How I Potty Trained my 20 Month Old Boy

Try this no-fail method for how to potty train a 20 month old boy, or really kids of any age. Save yourself the stress and read this first!

When my friend Amanda posted in our Facebook group that she was reading the best book, she peaked my interested. She went on to describe it as funny and interesting. You can imagine my surprise when I realized she was talking about a book on potty training!

How to Potty Train a 20 Month Old Boy

I had never even thought about potty training with BabyE at 20 months, but my friend assured me that anywhere from 20 to 30 months old was the ideal time to do it, according to her book.

Up until then I had been wondering how I would hack it changing, washing, sorting, and storing two sets of cloth diapers after the new baby arrived. It never ever crossed my mind that there might actually be another way.

I immediately contacted the author of this amazing book and asked her if she’d be interested in a review here at GrowingSlower. She kindly obliged and sent me a copy of the book. I started reading that day, and well, it’s no exaggeration to say that it has literally changed my life!

Of course, the book can be entertaining as all get out, but what you really want to know is if it works. Here’s our experience implementing the potty training process and tips recommended in the book called Oh Crap, Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki.

What follows is my experience of successfully potty training my 20 month old boy from diapers to self-initiation in about 2 weeks. Here’s how we did it…

Pre-potty training To Do List

After reading about the first day of potty training, I knew that it would be intense. The idea is to completely ditch the diapers and let your little one run around in the buff all day while you watch them intensely to see when they start to potty. I’d have to be prepared if I was really going to watch my little one that closely.

Here’s what I did to prepare. Actually, I wouldn’t have gotten this done at all except that my husband really did most of it for me while I was getting my 20 month old to bed after a long and exhausting day.

If you’re able, I highly recommend doing this the night before you start potty training.

  • Pre-make meals and snacks in single-serving containers.
  • Barricade the kitchen (or other room without carpet) to keep toddler on an easily washable surface.
  • Separate out washable toys
  • Clear social calendar, not hard to do in a one-car family.
  • Make plenty of All Purpose Cleaner for accidents.

Day 1: Potty Training “Boot Camp”

Day one of potty training felt a little like a police stakeout. You sit and watch intently for hours and nothing happens.

Your vision blurs. Your eyelids get heavy.

You snack anxiously and wonder if anything is ever going to happen.

A full two hours after ditching the diapers, BabyE still had not made his move.

Then all of a sudden, some squatting, some toots, and I missed all the action.

The rest of the day went a bit better. After two hours of nothing, he decided to make up for lost time by peeing every twenty minutes for the rest of the day.

The upside was that it gave us a lot of opportunities to practice our potty skills.

Day 2

I was terrified to put pants on him on day two. How was I going to catch him when he started peeing if I couldn’t see it?

I had a whole stack of clean pants ready, just sure I would be changing him constantly.

Then nothing happened.

No accidents. No clothing changes. No extra loads of laundry. This really works!

I really did need to hand the responsibility over to him just like Jamie said. He was more than capable.

He asked to poop on the potty and actually did it!! What?!

Day 4 

Jamie lays out an option to either do potty training during the day at first and eventually add in naps and night time or to to do it all at once.

We opted to get it all over with at one time.

In a momentous mommy ceremony, I washed the diapers and packed them away for the new baby. We were not going back.

E continued to make progress every day.

He got the pee thing down as long as I prompted him. He also learned he was supposed to poop in the potty, and told me when he needed to go, but it was a bit of a struggle for him to actually do it once we got there.

Who can blame him? It was so different from what he was used to.

We had one accident at the end of the night, but cutting back on liquids earlier in the day took care of it.

This potty training was really just a time commitment over the first day. It’s was already SO much easier by Day 4! AND hello I hadn’t changed a diaper in 4 days! So weird!

Day 6

At some point, I realized that I had stopped seeing my child as a powder keg waiting to go off, or at least spring a slow leak.

Things were getting back to normal. He played, I wrote, and we did chores together. We went outside to play and for walks.

Day 8

We went down to one wake up at night and he was still dry on the morning of Day 8.

That was also the first morning he had an easy poop on the potty. Before that it took four or five tries of half an hour each to get it out. It was so hard to watch!

Day 9

We made the drive over to Nana’s house for my sister’s baby shower, and E hung out with Daddy all day.

It was great for us all to have someone other than Mommy be solely responsible for potty training.

I think there were a couple of accidents, but they both picked it up really fast. And the baby shower went beautifully, too!

We are still working on making sure he asks to go when we leave him with other caregivers for church, but we’ll get there.

Day 14

Self initiation started around the two week point. That means that almost every time, E was asking to go potty when he needed to go. I was no longer responsible for when anyone needed to do their business except for myself. Woohoo!

Potty Training and Beyond

As I write this, I have not changed a diaper in 25 days!!

I love that this was an all or nothing deal, kinda like ripping off a band-aid, except for it didn’t hurt.

It was exhausting at first, but it got a lot easier quick. And I got to pack away the diapers people!! 

There was none of this we’re going to try to potty train or getting stuck on wearing training pants at night forever. 

We did it and did it fast.

Now I just wish I could give Jamie a big hug.

I really like that this system does not rely on stickers or candy as an incentive for going in the potty. (BabyE eats them both, and neither is good for him.)

It gives personal responsibility to your toddler for something that they are fully capable of doing. I wish all of toddler parenting were this easy.

Now that I’ve been through the potty training process, I realize that E was probably actually ready for this around 18 months.

Potty Training Update: My little one is now 3 years old. It is still going great! It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing there for a while after baby sister arrived, but we never had to go back to diapers or anything like that. Here’s my advice for avoiding any issues with regressions and bed wetting along the way. 

Oh Crap, Potty Training! Review

The book is very entertaining and a quick read. In fact you only need to read the first five chapters to get started. If you don’t run into many problems, you probably won’t have to visit most of the later chapters at all. If you do, then every question you could possibly have is answered there.

If you are sensitive to a little language or potty jokes just cover your eyes for those parts. Jamie is in fact a hilarious writer, which is a nice feature for this sometimes stressful subject matter.

One of the other great things about this PDF eBook is that it’s actually formatted for an e-reader rather than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Almost no other PDF eBook I’ve read to date has had this amazing feature. Of course, you can read it right on your computer screen too.

Oh Crap, Potty Training! is now available for Kindle and in Paperback on Amazon.

Seriously, get the book. Read it. Do exactly what Jamie says. It will work.

Are you thinking about potty training? Have you tried it? How did it go? 

Title Image by thejbird on Flikr.

shannon Clark, LIFE & FINANCIAL Coach

As a mom, I know what it's like to feel exhausted, overwhelmed by life, and inadequate to meet my children's needs. But I also know you don't have to stay there.

As an author and coach, I've had the joy of encouraging more than 9.1 million moms to find forward motion with their faith, family, and finances — without the frenzy.

Will you be next?

43 thoughts on “How I Potty Trained my 20 Month Old Boy”

  1. Right now, I’m listening to my three year old throw a tantrum because he didn’t want to use the potty. We’re going to have to try something different because this just sucks for all of us.

  2. That’s the cutest potty picture ever. For both of our kids, we just waited until the time seemed right for all of us. We didn’t really rush things. Luckily I’m home in the summers, so I had a little extra time to devote if there accidents, but thankfully those were very few.

  3. I am so excited to have found this post!! We have been slowly (very, very, very slowly) and entirely half-heartedly attempting lofty training with our 20 mo old son and it is EXHAUSTING. After reading this, I know that we were making things waaaayyy too complicated. Which made things HARD. Which made me run back to diapers and thank them for being consistent, LOL. I would be stoked to win this book!! “Oh crap, potty training” sounds fabulous!!

  4. No experience yet, my daughter is only 6 months, but this sounds way better than anything else I’ve heard!

  5. My son was actually a breeze to potty train and as soon as he was stopped having accidents at nights too. My daughter was a bit more of a challenge. The books sounds like it has great advice!

  6. I might have to get this book! My DD is “naked trained,” but she always pees in the pants. I’ll have to try this!

  7. We have been ECing since 2 months. We were almost done potty training and now have hit a huge set back! I have been thinking of getting this book since it follows EC.

  8. We have been ECing since 2 months old. We were almost done potty training and now have hit a huge set back! I have been thinking about getting this book since it follows EC. Thanks for your post!

  9. I’m afraid to try this. I must have exceptionally stubborn children, because NOTHING that everyone assures me will take “just ____ and then you won’t have to deal with it anymore” actually works with them in anything near the amount of time it does for everyone else. So then I’m at that “Day 1” stage for.e.ver – and my nerves and schedule can’t handle that. I’m afraid to be “stuck,” :/

    • I totally understand! It was the same with my older when everyone told me ‘you just need to ____” to get him to sleep through the night. You know your babies the best, and what will work for them. :)

    • Thus far, my method has been to ignore it until they WANT to go in the pot. But my 3-1/2-year-old is acting like she has no interest in that, ever, and diapers are getting expensive, so…might need to find an alternative!

      • My oldest didn’t get potty trained till a week before his 4th birthday…I’m determined to have my youngest potty trained before then

  10. What do you do if your whole house is wooden floors except tile bathroom. Any ideas on doing this without ruining the floors.

    • My sis has the same situation. She gated off the kitchen, so at least the mess would stay in a small area. They camped out there for the first couple days of potty training and whenever there was an accident, she’d just clean it up immediately. It really is such a short phase, thank goodness!! :)

  11. What do you do if little man refuses to SIT on the potty? He seems to be afraid of it. He pees standing up like his big brother. He’s 23 months.

    • This is so funny – my little brother was the same. Maybe you can get older brother to do pee a couple of times sitting down with little brother watching?? Then it will seem like the cool thing to do.

    • My little guy didn’t want to sit to pee either, so we just let him stand. My older ones still sit to pee. But my youngest learned to aim quickly and has always done fine standing. We just had to teach him from the beginning to WATCH himself as he pees (if he looked away, the stream would move and often miss) and to aim for the hole/circle at the bottom of the potty. Worked well….

  12. We are currently potty training our soon to be 3 year old (Sept) boy. We plan to use this method for our identical twin boys at 19 months. I’m so excited about this book and to try this method.

  13. My 16 month old son has been going on the potty at least once a day since he was about 9 or 10 months. I just started by letting him sit there while I prepared his bath, and we have gradually increased the number of times a day as I saw ability to sit still increase. I feel that my little guy has the awareness and ability to be potty trained, since he often goes to the potty or tells me once he has gone, but I fear I’ve hesitated for too long in the busy summer months. I start up my fall term of college in a couple of weeks, and it will be 5 days a week for 4 hours a day that he is in nursery. Would you recommend starting this “all in” sort of method regardless and just persevering through, or should I try a different approach? I just don’t want to ignore his desire to go to the potty, and encourage his going in his diaper if he doesn’t want to.

  14. My son is 20 months old as well, & has been using the potty for a few months now. What we did was make sure he came with my husband or I to the bathroom every time we went so he could see how it worked….then we introduced him to the potty. He didn’t like going on our potty at all (with or without the toddler seat on)…it wasn’t until we got him his own potty that he would go. Fisher Price makes a potty that your child can pretend flush, he loves it.

    Another thing, at first we’d take turns leading him into the bathroom every 15 minutes to sit on the potty. After a few days of this he began to tell us when he had to go…..& he even threw in a few pretend pees hahaha. I found that making sure you act ridiculously proud every time they go helps too. We clap, holler HURRAY & all sorts of things….seems to really help. Kids like praise!

    As far as the training pants….we’ve never used them. We just let our little boy run naked or wear big boy undies. We let him choose them, they have his favorite character on them which really motivates him to stay dry. He’s also started wearing them now when we leave the house & no accidents yet! (Also staying dry through the night…..he woke up at 5am the other day (usually doesn’t get up until 9) to go to the bathroom. We were so proud!)

    Hope this helps!! Good Luck!

  15. Hi. I’m planning to train my son who will be 20 month old soon. He still sleeps in a crib. Was your son also in a crib? And what did you use to put down on his bed so that if he had an accident it wouldn’t take much to change. I know Jamie recommended fleece blankets in her book. Did you use them and any particular brand? Congratulations on a successful milestone!

  16. We started getting used to the potty at 18 months. We bought a potty seat and showed my son how it sat on the toliet and we let him sit on it while it was on the floor. The first couple of time that my son sat on it while it was on the potty he got a reward, but then we told him that he has to go pee on the potty like Mommy and Daddy. Now that he is two, we try to sit on the potty everynight and when he goes he gets a reward. We had a slight backwards slide when we moved in to our new house, but I expected it. I did buy him some big boy underwear to wear aroung the house, if he pees in them he knows what it feels like to be wet, as opposed to his diaper. We just take it day by day.

  17. How soon do you start? My son is one yrs old. I can’t decide if i want to introduce it now and then really get down to business when he is 18 months

    • Nice article. My son is 20 months old now and I hope we can give up the diapers soon (we also use cloth diapers). He poops at the potty since he was 11 months old and he asks for it, but still pees in the diaper. I did not dare to ditch the diapers completely yet. We will try it soon.

      Bethany, I would advice to try to introduce the potty already (although I read a lot of articles saying you should do it all at once). But for us it was great that for more than half a year he poops in the potty and it was great help when he had the stomach flu :D

      • Thanks for sharing your potty training experience Andreea! That’s awesome you’ve been able to avoid poopy diapers so early! :) Best wishes to you when you do decide to ditch the diapers completely!!

  18. Great tips!! We are already on day 5 of our potty training and have been doing a similar approach. No books, no nothing! Just winging it. We’ve taken a natural approach to all our parenting and so just stuck with the obvious. Keep it simple! Have fun!

    By Day 2 our so. Was telling us when he had to go pee. He can’t quite get his pants and undies down himself.

    Poo though was a different story. We had to revert to nakedness to stop the poop accidents, which works!

    It’s March break this week and he’s back in school 2 days next week, so a bit nervous about that!

    We also are travelling to the UK in a few weeks…and debating do we put a diaper on him to fly there? Flights are about 6-7 hours (there and back). Overnight on the way there, morning on the way back (morning poop lol!)

    My hubby is thinking diaper for the plane in case but I would hate to revert back to diapers. But I guess two diapers shouldn’t cause him to revert back right?

    • Sure it’s not ideal, but I think you will all have a much more enjoyable trip as a family if you do diaper for the long trip. Sounds like you’re doing great so far. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see he’s ready to go diaper-free by then? My kids always surprise me by their ability and eagerness to learn new skills quickly!

  19. Hey Shannon, I have a similar story with potty training my boys and I feel that the biggest takeaway or piece of advice you can give someone is to have a detailed plan of how the training is going to happen. For me it felt somewhat easy because I also had my mom to help me out and that it was the second time I tried potty training my son so I knew what to look out for and didn’t make so many mistakes.

  20. In my experience, I see soooo many 3 year Olds who will NOT potty train. I have had to wonder if we just wait too long. I have four children trained at this point- two girls, two boys – and the 20-month range seems to work a lot better for training. Two of mine were very self-motivated but the other two took much longer, partly because I was trying to wait until they were ready and I waited too long. ????

  21. My 20 month old grandson has been sitting on the potty with or without clothes for a couple of months now. He insists on sitting on it when his mom or I do.. The last week or so he has been squirting out a few drops. But today, his parents took off his clothes, and he sat down and went! Then he got up, sat down again and went again for a total of 7 times. He was delighted with himself and came to get my husband and I for an 8th try, but no luck. We told him he can try tomorrow. Hopefully, this will stick.
    Yesterday, after he pooped, he grabbed his pants and pointed toward the bathroom. Then he led the way so that I could change him. Makes me very optimistic.

    • That’s great news Arline! Since he is showing interest in using the potty, I would try to use it as an opportunity to go ahead and make the switch. He sounds like a very capable little guy! :)

  22. I have her book and I have been following it. We are on Day 22! We just started underwear today, he’s been wearing shorts with nothing underneath all the other days. He’s still not fully self initiating. Our biggest obstacle is getting him to let me know if he has to potty. He will whine. But I can’t decifer between a pick me up whine, I need to pee whine, I’m hungry whine, etc. I’ve tried signing with him for the potty. I don’t know how to get him to show me he needs to go.

    • It sounds like you and your son are doing great with potty training Ashley! I would just give it time, and he will get the hang of it and start telling you. Have you tried keeping the potty training potty in the kitchen or whichever space you two normally hang out? That way he’ll be able to see it and maybe even remember to go over to it when he needs to go.

  23. That sounds really great, but what do you do when your a single mom with different shifts? Two or four days I work nights , two days in day time until late afternoon.

    • That sounds tough Shelly! I would say talk to your child’s daycare or other caregivers and get them on board. Jamie has a whole section of the book on how to potty train as a team with your daycare too. I know you can do it!

  24. I am about to try this. So just to clarify you right away ditched the diapers for naps and night time also? Did you just put him to sleep naked? How did this work? Any extra details will help ?

    • Yes, I did potty train during naps and nighttime right away, but that’s not required for this system. You can wait 6 weeks or so until they get the hang of it during the day and then tackle sleeping times if that’s easier for you. Yes, I did put him down to sleep naked and funnily enough that didn’t seem to bother him. Boys! Potty training all went well for us. I hope it will for you too!


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