When our first was a little guy, I dabbled in potty training. I would put him in underwear at 18-months and let him feel what it was like without a diaper. We brought him to the restroom with us and worked on his "potty vocabulary." We encouraged him to try to use the restroom. We asked him when his diaper was full if he was stinky... on and on. We never really pushed the potty training, but we highly encouraged it.
By the time he turned three, he had decided that potty training was not for him. Diapers were great. I would ask if he wanted to use the potty and he said, "No," every time. In fact, he never used the potty until we actually made him potty train. But, when he was just past three and we made him potty train, he exceeded the readiness list (read "Why not?") and we potty trained him days and nights all at once. Why not do it that way?
Our toddlers have thrown us a curve ball. While our oldest demonstrated zero interest in potty training, our toddlers are super excited about it. They are two and half years old right now and love talking about the potty. They love when their older brother uses the potty. They love when we are in the bathroom, either to use the restroom ourselves or to brush their teeth, take a bath, whatever it is that brings us into the glorious restroom. They have used the restroom multiple times. One of them even told us-- on his own initiative-- that he needed to use the restroom for a larger function than just tinkling. Our oldest would never have done that in a million years. In fact, when asked at the same age, he told me, "I've got my diaper."
Which brings us to another big difference between our oldest and our two toddlers. While D was also a late talker, when he started talking, he really started talking. Our toddlers are dragging in their vocabulary. Right now they are playing and talking and I can make out about 20% of the words they are saying. When I'm involved in what they are doing, not just eavesdropping, I can get that number to 50% or so. They are in the midst of this phase where they throw fits about everything. At the park the other day, one of our toddlers threw an epic meltdown when I told him to stop touching things in the park's public restroom (ew, ew, ew, ew).
There are days when the toddlers shake our resolve regarding putting off potty training. A week or so ago, one of our toddlers was obsessed with the restroom. He told us before he had to go potty, after he went potty, and wanted his diaper changed if it was the slightest bit wet. When we were changing a barely wet diaper for him to run and finish in the potty, we thought, "Should we?" We debated the pros and cons, if we wanted to or not. While we see many pros, the con-- their ability to communicate-- remains the same.
Which leads me back to how we potty trained our oldest. Yes, we made him potty train. He was over three years old and literally demonstrated every bullet on the readiness list (on every readiness list I read). When we kicked off the potty training, we handed the responsibility over to him. He became responsible for telling me the timer went off and it was time to try. He became responsible for going potty before we left the house. He became responsible for telling me he had to go potty when we were out and so we had enough time to get to a restroom. He became responsible when he had accidents after he was potty trained. I don't see the toddlers rising to this occasion. I watch them and wonder, but at the end of it, I don't see them taking this on. I see me pushing two toddlers to try. I see me cleaning up accidents for weeks and weeks with little progress. I see a year or more of over night diapers and just-in-case pull ups and carpet cleaner and extra clothes when we leave the house. That is not how I want to potty train.
And so we wait. We wait and let them build their potty vocabulary. We give them praise and a treat when they ask to use the potty. We change their diapers when they ask and make sure to clean up stinky diapers right away (not that anyone with a nose would be able to tolerate a toddler in a stinky diaper for more than 30 seconds anyways). We are viewing potty training in a different light. Potty training is a process and there is a lot that builds up to it. If we teach them that using the potty is the end goal and the words they need to know before switching to underwear all the time, they will comprehend what their role is much more than throwing it all at them at once. If we teach them to understand "no" and "wait," then they will have more control over themselves when we can't access a bathroom immediately or when we tell them accidents happen but not once you are potty trained.
This is not to say that I do not have a countdown until we get our youngest two kids out of diapers: 5 or 6 months. Now if only we could skip the whole "potty training process" and jump straight to three potty trained kids. :)
(Note: we did allow our oldest a period of leniency when he was working on potty training. It is hard to learn that it takes longer to get to a bathroom when you are at a grocery store than at home or that sometimes Momma doesn't know where a bathroom is and has to find it, like at a big mall. However, once he was potty trained, we told him he needs to make it to a bathroom. Again, we made exceptions after big changes that initiated backsliding, like when he was having problems with a bully at preschool and things such as that.)
Blogs I wrote on potty training our oldest: