Potty Training: Mom of Nine Tells All

potty training

Potty Training: A Necessary Evil

I’ve been potty training for 16 years now (well, not me—but, you know—my kids) and have succeeded, during that time, in potty training four girls and three boys so far. I won’t tell you how much poop and pee I’ve cleaned up from walls, floors, beds, and potty chair rims.

Actually—I will. Lots.

Potty training is not something I get super excited about. It’s one of those necessary evils though—and the encouraging thing is, all average children, and most below average children WILL be potty trained by age 16. That’s important to remember while rinsing training pants in the toilet for the third time in a day.

So since we are talking about babies this month, and since #8 (a boy) just turned three last week, I decided to take pictures, record some details (just a few, mind you) and write up a blog post about it. If other women can have some fun online while potty training, why can’t I?

potty training

Potty Training Preliminaries

Before we get started with our adventure, let me just say that I’m not one of those ambitious early trainers. I had aspired to be one many years ago, but as it turned out, my children weren’t early trainers either, so it’s all good. I start training when they turn three years old. You don’t have to. I’m just saying that’s what I do.

Also, you should know I’ve experienced varied results with each child. I had one who potty trained—both day and night—in 24 hours. I think she is part human, part angel. On the opposite side of the spectrum I had one who potty trained—both day and night—in six YEARS. Yes, I’d let you weep for me, but it’s all over now. She is 10 years old and fully trained.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that those readiness signs you always hear about (or read about on the packages of Pull-Ups) didn’t work for me. That’s why I implemented the arbitrary “three years old” rule.

Here are the signs in case they will work for you:

  1. Your child stays dry for at least two hours during the day or is dry after a nap.
  2. Your child is antsy with soiled diapers and wants them changed. (My kids liked walking around in squooshy poopie pants.)
  3. Your child shows more interest in the bathroom. (My kids showed an interest in the bathroom all right. Brushing teeth in toilet water, unrolling toilet rolls, taking out all the make up from the make up drawer, and so forth. There was interest. Just not the right kind of interest.)
  4. Your child follows simple verbal directions. (Jeepers, I’m still working on this one for myself, for crying out loud.)
  5. Your child wants to wear big kid pants. (Mine could care less. Pants. No pants. Polka dot pants. It’s all the same to them. They had more important things to think about. Like building a Duplo Walmart.)

potty training

Day One: Potty Training Media and Treats

Kids like movies, candy, and snacks. Also delicious drinks. They are sort of like adults that way. I choose to capitalize on these hedonistic tendencies in my Wemmick children by making potty training day brimming full of all their favorites delights. I do this in hopes that it will translate into the potty chair also being brimming full of all the goodness coming out the other end.

Some people call this shameless bribing. I call it pragmatic genius.

So on day one Boy gets up thinking its just another average day, but he soon discovers he is in paradise. Mom is grinning from ear to ear saying, “GUESS WHAT?!!! Today you get to wear MR. OTTER PANTS and DRINK POP AND JUICE TILL YOUR GUT ACHES AND YOU HAVE TO PEE LIKE A RACE HORSE!”

Boy grins back. Sounds good, Mom. Where’s the pop? And by the way, who’s Mr. Otter?

Mom whips out a pair of thick underwear with the face of an otter embroidered on the inside front. Mr. Otter is strategically placed right where Boy’s “tail” is. (This is what my angel daughter called it the first time she saw her little brother. She said, “Oh Mommy! He’s got a TAIL!!” Hey, if the word is good enough for angels, it’s good enough for me.)

Mom puts the Mr. Otter pants on Boy. Boy looks around expectantly for the promised beverages. Mom delivers. Boy drinks. A lot. While he’s happily sucking it down, he notices an object in the middle of the kitchen. It appears to be a small blue toilet. Can that really be? A toilet in the kitchen?

Next, Mom takes OFF the Mr. Otter pants and has Boy sit down on the blue toilet in the middle of the kitchen. Next, she pulls up a chair with her laptop on it and begins playing a video of Bear in the Big Blue House: When You’ve Got to Go. This is totally awesome. Boy gets to sit and watch a video first thing in the morning—while drinking juice and eating fishy crackers with lots of salt.

The idea is to have him pee in the toilet for the first time. With a full bladder, he will eventually do that. I just keep him there until he does. He stays happy with music and dancing—all centered around the topic of potty training—along with salty snacks and delicious drinks.

It takes about 30 minutes, but he eventually pees. He looks surprised. How odd. I peed in this blue thing in the middle of the kitchen while watching a dancing bear. Am I dreaming?  What’s more incredible is that Mom now presents him with a Popsicle. I don’t know what I did, but I’m lovin’ this day!

After a five minute “rest” walking around with his Mister Otter underwear, I sit him back on the potty. In a few short minutes he is agitated. Wiggling and squirming, he moans and complains about life in general, and about potties specifically. He has to go. BAD. But he’s nervous to let it go in that blue potty again. There’s something weird about it. Finally – ah…relief.

He gets a 10 minute break where he can walk around, and then it’s back to the pot. We wait. A few minutes later he’s moaning again. He wants to get up. He’s irritated. Pretty soon he scoots—potty and all—across the room to a corner with his back to everyone else. He pees in private. Is he not genius, or what?

potty training

Who IS Mister Otter?

I am NOT an affiliate with Otter Puddles—just a happy customer. These are cloth training pants that have an optional snap on insert with an optional otter embroidered on one side. We call him Mister Otter, and you DON’T want to “water the otter” if you catch my drift.

Unfortunately, Mister Otter gets pooped and peed on a few times before the child gets the hang of going on the potty, but that’s OK, because Mister Otter is always smiling no matter what. We LOVE Mister Otter.

While we are training, you will often hear Mom, Dad, or another older child asking the child-in-training, “Is Mister Otter dry???” If Mister Otter is dry – they are praised and sometimes get a gummy worm or other treat.

Day one of training is all about getting the child comfortable peeing on the potty.  The child will have to go a lot if you continue to give them beverages. In between each sitting and going (sometimes the sitting takes a long while before the going happens), Boy walked around for a little bit longer. First 5-10 minutes. Then 10-15 minutes, etc. At nap time we put on a diaper and called it a morning.

After his nap and into the evening I simply put him on the pot approximately every 30 minutes to see if he had to go. Sometimes he did, sometimes not. At one point during the day he pooped in his pants. That is pretty normal. The pooping thing seems to take a little longer for them to get the hang of because it doesn’t happen as often as the peeing does.

potty training

Day Two: From Kitchen to Bathroom

That first night I happened to be out on a date with my 13-year-old daughter, so Daddy put Boy to bed. You know how that goes, right? Daddy just left Mister Otter on. Now, normally, this would mean that in the morning I would have Niagara Falls to contend with in the boy’s bedroom.

Miracle of miracles—he was practically DRY! Did I have another ANGEL? What were the odds?! After cautiously checking to see if Mister Otter was dry, I asked if he had to go tinkles. Duh, Mom. He did.

After breakfast he became irritable. “I’m tired Mommy. I’m SOOOOOO tired.” Do you know what that means? He has to poop. You learn these things after 19 years of parenting. So I put him on the pot and he pooped.

He pooped three more times that day in his pants, waking me up to the realization that he is, in fact, human and decidedly NOT an angel. This fact was confirmed the following two nights when I put him to bed with a diaper on, and it was full the next morning.

As of this writing, we are on day five of potty training, and we are making progress. Can you do this in one day? It’s possible. Can you do this when they are 18 months old? It’s possible. I’ve seen this kind of thing happen with my friends who have incredibly amazing children. My kids are all pretty average.

And I like them just fine that way.

potty training

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Natalie Klejwa is a Wemmick, loved by the Woodcarver, wife of 22 years to Joe, and mother to 9 Wemmicks ages 2-20. She is a business owner (Apple Valley Natural Soap), founder and administrator of the Visionary Womanhood blog, publisher and contributing author of Three Decades of Fertility, You Can Do it Too! 25 Families Share Their Stories, and The Heart of Simplicity: Foundations for Christian Homemaking.

You can hear her being interviewed on Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision radio program.

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35 thoughts on “Potty Training: Mom of Nine Tells All

  1. Thank you for this! I tried potty training my 2.5 year old daughter. I was so encouraged because she was doing so well. Then it got nice outside, she would go outside, and she would forget everything about going in the toilet. Now she is currently in diapers again and doesn’t care if she’s poopy or wet. I think I’ll wait a little longer before the next potty training attempt.

  2. Loved this post! A little “potty” humor is just what I need this morning as I woke frustrated that my 5th child isn’t potty training as quickly as her older 4 siblings. I think I’ll give her a few more months and then give your “method” a shot. Treats and tv sound good to me!

  3. Love this, Natalie! You are so funny! It took me two years (between 2-4) to potty train baby girl #1. Baby girl #2 is 2 1/2, and people keep asking me when we are training them. I say I am scarred from potty training baby girl #1, and I don’t want to potty train baby girl #2!

  4. My first two tackled poop first and had it down by 18mos and then managed pee by 3 (I know, wierd, right?)… my third is 2 and couldn’t care less. No interest at all. Hubby is getting agitated but I don’t really care. He’s not showing any of “the signs”. I think I’ll show him your post and tell him to relax for another year. Thanks for some great suggestions :)

    P.S.- my first two are 7 and 9, and potty training seems so long ago, I can’t remember what I did with them at all, it’s possible that they are just angel children who came by it miraculously, lol

    • WOW. I think you DO have angels living under your roof Amanda! The pooping is THE WORST PART! I did finally break down earlier this week and get some pull ups. SOOO much easier to clean up after a dump. ;)

  5. As a Mom to 9 also, we pretty much train like you do… I guess some things are universal. 3 years old, follows directions, can dress selves (at least pull up pants…) First day, lots of drinks, snacks and movies…

    Etc. Most kids trained in a few days, some took longer, they’re all trained by 10 years old… or 16, whichever.

    I’ve only trained 8 of them though, the 9th is only 14 months and I figure we can handle one in diapers right now.

  6. Oh my goodness!! This whole post made me laugh! I am glad I am not the only one in the world with both normal and angelic children ;-)

    We are beginning this stage with our 10th sweetie pie. Your words were so timely. Thank you for sharing.


  7. My 4th child turned 3 y.o. last February. I did not want to potty train. I refused to try after many accidents. I just prayed and put into God’s hands and trusted Him that when she was ready it would happen. I remembered trying to potty train my older ones when they were not ready. What a hassle!

    So I waited and waited. My parents came to visit from Brazil and the pressure was on. My 2 y.o. niece is already potty trained. But I didn’t care. My 3 y.o will poop on the commode when she is ready.

    One day, about a week ago, she came back from the pool and took her swimsuit off and was walking around the house naked holding her bottoms and crying and calling out to me that she needed a diaper. I quickly figured it out she wanted to poop. So I set her on the commode and guess what? She pooped. She was so proud of herself.

    A day or so after, it happened again and then she didn’t want to wear diapers anymore. She asks to go pee and poop. She goes by herself. She flushes and even wipes herself. I am still putting a diaper on her at night to avoid accidents, but she fights it off. So I told her that if she wakes up dry and goes to the bathroom first thing in the morning by herself for a couple of nights she doesn’t have to wear a diaper at night any more. I think she has done it but I really don’t want to clean an accident, so I am waiting a few more days.

    So I guess after training 3 kids, I got an ANGEL!!! :) God is good! Just the potty break I needed. :)

  8. Love the pictures Natalie!! It is fun to see some of your children. Those Klejwa kids are cute!!!

    I went a little different route. I did not potty train. I kept my kids in diapers until they decided they were done and that was it. I do not think any child went very much past four years old. My reason for doing it that way was potty training really really frusterated me. I did try potty training my oldest when she was 2 1/2 and it was not a good experience I got very frusterated so I decided that it was ok to let it go and see what happened. It turned out ok which I am glad about because I was kind of embarrassed back in the day to share with other mom’s how weak I felt in that area.

  9. I have 3 boys and they’ve all been at least 3 years old when potty-trained. All 3 still wet to bed, but I know it’s a biological thing and not a behavior issue. They are 5,4, and 3 and I dream of the day of no more pull-ups (even for night time!).

    My baby girl is 1-1/2 and I’ve heard girls pottytrain earlier, but I think it’s best not to be hopeful. :)

  10. I have tears in my eyes I laughed so hard! All three of my kids have liked sitting is squishy poopy diapers! My youngest will be three in just a few weeks. He’ll sit on the little potty, but I haven’t taken the diapers away yet. Feeling more encouraged after your post!

  11. Thank you for this! I laughed until I cried! I’ve been in some form of potty training for over 5 years and it has been the most frustrating parenting struggle yet. It’s a relief to know I’m not alone and my children WILL be fully potty trained by the time they’re 16. Whew! I’ve found mine are much more reliable when I allow them to go bare bottomed. They’re just naturalists at heart! Doesn’t work so well for trips to the library, grocery store, in-laws’, etc., but at home I just roll with it. ;-)

    • Heh heh. They love to be naked and free, yes. Like Adam and Eve. Too bad we’re not still in that garden…of course, if we were, there would not be the unpleasant task of potty training in the first place. Hmmmm…deep thoughts. ;)

  12. This is great I have a resistant three year old, but will give this a try. How many trainers do you typically need? We are coming from cloth diapers so, the transition shouldn’t be too hard.

    Thanks again!

    • Good question. I have six of them, but I have to wash them every day toward the beginning of the process. Now that we are well into the process, he is doing all his peeing on the pot and all his pooping in his pants. Arg. But this is “normal” actually. I’ve recently bought the pull ups so I don’t have to do the poopy thing anymore with the cloth pants. Once he gets the hang of dumping in the toilet, we’ll go back to Mr. Otter. You can unsnap the Mr. Otter insert and they become regular training pants with just the right amount of “soaker” in case of an accident. Mr. Otter just adds that extra protection, but again, when we’re talking poop – no matter how much “protection” – it just isn’t much fun to clean up. And yes, if you are used to cloth diapering, you will be happy with the cloth trainers. You’re a hardened “pro.” :)

  13. This was a God send! Am due with #9 and trying to train #8. Not going very well. I think we will wait a couple of months when he is 3 and see if it gets any better. Was refreshing to hear from larger families , that it is okay to wait till they are older- esp. the boys. I find potty training easier to do in the winter- they are inside more and I am not so distracted with garden work, yard work and all the other canning/blanching food. Thanks again for “permission” to give it a break for a while! :)

  14. Thank you so much for posting this! My youngest son, who will be 3 in 2 weeks, told me this morning he wanted to potty train. This is attempt 3 or 4 at getting him potty trained. I had decided to just wait till he was 3 or he brought it up. My oldest son was 3 1/2 so I don’t know why I was rushing it. I guess because I know how great it is to not change his diaper ;) Anyways, thanks again for posting this and for being honest! Here’s to hoping both our kids stick to it (or that us moms stick to it)!

  15. I’ve potty trained 3 boys, all before age 2. My trick…. I start young, very young- even before they can talk, early enough that it feels natural to do so. If they wake up from a nap or from the night and are dry, I hold them over the toilet and let them pee (why wait for them to pee in the diaper?). After a few times, they start to associate the toilet with a place to pee. When this is fully established, I begin to take them throughout the day when I notice it’s been a while, but they’re still dry. Finally, I go cold turkey. NO PULL UPS! My kids will pee in their pants every time you put a pull up on them. It feels too much like a diaper. We put on underwear and know that they will have accidents. Accept it! I think kids actually learn more from mistakes than success. My 18 month old used to say “peed” when he needed to use the bathroom. I used to think it meant he had an accident, but then realized he had learned from the times he had “peed” in his pants that it wasn’t something he wanted to do. Lastly, I just had a lot of patience. If they had accidents, I showed no frustration at all…just empathy…”Oh, bummer, you went in your pants? That doesn’t feel good, does it?” Then, I’d sit them on the toilet and then change them.

  16. Natalie,

    I loved all the humor with which you described potty training!! We have 2 girls (ages 6 & 8) who both potty trained easily by 3 yrs. old. Our youngest is a very active almost-3 yr. old boy. He’s a completely different story!!! I started potty training him at 6 mos. and for quite some time, never had to change a poopy diaper. Then we moved and our schedule was disrupted so we started all over again last year and are making consistent progress.

    I too have brought the potty chair into the LR and put a Robin Hood video or something else he likes on the tv so he can sit there in semi-comfort until he goes. For him, it is remembering to tell me that he has to go poo-poo before he does it in his diaper. Though really, it’s more training me to remember to ask him, I guess!! :)

    He will be 3 in July and although I doubt we will have it mastered by his birthday, hopefully by Christmas!! :) Thank you for the encouraging experiences you shared! :) God bless you and your precious kiddoes!

  17. Ugh. My eldest turned 3 in April and I can’t even get him on the potty. It results in screaming, crying, snotting, drooling, tantrums. He picked out both his big seat for the big potty and the little potty we use now that makes noises when you go successfully (not that you would be able to hear them over Mommy’s excited squeals and praises). My youngest will be 14 months in five days and -she- has had more successes than my son. She had all ready poo’d and pee’d twice when I’ve put her on and she’s happy to just sit there. She all ready comes directly to someone to change her right after she poo’s also, she does not tolerate poo diapers. I don’t expect her to do it all on her own any time soon as the little darling doesn’t even understand the dynamics of pulling up and down pants, but she’s all ready leaps and bounds ahead!

    I’ve tried TV shows, we have Elmo Potty Time and a few others. Bribes, candy, ice cream, all forms of sweets that are normally rarely given. Stickers…. toys…. It’s all a no go. Eldest still shows absolutely NO interest. Except when he’s with his best friend who is potty trained. He’ll watch but even then he’s like “meh”. Ugh.

    • I would stop and wait a few months. I’ve tried pushing my way through this thing in the past – and it does no good. Sort of ruins the relationship with the child for a while. It’s better to put the diapers back on and let go of the expectations and give it a little more time. He WILL train eventually. Some kids take a lot longer. Don’t let other ambitious parents make you feel bad – and don’t compare him to his little sister. I promise, he will be potty trained one day. Just not this day. ;)

  18. So funny! And yes every child is very different…

    My second REFUSED to pee on the potty for a really long time when we were potty training. At 2 1/2 years old he sat on the potty watching videos for over 8 hours. I had no idea a child of that age could consciously hold it that long. And yes I gave him tons to drink. :) Since we only have one bathroom we actually had to take him off the potty a few times so the rest of us could use it. Ha!

    But at least he is daytime trained now and baby is only 9 months so I have a while before any more potty training.

  19. Ummm, the one you said took six years to potty train… I noticed that you said “day and night” as if you’re counting nighttime as part of “potty training”. Bedwetting is a whole separate issue than potty training. It makes no sense to lump them together. A lot of teenagers wet their beds. Many continue to wet regularly at night more than a decade after the last time they have a daytime accident. It’s silly to say that they’re not “potty trained”, even if you qualify it by saying “not potty trained at night”. What people think of when they say “potty training” doesn’t even be apply to bedwetting.