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Transition from Diapers to Using the Toilet Independently

Recently at our house, we have been absorbed with our 2.5 year old learning to use the toilet. We decided to use the 3 day cold turkey method inspired by this article, How I Trained My Kid to Use the Potty in Three Messy Days. As we are raising our son with the Montessori pedagogy, we do not normally use rewards and punishments but in order to keep the process short and sweet we used a few. Currently, O really loves all things associated with birthdays; cakes, singing and candles so we made a cake and put some candles on it. The idea is that every time he successfully uses the toilet we make a huge celebration out of it, complete with high fives, singing “Happy Birthday”, lighting and blowing out the candles and eating cake. I also decided to allow him to watch videos while sitting on the toilet, something that is severely limited in our normal daily routine.

Preparation for Day 1: O and I went to the library and borrowed all the books we could find about using the toilet that didn’t have animals wearing clothes. We also bought what we needed to make the cake, made and frosted the cake. We bought underwear, the article I reference above says 20 to 30 pairs but that seemed excessive to me. We bought 9 pairs and that number seems to be sufficient. We also talked about how in a few days we would no longer be using diapers. We used this same approach for weaning from breastfeeding and it worked really well for the last big step. One of the books was used the term, “no more diapers” and that became our mantra, O started saying it too.

Day 1: We don’t normally watch TV, at times O is allowed to watch some videos on Youtube, such as people singing happy birthday to each other, animals people and pets, anything that is reality based. So we sat in the bathroom for a good chunk of the day watching videos. The first time he went pee in the toilet, we made a really big deal of it and lit the candles on the cake. The rest of the day was spent asking him, near constantly, to let me know if he felt like he was going to pee. He answered no every time and so I would just take him into the bathroom and help him onto the toilet. By the end of the day we were at an even count of the amount of times he had used the potty versus the amount of times he went in his underwear and we were both tired of cake.

Day 2: The day started out great, his first two times were in the toilet and another time he went into the bathroom on his own and was trying to get his pants down when I came in. He had his first official poop in the toilet. I asked him frequently if he felt like he had to go pee or poop though there were still a few accidents. After I had to clean up a poop in the pants accident, I allowed him to go naked for the rest of the evening and for parts of Day 3.

Day 3: He is starting to consistently connect peeing with going into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet. We did venture outdoors for a walk around the block today, the first time we left the house/yard since this adventure started. He is certainly not potty trained yet but is happy to go into the bathroom and sit on the toilet. 

Two Week Update: It has now been two weeks since we started the potty training process and we are still not fully there. He has had dry underpants for the past 10 days. He is still not initiating going to the bathroom the majority of the time which is why I say we are not quite there yet. Comically, there have been a few times where he has pulled his pants down when he felt the urge to go, even though we were still in the kitchen. He is also still not able to fully undress and redress himself independently. We have resumed our normal lifestyle, which involves going out of the house and he has had no problem using other bathrooms.

What I would do differently: The cold turkey method I used was not Montessori in most ways and I think I would try to take a more Montessori approach next time. For starters, during the preparation period, I would talk to him about starting to identifying the feeling that comes when you have to pee or poop. In hindsight, I would have started having him undress and dress himself more during the preparation period. In addition, I am not sure how effective the rewards were, in fact, I think that some of them were a bit detrimental to the process. For instance, because I allowed him to watch videos while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom, he wanted to stay in the bathroom. While this was a safer bet for me, as he was sitting on the toilet, it didn’t help him to begin to use the toilet independently.


In conclusion, The process has been relatively hassle free and a year from now, I will look back and probably reflect that the transition from diapers to toilet was easy. Please share your comments below for do’s and don’ts from your own experiences. If you are looking for more information on Montessori parenting resources, click here.


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