Potty Training. I don’t know about you, but those two words have the power to break me. As a mom of six, I have plenty of experience with potty training but I am far from an expert.
So to help out my readers and answer all their questions on the topic, I sought out a potty training consultant. She helps parents train their children through the Oh Crap Potty Training method.
Since the book Oh Crap Potty Training came out in 2015, it has been making waves in toddler parenting groups everywhere. I just had to get the details so I went straight to an expert. She answered readers’ questions on the Oh Crap method and on the general topic of potty training.
Click on the video to watch the interview, or read the conversation below.
Today I’m talking with Martina. She is an Oh Crap Potty Training consultant. Martina, can you give us a little bit of your background and tell us how you got started?
Yeah, absolutely. I got started several years ago when my oldest was needing to be potty trained and a friend loaned me the Oh Crap Potty Training book. I was amazed because potty training went so smoothly. I was hooked.
I used the method again for my daughter and we hit a few hurdles, so I actually reached out to an Oh Crap Potty Training consultant. She gave me some tips, and potty training went great after that. And I thought, “I can do this.”
The advice she was giving me made perfect sense once I learned a little bit more about the method. I enrolled in the book author’s (Jamie Glowacki) certification course and completed that. I’ve also done a lot of reading on other potty training methods. So I’m familiar with the current ones that people are doing.
I also do a lot of research on child psychology and habits and behavior. Behavior plays into potty train so much it’s just to be able to address the full situation.
I have just started hearing all kinds of parents talking about the Oh Crap Potty training method over the past couple of years. I had never heard of it before so I’m kind of excited to learn about it. Can you give us a quick overview of how it works and how it’s different from other methods?
So a lot of what parents are doing nowadays is just the kind of casual potty training where they’re putting a pull up on and letting the child go if he or she requests it, or encouraging it sometimes. But if you’re in line at the grocery store and the kid has to pee, then they can go into pull up. So it’s kind of just wishy washy and that can take a really long time.
The nice thing about the Oh Crap Potty Training method is, it’s not three days, like the three day book says, and there’s not a set amount of time, but you stick with it and you really hit it hard and most kids will be completely potty trained within a month or two. And it gets better as that month or two goes on. You’re not homebound for two months.
The method is broken into blocks and you have a step by step process that you follow. The first one to three days you’re at home, the little potty is in the room near the child, no pants, no underwear. And we do this so that we can watch the kid and see a pee sign or a poop sign.
So the parents are learning what the sign is and then simultaneously the child is learning what it feels like when they need to go. And then the potty is right there. So in that very early learning, you can get the child to the potty really fast.
So that’s what day one looks like. And then we gradually move into pants with no underwear. We do that because underwear feel a lot like a diaper and we see a lot of accidents when we put underwear on. It also provides a little bit of protection, so they’re more likely to poop because they know it’ll stay up there and they can sometimes get away with it, at least for a little while.
And then we gradually move to going out in public. All of this is kind of a back and forth process. So you might put pants on and see some accidents happen, so you go back to no pants. And the same with going out in public. You go out in public for maybe a half an hour when the child has just peed or pooped and had a success. Spend some time out, maybe offer the public toilet. If the child says no, you go back home and practice some more with no pants.
Next time, maybe the child tries the public toilet and you have a success. You stay out a little longer before going back home. Anytime there’s accidents, we go back to no pants.
Back and Forth
So they’re kind of blocks and steps, but we go back and forth until the child really gets the practice they need. And then eventually when they’re totally rocking it, we put underwear on and then we work on self initiation, getting them to tell us when they need to go. That often takes two months, and then eventually night training. But we can talk about that later.
What age do you recommend starting potty training, or does it depend on the child?
To some extent it depends on the child. Between 20 and 30 months is usually ideal for most kids. That’s when they’re not super stubborn and opinionated yet. Some of them already are by then, they still somewhat want to please their parents. They’re curious about new things.
And you’re kind of looking for a developmental role when they’re not trying to do anything else that’s really taking their brain power and when they’re still being kind of easygoing. So that’s why we like to do it in that range. That said, many parents can potty train at 18 months. Usually it takes longer, but not always. It depends on the kid.
I have a lot of theories about potty training because I’ve done it six times and I feel like I’m terrible at it. But one of my theories is if you start a child before they’re ready, then it takes longer because you have that resistance and then they see it as a negative and they start fighting it. At least that’s been my experience.
There’s a couple things to keep in mind. Here are some signs we look for:
- They can communicate and let us know that they need to go.
- They’re moving towards being physically able to get their clothes up and down.
- They are looking for some privacy when they poop.
Those are signs that they’re ready. The other thing is, you can always start and if day four they’re still peeing and pooping everywhere, with a younger age kid, it’s totally okay to say, “I think I hit this at the wrong time. We’re going to restart in a couple of months.” That’s one option. But resistance in general is super common in potty training and a lot of times we’re able to fix that by just really backing off as parents.
Since with the Oh Crap method, we have their bottoms off and the toilet or the little potty right there, we can sometimes back completely off. They’re so close to the toilet, just let them try to do it on their own. If it’s starting to click, then they’ll usually go on their own. But resistance to parents prompting them and trying to get them to sit is super common and it just makes them push back and resist even harder. That’s absolutely true.
One of my readers had a question about early potty training. Her little one is almost 18 months. She said he’s been going on the potty pretty regularly since 14 months, but it’s pretty laid back and she doesn’t pressure him much. So she wonders what she can do to help keep that moving in the right direction. Or should she just go total potty training? What do you recommend?
If the kid seems that interested in it, I would go for it. I would go for it full board. That’s really, I think, the only way to get completely potty trained, especially at an age like that. And like I said, at 18 months with most kids, it’ll take longer. With a kid that’s that excited about it, it might not.
I would jump in, do the full method and if you get a week or two in and it’s a total flop, you can always do a reset. Just table it for a month or two and that child will take what they’ve learned. It’s not a total waste of time and it will help the next time around. But yeah, if the kid is showing a lot of interest in it, that’s a great window to go for it.
Can we talk about another theory that I have, which is the earlier they’re trained, the longer they’re going to have accidents. Because even if they’re trained at one and a half or two, they still regularly have accidents. In my experience at least, it seems like the age of three is when those accidents end.
I think it’s true that sometime after three is when most kids are capable of self-initiating, which means they say, “I need to go potty,” and either take themselves or get help to go. And before that we as parents kind of have to be on top of them more.
You could potty train at 18 months and a month later, maybe you’re seeing one accident a month. Maybe it’s when they’re distracted. You’re probably going to have to remind them or prompt them more, be more aware of them being super engrossed in an activity. But if you’re having one accident a month and your child’s potty trained at 18 months, I would certainly take that over diapers until three.
Either way you’re going to have a fully potty trained kid earlier. If you start at three, there’s a good chance you’re going to be having an accident here and there at a later age. Whereas if you start right at two, by three you probably have a kid that’s totally self sufficient.
Again, it’s all about prompting for a long time because kids get distracted. They might be really good at it, but something fun is going on and they’re not going to stop to go potty. Jamie Glowacki, the book author says, “I still prompt my 12 year old. The only difference is when he’s 12, I believe him when he says he doesn’t have to go. But when I see him doing the pee dance I say, ‘Go pee and then we’ll continue the conversation.'”
I have a couple of different people who asked about working. If they’re working full time, how would they do potty training? And also how do you get your daycare on board?
Daycares can be tough. They’re all over the spectrum on how cooperative they are. Ideally you want a daycare that’s going to let you do commando, so no underwear with pants, and that’s going to follow what you ask of them. Some daycares are like, “No. Pull-ups until they’re potty trained.” And we have to deal with what we have because they’re watching our kids. We want to keep them happy, we need to be nice to them.
I suggest writing a summary of the Oh Crap method, and that’s something that I can provide to parents, that tells them what the plan is. And then sitting with one of the daycare workers and walking them through the plan so they understand where you’re coming from and why you’re potty training the way you are. They’re much more likely to cooperate.
Let’s talk about nighttime potty training. I’m wondering when or how to do that or even if you need to do that. Some of my boys were in nighttime pull-ups for many years and it wasn’t a big deal. We tried things like alarms or waking them up, but they’re just very heavy sleepers. But right now I have a four-year-old who wears them at night. The pull-ups are making her rashy so that would be a reason I might want to figure out how to change that.
Nights are tough and kids are all over the place, super deep sleepers being an exception that we’ll kind of set aside for the moment. But normally for most parents I suggest waiting and doing day training first and then addressing night training later. The reason for that is sleep is so important to successful potty training. You don’t want to be waking your kid up in the middle of the night and messing up sleep, because they need that sleep to succeed during the day.
Also, parents get super overwhelmed at the thought of doing both at the same time. That said, if you have a kid who’s holding it most of the time through the night, you want to do them both at the same time. And that’s because toddlers do great with the very clear message: no more diapers, they’re gone completely.
We try to minimize the exceptions to when we use diapers. And the one time where we make the exception is for sleep. So for most kids we recommend night training no later than about three and a half. And that’s just because it seems to take a lot longer and be more difficult after that. It’s not across the board. There are tons of parents now that do the nighttime pull up later, but we see more instances of difficulty night training beyond four particularly.
How to Night Train
There’s some things you can do while they’re still in a pull up. One of them is the reverse pyramid of fluids. That’s really pushing fluids in the morning before nap and then tapering off before nap, and then again pushing fluids right after nap and tapering off before bed. Ideally so their bladder is not going to fill up as much at night. And really trying to do more than just a few sips of water, but two hours before bed.
You can do that when they’re still in pull ups and see. Maybe they stay dry and then you know you can just get rid of that diaper. If they don’t, then we do a series of night wakings. It’s helpful if you have a sense how much your child is peeing at night because you can do one or two wakings. If the parents stay up until 10 or 11 and the kid goes to bed at seven or eight, the parents can take the kid right before they go to bed and do just a sleepy time pee.
Carry them if you need to. Set them on the potty, just say “let your pee out” or rub their back. Try to get them to pee and try to get them back to sleep with as little disruption as possible. And then for most kids we will do the same thing around two or three in the morning. Not too close to when they wake up so that they won’t fall back asleep.
The other thing we do is we role play that during the day so they know exactly what to expect when you come in the middle of the night to wake them up, and you can practice. Also, they can pretend to wake mommy up and do it. And then right before they go to sleep, we whisper in their ear, “hold your pee until mommy or daddy comes to get you.” That little subconscious message seems to help.
So that’s the brief version of night training. Unless your kid holds it through the night, then you just get rid of the diaper. And sure, they’ll have a couple accidents, but hopefully they stick with holding it and you don’t even have to do that.
At what point do you stop doing that? How long do you need to be waking them in the night?
Usually sometime between three and a half and four, if the kid’s been potty trained for a while, they’ll start to wake themselves up. And if you see them doing that, then you don’t have to wake them anymore or they’ll start holding it through the night. Kids are kind of all over the place with night training, so it’s somewhat of a guessing game.
A lot of times, what happens is the parents just forget to wake because they’re tired or whatever, and then the kid holds it and they’re like, “Oh wow, we don’t have to wake anymore.”
And you did mention you had some kids that were super deep sleepers. With the super deep sleepers, you either end up doing prolonged wakings or you do the pee alarm because they’re so deep asleep they don’t sense the pee coming. And that’s the rare case, but it definitely happens.
Here’s a big question: pooping. I know pooping can be a big issue with a lot of little ones, even after they’re fully potty trained. Some will just refuse to go until they’re constipated. Some will only poop on their one little potty or their cushy tushy and they won’t poop in public. Or they’ll only do it when mom is home. Any words of wisdom or advice on how to get through that?
Yeah. Poop might be the number one most common issue I see. Most pooping issues are related to some level of fear or anxiety. And if you think about it, pooping is a very private thing. They’ve been pooping in their diaper their whole lives. It feels normal and all of a sudden we’re totally changing that up.
At some level you can treat it like anything else they’re afraid of. If they’re afraid of the dark or if they’re afraid of a monster, how would you comfort them? Being very calm, very comforting, very encouraging. That’s kind of the basic first step.
And then it sort of depends on how that fear is manifesting. It can be manifesting in withholding or it can be manifesting in accidents. Those are probably the two most common. And we would deal with each of those a little bit differently.
Withholding, we would keep the poop soft and moving. And depending on the degree of withholding, there’s various things you can do. Magnesium supplements are great. Healthy fats in the diet are great for the more mild cases.
And then if the child’s having accidents, we treat it like any other fear, very calm, but we go back to no bottoms, keep the potty nearby, very calming language. We wait and we see that that poop dance is coming, when they would normally run off and try to poop in their pants or behind the couch. We keep them in a small area. “I’m here for you. I’ll help you. Let me know when you’re ready to poop. I’ll be right here for you.” And just kind of sit by their potty and wait out that poop dance.
It might take a couple of hours. You can have a magazine and then if you get them to sit, they might pop up and you just sit and you can use words like “open your poop door, let your poop slide out, open your poop gate.”
The Poop Play-Doh Trick
Another kind of trick that’s funny but actually works is the poop Play-Doh trick. You put a ball of Play-Doh in your hand and you show them this is what your poop is like when it’s in your body and then you start to squeeze it and they see the Play-Doh come out. “You need to already be on the potty when it’s right here.” And for whatever reason, kids love it, and it seems to help. There’s YouTube videos of people showing how to do it. It seems to make the kids understand what’s going on with their bodies. For whatever crazy reason, it helps it click with some kids.
The book Everyone Poops has been passed around in my family from my sister and me back and forth. That seems to help too. Are there any other books that you would recommend?
A lot of the parents that I work with like the Daniel tiger ones and an Elmo one. And if the kids like them and are interested in them, those are totally great. And that’s a way to introduce potty training also before you actually bring out the potty.
Can you tell us your biggest success story in your potty training coaching?
Yeah, that’s a tough one because it’s hard to measure which is the biggest. Recently I worked with a mom and we trained twins. That was a big hurdle, but they actually did really great.
I think one of my biggest successes is measured by how bad the situation was for the parents. The boy was pooping on everything. He was pooping on toys and pooping on the couch. And after working with the parents for a while, we realized this isn’t just a pooping issue, this is an all-around behavior issue.
We really addressed the behavior and giving the child small but intense blocks of undivided attention from the parents. Then he was getting that attention he was seeking by pooping on things in a positive way instead. So they would do that throughout the day–10 to 20 minutes of paying attention to no one but the child, doing something fun. And then also setting clear boundaries in life in general–no means no and following through and just giving the child more consistency. And miraculously, a week or two later he stopped pooping on everything.
It was more of a behavior issue than a potty training issue. So you were kind of parent coaching at that point.
Yeah, and that’s more and more what all of the potty training coaches I work with are seeing. It’s more behavior issues that we’re dealing with that are related to potty training very much, but not potty training issues.
Well, certainly it’s a great time for a little one to realize this is a great way for me to control the situation because they can’t make me poop in the potty and they can’t make me pee in the potty.
Yes. That’s the number one rule with potty training. We cannot make them go and they figure that out quickly. We can get them to sit, but we cannot make them get their pee or poop out unless they want to. On that note, generally in potty training, offer them choices, such as: would you want to pee on a little potty or the big potty? Do you want me to read you a story while you’re peeing or when you get off? Something that makes them feel in control can be really helpful.
Can you tell us about your coaching business and what kinds of things you do, what you offer, what different options are, if any parents are interested?
I offer all kinds of support. I do email packages where, if you just have questions we can email back and forth. I do phone consultations. I like to start with a phone call because then I get the full overview of what’s going on. We can really address what the issues are and then we can email back and forth for a week or two as little things come up.
Now that my youngest is finally a little older, I’m doing in person consultations in the Denver area. I can come out and teach a class or if you don’t want to read the book, I can teach you the method and then even come out for those first couple of days and help you identify your child’s pee and poop signs and get through those first couple of days that are really tough.
Also, people can always email me at email@example.com if they’re wondering if their kid’s ready or capable and they want to know if it’s a good time to start. I always give free advice on that and then you can jump in and try it on your own. If you hit any hurdles, then you can contact me. I do have to say though, most people that read the book don’t need a consultant like me. Usually you can read the book, follow the method, and your kid will do great.
I so appreciate Martina taking the time to talk with me and give such amazing potty training advice! She is there for you if you’ve tried potty training and it didn’t work, if you have a hurdle you can’t get over, or even if you don’t want to read the potty training book but would rather have her talk you through it. Check out these additional resources (includes affiliate links).
To read about my experiences potty training six kids, check out Confessions of a Potty Training Failure.
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