When Addie was born, potty training was one of those milestones I both couldn't wait for and dreaded. I hoped so badly for a child who would be easy to potty train but I just KNEW that I would birth the kid that would still be in diapers at age 35. Hah. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, but neither was it a piece of cake.
We started introducing her to her training potty around a year old. I know that might seem early for some, but I wanted her to be comfortable being around one. We didn't start actually training at this point, though. She was allowed to play with it, sit on it, take it apart, etc. She got familiar with it and learned what it was for without the pressure of having to jump on and actually use it. At about 16 months, we started to have her sit on it when we thought she had to potty. She didn't take to it very well so we stopped and went back to diapers.
That was our routine for a while after. Try for a day and if she wasn't ready, go back to diapers for a month or two and then try again. I never pressured her to do anything she didn't want to. Every time she had an accident (at that point, EVERY time was an accident), we just told her that the pee and poop goes in the potty and that when she feels it coming she has to sit down on the potty and go. We didn't push her into it. Her potty always stayed out, even when she was in diapers. We just left the option open to her.
At the beginning of this year, I decided to try again. We took a break during the holidays so that none of us would be overwhelmed with everything going on and trying to potty train at the same time. On a Wednesday, I told her that we were going to try to potty train again in three days. It was a good time because I had a three day weekend off of work and we had nothing planned. I told her in advance and every day leading up how many days until potty training so that she would feel more ready. On Saturday morning, I just stripped her down and about every 15-30 minutes (depending on how she was acting) had her sit down and try.
The first time she peed, she got SO excited. It was like the clouds cleared for her and she had found her life's purpose. Seriously. After that, she was ON it. Of course, she loved that every time she went successfully in the potty we had a mini dance party. We started off giving her a little treat every time she went. Something like one jellybean for a pee and two for a poop. When we ran out of jellybeans (which was fast because we didn't have many to start with) we just told her they were gone and it wasn't an issue for her. The amazing feeling she had from finally getting it was enough. After a couple of weeks of going regularly and only having the occasional accident, I rewarded her by taking her to the store and letting her choose some panties for herself. A couple weeks after that, she graduated to a potty seat that fits on the big toilet and a step stool to help her get up there.
She doesn't have as many accidents now, but when she does, she gets upset because she missed it. Not because she gets in trouble (we still just let her know everything is okay and that we know she'll try harder to make it next time) but because she knows that she can do it herself. Now at almost 2 1/2, she is in panties all day. The only time she wears a diaper is for nap and bedtime, but at this point at nap time she doesn't really need them. She wakes up dry. At bedtime, it's a longer stretch and her little muscles aren't quite THAT good yet, especially while she's asleep, so we stick to diapers. Usually when she wakes up, SHE will just take the diaper off and go to the bathroom herself.
If I were going to give any advice to parents who want to know the best way to potty train, know this. There isn't one. Every child is different and will be ready in their own time and won't potty train exactly like another child. Don't be jealous because Sally Sue's kid was potty trained at 16 months and you're here at 3 years old and little Johnny still won't use it. It's FINE. They'll get it. Just keep in mind that 1) Sally Sue is probably exaggerating and that little Helga peeing once on the potty doesn't equal being potty trained and 2) if little Helga IS actually going all the time, well nobody is that lucky and Sally Sue will be dealing with a crazy teenager. Make you feel better? Me too.
Just keep in mind that the more you push when they aren't ready themselves, the more they're going to resist. Don't just pull out the potty when it's time to train. They don't know what it is at first and it can be scary. Let them go into the bathroom with mom AND dad. They will learn that it's normal and that it's okay to use the bathroom. In the beginning, we tried using charts and we tried treats and we tried having her sit every 15 minutes, but none of that did ANY good until she was ready for it. Don't feel like there is a deadline. There isn't. If you try and they aren't responding well, just let it go for a month or two. Really, you would be surprised what can come around in one month. It's not a failure, so don't look at it like one and more importantly, don't make your child feel like it's one. They WILL use the potty. Sometimes it feels like they never will, I know. I KNOW. But they will. I promise.