The Art Of Potty Training. Are You A Van Gogh?

September 9, 2008


Does one ever truly figure out any parenting chore?  And even if you think you have, wait until the next child comes along and you discover you have absolutely nothing figured out.  Potty training is an excellent example of such a chore.

Yes the word “chore” carries with it a negative connotation, but have you ever known someone to enjoy the discipline it takes on our part to train a child to go on a potty.  I haven’t.  It isn’t something I look forward to…except when I’m changing a really disgusting poopy diaper.  Then I’m way ready for potty training to commence.

I have to admit that potty training my first was fairly easy.  She figured it out quickly but had a problem with temper tantrum accidents (and not the easy to clean up pee-pee ones).  With my son I had to use totally different techniques.  You can’t force him to do anything.  So I relaxed and waited.  He was ready about 2 months after he turned 3…much to my mother-in-laws dismay.

But again the cleaning up of poopy accidents is something I just have to figure out how to avoid.  I know an accident here and there is going to happen but I know there is an easier way.  So, on the cusp of my third child perhaps entering the potty training phase I resolved to find the potty training how-to, step-by-step, tell-all manual.

In my research I came across this audio potty training guide, Potty Training Secrets Exposed.  It is written by a doctor (PhD Med.) and his wife.  In his quest to find information while potty training their oldest child he discovered a great deficit in the “how-to potty train” department.  As I read through his website this section  jumped out at me:

In developing countries, the vast majority of children are potty trained by the age of 18 months to 2 years. This was true also for Western countries, 50 or more years ago:

*Studies released by Harvard University in 1956 revealed that 80% of American kids were potty  trained by the age of 2 years
*Nowadays in the Western world, the age at which just 50% of toddlers are trained is close to 3, and 26% of children are still not trained by the age of 4!

Why is this?

The answer that I discovered, is what I term “Diaper Dependence”.

You see, the only really significant change to have occurred in the toddler world over the last 50 years or so in developed countries, is the shift from wearing uncomfortable cloth diapers to the modern disposable diaper. The technology in disposable diapers has increased to the extent that young toddlers today have No Concept of the feeling of being wet, so they don’t have an incentive to get out of them!

Cloth diapers we use aren’t exactly uncomfortable but you get the point.

I am a sponge at this point.  I am ready to soak up any and all tips that will assist me in this journey.  If I can do it in less than the 6 months it’s averaged for the first two–sign me up!  If you have an ebook, book, or kernal of advice that worked for you please share it in the comments.

Check out Most Popular Cloth Trainers for recommendations to assist you during this transition.


About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at

View all posts by Autumn Beck

9 Responses to “The Art Of Potty Training. Are You A Van Gogh?”

  1. Tasha Says:

    Hi Autumn,
    Did you buy the “Potty Trained in 1 to 3 Days” offered by Dr. Wayne Jensen (PhD (Med)? Just wondering if it worked out and would be worth purchasing.
    Thanks, Tasha


  2. Emily Says:

    I only just found your site, so I know this is really late, but maybe it will help for your next one. I read a really good book called Early Start Potty Training, it worked great. Basically, if you start when they are over 15mos or so, you have to spend a couple days with nothing on them, this teaches them to understand what it feels like when they are peeing /pooing. Try to catch them before they start and put them on the potty. You will learn their signals quickly! It also helps to put the cleaned up pee/poo in the potty and explain that is where pee goes. My daughter would take herself to the potty at 18 mos as long as she was only wearing a skirt, no undies. She was fully trained at 23 mos when I stopped working. With my youngest, who is 6 mos, I occasionally put her on the potty (usually in the mornings when she goes often), and she uses it about once a day, just to get her used to the idea (For both methods, the idea is to not ‘train’ them to pee only when covered). The book is great, gives different tips based on age., up to 3 yrs I think.


  3. Renee Says:

    I agree with Charndra, sign language is perfect for early potty training before your child is verbal. I also agree with Autumn and the doctor who wrote the guide she posts about. Removing wetting feedback from the equation has led us culturally to much later potty training.

    There are several very good windows of opportunity before the one at around age three that Kate uses to transition her children out of diapers. My daughter’s first interest in going potty came at 18 months and I jumped on it. Did she potty train in 3 days? No way. Did I expect her to? Nope. But she did poop train in the first week and was peeing in the potty around five times a day within weeks. Clearly, the development milestone can come far earlier than our society dictates currently.

    If you are interested in learning when a good time to start potty training will be for your child, I would suggest checking out the free Potty Ready Quiz at It can help you understand the reasons you might want to hold off on potty training as well as be ready to jump on a good opportunity as soon as it arrives.


  4. Charndra at Part Time Diaper Free Says:

    Hi Amanda,
    you’re right about the EC having a few sensitive times when it is easier to begin – basically babies go often, so it’s easy to make a catch and begin helping them to build the associations!

    BUT you don’t have to start really early – before 6 months is the first window (ie before baby is on the move!)

    My grandma started at 3-4 months, as they wet less often and were easier to hold (She had 7 kids and learnt how to do this with her youngest siblings from her mother)

    Plenty of people begin up to about 12 months, after that it’s more like early toilet training, and much patience is needed.

    Great fun, though!
    Sign language is a good thing to introduce baby pottying to slightly older babies, there is an example on this page:


  5. Laurel Says:

    I used the same method for both of my sons and will be using it again with my twin daughters when they are ready.

    You child needs to see you and possibly your husband using the bathroom regularly. This exposes them to the concept and just like kids want to do everything you do (say in the kitchen or cleaning up) they will want to use the bathroom too. At about 18 months of age get a potty for your child. Make a really big deal about this. Explain what it is. Let your child go naked in the house as much as they want to and encourage them to try out their new potty. Your child will probably want to use the potty especially after seeing you use yours. When you think your child is comfortable with the concept of using the potty pick a day when you will be home all day. On this day you will introduce your child to the training underwear. Tell them how big they are that they now get to wear big boy underwear. (you cannot take these away from them ever, no matter what happens next) My first son had one accident in the morning (pee). After that he used the potty every time (I know he was an easy boy). My second son had one accident the first day too and then he had a few more accidents over the first week. BUT after the first week he didn’t have anymore accidents. Both of my sons were totally out of diapers before the age of two. You just have to be willing to devote the time and effort for a short period of time. Hope this helps someone.


  6. Kim Says:

    My only suggestion is to make sure your trainers are as little like a diaper as possible. We started with imse vimse trainers, and DD figured they were just like a diaper, therefor for peeing in! Then we switched to the cheap gerber trainers. She had ONE accident, and used the potty after that! It was a bit of a messy accident (needed all new clothes, but not on the floor), but it was worth it. They do it when they’re ready, but proper support is important or they won’t do it.


  7. Kate Says:

    i am so sorry potty training has been difficult. i don’t know that i have any great concept going here, but it sure has been easy. This has been my “method” for my first 3 and will be for my baby when she gets big enough. 1) i firmly believe potty training is a misnomer. This is a developmental milestone just like walking. Or just like you can’t teach your baby how to eat baby food…when they are ready to push food to the back of their mouth and swallow they do. Same with this! So, “starting early” is just asking for a longer process! 2) In my experience, they need to be verbal. If he/she cannot tell me in a clear way what he/she needs, then they are not developmentally ready. 3) Talk first! Begin talking about how his/her body will tell him/her when he/she is ready. Talk about how “when you are ready, your body will tell you it is time to use the potty”. This process accomplishes a few goals. A) It gives the child control, you do not want this to be a power struggle. B) You are teaching them to listen to their own bodies and respond to their own needs. 4) The only reward is getting into big girl/big boy undies! There are no M&M’s on the back of the potty. The reward is the child’s accomplishment! Offer praise, but again, this is his/her thing. The reward for the child is that have discovered they could know something about their own body and respond successfully all on their own! 5) Knowing when to make the move to undies is crucial since the undies are the “reward” and once given should not be taken away. My “rule” is you have to keep your diaper dry. You show me you can keep your diaper dry/clean and use only the potty for 3 days. When he/she has done that, make the move. Now, be a good parent and gently remind every couple of hours. Don’t plan any 4 hour long Target trips or fancy dinners out for a couple of days! But, again, you are not potty training and this is his/her deal not yours. So, unless you are heading out on an errand or it is nap/bed time, do not make them use the potty. 6) When an accident happens, they need to help you clean up the mess. This is NOT punishment. I repeat, this is NOT punishment! He/she just needs to be responsible for themselves. Just like if he/she spills their milk on the floor, they help you clean it up not as punishment but just because they need to learn to be responsible. 7) Naps and nightimes just happen. Again, you cannot train this. Sometimes getting them up before you go to bed for one last potty of the night helps, sometimes not. But really who cares? And, really that goes for the whole potty training thing! I’ve yet to meet a teenager, no matter how strong-willed who still would not use the potty, right? Besides, how badly do you want your 2 year old to sit on a nasty gas station potty because he/she could not make it home from your errands? Potty training early is over-rated! Another benefit of being 3 when you are potty trained is at that point they are well-trained at good hand-washing and have the self-control to keep their hands in their pockets and off the walls and floors! Wow, that was more than a comment! More like a novel, really. Hopr it helps!


  8. Amanda Says:

    This is where the concept of EC (elimination communication) comes in; they say there is a window of opportunity, you have to start at birth to make your child aware of the activity of pottying, even as an infant, and it works best with cloth diapers.


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