My mother-in-law was here for a few days and I mentioned to her that Jasper would need to be fully potty trained in order to start there in the fall. Well, he overheard us and was immediately excited...he loves trains, and a potty train must be fabulous. I went with it. I told him that it was a special train that we could go for a big ride on as soon as he was diaper-free every day. The dreamy look in his eye said that I'd gotten my point across (of course, my last effort, using a sticker chart to earn a red rocket he'd coveted on one shopping trip, hadn't been a success, so I'm not so sure...).
I've been through this with a boy and a girl now and I feel like I've had it pretty easy. Josie was pretty much done by the time she was 2 (I kept her in a diaper or absorbent underpants when we went out to minimize any accidents), and had basically done it herself. Sure, we read a few books about it (over and over and over) and let her run around pants-less quite a bit, but it was really up to her to do it. It was another year or more before she was ready to toss the nighttime diapers. It was easy enough to wait until she was developmentally ready to make this step, which made it particularly simple. Jasper's been a bit tougher. He started pooping on the big potty consistently at around 18 months, but peeing has been a lot tougher. I've offered rewards for performance (first a jellybean for sitting on the potty, then a jellybean for pooping, now a jellybean for peeing), a rocket toy for being dry for five days (we made it 3 1/2...I think it was too long), and just putting him in underpants and letting him feel the consequences (a lot of laundry for me). I think that if I weren't so distracted by the needs of two other children he would be done by now, but I'm not stressing it so he isn't either.
What I've learned:
-Boys and girls pee differently. I had no idea about this. Apparently, while girls have to hold it in and then let the muscles go when they're ready, it's sort of the opposite for boys. They have to push to pee (which is why they often pee and poop at the same time).
-Boys should sit down to pee at first. Not only is it tidier for an aimless toddler, but it gives boys the sense that it's okay to sit on the potty and for the pee and poop to come out. If they learn standing up they may refuse to sit and you risk having a kid who withholds poop...which comes with its own painful issues!
-Kids do things at different ages. Just as a child is developmentally ready to crawl, or speak, or learn to read, the capacity to potty train is a developmental milestone that kids reach at their own pace. Don't push it or you risk it becoming a power struggle. If it's just not working then back off and try again in a few weeks or months.
-Try a few different potties. Jasper never went for the little potty or even a kid-sized seat on the big toilet. He just liked to sit on the big seat. Josie liked the Baby Bjorn potty chair but couldn't stand a different brand that we tried first and was never into the little seat on the big toilet.
Books we love:
The Potty Book for Girls / The Potty Book for Boys: These are our go-to books to read the kids. We found that having one book was more consistent than having too many guides to using the potty, and I liked the tone and 'do-it-yourself' quality of this book. It also helped that the potty in the book looks a lot like the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair, which worked best for us (and is SO easy to clean!)
Mommy, I Have to Go Potty! / The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Each of these books really encouraged me to go with my instincts and provided great ideas to get the job done. Best of all, they were realistic and didn't make me feel like I should be able to do it in a day (which I felt was unrealistic with a two-year-old).
Everyone Poops / It Hurts When I Poop: Both good for the kid who doesn't want to poop. The first has great pictures and is very simple for the youngest kids, while the second is a necessity for a preschooler who doesn't want to poop on the potty.
Good luck...you may need it!