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June 30, 2013

Let me preface this post that I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert on parenting and/or potty training. This is our experience in presenting this information to our daughter and what worked for us may not work for everyone. Although my intention in sharing is to document the process as it applies to us, I hope it offers help to someone else beginning the same adventure. This is not a sponsored post; any opinions regarding products are my own and were not compensated in any way. Warning: it’s long. If you would rather read a much shorter and lighter post, click here.

Since Madison could acknowledge when she used the bathroom, we decided to give potty training a try. At 19 months, several people told us it was too early and to wait until she was at least 2 years old. We asked her pediatrician who informed us to try whenever we felt she was ready, after all if it didn’t work we could always try again later… thus began Project Potty.

After reading several horror stories among a few success stories, we jumped in head first and followed our instincts in hopes we wouldn’t traumatize her too severely in the event our efforts weren’t effective. Allison seized the opportunity for a girl’s only outing where she allowed Madison to pick out her own big girl underwear and assist in selecting a potty. With little parental guidance, we ended up with the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair. This particular potty has a removable inner tray for easy emptying and cleaning plus the potty itself is small enough to sit anywhere we’d like it to, both options that seemed to work for us at the moment. We wanted something easy to maintain and something mobile so it could tag along when visiting the grandparents or going on trips. We also wanted to make it clear the potty is not a toy, therefore, we didn’t go with the various singing and colorful options in hopes the transition to the toilet would be easier to conquer later.

The first few days were scattered with accidents, but the difference in diapers and underwear surprised her and seemed to prove the point of using the potty far more than verbally explaining it ever could. We initially started over the weekend where both Allison and I were home to provide our undivided attention to a somewhat formal potty training schedule. It seemed every thirty minutes we checked in asking if she had to go. What about now? Are you sure? Do you want to try? I think you should try. Let’s try.

After a successful trip to the potty, she was rewarded with a sticker of her choice and/or a cookie but not before a full round of applause. One would argue we were overreacting, but the joy was genuine and worth it when her excitement mirrored ours. Once Monday arrived the challenge of losing the momentum presented itself, but we’re blessed to have my mother-in-law come to watch Madison during the day while we’re at work so the odds seemed to be in our favor. Picking up where we left off, her help seemed to solidify the potty as the place to go when the going needed to happen. We were surprised at how quickly Madison picked up the idea and although six months later we still have a sporadic accident (not yet in public, knock on wood) for the most part she lets us know when she needs to use the potty. We still ask on the regular, but the rewards have slowly faded without effect on the results.

If asked to provide a How-We-Went-About-Potty-Training guide, it would be as follows:

Ask for their opinion when choosing the potty and underwear. Including their opinion encourages curiosity and excitement about receiving new information. Hopefully, the interest in the beginning will propel the entire process.

Presentation is everything. Using the potty should be the only option going forward so hide all the diapers. We used pull ups at night although it was seldom to find she used the bathroom overnight. At first we let her wear underwear while traveling or running errands, but after a few accidents in the car seat and, consequently, the washing of said car seat we encourage pull ups in the car and promptly change her into underwear when we arrive at our destination. To each their own! Personally, uninstalling the car seat to take it apart to wash it only to put it back together and reinstall it was a nightmare so this is on our mental list to revisit. Other than those instances, she is in underwear all the time and the potty is ready for use.

Initiate a reward system. Some people use charts to track their progress while others use small, inexpensive toys as rewards. We used stickers (special stickers covered in glitter that were separate from any stickers she would typically play with) and cookies. Madison happens to love chocolate chip cookies so discovering an incentive was easy for us, but every child is different.

Provide a distraction. It seemed to be easier for Madison if she had a distraction. If sat on the potty in a silent room with her mother and I willing her to go with our stares, nothing happened. Cartoons or a toy could provide an easy distraction long enough to break the tension and allow her to go comfortably. For Madison, she prefers light reading material so books are always near.

Praise! Don’t punish. As with anything your child does, it’s important to praise them when they do something well… this isn’t any different. We would make a celebration of successful trips to the potty and our excitement was contagious as she immediately became joyous of her triumphs. At the same time, we refused to scold or punish her in cases of an accident. We made it clear she has to use the potty and she knows what is expected of her plus chances are she’s already embarrassed so why add to that. Sometimes lessons are better learned in the moment without additional or unnecessary commentary.
Again, every child is different.  What worked for Madison (and us) may not work for someone else. The journey of potty training isn’t a clear path and doesn’t have a complete set of directions. The above guidelines are what seemed to help us through the task and who knows… maybe they’ll help someone else, too.  We’re all in this parenting thing together, one way or another, right?

* Click here for an update regarding our potty training experience and results.


  1. Congrats on only a few accidents. Sorry that the car seat had to be disassembled and washed several times. Must be a pain. Has she stayed dry on car rides since then? Our boy has certainly surprised by us because we've never had to prompt him to use the potty except when we are heading out the door, then we insist. He also has a signature potty dance ;). Good luck with the rest of the transition. It will be SO NICE not having to buy or pack or bring diapers anymore. I don't mind carrying around changes of clothes!

    1. For the most part, car rides remain dry. I agree... saying farewell to diapers (both buying and packing) is a highlight!


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