Oh, the joys you never think of before you become a parent! (I take that back, I did have to potty train the years I nannied too.) According to my mother, I was potty trained at 18 months and now that I am a few kids deep into potty training, I honestly think she was potty trained, NOT ME. Ok. I got that out of my system. Both Eva and Owen did (and now have) shown signs of being ready to start but not necessarily be totally trained. At 18 months, Eva started taking off dirty diapers, sitting on her diaper, and following us to the bathroom.
I totally encouraged this and got a little crazy with the whole training thing. Like, asking my daughter manically every 20 minutes if it was 'time to go potty', having potty parties, sitting in the bathroom while my daughter sobbed on her potty for hours (keeping it real, here), and basically making myself hysterically obsessed with my daughter's potty habits.
Then I got pregnant. And despite how much I love my kiddos, pregnancy was miserable. I was sick constantly, on bed rest, and just plain hugs and in pain. Suddenly, my daughter started successfully potty training. May I mention, that she finally successfully got done with training, accidents, etc., between the ages of 3 and 3 1/2? And that I started at 18 mos? That's a lot of ruined pairs of underwear. So, lets talk about what I did wrong and right here.
It was definitely the right choice of having her check out her potty when she started taking dirty diapers off and checking out her potty. But obsessively forcing her onto the potty constantly and staying there hours? She really wasn't ready. She just didn't have the control and understanding to associate the two. But, I do credit the idea that another kiddo was coming and my unwillingness to diaper two children with helping finally getting Eva trained.
I guess I both relaxed and got more strict, if that makes any sense. I came up with some ground rules of potty training in our house as we went along and I'm not sure how they'll work with our son but we'll try to adapt as he goes along. He's almost 19 months old now and starting to show the same signs of 'getting ready' as his sister did, so here's how we're going to probably go along:
1. Introduce him to sitting on his potty, every time her takes a dirty one off or we change him. Have him/her sit for a few minutes, then change the child.
2. Take him with us to the bathroom, when we do our own business, so he can start to see that the potty is where you do go potty.
3. Books, books, and play! This worked really well for our daughter. We read her things like "No More Diapers For Ducky" or "I'm a Big Girl Now!" and played with her dolls with the potty and her. We pretended that one of her dolls had been napping, eating, or playing, and then say "Oh! Dollie has to go to the bathroom! Let's take her!"
4. If you have to, go cold turkey, when you finally feel like your kid is fully 'ready'. We broke out the mattress pads and rubber sheet liner right about when she was 3. She got special underwear and special pajamas because at that time, she was really good at going during the day but still having night accidents.
5. Don't freak out over accidents. Just stay simple and say something like "Oh that's too bad. We have to try harder to make it to the potty next time, huh?" When she didn't have accidents, took her self successfully to her little potty or used her special seat for the regular toilet, etc., we cheered and danced around like fools.
6. Which brings me to praise. I think it's important to try hard NOT TO stress accidents, just say something short and brief, but REALLY praise successes. I noticed when we were especially negative or stressed out, Eva had more accidents. She also got really discouraged. But when we praised her consistently for even TRYING, she went more often successfully.
7. When Eva was still having night time accidents, one of us slept in the living room (closer to her room and her bathroom) and even sometimes had 'sleep overs' in her room with her, made sure she had a night light, the hall did, and her bathroom did. She knew she could take herself or ask us for help.
8. When we were having more failures than successes, we laid off for a bit and then after a week or two, started back up again. I just don't think potty training works for anybody in the house, if everyone is stressed out.
9. You can use a bit of peer pressure. Just don't make it negative!!! I cant stress taking negativity out of this enough. In my experience, being negative is the fastest way to get them to NOT use the potty successfully. But if a friend came over for a play date and was using the potty, I'd just casually mention, "Oh wow! So and so is using the potty, honey! Isn't that neat? I know soon you can use the potty just like him/her too!"
10. Do not, and I repeat DO NOT, try to get your kid to do more than they feel ready. Ignore all the voices of everybody who is bragging up "Oh my kid was potty trained at 10 months!" or "Why on earth is your kid NOT trained yet!" It's hard, I know, but ignore it. Your kid is your kid and that means that they are different and special. Each of your kids may be entirely different with this whole process. Just go with it.
11. Make sure your child care provider (if you have one) is entirely on board with how you do things too. Of course, it is important for kids to understand that different people have different rules in their homes, etc., but if you feel like your kid won't respond to how they do things, just talk with them and see if they are willing to make a few adjustments.
Which brings me back to Owen. He got his 'froggy potty' (it is shaped like a frog and very easy to sit on) for Christmas. When he starts pulling at his diaper or we know it's time for a change, we take him to it and have him sit for a few minutes. Then we change him and talk about using the potty. But he is 19 months, so I'm not putting myself under the pressure I did last time. Instead, I'm trying really hard to follow his lead, and make 'potty time' into less of a chore. He gets to play with his animals and his potty, and we read him books, just like we did with Eva.
The point of all this? Follow your kids cues! They might be afraid, they might be intimidated, or they may just plan, not be ready. They will show you when they will be ready for the next step, you just need to listen and watch, then go from there. Going cold turkey or stressing yourself out too early makes this entirely unhappy for both them and you. Praise them for successes and keep criticism limited. Only step up the pressure when you see your kid is ready for the next step. And, of course, remember PRAISE. Keep the negativity limited. This is a long process for anyone, so don't make it miserable for you or them!