Potty Training 101: The Stubborn Child Edition

posted by Andrea | 08/27/2014

potty training

About a month ago, I joyfully shared Nora’s potty training news on my Facebook Page… and almost immediately started getting questions about what we did, what we didn’t do, and asking for any tips or tricks.

Although I was always planning on doing a post about her potty training success, I won’t be offering any tips or advice this time around.

You see, after 2.5 years of parenting an extremely stubborn little girl, I’ve come to realize that there is no advice that works for every child and every family. So I’ll share what WE did — with the notion that it might not work for anyone else out there.

How does that sound?

potty training 101

When it came to potty training, I was honestly petrified to start the process. I knew that unless Nora was 100% ready, it was not going to work. I also knew that if she wasn’t potty trained by the end of the summer, I was going to have to do most of the work without Dave’s help… and with Simon getting into everything as well.

So, one of our main goals for the summer (and one of my 2014 goals) was to get Nora out of diapers ASAP.

I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t read any books, and I didn’t ask for any advice — aside from a few friends who were also in the midst of potty training.

However, we made it through just fine — and it only took about 3 weeks to transition her from full-time diapers to full-time undies. We had very few accidents, and she honestly never really even put up a huge protest (which is a big deal for Nora!)

NOTE: For those of  you who aren’t interested in a potty training post, you’ll at least want to scroll down to the bottom for some of Nora’s hilarious potty training one-liners!

potty seat

Our First ‘Attempt’ {Oct. 2013}:

Way back in October of 2013 (right before her 2nd birthday) Nora came to me and said she wanted to go on the potty.

Of course, I was thrilled and eagerly ran with her to the bathroom. She peed right away and I shared her excitement.

Then she did it again and again for 2 days straight.

I thought, “Could it really be this easy? Even with stubborn Nora?”

On the 3rd day, she pranced out of her bedroom and casually announced that she would no longer have anything to do with the big girl potty anymore and that she was only going to poop and pee in her diaper.

I tried to gently persuade her otherwise, but her mind was made up. I figured it wasn’t the end of the world and decided we would wait until Dave’s spring break in April.

Take Two {April 2014}

After the October potty training ordeal fizzled out, I decided that I didn’t even want to try again until Spring Break. We were gone and very busy over Thanksgiving break and Christmas break, plus Dave was in basketball season from November through February (which meant he was gone A LOT). I didn’t want to deal with potty training and a tiny new baby all at the same time — so we waited until April.

On the first day of Dave’s spring break, we broke out the new undies and child potty seat and excitedly put Nora on the potty after she woke up.

She did pee, but also said it was hurting to pee and her “front crack” was itchy and sore.

Turns out she had a urinary tract infection… needless to say, it wasn’t the best time to try potty training, so we stopped before we even really started.

Round Three {June 2014}

Dave finished school on the first Thursday in June, and the following Monday morning, we broke out all the potty training “tools” and explained everything to Nora.

Since we were going to be gone a fair amount in late June and early July, we decided to start her with PullUps instead of going “cold turkey” with undies. This was partially because Nora really doesn’t love change, but also because I did not want to clean up pee all day long!

NOTE: Everything I’ve ever heard about potty training says “do not use PullUps” but I honestly feel like they were a very important step for us. I’m glad we decided to use them.

At this point, we used a child-size potty on the floor in our bathroom. It totally grossed me out but she refused to go on the real toilet for several weeks. I was just happy she was going, so I didn’t want to push too hard.

Eventually, she decided (on her own) that she wanted to try the big potty with the child seat on it… and from then on, we always used the big toilet (which meant we didn’t have to clean out the child’s potty anymore!)

The Grand Finale {July 2014}

We got back from vacation on a Monday afternoon in July, and on Tuesday morning, we broke out the undies for good. We explained everything to her again and said there was no pooping or peeing in her undies.

By this point, she had been wearing PullUps for a month — and they were almost always dry. I really wasn’t too worried about making the switch to undies, but I still made a point to reiterate that big girl undies were a REALLY big deal.

We had been talking about her undies for an entire month, so she was really excited to wear them too. She had asked to wear them a couple times during her month of PullUps, but we always refused. We told her that she could wear the undies when she kept her PullUps dry.

This method of persuasion worked really well for us (and usually is the best method for working with Nora).

How We Handle Naps and Sleeping:

Since she doesn’t take naps, we never had to worry about that (one bonus of a non-napping child!)

We have a water-proof mattress pad on her bed; however, she she’s such a horrible nighttime sleeper that we’ve decided to leave her in PullUps at night for now.

She already wakes up SO often each night that one more wake-up for wet sheets is really not something we want to deal with.

The “Tools” We Used:

Waterproof mattress pad

Fisher Price Potty Chair (my mom saved it from when we were kids)

BabyBjörn Potty Seat

BabyBjörn Step Stool



Prizes for staying dry (not prizes for going — she’s too smart for that!)

baby bjorn potty tools

Everything has been going really well, and we’ve only had about 5 accidents total in the last 8 weeks — not too bad if you ask me.

Nora loves showing people her “big girl undies” and using her special potty seat.

I’m not going to try undies at night until her PullUps are regularly dry in the morning (which I doubt will be any time soon). It’s just not a big deal for me since we’re only going through one store brand “PullUp” a day and I don’t love changing the sheets.


Nora’s Hilarious Quotes:

In case you haven’t noticed by some of the things I post on Facebook — this girl is a hoot! These are some of my favorite one-liners… and oh, there are SO many more!

washing her hands

Her first poop: 

NORA: Wow! Mom, look at that! What is it?

ME: that’s your poop — good job Nora!

NORA: it is! (huge wide eyes) It’s not a hotdog? It sure looks like a hotdog!

ME: nope, not a hotdog, it’s definite your poop.

NORA: cool, my poop looks like hotdogs! Can I save it to show dad?

ME: no, just flush!

Making the switch from PullUps to Undies:

NORA: am I wearing PullUps or undies right now?

ME: you’re wearing the big girl undies… why?

NORA: well, I was thinking I’d like to poop right now, but you said no pooping in my undies… right? I can’t poop in my undies, can I?

ME: no! let’s go to the bathroom right now!

First trip to a public restroom: 

NORA: I don’t think I can go to the bathroom in here… don’t make me go in here!

ME: this is your only option right now, let me put toilet paper on the seat.

NORA: Why? I can’t sit on toilet paper! I can’t go mom!

ME: can you just try? Please!

{meanwhile the lady in the next stall flushes the VERY loud flusher}

NORA: {screaming} You told me I wouldn’t have to hear the loud flushing! I won’t go! We need to leave!

NORA: {5 minutes later} when we get home, will the flusher be very loud?

ME: no, it won’t be loud.

So there you have it friends. One kid potty trained — and it wasn’t even that bad!

Do you have any potty training tips or hilarious potty training stories? Boy would I love to hear them!


Filed under: FamilyParentingChildren

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  1. parentingpassage.com


    Great post! Loved Nora’s quotes :).


  2. JJ


    Oh my word! I love this post! I was going to email you at one point about potty training and never did. But this is hilarious and great tips! My son cracked me up during potty training. We called poop snakes to make him want to poop in the potty. He went pee so well but would not poop on the potty for anything. So one time when his favorite friends were over(older), I asked the friends and their mom if they could try. I was desperate. I was in the next room hanging up my 2 year old daughter’s shirts when I hear him tell our friends, “Yeah, when my Momma poops, she poops a big ole snake in the toilet.” Because I had also shown him my poop to motivate as well. But I laughed so hard. And they did, too!


  3. Nicole


    When my first son was born (8 years ago!) my mom told me a story of a little girl her friend had just adopted from China. The baby was 8 months old and already “potty trained”. I was intrigued and did a TON of internet research to discover that there is a movement HERE called EC (elimination communication) that teaches babies to use the potty from birth–as many cultures still do.

    I started EC with my first son around 5ish months and he was dry day and night at 19 months. I did it from birth with my second who was day-trained around the same time, but took quite a bit longer at night–I think he was 3 before he was routinely dry at night. And my third, also EC’d since birth was dry day and night around 18-19 months. I’m expecting my fourth in about a week and will be doing EC with her as well.

    I don’t really know anything about traditional potty training, but EC worked amazingly for us. At first, just hold your baby under their thighs with their back against your front first thing in the morning and right after a nap. They’ll almost certainly pee at those times. They will begin to make an association with that way of being held and the routine of it, that you can begin to add occasions (pottytunities) over the potty. They’ll pee (or poop–that hold facilitates poop really well!), and then you can put them back in a diaper (I used cloth to make sure they could feel the wetness). It was easy, low-key, and worked SO WELL.

    Of course if you’re working, it’s a lot harder to practice EC, but if anyone’s interested in trying it, I’d encourage you to. Potty learning has always been simple and just a regular part of life for us. My kids have never known a time when they DIDN’T use the potty, so there was never really a refusal. There were accidents, of course. Babies can’t hold it like big kids can, but changing one poopy diaper/week is far better than one or two/day!


    Andrea Reply:

    Wow Nicole — that’s a very interesting concept. I kind of sounds like a LOT of work to me (considering we potty trained Nora in less than 2 weeks once we actually gave it a good run) but I’m sure it would be awesome to have the out of diapers so early!


    Nicole Reply:

    It did seem like a lot of work with our first, and we MADE it a it of work because we wanted to do it like the books say. It’s not a lot of extra work now that we’ve got the process down–just hold your little one over the potty (a baby sized one on the counter is easiest) with every diaper change–only takes an extra 30 seconds, if that.

    Some people leave their babies completely diaper free during the process… THAT ends up being a lot more work. But they’re usually potty-learned even earlier.


  4. Jessica


    Way to go Mama and Nora! We are stuck in a holding pattern for the potty training… two incredibly active 2 1/2 year old boys. They are consistent for the peeing (even during naps and nighttime!), it’s number two that they are totally unreliable about. This too shall pass, right??


  5. lyss


    Can’t say that I have any tips, as potty training has been one of my least favorite parenting “duties”. lol
    But two things I’ll say is to 1) give it time if it’s not working, and 2) don’t compare to others(at least not the “My kids potty train at 18 mos.” people.)
    I tried to push my first before she was 2, and she simply wasn’t ready.
    For my second, we waited longer and he caught on a bit quicker. And then he was a lot later staying dry at night. As in, he just turned 5 and just graduated to undies at night, though he’s been nearly daytime accident free for like 2 years. We even tried waking him in the middle of the night to go, and he would still soak himself at least twice more! Forget that! We just used pull-ups till he stayed dry for a month or so.
    Last year my Kindergardener had 2 classmates who still needed pull-ups for nap time. My little sister potty trained in one day. All kids are different!


  6. Janice


    Bed wetting is a problem for some children long after they have been potty trained and even after they have started elementary school. I think I was almost 8 years old before I could spend the night anywhere but home. I found it very embarrassing and kept it a secret from all my friends. And PullUps hadn’t been invented back in my day, however, we did have a “rubber sheet” for a mattress pad. It frustrated my mother but she was pretty good about all the sheet changing. My daughter was a bed wetter also and I tried to be real low-key about it. If PullUps existed on the market then, I didn’t know about it or I would have bought them for her. Fortunately, her little kindergartener has the benefit of PullUps.


  7. Janine


    Hi Andrea,

    Love hearing about your munchkins. I always dive right into your posts to get an update on how they’re doing (and you too, of course!). I also have some fantastic stories about my four children and their training. I laugh even thinking about them now. However, my second child is now 19 and is horrified if I even mention her adventures. lol. Just a heads up: You probably already thought about this but you may want to remove these posts/pics before your daughter and/or her friends get to the stage where they would notice. (If you HAVE thought about it, kudos to you. I probably wouldn’t have when mine were little. I was sure they were going to stay that way FOREVER!!)


  8. Beth


    My son who has a lot of sensitivity issues still can’t stand the sound of the flushing toilet and opens the bathroom door before he flushes so he can run out of the bathroom with his hands over his ears. And the automatic flushing toilet terrified both of my children.

    Congrats on the potty training success!


  9. Alicia


    Yay for Nora!

    My son will be 3 in October, and I’ve been attempting to potty train him for about a month now. I really thought he’d be ready to potty train so much sooner than my older son, because like Nora he was interested in the potty around the time he turned 2. But nope! He is very stubborn, and really does not want to stop what he’s doing to go potty, he’d rather just go in his pants or pull up. I’ve been trying not to force it, because I know that can just make it worse, but I find myself getting a little impatient!

    Thanks for the info on what worked for you, I may be trying a few of those with my 2 year old soon!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Alicia! and good luck with your little boy!


  10. Ellen


    Have you thought about eating more fibers? I don’t know if that is part of your son’s problem, but eating more fibers (like healthy pasta or bread) and fruits (like plums) and less sugar might help with the issue.

    One thing I know is that it can feel worse for kids (and grown-ups) having to do #2 when a large part of their diet is sugar or white flour.

    Sorry about the spelling, English is not my language and I feel like I just created some new words…


  11. Katherine


    Yay for potty training! And kids say some funny things about poop…
    My oldest stayed dry all night before we potty trained, but my second is still in pull-ups at night at age 3.5 with no sign of improving. I figure we will get there eventually and I agree with you. I’d much rather do one pull-up than change the sheets again.


  12. Avia


    My DD is not quite 2 so we haven’t tried to potty train her but have kept the dialogue open so she learns what it’s all about. She calls all potty “stinky” and loved to watch the toilet after one of us flushes. She always very excitedly calls out “bye, bye stinky” anytime she hears the flushing sound!


  13. Julie Spady


    I love your post title!! “Take two”
    Poor Nora on Take two!
    She doesn’t love change…my now 25 year old was/is like that. Your “method of pursuasion, let it be her choice” is so true for some kids. I always tried to stay several steps ahead of my daughter. It gets harder the older they get.
    My opinion on pull-ups: they are awesome during the transition. They were available 23 years ago!
    I LOVE your Nora-isms!! She IS a hoot!!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Julie! and yes, PullUps were a big “sanity saver” for us this summer 🙂


  14. susie


    Good- this gives me inspiration to try train my girl. She is the same age as Nora. She wets and changes her own pull-up… cracks me up!


  15. Jacqueline


    Good job mom, dad and Nora!!! We also started potty training this summer. Ick. By far, the worst parenting experience up to this point lol.


    Andrea Reply:

    YES! I’d take changing diapers over potty training any day!


  16. Sarah


    Laila did a similar “hot dog” story a few weeks ago while the neighbors were here. She ran into the bathroom and left the door open like she always does. We were in the hall by the entry door where the bathroom is also located. All of a sudden we hear her in the bathroom: “Woaaah, what a huge wurst!!!” She said it in German, so of course I write “wurst” for sausage. I probably turned 10 shades of red. The neighbors found it hillarious. My husband disappered into the bathroom to make sure she finished the deal properly.


  17. Kim


    She is a crack up! Love the hot dog reference (funny and gross!). We haven’t had such a great experience potty training…my son is almost 4.5 and we still have some trouble with #2. He just doesn’t want to go which leads to us having to use Miralax every so often. He is a pro and #1 and has been for quite some time but the struggle with #2 has almost led to the hubby having a nervous breakdown (he stays home with him during the day). He has a strange ritual where he needs to feel comforted in order to go so he needs a “blanket” (which is usually just a towel that we throw in the wash after), a book or a tablet and he still needs a potty seat on the toilet (in his defense, the toilet seats in our apartment are very large…). The blanket thing we don’t get because he doesn’t use/carry one around for any other reason at all.

    I am more calm about it than my husband but then again, I don’t deal with it all day I guess. I just figure he will go when he needs to go and this is just something he struggles with a little more than others…he excels at everything else (counting, letters, logical thinking) but it’s just this one thing he has a problem with.


    Andrea Reply:

    Don’t worry about it Kim — all kids are different. I know one family who had such a difficult time with potty training one child that TWO younger siblings were potty trained before that child! The issue was also going #2. Also, I’m certain I would share your husbands anxiety about this too — hopefully everything works out soon!


  18. Lynn A.


    My two munchkins, now 11 and 7, hated the loud flushing of public toilets as well. I find them obnoxious sometimes myself.

    Congratulations on this accomplishment. 🙂


  19. Amber Woods


    Glad to hear Nora has been so successful! We have the same comments a lot when we go to the potty in a store. My little one, Lily Kate, hates the sound of the loud flush. No clue why. She isn’t bothered by loud noises in other places.


  20. Susan M


    But… dad wants to see, too! LOL

    Congratulations! It is such a relief to cross this bridge!


  21. Jen


    Yeah for Nora! I think potty training is the WORST part and I’ve done it four times!

    For me the funniest part of this story is that your mom saved that potty chair!! You obviously didn’t get your “get rid of stuff” gene from her! 🙂


  22. Julie


    Great job mom & Nora!


  23. Verity


    Congratulations Nora! (And Mama!)

    Funny article! Loved it!

    Our best help for our daughter, was to invest in a $22 potty training doll and little toilet. They sell it in the toy section at Walmart. I woke her up with it all wrapped up on the morning we started potty training. So she had a little buddy. It is now her favorite doll two years later. And the little potty chair is going to be used in a few weeks when we start with our third child.