It starts with a jar of Skittles
Now, this may look like an ordinary mason jar of Skittles, but really, it’s full of magical potty treats. My son gets one for going number one in the potty, and two for a successful number two.
Judge me: High-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, bribery? GLASS! Bad mommy.
But there’s something about rattling the potty treat jar that brings my boy running to the kitchen counter where the jar sits visible but just out of reach. He loves reaching in and choosing a color, his end reward.
Set the stage
To begin with, I look for signs of potty-training readiness: Fewer diapers, predictable bowel movements, signs that my toddler is aware of body functions, along with an ability to get undressed on his own.
A week before the treats come out, I introduce the potty chair. It does not have to play music, but it does have to be at his level. I also let my son pick out new underwear. If he likes Spiderman, he’ll be less likely to pee-pee on Spiderman. I stock up, buying at least two dozen pairs, along with plenty of paper towels and disinfectant wipes.
I also stack the bathroom with board books, to be rotated daily. Potty breaks are a perfect time to build vocabulary through reading, believe it or not. I break down occasionally with short potty-training videos on my phone, but ewww.
Commit to The three-day play
Plan to concentrate solely on potty training your child for three consecutive days. Send the siblings off, roll up the carpets, and crank up the thermostat. Day one your child goes NAKED. Cover furniture with crib mattress pads, pull out the washable toys, and have lots to do in 15-minute intervals.
Pour juice (I like Simply Apple, diluted with a half-cup of water to keep things moving not runny) and set a fun stopwatch ringtone for 15-minutes. At each alarm, zoom to the potty, read a book, and wait for the tinkle. You child only gets to flush if he goes potty. Wash hands. Each time he’s successfully, he earns a potty treat! If not, clean up and try again in 15 minutes.
Day two and three will follow the same method. When your child makes the connection, start adding barriers, like underwear. Give less juice and stretch the time between potty breaks.
Many kids will continue to have a few accidents, so don’t get discouraged; Skittles aren’t that magical. Keep going until your tike learns to tell you before he needs to go. If he just isn’t ready, put the potty away and try again in a few months, around age 2 is ideal. When the time is right, go all in: Underwear during waking hours, a Piddle Pad for the car seat, and most of all, be consistent. Leave the grocery line, the dinner table, even the highway at the next exit — and go potty!
Give a little warning as the jar runs low. When the magical potty treat jar is empty, you’ve reached your goal. Tell him, “You are so big now! You don’t even need treats to go potty.” And the whole family can celebrate with ice cream — which you can now afford, since you’ll no longer be buying diapers. I hope.
In a book
Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel
Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi & Amanda Mayer Stinchecum
Uh Oh! Gotta Go! Potty Tales from Toddlers by Bob McGrath
On the web
Start Potty Training • startpottytraining.com
Lora Jensen’s Three-Day Potty Training Method • 3daypottytraining.com