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4 min read

This post comes after a weekend of potty training my youngest... and it went really well 🎉The main reason why it was so easy - we didn't actually do it in a weekend.The switch from diapers to underwear took place over the last 14 months. This weekend was just the final step.

Potty Training in 72 Hours?

There's a lot of potty training books that focus on toilet independence in 2-3 days.

"One weekend and your child will be diaper free" is the premise - but it's very rarely this easy.

Think about it. Since birth, your child has been using diapers and eliminating in the exact same way. It's all they've known. They do it 10+ times a day and it's as normal and predictable to them as eating breakfast, napping, or bath time.

One random day, you've decided that:

  1. They're no longer wearing diapers
  2. They have to remove their bottoms and sit on a toilet or potty to eliminate
  3. They also have to hold their pee/poop until they can get to a toilet

This is often confusing. It's understandable why accidents happen long after that designated "potty training weekend".

Not to mention it's often so stressful for parents and children.

The Step-By-Step, Low Pressure Montessori Approach

Instead of a high stress, 2-3 day toileting blitz, the Montessori approach takes place over 6-12 months and it's very low pressure.

There's a lot of flexibility so you can do what works for your family. Simply follow your child but you can also use these steps as a framework:

  1. INTRODUCE THE POTTY - Begin by introducing a potty around 12-18 months. There's no pressure to use it right away. Your child can practice sitting on it with their clothes on, a diaper on, and eventually with no bottoms on.
  2. ACKNOWLEDGE & CELEBRATE - When your child eventually begins eliminating on the potty, you can celebrate it but keep language neutral. It's a bodily process that we want them to get comfortable with, it's not something you need to reward - "Wow, you peed in the potty" or "You did it!" This is also a good time to introduce a potty book or two. Our fave is A Potty for Me! by Karen Katz. You can also get it in our potty bundle.
  3. ADD THE POTTY TO YOUR ROUTINE - Once your child is showing more interest in using the potty, you can offer it at regular points in their routine - in the morning when you wake up, before naps, before bath, etc. You can start with just 1-2 times a day, at most, unless your child shows interest in using it more.The goal is low pressure. If they don't want to use it some days, there's no need to force them.
  4. PICK OUT UNDERWEAR - Once your child is regularly using the potty or asking to use the potty, you can start to talk about wearing underwear - how you wear it, how they will wear underwear soon, how they won't wear diapers anymore, etc. You can even visit the store together and pick out some fun, colourful underwear to get them more interested.
  5. TRY OUT THE UNDERWEAR - Try a few underwear mornings or evenings where they wear the underwear for an hour or two before leaving the house/napping/sleeping, gently reminding your child at regular intervals to let you know if they need to use the potty. If you ask your child if they need to use the potty, the answer will almost always be NO. Instead, a simple, regular reminder - "Let me know if you need to go potty/go pee/go poo" will engage more cooperation.
  6. THE FINAL STEP - The last and final step, is to take a weekend (or ideally long weekend) where you can stay home for 2-4 days, close to a bathroom, and make the final switch to underwear.
From the outside, it can look like toilet learning happened in a weekend but really, you and your child spent 6+ months preparing for this.

Not Just For Potty Training...

This slow and stepwise approach, where one skill is built on another skill, is known as scaffolding in education.

This is a wonderful way teach many life and academic skills:

  • Self-dressing - start with removing clothes - socks, then pants, and finally shirts. Upon mastery of undressing, move to dressing. Practice in times of low stress, not when you're rushing out the door.
  • Reading - begin when there's an interest in letters, play games with letters, talk about the phonetic sounds of letters. Once your child knows all the letters and their phonetic sounds, move to blending those sounds and sounding out words.
  • Swimming - start with getting comfortable in the water, followed by blowing bubbles, and then putting their full face and head underwater. After that you can introduce front and back floats, followed by push offs from the wall with kicking, and eventually teaching proper swim strokes.

Rather than thinking about milestones as the exact time when a skill should be taught (or learned), think about how that skill can be broken down into small steps and learned over weeks, months, or years.

When we work towards a goal little by little, consistently and patiently, it's easier and so much less stressful FOR EVERYONE.

Small setbacks, life changes, or other disruptions to the learning process become just a bump in the road rather than a complete derailment.

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