Potty Training: Stage One

Posted September 6, 2014 by Prairie Wife - 6 comments

Cowboy C is 18 months old and it’s time to start potty training. I know that some of you are shaking your heads and going what?! After all, the average age for children in the United States to be potty trained is 3 years old. Cowboy C is my 4th child and my 3rd boy. I started working with all my other kids at 18 months. I had them all trained (less than one accident a week and wearing underwear all day) by the age of 2.

Here’s the deal though…I am a stay at home mom now, and I can run things a little differently then when I was a working mom with Cowboy J. Also, living 30 minutes out of town and spending 2 hours a day in the car changes the game a little bit as well. I’ll try and be and clear as I can but, feel free to ask any questions that you may have for me in the comment section.

parents and pottyFor me I potty train in three stages. The first stage is listed below and I’ll follow up with the other stages every few weeks or so. I keep about a month or so between the stages and basically hit things really hard for a week or so and then back off to a more casual routine. Then hit it again (stage two) when I can tell that my child is ready. By the final stage my children are really getting the hang of things, and by the second week of hitting it hard they are completely potty trained. Your child may be ready to move onto the next stage sooner than a month and I say go for it! Or, maybe you will need to stay in a stage for several months. Listen to your child and don’t force things…unless you think it’s the right thing to do. Some kids need a firmer hand and some need a super casual atmosphere. That’s what is so tricky about this whole potty training thing…it’s NOT one size fits all.

My kids all have very different personalities and I’ve found that this technique has worked for them all, and for many of my friends too. There is something about introducing them to potty training and then backing off that lets their mind (and bodies) think about it in the background, and allows them to grow and be more successful (and more likely to not be frustrated) each time you enter a new stage.

Stage One My kids are still in diapers full time for this stage, no pull-ups or underwear needed.

First make sure your child is showing signs of readiness.
Just because your child is 18 months old doesn’t mean that they are ready to begin. Cowboy W was ready at about 16 months and Cowboy J was 20 months old. Here are the things that I look for to know that it’s time to start.

1. They are watching you, your partner, and your other children going potty…and trying to help. Shutting the lid, flushing the toilet, handing you toilet paper, even just showing an obvious interest is a big hint.
2. They can say “poop”, “potty” and “pee” (or whatever terms you will use) and say it when you change their diaper (with prompting is fine). They need to have the language and be able to tell you when they have to go or have gone.
3. They can sit in your lap while you read at least one board book (two is better) without being upset.

Make sure you are ready! Just because your child is ready doesn’t mean you are. I stand firm that potty training is 70% mom being ready and 30% the child being ready. If you are excited and willing to make the commitment (it is a big time and energy drain) your child will feel that. If you’ve just had a baby, are recovering from a stressful time at work or home, or in general not at your best…wait!

1. Make sure you don’t have any big trips coming up in the next few months that will throw you off. I find that between the first two stages travel is no big deal because your child will still be in a diaper. If you’re getting ready for stage 3…try and stay close to home the first few weeks before and after.
2. Is it a busy holiday time where there will be lots of guests, disrupted schedules, and babysitters…wait!
3. If it’s a stressful time at work or if your partner is not into it wait until everyone is on board!

Potty time with bearTalk about going potty, read about it, and watch DVD’s about it.
Do this throughout the all the stages.

1. Take your child into the bathroom with you and talk about what is happening, use whatever terms you feel comfortable with. It is best for the same sex parent to walk through the process as much as possible but either will work.
2. Read potty books a few times a day, there are a ton available on amazon.com (I like board books).
3. Watch potty training DVD’s. The family classics around here are Elmo’s Potty Time and Bear in the Big Blue House: Potty Time With Bear.

Buy a Potty Chair (or two) and put it in the bathroom and make it a part of the family.
This Fisher Price potty chair is my favorite for boys and girls. It’s sturdy and easy to keep clean. I have my boys learn by sitting first and then standing when they get older. I also have a basket of potty books we keep next to the potty chair.

potty 1. Put the potty chair in the bathroom that you will use the most for this process, we have one in the kid’s bathroom upstairs and one downstairs as well.
2. Talk about it, have them show their friends (and your friends) where it is when they come over. FaceTime with Grandma and have your child show her their potty. If you think your child is ready feel free to move to the next step right away.
3. For the next week or so talk about the potty in a low key pleasant way.

Have your child sit on the potty every few days…and then eventually a few times a day.
Schedule and routine is nice at this stage because it makes things go smoothly (and helps keep you on track) but it’s not vital. If they go pee/poop in the potty see the next step.

1. I always start with having my kids sit on the potty during bath night. Run the tub water, call them in, and strip them down. Have them open the potty and sit down while you read a potty book to them. When the tub is full, praise them to the sky for sitting on the potty and put them in the tub (where they promptly pee).
2. After a few weeks of this, I step it up and pick a time every day to sit them on the potty. For me after breakfast before they get dressed is a great time, another time is before nap and bed. Read a potty book and after one or maybe two books, praise them for sitting on the potty.
3. A few more weeks later add another time sitting on the potty. I personally don’t do more than three times a day unless they ask. And keep it relaxed if they are fighting it…let it be until the next time or day.


If your child goes pee/poop on the potty WAHOOOOO!
Just so you know it’s probably pure luck but you need to treat it like it is the BEST THING EVER!

1. If your child goes pee/poop on the potty you need to jump up and do a dance and say “Insert your kids name here just went pee/poop on the potty!” While you clap, dance around and sing it over and over like an idiot. The more people that join in the better.
2. After the song and dance number tell your child “lets put your poop/pee in the big potty. Dump it in and have you child close the lid and flush. Wash hands and talk about the process the whole time with “what a big boy/girl” “you are so smart” “what a good job putting your pee/poop in the potty” etc.
3. Reward time! This completely depends on your child and what they will work for…my kids hardly ever get candy and will do anything for a Skittle or m&m! They get one for pee and two for poop. Other ideas are story time with mom/dad, stickers, and tattoos. Word of warning: keep it small and easy because there will be a time when you might be dolling out the reward multiple times a day.
4. Use your friends and family to help your child feel good. We call relatives and have our child tell them “pee in potty!” Or when friends come over, we say “Oh did you know Cowboy C went pee in the potty today?!”

Things to consider.

1. If you have other children that are helping by reading to the children or dancing and singing reward them with a small treat occasionally too. Their help and positive influence can make a big difference.
2. This is really just an introduction. If your child is pulling away and saying no and it’s becoming a battle…back off. They aren’t ready. If they are almost 3 and pitching a fit…time to get tough and make them do it.
3. This is all about fun and positive reinforcement if you child wants to sit on the potty 5 times a day one day and not at all the next, go with it. If you get sick and don’t put your kid on the potty for 3 days, no worries, just start again from where you were when you are up for it.
4. Working moms, let your babysitter know that you would like them to sit your child on the potty one time a day and talk about the phrases you use (you may need to purchase a potty for them to use). Give them a bag of rewards and a few potty books to if you need to. As you step up your game and are having your child sit on the potty more times a day, ask them to do the same.

Ready for Stage Two?

1. Your child is totally comfortable sitting on the potty and it’s not a struggle at all.
2. They are asking to sit on the potty and/or will sit on their own and look at books while you leave the room.
3. They are going pee or poop in the potty 5 or more times a week.
4. They tell you when they have to go pee/poop and lead you to the bathroom.

Questions, Concerns, Tips? Leave them in the comments!

Copyright: danr13 / 123RF Stock Photo

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6 thoughts on "Potty Training: Stage One"

  1. SweetN'Slim says:

    I am bookmarking this one! 🙂 Abigail will be 18 months right at Christmas so we’ll probably wait to give this shot until we get home and settled in January. Quick question…I was thinking of moving her up to her toddler bed in January do you think that is too much new stuff and change at once? Should I do the bed move first and wait on the potty or just go for both and see what she does?

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      With all my kids moving into a toddler bed was a simple two day adjustment (if that) I’d say go ahead and do them both at the same time. Especially since stage one is so low key with the potty training, it shouldn’t stress her out a bit! Let me know how it goes 🙂

  2. College BFF says:

    Thank you for your wonderful wisdom I hope it goes well for me and my daughter. Not ready yet but will definitely have to try 😉 thank you!

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      I’m sure it will be a piece of cake 🙂

  3. Billie says:

    Ahh the potty training, this can definitely be a frustrating thing especially with twins. I have tried a lot of tips and tricks and it does take a LOT of patience. I have finally got them trained for now (I haven’t seen or smell any messes around the house). I’d love to share what I did email me at billie.g.hines[at]gmail

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Twins…oh my that would put a new spin on it! I’d love if you would share your tips here in the comments so all my readers can see them 🙂

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