I Potty Trained My Toddler During Quarantine—Here’s What I Learned

This mom of two decided to make the most of the coronavirus shutdown and potty train her youngest child. Here, her lessons learned.
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By Lauren Kay , Executive Editor
Updated August 6, 2020
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If you’re one of the lucky parents right now—healthy and able to stay home to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections—you may be tempted to ditch your toddler’s diapers. After all, pandemic potty training is the parental equivalent of baking bread for the childless cohort of the internet, right? Seems like everyone is doing it. I succumbed to the trend myself, using the time at home to check this milestone off the list. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve successfully toilet trained two kiddos and learned a few things along the way. Here’s my best advice for emerging from this quarantine with your child in big-kid underwear.

Choose a Method

Let’s get this out of the way right now: There is no one right way to potty train. The most important thing you can do is pick a method that feels right for you and your child and get everyone who’s involved (partner, grandparents, childcare providers) on board and committed. This unified approach is the secret sauce to success. Personally, I followed the method outlined by Jamie Glowacki in Oh Crap Potty Training with both of my children. I loved the quick and dirty approach, and it worked beautifully for our family—and I’m in the same camp as 2,000 reviewers on Amazon that think this six-step approach is the way to go. Find what feels right for you, brush up on the approach and then go for it.

Get Prepared

Confession time: When it came time to potty train my eldest child, George, I bought four different potties, convinced that finding the right tiny toilet was all I needed. Don’t be me. My top pick is the BabyBjorn potty chair: It’s a perfectly sized perch for a toddler to get down to business, and lucky for you, the insert is easy to remove and clean. A child-sized toilet seat is another option, but you may need a step stool to give your kiddo complete autonomy, as most kids can’t quite hoist themselves onto an adult toilet.

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Before we started, we also made a point of reading some potty-themed books to help familiarize my kids with the idea. George was in a very big Daniel Tiger phase and adored the sounds of this book, while my daughter Eleanor quickly memorized the sing-song verses of this one in no time. When potty training Eleanor, I also called in reinforcements—a baby doll keen on learning the same skills. Once my kids had mastered the potty, we introduced underwear (I’m confident the promise of Minnie Mouse “panties” was instrumental in training Eleanor).

Time It Right

So how do you know if your kiddo is ready for this next step in their development? Looking for signs of readiness will help you time it right. Can your toddler recite their ABCs or tell you they want a snack? My son could do both of those things but never showed any “interest” in using the potty. My daughter, on the other hand, has a robust vocabulary and told us every time she wet her diaper for a few months before we got serious about potty training. In full disclosure, both times, Mom and Dad were ready to be done with diapers—and that was what ultimately pushed us to start.

Potty training is a process, but during the first few days you’ll be watching your child like a hawk in every waking moment, regardless of the method you use. The approach we used basically sequesters families in place and prevents you from leaving the house. The upside of taking the potty training plunge during a global pandemic is that you won’t miss out on anything—nothing’s happening out there anyway! Your toddler won’t have to skip their music class and you won’t have to cancel a night out with friends. Everyone is already at home and in some kind of questionable outfit anyway. Win-win!

Image: Lauren Kay

Be Consistent and Kind

We ceremoniously threw away a few diapers at the start of potty training both kiddos, determined not to look back. And we never did. But there were bumps in the road—with George, tears were shed (me) and there was an unfortunate incident that resulted in a literal handful of poop (also me). On day one, I asked George if he needed to pee every 10 minutes, which ended in frustration for both of us. What kid, or parent for that matter, wants to spend the day in the bathroom?! I realized later that night that I was putting too much pressure on him to master a skill in a day—and I was driving myself (and my husband) crazy too. The next day, I backed off and let George lead and we were way more successful.

Determined not to make the same mistake with Eleanor, I took a more relaxed approach the second time around—we spent virtually no time in the bathroom! I had the confidence that the method worked and the knowledge that no kid goes to college in diapers. Be patient with your toddler. Learning new things takes time, and there will be accidents and hurdles to overcome. Remember to be kind to yourself, too. How quickly your kid “gets it” or doesn’t is not a reflection of your parenting. Plus, you know, you’re potty training during a pandemic. Try to roll with the punches, because the pay-off is most definitely worth it.

Don’t Compare

My biggest ah-ha moment as a mom of two was realizing that my children are their own unique beings with different preferences, ideas and personalities. We trained the kids at roughly the same age (23 and 24 months), using the same Oh Crap approach. George loved his potty chair. Eleanor, much like Golidlocks, tried out a few options before deciding the adult seat was her preferred way to potty. He lived for our verbal adoration and exclamations of “you did it!”, never needing any other reward. She demanded a Tootsie Roll after every performance. We kept George underwear-free for nearly a month to ensure our efforts stuck, while Eleanor was wearing her prized Minnie Mouse panties on day four. All this is to say, the age old phrase of “don’t compare” rings especially true when it comes to potty training.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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