Phase 1

My sister is a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) and has her Master's degree in Behavior Analysis. She works with children with autism and has trained countless children to use the toilet. There are about a million ways you can potty train children, but I decided to give her intensive week long program a try! I actually started this program a few months ago, but I was not mentally prepared for it so after a few hours I gave up and said I would try one more time. I decided that if Nellie wasn't getting it after three days, I would give up and either way until she was older, or try a different approach to toilet training. Well, we are currently on Day 5 and I am happy to report that Nellie is doing extremely well! She had zero accidents yesterday, and one this morning.

So how does it work? Well, in Phase 1 you do something called sit to elimination. This is the absolute hardest step and holy cow did it test me. You push fluids (so keep offering water, milk, juice, etc) so that your chid has urine and you literally have your child sit on the toilet until they go to the bathroom. As seen below in the spreadsheet screenshots, you begin with sit to elimination as soon as they wake up, and then you get a 10 minute break. After 10 minutes you take the child back to the toilet and sit to elimination again. If the child stays dry for two 10 minute breaks, you move on to 15 minute breaks. If you have two accidents in a row, you move down a step (making the breaks shorter) and if you have two successes in a row, you move up a step (making the breaks longer). Once you get to 60 minute breaks and have two successes there, you move to Phase 2.

Phase 2

During Phase 2, you have your child sit on the toilet for about 5 minutes to see if he/she needs to go, and you do that on a schedule. So the first step is to have your child sit every hour and if the child does not go, then you cut the time in half and do it again (so 30 mins and if still no urine, sit again 15 mins later, and if still no urine, sit again 5 mins later and don't go below 5 minutes). During this whole time if the child says "Mommy potty" then you take them to the bathroom immediately. That doesn't count toward or against your steps (I highlighted when that happened in blue on my chart). Once there are two successes of time off the toilet staying dry during your allotted time, you move to the next step. Eventually, the child will get to the last step which is sitting every 3 hours with 0 dry checks and don't ask me how to train for bedtime or naps because we are definitely not there yet!

At the time of writing this post, Nellie is at sitting every 1.5 hours with dry checks every 30 minutes (though I often just do those randomly because who has time to check the clock and make sure it has been 30 mins ya know?) She is pretty good at telling me when she needs to go to the bathroom but it is a learning experience for both of us because this morning she said "mommy toilet" and then was so fussy that when she got on the toilet she just cried and immediately wanted to get off. I should have kept her on for a bit longer because not long after that she told me that she went potty and sure enough her undies were a little wet. We took her to the toilet (which is what you do immediately after finding wet undies) and there she finished the potty that she had.

What I learned

I am so grateful that this process has been relatively quick. I recognize that she is definitely not potty trained yet, but I do feel as if she has a solid basis and understands that she is supposed to go in the toilet. When I first started, I didn't understand the psychology behind the process. The idea is that the children are successful - hence why we start with such tiny breaks. They are learning to successfully urinate in the toilet and not just constantly be freaked out by having wet underpants or having pee go down their leg. You make the toilet time super fun for phase 1 - we had snacks, drinks, books, iPad, and toys in the bathroom with us and Nellie was always happy to stay on the toilet. I had a stool in the bathroom for her to rest her feet on (though she actually preferred not to use it) and she was never uncomfortable. (I on the other hand was very sick of sitting on the floor after 3 days).

Once I realized that this would help her be more successful even though it felt like torture to me, I was able to do this method. I also recognized that every accident she did have, was teaching her. The first one where potty went and pooled on the kitchen floor really freaked her out and she very quickly realized that she preferred to go on the toilet. After the first two accidents, all of the other accidents have just been where she started to go potty in her undies and she just said "mommy potty" a tiny bit too late, but then she always has finished urinating on the toilet. So viewing accidents as learning experiences was helpful to me as well.

A different ballgame

Going out with Nellie now is entirely different. I have to keep asking her if she needs to go potty, I literally brought the toilet seat with me to lunch today so that we could leave the house (I know soon she will learn for me to just hold her on the adult toilets but we aren't there yet) and I have to plan what time I leave the house around what time I think she will be ready to use the toilet at home. I understand that this will change in the future when she is able to hold it longer and as she grows older it will become less stressful, but here we are!

I am happy that I will be spending less on diapers (as I only use 2 a day now at nap time and at bedtime) and I am happy that she is learning this skill now before my next child arrives. Will I potty train this next baby in the same way? Undecided. Will I train him at the same age? Probably not, but it depends on when I get pregnant again and if I want him to be potty trained before the baby arrives just like Nellie.

But for now, I am going to be proud of myself for dealing with these past couple days of hell and I am going to be proud of Nellie every time she tells me she needs to go potty and successfully pees on the toilet. What a life change!!


Nellie gets half of a bag of fruit snacks every time she goes potty on the toilet and when we were in Phase 1, I would give her one piece of cereal (we chose frosted mini wheats) every time we did a dry check. She is so cute that any time I ask her if she is still dry she gets all excited and says "I'm still dry!!" She came to expect the cereal on day 2 (didn't use them day 1) but by day 4 I phased them out and now she only gets her "gummy prize" when she goes on the toilet. Positive reinforcement works according to my sister so I am going to continue fruit snacks and praise until I feel like she is really trained!

It is crazy how fast this little thing is growing up. Being a mom takes SO much work and energy and effort but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I remember after I had Nellie and went through the hell that is childbirth/recovery, I felt like I had joined this club that only moms can understand. Moms have to sacrifice SO much for their children, it takes all of our strength, and we so rarely get the praise we deserve. Add on top of that trying to run a business or have a hobby or heck even read a book, and you have 0 time left for sleep, but I know this season will go quickly too and I will miss the time I get to spend all day everyday with this little cutie. So though I think it is important to make the time for yourself as a mom, I'm also going to do my best to enjoy the small moments of cuteness throughout the day.