I often have two kids in diapers at once, so trust me, I get wanting to get kids out of diapers as soon as possible. Currently I have a two-year-old and four-month-old in diapers. It often feels like they literally poop on our money, as it costs us about $80 per month in diapers and wipes that we just throw away. Ack! Sure, there are money-saving options out there like cloth diapering, which I did for several years, but I'm drowning in laundry as it is, so I gave up on that for my sanity's sake.
When to start potty training
I've found with the three kids I have that are potty trained, following their lead is key to making it easier and quicker. With my first, I tried the typical charts and rewards when my daughter was newly two — simply because I thought it was time. Everyone else had their two-year-old's out of diapers. Surely that meant she was ready too, right? However, it only lead to frustration for both of us. At first it was exciting, but eventually she dreaded even trying, and us going to the bathroom every 30 minutes with no success was draining.
My kids have all started to show signs of readiness around two and half, like telling me that they have a pee diaper or being excited to sit on the potty to try. Though I certainly encourage those times when they are excited and willing, I also don't force it or make a big deal out of continuing; when to start potty training depends on them. I don't keep us on a timer to remind them to try every few minutes. I don't keep us homebound for a week so they can run around naked and learn what the sensation of pee and poop feels like — that's completely not do-able for our big family with things like groceries and school pick-ups to happen. I don't print out a chart and run to the store for stickers and candy as rewards. The large time commitment involved that many potty training tactics use simply don't appeal or work for us, or maybe I'm just not that desperate yet to persue a diaper-free kid to do so.
In my experience so far there has been something magical about the age of three that something changes, and they get it. With my first I was putting her to bed one night, and it was like a light switch turned on suddenly and she said, “Mommy, I want to go potty!” And she did! From that moment she was willing and able to pretty much train herself with a little guidance and encouragement from me. Sure, we still had a few accidents and we still rewarded her and did a lot of praising, but the difference in her mentally and physically being old enough to be ready made all the difference. It wasn't frustrating anymore; it was an exciting! The excitement came from seeing constant progress of her own doing, rather than trying to force the progress.
Plus, I haven't had a two-year-old that can pull up or down their own pants yet, which is one major sign of readiness. If my child is going to go to the potty, I need them to be able to do it pretty much all by themselves once they learn. Especially with me having many other kids to tend to and working from home — I don't always have the extra hands to help in those urgent moments if I'm nursing the baby. Having those physically independent skills are important to me, so again, why rush what isn't ready?
What does my approach say about me?
Maybe you can say I take the lazy mom approach — I'm okay with that. Or, maybe call it the child-lead approach. Either way, it's what works for our family. You certainly can make other decisions and potty train earlier if that's your desire and you have the time! But, for those moms like me who don't want to put that much effort into potty training, or your child just doesn't seem ready, know that your toddler or preschooler isn't the only one not potty trained yet. And, while I know it seems like it will never happen, it will! One day that switch will turn on that they are ready and the training will be easy-peasy. When they show signs, certainly run with it, but if they stop being excited then it's okay to pause and try again later. It doesn't have to be a rush to the diaper-free finish line, but can be a slow and steady pace.