Toilet training Watermelon has been quite an exciting development/accomplishment for me, espesh since I was initially planning to do it next year after baby no. 2 arrives. It wasn’t until I read Jamie Glowacki’s “Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right” book (affiliate link) that I was convinced to start ASAP. According to her, the best window to potty train a kid is between 20-30 months. After 3, it gets “harder”. So counterintuitive to me because I thought the older the kid is, the easier she can understand. But Jamie explained that after 3, toddlers develop a stronger sense of self and may want to assert their individuality and thus resist your attempts to potty train them.
Luckily that hasn’t been our experience at all. Phew! Though I was legit terrified. Thanks to her method, we are done with diapers, at least in the day. We still put them on her for naps and bedtime, but they’ve been consistently dry. So it’s just a matter of us taking that leap of faith and trusting that she can totally do without them … though this part, I’m not really in a rush. We’re barely 2 weeks in!
One peculiar thing though is that I’m not letting Watermelon wear underwear yet. Jamie (yes I’m going to refer her on first name basis macam lah she’s my friend, but mostly coz typing her full name will be cumbersome) recommends holding off underwear until 1 month plus into potty training. The reason? Kids tend to mistake the snug feeling of underwear as being the same as diapers, which tends to trigger pee/poop accidents. Plus they’re still getting used to taking their pants off themselves. Putting them in underwear only adds an extra layer of clothing for them to struggle with removing.
brief summary of her method
Jamie’s method is structured clearly into blocks. Her philosophy is that you have to clear the blocks sequentially before you can move on to the next. It seems like in the past, her method was known as the 3-day method. But in the updated version of her book that I read, she urges parents to forget this 3-day timeline/promise and instead think in terms of the blocks. If it takes 7 days to get through the first three major blocks, it’s totally fine. Just follow your child’s pace.
For her method, you have to set aside at least 3 days (e.g. a long weekend) where you stay at home, clear your calendar, put away your phone, and commit to doing nothing but observing and assisting your child. During naps and bedtime, you can still put diapers on the kid, but you have to emphasise that the diaper is temporary and will be taken off once the kid wakes up.
Briefly, the main blocks are as follows:
Block 1: Kid is naked. Your role is to observe her cues and give her extra fluids to study her pattern (i.e. how soon she needs to pee after drinking fluids. Some kids are “camels” in that they can drink lots of water and not have to pee … until suddenly experiencing a high tide). You can/should prompt her to sit on the potty or toilet bowl, but be careful not to over-prompt (tricky!) Expect to clean up pee and poop from your floor.
Block 2: Kid can wear pants, but no underwear. You have to train her how to push down her pants herself. Expect to clean up pee and poop from your floor AND provide change of clothes.
Block 3: Plan a short outing where you practise using public toilets upon arriving at the place and just before leaving. Still no underwear on the kid.
Block 4: Kid can start wearing underwear, typically after 4 weeks of being in block 3.
Block 5: Self-initiation; kid can go potty without you prompting.
Block 6: Dry diapers during night time and naps.
Jamie doesn’t encourage putting back the daytime diaper ever, unless you decide to halt potty training altogether. Firstly, she argues that it’s hard to ask a kid to learn a new habit/skill while letting her practise an old one. Secondly, putting the diaper back on (after following her blocks method) is telling the child you don’t trust them.
I decided to start during the weekend before Christmas so that I’d have 5 days to dedicate to potty training. The plan was for Watermelon to skip school on Monday (full day) and Tuesday (half-day coz of Christmas Eve). Wednesday she’d be at home anyway, since it’s a public holiday.
Coincidentally I had to help my niece with her secondary 1 registration on the Monday, and NG was on reservist (plus not really onboard my toilet training plan … hah) so I had no choice but to send her to school that morning. Gave the teachers a heads up that she’d be without undies, which freaked them out a bit. But not enough to insist differently, thankfully.
To prepare us for the weekend, I bought a Baby Bjorn potty chair from Carousell. Jamie specifically recommended the Baby Bjorn one, so I went with it without questioning. Over the days, I casually pre-empted Watermelon by telling her that she’d be off diapers soon because she’ll be learning how to use the potty, just like Mama and Abah and her older cousins. She also noticed the potty and seemed to be excited about this shiny new thing that is hers.
I also went grocery shopping and stocked up on Yakult, fruits to snack on, and ingredients for a simple lunch for Day 1. For Day 2, I was planning to order food delivery. For Day 3, I planned a short outing where we could run some errands and grab a takeaway lunch.
On the morning of day 1, I cleared the living room. Folded the carpet and playmat, and stashed away her bouncer and our poufs in the spare bedroom. I wanted to take a step further and wrap our couch with one of those plastic sheets meant to cover furniture when you paint a room, but unfortch our storeroom didn’t have any (I thought we did!) so I made do by banning her from the couch, before eventually placing a waterproof mat and insisting that she only sits “on the white part” (our waterproof mat is white) on day 2 onwards.
The floor was cleared. Set up the potty in the middle of the living room, over a towel. Used a travel bidet which NG bought in anticipation of next year’s holiday
I set up the potty in the middle of the living room (haha). The idea is that we’d be spending the whole day there, where her toys and books are, and I wanted to be able to swing her quickly on the potty once she has the urge. I even closed my bedroom door because I didn’t want her naked booty on my bed :p
Day 1 (Block 1) was … unexpectedly smooth!! I didn’t have to clean up the floor! She willingly sat on her potty, peed and even pooped!! I was so amazed by the pooping because Jamie said kids usually don’t poop successfully on the first day. They either skip the poop, or release the poop in their naptime diaper; both of which are normal behaviour. But I felt a bit odd that I never got to catch her pee cues, because she voluntarily sits on the potty. Still, I didn’t stress up too much about this.
On Day 2, she asked to wear her dress. I was a teeny bit hesitant because we started block 1 after lunch on Day 1, which meant we hadn’t spent a lot of time in it. But I thought okay lah since she seemed comfortable with the potty already, I could let her wear her dress (Block 2). Had to emphasise to her to lift up her skirt sufficiently high before sitting on the potty. The day went smoothly until night time, when we changed her into pajamas sans diaper (because it wasn’t bedtime yet) and she peed through her pants. I guess she had not learnt she needed to remove the pants first before sitting on the potty, plus there was nobody in the living room, so perhaps she felt scared to go to the potty herself.
On Day 3, I fetched her from school early around 1.00pm and brought her to Tampines Interchange (Block 3). I asked the teachers if she had gone to the potty and they said yes. My mistake was not asking specifically how long ago. When we were at the traffic light otw a mall toilet … she peed! My jaw dropped and I was like Oh My God. It didn’t help that there was A LOT of pee and for a second I wondered if that was really her pee or perhaps a small pipe nearby was leaking. Fortunately we were on a slope, so her pee flowed efficiently down into the nearest drain cover LOL. And the fact that we were at a traffic light hopefully meant everyone else was focused on waiting for the green man and didn’t notice my daughter wetting her pants.
Luckily the toilet was only 2 minutes away, and I was prepared with extra pants, a towel, and a wet bag. I changed her out, and had to rinse her soiled sandals. Thankfully she didn’t complain about having to wear damp sandals because I didn’t bring an extra pair of shoes for her.
Day 4 was uneventful (other than me starting to feel exhausted watching her all day and not doing much else), and on Day 5 I brought her out to the park for a walk and trip to playground. Brought her to the toilet where she refused to pee, and then I got angry when she stubbornly didn’t want to pull up her pants herself. At night we headed to Changi Airport for dinner, where NG brought her to the handicapped toilet which she loved. Then he got annoyed when she asked to go to the toilet again before we went home, but didn’t pee.
On Day 6 we were back at the airport, this time to fetch my sister who was back from her holiday. Watermelon asked to go to the toilet … and pooped! I couldn’t help but feel super proud that she was pooping in a public toilet lol. (Ok sorry TMI but really!!)
After that it was mostly uneventful, other than when she started bringing pee-filled potty pans from our living room to the toilet herself (it is VERY scary to watch!! espesh when the pee sloshes around, oh my heart. miraculously there were no spills) and another time where she had an accident at my in laws’ house. I was very puzzled by it because the teachers said she had gone to pee just 10 minutes before we fetched her and headed straight there. NG thinks Watermelon got too engrossed playing and running around with her cousins that she forgot to control her pee.
All and all, I’m impressed that she can generally hold her pee for pretty long (2-3 hours?) and start informing us that she needs to “shi shi” without us having to prompt her too much, although we still do because #paranoid.
I’ll eventually move the potty from the living room to the toilet, but honestly, I know I’m the one who’s not ready. I kind of like being able to sit on the floor beside the potty. Sometimes she asks me to read a book to her, and I’d secretly enjoy this unexpected bonding opportunity.
Oh yeah another thing about the potty is that you have to be comfortable with emptying the pan and rinsing it. I’m fine with it, although I end up washing my hands a million times after. NG is grossed out by it and much much much prefers her to release directly over the toilet bowl. We don’t have a kid seat for her (yet?), but since months ago he’s taught her how to balance herself on a normal toilet bowl, which has been a useful skill espesh for public toilets.
But you could also get a kid seat for your toilet bowl and use this method, though it may mean having to sprint to the toilet for blocks 1 and 2. Hopefully it’s just for a short while before the kid learns to head to the toilet herself. The reason why Jamie recommends the potty is because some kids hate the feeling of their feet dangling from the toilet bowl, and also the potty puts the child in an effectively squatting posture, which encourages pooping. Kind of like the squatting toilets we have!
The other milestone is night time training; I think I’ll see that she can complete Block 4 (wearing undies) first before doing away with diapers at night.
Since I had a good experience following the book’s method, I would recommend it to fellow parents looking to toilet train their toddlers. However it does require parents’ full commitment and readiness plus 3 days worth of dedication; for some people it might be a lot to ask for. The benefit is that it’s really a do it once and do it right kind of method, and shortens the learning period to a week or so.
I’m really glad that toilet training Watermelon has gone fairly smoothly even though she’s past the 20-30 months window. For Chickpea, maybe I’ll try to initiate the process earlier, like when she’s 2.5yo instead of close to 3yo. To be honest, I always thought parents who try to toilet train their 2yos were just being overachievers, but now I know it’s possible! And even recommended by a potty training expert.
I’m sure accidents will happen through the next few years, though hopefully they will be few and far in between. Next thing to worry about is how she’d do on road trips to Malaysia (what if we get caught in a jam!!) or on flights. It’d be really messy if she soils the aeroplane seat eeks. But we have no choice but work through these situations unless we want to put off travelling altogether, which we don’t.
This has been such a long post, but I hope it’s helped at least someone out there! Potty training has unexpectedly taught me so much, and given me a lot of insights to how surprisingly capable our toddler is. Pardon all the praises I have for Watermelon; I don’t take any credit because this is her own achievement :’) So so glad I took the plunge!
Update: After nights of consistently dry diapers overnight, Watermelon graduated from night training sometime in February, a few weeks after Chickpea was born. Felt good to sell off Watermelon’s remaining stock of diapers! Accidents still happen of course, but they’re far in between. And underwear still aren’t really a thing, because lazy :p Our toilet bowl still isn’t too kid friendly — we have to hoist her up, then help to wash her. Maybe soon she’ll get too big and heavy, and we’ll have to do something about it.