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Potty Mastery Before the New Baby Arrives

Question

I started toilet training my 24 month old at 18 months and he is still having 1-2 accidents a day, almost always at home. I take the potty all over with us and can generally trust him to not have an accident when we're out, unless I forget to take him. I have seen minimal progress in the last 2-3 months and am wondering if there's a way to up the ante for him successfully. We're having a baby in 6 weeks and I'm noticing more stubborn behaviors as he turns 2 -- I don't want to miss an opportunity to finish this if it's possible. The biggest change I've noticed in the last week or two is that he'll start to have an accident and stop himself, but it hasn't reduced the number of full-on accidents (so maybe this is actually regression). He's also "hiding to go #2" at times which we never had before.

1. We use the potty bell, but he often resists it and REALLY resists if he's tired. If he has an accident, he resists sitting on the toilet to finish the job. We review what he should do, etc. and he knows.
2. I tried to gate him off earlier in the process, but he consistently threw the potty over the gate and peed on the ground. When he was 20 months I even tried leaving him in the bathroom gated off for 2 and a half hours until he produced but had no success, so backed off to take some intensity off.
3. I went without nap-time diapers for a month or two but couldn't keep up with it, so started cloth diapering him at naps again...should I return him to underwear at nap-time?

Any help you can give would be great.

Answer

I have some thoughts and suggestions. First of all, you are doing well continuing with your son’s potty training and not giving up. Stay on course and don’t overthink this too much, that will cause anxiety and self-doubt. Key in on the 4 C’s, cool, calm, collected, and confident. Approach this more with an attitude of this is natural and a matter of fact. Perhaps the mindset of, this is the beginning of his potty training rather than where he should be in regards to the time spent training him.

You mentioned that he does better when away from home than he does when he is home. The difference may be due to you managing his potty time when away and perhaps not when home. That may be why you see this difference. The goal is that he learns to self-monitor and take it on for himself rather than you to take him potty.

Go back to using the bell to cue him to potty, home and away. Here is a suggestion if he resists, is tired or gets distracted. To get him back on track, when the bell rings, say “time to potty” and take him by his hand and lead him to his potty. Let him sit down and potty. Don’t make a big deal over this and no explanations. Approach this the same way you would sit him at the table to eat a meal, no stress or drama. Only assist him until he gets back in the habit of going potty when the bell rings. Take that bell with you along with the potty chair when you go away from home. Make the bell ring when you feel he needs to go. When you see him starting to hide to go #2, ring that bell and lead him to the potty. You are in charge, but the bell signal is doing the work that will eventually direct him to take over and independently going on his own. You can include him in turning the bell or buzzer off and resetting it after he goes potty.

As far as nap time, put your son back in the thin underwear. The point in the thin underwear is that he senses when he pees and eventually aware before and goes potty.

Now on to the stubborn behaviors associated with being two years old. I feel his behavior could be more along the lines of the upcoming arrival of the new baby. Things are changing, and children sense change even when they don’t completely understand.

I know it would be so much better if he were potty trained by the time the baby comes. You have almost six weeks to get him back on track. Successful potty training is possible but also know there is going to be a transition when the new baby comes, and accidents may happen. Get assistance from Dad, Grandma, and Gramps, anyone who will be helping in the beginning. Get them all educated in your program of potty training to help eliminate regression in your son’s big boy steps into independence and skill in his potty training.

You can do this and see it through to completion! Congratulations on your new little one!

Stacey Watts with Susan Rigoulot
swatts@happilyparenting.com

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