Potty Training 101

May 1, 2019 | by rebecca stewart

If there is anything certain in parenting, it's that the tiny humans we're trying to raise into adulthood are totally unique beings. What works for one might not work for another. When it comes to potty training, our kids each have their own quirks, but one local mom has come up with a method worth trying.

We asked Lindsey Farnsworth, mom of six (foster parent to 20 throughout her nine years of motherhood) to share the potty-training method that she’s used to train 10 children in those nine years. Lindsey’s parenting journey began in May 2010 when she “ventured into becoming a foster parent,” born from a desire to adopt. Currently, Lindsey has nine children in her home, as it has been for the past three years as a single mom. She shares that she has parented children with “a whole array of issues, both physical and mental,” and she acknowledges that “potty training is hard and what works for one kid doesn’t always work for another.” 

Getting started: What are the cues you look for?

  • When they start to show interest when myself or the other kids are using the potty or noticing the toilet more.
  • Waking up from naps or nighttime with dry diapers, or trying to use the potty themselves.
  • Recognizing when they are peeing or pooping. For example, when kiddos know they pooped and come tell you.

Did you have hits and misses before settling on this routine?

Oh absolutely. The first couple kids that I potty trained were the most difficult. Probably because I was a new mom and was just doing what others told me to do. I allowed too much stress and pressure to affect the outcome. The biggest thing I learned was not to use pull-ups. It only made the process longer. 

Walk us through your system:

1.     Make sure they’re interested in potty training. (You can't force something they're not ready for.)

2.     Don't train during any significant changes in life. (e.g., move to a new home, new sibling, etc.)

3.     Let the kiddo be part of preparing for the process. (Pick out the potty, choose their undies…)

4.     DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use pull-ups!

Here are the steps I take:
  • Start on a couple days where you’ll be home (not a lot of errands to run), so you can devote some real time and effort to training your kiddo.
  • Keep it positive! “We’re gonna use the big potty!!" "Big kids use the big potty!" and so on...
  • Be clear about what you'll be doing. Explain the process and what is expected.
  • Lots of fluids! Put them in undies (or none at all) and have kiddo sit on the potty every 15/20 minutes religiously. Set a timer and again, keep things positive. (“Time to go potty!”)
  • ONLY reward if they pee/poop in the potty. (Candy, sticker, whatever you choose) DO NOT reward for just "trying." Any kiddo can "try," but the goal is to actually go potty on the toilet. If you reward for "trying" I assure you, the process will take much longer.
  •  Use diapers at naptime/bedtime until they’re good on daytime use. My motto: "Mommy does diapers, YOU do undies!") I like to make that distinction!
  • If (when) they pee in their panties, don't discipline just say, “Oh no, yucky! We don’t pee in our undies! We use the big potty!” And then THEY clean themselves up. They get their undies off themselves and put the new ones back on (obviously with some assistance), but the point is for them to realize the struggle and that it is WAY easier to use the potty than to clean up the mess. Mommy doesn't fix it, they have some responsibility for their choice. (I do the same thing when they poop in their undies-put them in the tub, give them some wipes, and clean themselves up.) It’s nasty, but it works! This part shouldn't be fun!
  • Once they understand the feeling of having to go potty and have a couple good days, then I work toward naptime. I put undies on them with plastic underwear over to help save the sheets! It’s messy, you’re going to have a lot of extra laundry, but it works so much faster. And again, do not discipline them if they wake up and have wet the bed. They get to help change the sheets and clean up the bed themselves. Again, cleaning up the mess helps them feel the struggle and consequence of the choice. All the while you're saying things like, "See, this is why we use the potty and don't pee in our undies!" "This is yucky isn't it?" "Next time you need to go to the potty and not pee in your undies!" 
  • I have had kids trained in about a week using this method. Once naps are down, move to bedtime. Pull-ups are a crutch, and if we provide one, they'll use it (and so will we)! The process will take longer, and you confuse them! My youngest kiddo has been potty trained since she was 2 and has never worn pull-ups. She sleeps all night in panties and never has accidents at night. Even with going to bed with a sippy cup!

Lindsey shares that her record in using this method - having kiddo fully daytime potty trained -is three days. Consistency was key, she adds. Finally, she shares these pearls: 

Stick with it. Stay consistent and positive. It’s hard, messy, and downright exhausting, but it’s ultimately worth it. Hebrews 12:11 says, "For the moment all discipline seems painful, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Last, “if you've started this process and your kiddo just isn't getting it, and you find yourself getting frustrated or angry, stop. Take a month off and try again later. You cannot force something that your kid isn't ready for to happen. Hang in there and be consistent!”

Originally printed in the May 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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