first time.
A couple of other side notes:
I never ever scolded for an accident. I just said, "Oh look! You made a poopoo on the kitchen floor! We'd better put it in the potty now." Then I'd pick it up, put it in the toilet, allow Danny to sit and have the opportunity to finish and then let him flush. I think I even gave him a treat for that. The point was that it ended up in the toilet. How it got there was irrelevant. Danny was already embarrassed and upset that it landed on the floor in the first place. I believe in praising him to success and focusing on what he does wrong only if absolutely necessary.
We didn't have much trouble transitioning to public toilets or toilets without the potty seat. He still uses the child's toilet seat at home - he's just so small and it's more comfortable for him. In public, however, it's simply not around. Usually by the time we get there, he has to go so bad that as long as I'm holding him tightly as he sits and he feels secure, he'll go without hesitation. I did take him more often than necessary to "try" the first time or two we were out and about, though. That "practice" probably helped.
Well, there you have it! Potty training in a nut-shell in the Chinchilla Porras household. Did I miss anything? Do you have questions? If so, leave them in the comments section, email me, or ask me on Twitter or Facebook. I'll try to re-post the questions here for all to read.
Ya'll have a great night and happy pottying!