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I'm sure I speak for most moms when I say that I hate potty training. The constant supervision, the pee pee puddles and the extra laundry from all the pee pee accidents. Unfortunately, it's something we all have to tackle at some point when our kids are in that 2-3 year old range. I have all boys, so for me, it's an evolving process from sitting on the potty seat to the toilet, then to standing.
I'm definitely no expert in this field, but I've survived this awful phase with my twins who are now almost 6 and now my 2 1/2 year old. I'll go over the steps I've taken that have worked for me.
The first and most important thing is makings sure your child is ready for this next big milestone. If you start too early, it just creates a lot of frustration for you and the child. I personally think it may even delay the process by making the child dislike the potty before they are even ready for it. I knew my boys were ready when they could say "pee pee" and understand that it has it's proper place. It was helpful with my toddler now because I have a puppy who is still potty training so when he has an accident, my toddler sees that it's bad. He now has become the pee pee monitor and tells me with the puppy does pee pee or poop on the floor. I also feel that 2 1/2 is a good time to start. For me, they seem to have a basic enough understanding of what's going on. Another sign is when they ask you to change their dirty diaper or announce before they dirty it.
You have to be determined and make up your mind that it is time. It is a commitment and giving up too early doesn't help anyone. It just creates frustration, confusion and prolongs the process. I started on a Saturday, just because my husband was home and I felt ready to tackle the challenge. I took off my son's diaper and explained that he can only do pee pee on the potty. Not on the floor or couch. I sat him on the potty and told him "pee pee on the potty". He didn't go, but he made the connection. For the next 2 days, I let him stay in the playroom (with the potty) completely bottomless so he can realize that there was no diaper on him. After that, I let him use underwear. I explain that he can't do pee pee in his "big boy underwear" and I showed him how to pull them down and up again. Pooping comes much later. Some kids don't get the hang of that till a year after they are potty trained, but most get it within a few weeks or months. Night time is another story. I keep my kids in pull ups until they make it through the night completely dry for a few months. That may be overkill, but I hate changing bedding during the night. Even after that, I keep a moisture liner on the mattress for about 2 years after they are completely trained.
Some people swear by a reward system, but I don't think it's necessary, though it certainly can't hurt. You can use m&m's or chocolate chips as a reward whenever the potty is used. As far as the type of potty seat, I got the most simple seat by Baby Bjorn. I feel like the fancy seats can be too distracting and even a little difficult to clean. Even if you don't use candy as a reward, you have to make a big deal out of every success. When accidents happen, you can't punish the child. I tell my son that he has to make on the potty and its not good to go on the floor, couch, his underwear, etc. Make a correction without punishment. This is very important!!
It has now been 5 days and he's done really well, with very few accidents. The key is to expect accidents and be prepared to handle them. I find that after soaking up the pee pee, spraying white vinegar on the spot helps to neutralize the odor (until you can do a deep cleaning). I had to figure out a solution for my new couch so it didn't get completely hosed with urine. After 2 bad pee pee's on the cushions, I decided to take drastic measures and cover each seat cushion with a clear garbage bag and then with a blanket or towel for easy cleanup. I told my son that he has to sit on the towel and so far, he's followed the rules. The rug is a little harder to cover, but I will will use my rug cleaner on the couch and rug when all is said and done. I've included some pics of my couch cover below.
I expect this whole process to take about 2-3 weeks of solid training, but I know we'll get there. Just have patience!!
Once you feel like the child has mastered the potty seat, it's time to move on to the toilet. Get a simple step so the child can get on the toilet without assistance. Also, have him/her get on the toilet backwards, facing the wall. It is easier for them to get on and off themselves this way. It is also great for boys because it forces their penis to point down since their legs are spread so wide. Otherwise, they tend to pee over or through the seat, which is very frustrating. Sitting on the toilet can last a while. Maybe about a year. At the point that you feel like your boy is tall enough, he can practice standing to pee. I have them watch my husband do this so they'll want to copy him. This is a very messy process because a toddler's aim is terrible. Some people put cheerios in the toilet to aim at, but I never did this. Even at almost 6, my boys still miss. It happens. You can use vinegar and peroxide to neutralize the odor that can linger around the toilet. I have another blog dedicated to bathroom cleaning that explains this process.
Good luck and be patient!!