Founder of baby deedee, Dominique de Bourgknecht, knows what it’s like to coach a child through the process of potty training. With three young children of her own, Dominique has learned what works and what doesn’t. In this Q&A, Dominique shares her experiences in potty training her three children, and offers her advice in hopes of helping you on your potty training journey.
Q: At what age did you begin potty training your first child?
A: With my first, a little boy named Adrian, I had read all the books. In the end, I followed my best friend’s advice. She had tried to potty train her first girl around the age of 2 and it had been extremely frustrating for both of them. With her second, she had waited until 2 and a half and it had been a breeze, so she felt 2 and a half was the good age.
Q: When did you know your children were ready to be potty trained?
A: They say that children are supposed to show all these signs that they are ready, like showing interest in the potty, not liking to have a soiled diaper, etc. The only sign for us was that he was able to tell us when he was about to go or had gone #2.
Q: How did you go about potty training your first child?
A: I had watched a lot of my friends try to train progressively and it had seemed to be very slow process for them with a lot of stop and go. I had also heard about potty training boot camp methods, I think I even read a book where the author recommended making children clean up after themselves and that was definitely not the approach we wanted to take with our toddler.
In the end, we just went cold turkey. A few days before, I let my son know we were going to throw away his diapers and I ordered elmo underwear. I told him that when he was able to go on his own, he would get a really big present.
I set aside a couple of days when my husband was away and we could stay at home. That morning we threw out all the diapers and celebrated him being a big boy now. I rolled up all the rugs and he then went naked from the waist down and was surprised at the first accident as he could really see what was happening.
We had a first day where we drank plenty and had plenty of accidents. Each time, I would put him on the potty and we sang a little song, “not on the floor, not on your feet, but in the potty!”. By the end of the first day, I ran upstairs for a second and when I came down I found my son proudly staring at his pee in the potty! We immediately rushed out to the toy store and bought a big red fire truck. After that, it was pretty easy, we had pull-ups at night, reduced the amount of fluids before bed and the pull-ups were gone after a week.
Q: How was potty training your second and third child different from potty training your first child?
A: With my second little boy, we used the same method at the same age. It took him about 3 days. Again, he had shown no interest in the potty before. This time it cost me a big box of magnatiles.
I thought I was an expert and that I had the perfect technique and then came my third, my little girl Juliette. She was great at telling me when she had gone, always demanded her diaper be changed immediately. We bought peppa pig underwear, her brothers encouraged her, showed her how to sit on the potty. She also just walked around naked on the bottom and by the fifth day she was still refusing to sit on the potty and was going everywhere. To the same song, “Not on the floor, not on your feet, but in the potty,” she would reply “No, not on the potty!”
All her baby dolls would sit on the potty, same for her stuffed animals, but not Juliette… I was about to give up when finally I got a bunch of stickers and we decorated the potty and she went on her own! Again we rushed to the toy store and this time it cost me a red doll stroller.
However, for number 2, she would rush to the potty and just say, “I can’t”. She was holding it and getting constipated and would just wait for her pull-up. I finally realized that my daughter had always been a bit constipated and that it would not work until she was no longer afraid to go. We added prune juice and oatmeal blended with fruit juice to her diet and only when she got regular did we start to transition to the potty again. In the meantime, we just gave her a pull-up whenever she was ready to go. I guess this experience is like everything else in motherhood; just when you think you have it figured out, everything changes!
Q: What was the most helpful piece of advice you received in potty training?
A: I really think that two and a half is a good age and not letting kids wear underwear for a few days helps them be more aware of their bodies.
Q: What have you found to be the most important factor in successful potty training?
A: Being patient and not showing your frustration with multiple accidents is key, in my opinion… and making it worth their while with a big present!
Q: What method(s) have you found DOES NOT work for potty training?
A: I really think that it is hard to do it progressively for most kids. And from what I have seen, the parents I have known who start too early (around 2) have a harder time. In the end, everyone manages to potty train, so I guess it’s not worth getting too worked up about it.
Q: What kind of incentives or rewards have you found to work best for your children while potty training?
A: Toys were the best incentive for us immediately after my kids went on the potty of their own initiative. However, my little girl also really wanted to wear one of the baby deedee sleep kickers we make because she liked the pockets and had seen pictures of toddlers wearing it on our website. That was an added bonus for her once she could sleep through the night without an accident!
Q: Can you suggest any books or resources that have helped guide you in potty training?
A: I would recommend reading about the “3 days” methods – but have more realistic expectations. It may take 3 days , 5 days, 7 days, or more. I would avoid any of the methods that are called “boot camp”, which seem harsh to me. Also, even though that was not my experience, kids who need to drink a lot and particularly boys seem to have a harder time at night. I know some parents that put their boys on the potty right before they go to bed themselves and that works for them.
Stay tuned for more insights on potty training, sleep training, and more, on the baby deedee blog!