How I Didn’t Potty Train My Kids

There comes a time in every parent’s life, a moment of fear and trembling…potty training. It can be such a cause of stress. And a matter of a LOT of opinions. Elimination communication, early training,

With child number one I was worried about being a good-enough mom. Doing all the right things at all the right times…until child number two came along when child #1 was only 14 months old. Then, my attitude changed a bit. Keeping up with a fussy baby while trying to magically potty train the first baby by 18 months or be considered a failure by all those internet moms….

Well, let’s just say that if people want to consider not potty training by 18 months a failure I will fully accept that title. *wink*

Actually, 24 months came and passed, 30 months…

We were traveling full-time as a family getting ready to move overseas for the first time. I was not going to potty train on the road.

Do you know how far apart those rest stops are?!?!?!

Months went by. We moved overseas, settled in.

Then, her 3rd birthday arrived. As her present, I told her that she couldn’t have a sippy cup before bed and that I was no longer going to buy her diapers, so she would need to use the potty all the time. (Okay, so maybe that wasn’t her present…It was my present…lol!)

Did she fuss? Have accidents? Regression?

Not once.

With child #2, I was expecting child #3 weeks after she would turn 3-years-old. I didn’t want to have two kids in diapers again. Even with cloth diapers, it’s a lot of work.

So we sat down and had ‘the talk’. I explained that she was old enough to use the potty and we weren’t going to use the diapers anymore.

She was a little stubborn. A couple times she would go to the bathroom and make a mess on the floor on purpose, but I knew she understood the concept.

After baby #3 was born, #2 got jealous. One time while we were out, she decided that she was going to have an accident to get my attention. I didn’t carry extra undies or extra clothes for her.

Instead, I had one-size cloth diapers. I snapped one on her and explained that diapers were for babies and that if she was going to have accidents, I would dress her with the baby’s diapers.

No accidents after that.

Same thing with baby #3. On her 3rd birthday, we said “No more diapers”. That was it.

So what does that mean for you? It means, that if you don’t want to struggle with forcing your child to run to the potty at 18 months old, you don’t have to.

The only limitation is how long you can handle changing diapers.

For me, changing diapers was much easier than cleaning up urine in random places throughout the house because my daughter was too involved in her play to stop.

This doesn’t mean that you have to, should, or must wait until their 3rd birthday. Instead, you should look for the signs that your child is able to manage using the bathroom, mostly on their own or easily communicate their need to go.

Signs your child is ready to give up diapers:

When they have a dry diaper for hours at a time

Have a regular eating/drinking schedule

He/she asks to use the bathroom regularly

Is willing to stop playing to use the bathroom

Has a dry diaper most nights and can use the bathroom in the morning

I did not wait until they were 3 to let them use the potty. We tried it out a lot. BUT I did not switch them to undies until the magic day. That way I didn’t have to clean up accidents, get frustrated, and they didn’t have to feel ashamed because they messed up.

We also read books like “Once Upon a Potty” and watched videos like Elmo Uses the Potty. I bought them cute undies that they could use on top of their diaper to increase their excitement.

As many of you may know, we have a special needs daughter who is four-years-old. I have not attempted to stop using diapers with her. We are following the same process with her and I expect that, when the time is right, she will be ready to stop using diapers. I know that she does not meet the signs of the readiness to go diaper-free and I will not cause her stress by trying to force something on her that she is not ready for.

Some kids can reach this point by 18 months, some by 2 years old, for others it takes longer. It does not mean that you are a failure as a mom or that your child is “broken”. It just means they are not ready.

Now, if, you are not worried about the mess and possible stress, and you want to try potty training a different way, go for it! This method is not right for everyone.

In fact, many people have been successful with the It’s just not the way we’re choosing to do it.

Is this method for you? Or did you have success with a different method? I’d love to hear your experiences! Just keep in mind, that every parent and child are different, so not every method will work for everyone.

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  1. I am one that appreciated your article. I automatically scroll past those who promise to do it all in one weekend…and that script is the far majority of the articles. Not there yet with my first but think we’ll try having her help clean clothes from beginning to end… perhaps the time away from beloved toys will motivate this girl who loves to help anyway?

  2. Getting them interested, buying undies, showing them the potty, talking about going..that is potty training. If you do none of that and one day just say “Ok you’re done” just because they turned 3 you are not going to get the same results.

    The title of your article is deceiving. You gave them the tools and then decided when they turn 3 they are going to learn, that’s no different than what I did, I just chose 2 years old. It’s still potty training. Telling her she is going to wear a diaper if she doesn’t learn is also training, and how can you say she got the concept she just made a mess on purpose? How could you possibly know that?

    I do agree kids need to be ready. I have twin 2 year old girls. One has been trained since she was just over 2 because she was ready. She was so easy, by day 3 she wasn’t having anymore accidents and didn’t look back. The other one is still not trained, and they will be 3 this summer. Age doesn’t matter, and when they show signs, then yes you have to TRAIN them. Waiting until they are 3 and then winging it is not a solution.

    1. Given that the traditional way of potty training involves taking the child to the potty every fifteen minutes or so to ensure that they don’t make a mess, I was not deceiving in any way. As for knowing that my child who I spend all day, every day with is doing something on purpose, I can very accurately say that as well. I believe that you missed the point of this article, especially since I mentioned an alternative for those who do want to go the more traditional route. The point was that when they are ready, the traditional method of forcing them to the potty every few minutes will not be necessary.

  3. I absolutely agree with your method. The less pressure you put on your kids, the easier it will go.
    The only problem we have here (we live in Belgium) is that diapers are not allowed at school. Our son is now 2,5 years and will go to school when he is 3 (they can start at 2,5 years but i just think that’s too early)
    I wish i could do it like you but we are automaticaly pressured to start potty training because the first schoolday will be here soon enough..
    I hope it will go well here..

    1. All kids in the U.S. are required to be potty trained to go to preschool here unless, like my youngest, they have special needs. Perhaps if we had sent our kids to school, we would have thought about it differently. 🙂

  4. I wish I had waited for my oldest to be older before I attempted ‘training’ her. Would have saved a lot of frustration. However, one of my kids suffers from encopresis and is well beyond the ‘potty-training’ age. It is a horrible condition and one that is quite common. I noticed in a comment above (PrepTeacher) that a 7 year old messed himself daily because the parents didn’t want to formally train him. This sounds more like encopresis to me and not a child that willfully messes himself just to go home. A child with encopresis has absolutely no control over these functions. Please, do not shame this child, or any elementary school child, who messes themselves. They have more than enough shame already with this health problem! If one thinks logically and reasonably about this, would an elementary school child go to the extremes of messing themselves just to get out of school? I can maybe see something like that if there is severe bullying or abuse, but a normal kid in school? No, that’s just ridiculous. And mom & dad are probably besides themselves in figuring out how to deal with the problem. It is a long road for recovery and many times standard medical care does NOT work!
    I am so thankful that after 5 years of dealing with this problem, my child is FINALLY on the road to recovery.
    If prep teacher or anyone else has more questions about this, please go to my site and send me a message that way. Encourage the parents to seek help for encopresis. If they are like me, they probably feel so hopeless and like a failure because of the condition.

    1. That is a very tough condition to deal with. I can see how a child who has a condition such as this would feel shamed enough to pretend that they were doing it on purpose.

  5. Thank you for this post! My son is turning 2 on Monday and we have delayed potty training. We tried once when he was 1 year old. He showed some signs of readiness but still got scared of the potty. Our pedia told us to delay it. My best friend potty trained her daughter when she turned 3 and said it was easy. I think that’s the magic age. I have been researching ways on how to do it with my son and I think your method will work out the best for us. We don’t have a constant environment. We travel a lot and I don’t have the energy to go around and clean after him when we are at home. Like you said, it’s not being lazy. It’s about doing what feels right and what suits a specific family. Thank you again for sharing this! Now I can rest easy knowing that we will eventually get there. God bless you!

    1. Yep. I think there is a magic moment for each child. One where you know that they understand and are capable of doing it. Too early and everyone gets frustrated.

  6. This sounds great, but I teach primary school children, the Prep class & I have a 7 year old (most of my class is 5) who poos his pants daily because his parents don’t want to toilet train him formally & he has figured out it is a great way to go home instead of staying at school. He did it at 3 year old kinder & never looked back. So good luck to anyone who doesn’t want to toilet train their children, just don’t enrol them in my class!

    1. There is a big difference between not forcing a 2 or 3 year old into potty training that they are not actually ready for and allowing a 7 year old do something he is perfectly capable of changing. I am definitely not suggesting the later. If you read above in the article, I do work to get them interested in using the potty and have never had an issue with my children realizing that was the proper thing to do. Not the same thing as laziness or lack of discipline.

  7. I love this! I tried so hard with my lest to potty train her before 2 and I drove myself crazy. All of my kids potty trained right around 3 and once they did they didn’t have a bunch of accidents. I always want to laugh when people talk about potty training in a weekend or over a few days because that was definitely not our experience!

    1. I don’t doubt that some people have the ability to do the potty training in a weekend, but it really didn’t fit our personalities or our lifestyle. It was much less stressful once I let go of other people’s expectations!