Potty training is exhausting. I think that the rip-the-bandaid-off style of the Oh Crap! Potty Training method might be the most exhausting. But for us, at least, it worked well and fast. In under 3 weeks from start to finish, my 24 month old was day-time potty trained. Here’s my review of the method, and my honest recollection of how it went for us. Link to buy the book at the end.
We embarked on potty training using this method a couple of days after my daughter turned 2. After the birthday party, we had a full 7 days at home with no daycare. So we ripped the bandaid. We got rid of diapers. Priority numero uno of this method is having a solid game plan. You have to be totally ready – mentally, emotionally, physically, to embark on what will be some of the most tiring and frustrating days of your parenting career (and you have to remain calm and collected during those stressful days, or it’ll backfire!) The book recommends taking 2 weeks from having read the book and deciding to go for it, to actually starting the process. There really is a lot of mental preparedness that goes into this, as a parent. Here’s what you’re preparing for:
The Oh Crap! method breaks down a condensed and rather intense process into blocks of learning. Blocks do not represent days, but I’ll share how many days we spent in each block.
Block 1 requires your child to be naked all day, no leaving the house, all eyes on their little butt so you don’t miss a single pee or poop as it happens. That’s not even the exhausting stage. My kid did great in Block 1, and I thought we were going to get through the whole process unscathed.
The idea is to move them through the stages of bodily awareness, from:
- “I peed”
- “I’m peeing”
- “I have to pee”
In that first morning, she had 7 pees on the floor (thanks to the juice box we gave her to give us more opportunity to practice). I caught all of them mid stream and relocated her to the potty, explaining that pee doesn’t go on the floor, it goes in the potty. She started out clueless to the sensation of peeing, but after all that practice of me naming it when she felt it run down her leg, she quickly progressed to “I’m peeing,” and even started to get a two second “I have to pee” warning. By 10am she had it figured out and peed in the potty every single time for the next day and a half. Poops were the same deal – she just GOT IT.
But then block 2 happened, and we had to really work for it. Turns out that cleaning up tons of pee and poop off the floor isnt the exhausting part – it’s battling your own internal voice that’s telling you you’re failing, not making progress, doing it wrong, or that your child isn’t ready afterall.
This block introduces clothing, without underwear. The idea behind going commando is that underwear gives them the sensation of wearing a diaper in that it clings to their bums and makes them feel concealed, like no one will see if they pee or poop. That sensation triggers muscle memory to pee or poop anywhere/anytime, as they’ve done for every day of their existence thus far (that’s the logic behind the complete ditching-of-the-diapers approach with this method, as well).
Block 2 usually involves some resistance as your kid realizes you’re serious about this new arrangement and digs in their heels. We got the resistance. We saw the pee dance and had her sit on the potty, and then she’d get up, say “all done pee”, and then pee in her pants 30 seconds later. Or she’d full out refuse to sit on the potty with a terrible-two’s style tantrum. We felt like we were failing. We started to lose hope. We were frustrated. I caught myself getting short with my child for having an accident. These were dark days.
During Block 2, she started acting out a lot. She was under a lot of pressure. Even though we tried to be supportive and helpful to her in the process, she was being asked to suddenly stop doing something she had innately done every single day of her life prior, and start doing something that required a lot of body awareness and self-control. While necessary to learn, it’s a huge responsibility for little kids. The pressure was getting to her. She started waking through the night again, crying out into the darkness, “peed in bed! Pee goes in potty!” Heartbreaking.
This brings me to the fact that we didn’t even try night training. We chose to take it one step at a time – daytime potty training, while allowing a diaper to sleep in (totally permissible in the Oh Crap! book, by the way). So the fact that she was waking up freaking out about peeing the bed showed how deeply the potty training pressure was infiltrating her thoughts.
I’m lucky that we had a couple of friends who had used this method, and when we felt like ripping our hair out and drowning ourselves in vodka, we could check in with our friends and hear that they, too, went through the gamut of emotions: like sadness, disappointment, anger, guilt….
But just as the book and our friends promised, if you stay true to the cause and keep the stress and tension as low as humanly possible, and keep your eyes on your child every waking minute for any subtle sign of a pee/poop dance, you will succeed. The training will “click” for your child. For us this happened on about day 10.
Block 3 doesn’t necessarily coincide with having the training “click” for your child. Block 3 is about testing their new skills outside of the home environment, and for many people (us included), this happens at daycare. My daughter started back at daycare on day 7, when she was still missing the potty (and I was missing her pee dance) about 30% of the time. Daycare was no different. Luckily, our daycare provider was willing to work with our game plan (and was willing to clean up pee off the floor all morning until it “clicked”). There’s a whole chapter in the book dedicated to working with daycares, though, as not everyone is as lucky as we are when it comes to flexible providers.
Block 4 and Beyond
This block of learning contains the details that you encounter in everyday life after potty training, like using public restrooms and introducing underwear (yeah, your kid is still commando after about a month).
By this block of learning, you’re starting to feel better about yourself and this whole process. Our real test of block 4 came with a trip to Avery’s cousin’s house. It was a 3 hour round trip in the car, a new environment, a trip to the park, and a restaurant trip, and she had zero accidents and even peed in the restaurant restroom. Accidents are much less common (we only had one this week, 3 weeks after starting), and only happen when she’s far too engaged in play to stop for a potty break and think she can hold it for longer than she can). But we feel justified in saying that our daughter is potty trained now because we no longer have to really think about “potty training”. We now have to think about things like if she pees before we need to leave the house, where the public restrooms are at every place we visit… But we no longer have to think about her peeing her pants while we’re out for a walk. We can take her to daycare, to the library, on car trips, and we know that she knows – reliably – that pee and poop go in the potty, not in her pants/carseat/the floor.
Potty training with the Oh Crap! method, like with slower, child-led methods, is a long process. It’s going to be another couple of months probably before we get rid of the little potty and just have her always go on the big toilet. It’s also going to be a few months before we night train (even though she always wakes up with a dry diaper, she seems relieved to know that she won’t have to worry about going potty when she’s sleeping, and we’re going to give her that break). We’re going to bring the potty with us in the car for long car trips, pack a spare pair of pants, and continue to remind her to go pee before leaving the house, probably for the next year. But right now we have a kid who knows how to get her pee and poop in the potty, rarely has accidents, can hold it for long enough to get to the potty within a reasonable distance, and feels confident in pulling her own pants down and using the potty even when we’re not in the room with her. And it took a little over 2 weeks.
If you think you can handle the intensity of this potty training method without showing your frustration and stress to your child, I absolutely recommend the Oh Crap! method. It’s fast, it’s dirty, and it works.
*side note: If you’re thinking of trying this method based only on what I’ve written in this blog post, know that the book contains all of the step-by-step instructions for the Blocks of Learning in just one chapter. That’s the simple stuff. The rest of the book is chock full of supportive, myth busting info, and SO MUCH TROUBLESHOOTING. It’s worth the $7.