How to Potty Train a Child




About: I'm an unschooling mom of three girls, author of 'Unschooling: A Lifestyle of Learning,' 'The Unschooling Happiness Project,' and 'memoirs of a strange little girl,' writer of articles on homeschooling, brea...

Step 1: Take off the diaper, and leave it off. I suspect that this may be the most common problem parents and caregivers face in initiating and progressing to successful potty training--They're afraid to take off the diaper.

Wouldn't it be easier if the child remained in the diaper and learned to verbally announce the need to use the toilet? Unfortunately, in order for this approach to work, the child must be old enough to verbally announce the need. That means three or more years old. Who wants to wait that long? Not you or the child.

I've witnessed the "potty training,"--but let's call it "potty learning"-- of three children who were all potty trained by twenty-four months of age. It went like this.

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Step 1: Child 1: My First Child

I took off her diaper, and left it off, when she was eight months old. You heard that correctly--eight months old. I never diapered her again. She had begun to strongly resist diapering and I had read about infant potty training with a cue sound and a potty bowl, so I gave it a try.

I began to give her a cue sound, "ssss," or a grunt, depending, and to hold her over a potty bowl, potty, the toilet, the sink, the grass in the backyard, . . . Anyway, whenever I thought she might need to go--and I began to notice a pattern--I would make the sound and offer the "potty opportunity."

I put her in training pants when we went out and she slept on a sheepskin and flat cloth diaper at night, but she wore no diapers.

Over the following months, I cleaned the carpet a lot. By eighteen months, she used the potty on her own. By twenty-four months, she was "perfectly potty trained."

Step 2: Child 2: My Niece

I began to provide day care for my twenty-four-month-old diaper-wearing and completely "potty clueless" niece. I did not desire to change diapers. I took off her diaper and set up two potties next to one another, one for her and one for my daughter to use for demonstration. One demo from her younger-than-her cousin and that was it. She preferred the potty to the diaper and my brother thought I had worked a miracle. He had been waiting, in vain, for her to announce her need to use the toilet.

Step 3: Child 3: My Second Child

I never diapered her, ever. She remained as bare as the day she was born. Within her first week of life, she responded to my cue sounds and potty offers. By ten months, she used the potty on her own. By eighteen months, she was nearly "perfectly potty trained." Like her sister before her, by twenty-four months, she was perfect and everyone thought I had a potty prodigy.

Step 4: Summary

So there you go. Take off the diaper and witness the potty learning. You may throw in some cue sounds, hand signs, potty offers, demonstrations, or other methods, but I recommend patience and a mantra: We all eventually learn to use the toilet and we do so under our own motivation.

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    12 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    That's whati did with my other two children around 18mnthd old. Now I have a 12 month old that I am attempting to do the same thing. However, I have a question and see who has any advice or comments. First we introduced the potty and for a while she played with it and pretended to sit and pee. Then I took her diaper off and leave her most all morning diaper less first day she would pee on the floor and look at it, now she is to where she will drop a few drops of pee and she will hold it and run to me and I take her to the potty, she gets there and won't let it go, maybe a few drops will come out and I make sure to praise her for it, but not a whole lot comes out. Yesterday she did pee, because I was feeding her yogurt while sitting :), but Is that ok? Has anyone else had this happen with their child where they hold it, even at the potty? Thanks!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I haven't had a child hold pee, so I don't have specific advice about that. My thoughts are that maybe your child is feeling pressured (with the new skill, not necessarily by you), so you might take a short break from actively trying to potty train, just to let her relax and background process the new expectations.

    I would still do the diaper free time and just accept the misses.

    We took the leap and took diapers off our son while home. Luckily, our 1970's apartment came with a shady carpeting situation, so we were inclined to just go for it. We invested in a gallon-sized container of commercial carpet cleaner for those extra-hard-to-clean moments, too.

    We added a little extra motivation with a "potty only" toy. It's bribery, of course. I'd heard of using food, but our son loves anything with a noisy button.

    If you've got a squirmy kid, a personality-fitting bribe helps :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    When my brother and I were babies, first thing my Mom would do every morning was place us on the potty. She would wash up while we sat there (our potty had a seat belt, which I can't seem to find in any new potty). She would do the same thing a couple times a day. By 1 year of age, we were both toilet trained. Simple.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    How long is it going to take for people to notice that "potty training" is really breaking "diaper training"? Our culture collectively trains their children to use their underpants as a toilet, and then struggles a few years later to reverse that training. And all for what, to avoid cleaning the floor a few times? I have cleaned baby poop up off the floor, and I have cleaned baby poop off a baby's butt (and vulva, and back, and legs...), and I will take the floor any day. Also a bummer is how people feel they need to extend the use of disposable diapers, leaving them on the baby for several pees to "get the full use out of them".

    I just wish I had realized how badly I was undermining our efforts when I put the occasional diaper on my girls. My youngest daughter, for example, would still occasionally poop her pants out in public (but never at home) months after we had stopped using diapers entirely, and I think it was based on habits she picked up because she was diapered only when we were out of the house for an extended period.

    Love, love, love that picture of the baby on the beach.

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done. I like how this worked out differently in each case - but always worked.

    One of my daughters learned on her own at a very young age. Got chicken pox (this was before the vaccine was widely available) really bad in the diaper area and she was just too sore (Ever had it? Those pox lesions hurt bad!) for diapers or for being at all messy. I don't remember the exact age, but it was young enough that we weren't thinking in terms of toilet, just trying to spare the poor kid some pain. She never needed diapers again.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    good job =] i'm going to have to do this very soon. my son is 21 months now, and just started walking.
    i've been on before. when you think about it, all the people in the people in the '3rd world' don't use diapers because a] they cant afford them [and neither can i anymore] and b] it wasn't really part of their culture.
    diapers are kind of like smoking... diapers ruin the environment, and smoking ruins yourself. we could quit both habits right now but we still go buy them and give in to the easy way through life.


    Well, the point is basically that babies learn to use the potty if you give them the opportunity. The opportunity involves not having a diaper on, ever if possible. I know that it's not practical for most people to let their babies go without diapers, at least not in this carpeted area of the world. However, the more diaper free time a baby gets, the more opportunity the baby has to connect elimination urges with using a potty. The organization lists many resources and info on the subject.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    This is great! Perhaps that is why, when my son turned about 14 months old, he STRONGLY resisted diapering. I had heard about parents potty training their kids starting around 12 months of age, and here's an example that it works. Potty training at about 12 months must be natural or something. Kids that cannot yet talk, and animals too (dogs, cats, even fish) learn quickly by simply watching others of their kind. Fish that have never eaten flake food soon learn by watching other fish eat it.