I used to think that potty training was the worst parenting job on the planet. Now, I’m willing to concede that it’s up there with the worst, but given a few key potty training tips and tricks, it’s not THAT bad. And it IS totally achievable with very few tears. Both yours and your kid’s.
Potty Training Failures
They say you have to fail a lot until you learn enough to succeed, right? Well, that seems to be true of my potty training experience. We have two boys 20 months apart. Neither one of them really showed any discomfort having dirty or wet diapers. Neither one of them really showed any interest in using the toilet either. I tried to start training my oldest to use the toilet when he was about two. It was a miserable month and so I just gave up. There were so many puddles on the floor, so much dirty laundry, and I just felt like I was banging my head against the wall. I learned my lesson with the second boy and waited a lot longer before beginning with him. The boys were potty trained at about three-and-a-half, and honestly only then because they had to be for preschool or church class. Otherwise I might have just turned them loose and let them figure it out for themselves.
A Girl of a Different Story
Our daughter was a totally different story. She was all about the toilet. Like all kids, she would creep on my while I was in the bathroom, but she was fully into the process of using the toilet. She wanted to know exactly what was going on, give me toilet paper, and help me flush. So when she was about two-and-a-half, we started the process. And the girl was fully potty trained within about a week.
Other Toilet Stories
Since potty training the boys, I have also helped other parents potty train. I don’t talk about it a lot around here, but I also am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and help kids on the Autism Spectrum acquire new skills. Sometimes (well, often) that skill is potty training. Sometimes it’s the little ones, sometimes it’s teenagers. But all of the time I’ve had success. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been peed on and how many times I’ve had to wash poop off my hands over the years. Ohhhhh, the poop stories are enough to make the strongest stomach gag.
So I’m giving you my ten cents on potty training right here and now so hopefully you can avoid some of the headaches I had to experience over the last ten years.
10 Tips for Successful Potty Training
One. Wait until your kid is ready. I can’t emphasize this enough. Best case scenario is you might get your kid “trained” to use the toilet, but the accidents are going to be abundant. Worst case scenario will be what I experienced and you’ll have a kid who has absolutely no interest and you’re setting timers for every 20 minutes for more days than you care to admit. Some signs of readiness are:
- Dry diapers. If they’re waking up from naps with dry diapers, they are demonstrating some bladder control and will likely be able to do so when awake as well.
- Fine Motor Skills. If your toddler can pull down and up their pants or underpants (or at least do it mostly on their own), that’s a long way to being fully potty trained. It’s awesome when they can do the whole process themselves.
- Interest. If they’re following you into the bathroom and watching your every move, talking about the potty, or asking to use it, that’s a good sign.
- Discomfort. If having a wet or dirty diaper is annoying to your child (they’re whining, crying, or messing around with their soiled diaper) or if they are starting to hide from you when peeing or pooping, they may be ready to go on the toilet.
- Communication. If your kiddo has some method to communicate they need to use the potty (can be words, sign, pointing, etc.) you’ll be able to avoid a lot of frustration and accidents. This can also include them telling you they’ve just gone. Works both ways.
You don’t need all of these to be present in order to proceed. Just know that if your kid is demonstrating all five, the process will be much easier than if they’re just showing one of the five.
Two. Wait until you are ready. Consistency is key with potty training. If you don’t have time in your schedule right now to fully commit, it’s going to be a much longer, drawn out process.
Three. Get prepared.
- Be ready for accidents. Have your cleaning supplies ready to go. Remember that urine is sterile so you don’t need anything fancy to clean it up, but I try to find a cleaner scent that I really like and don’t mind smelling all. the. time. for a week or so. Our new favorite is an all natural cleaner from Grove Collaborative that is an essential oil concentrate that you mix with water. It’s orange + rosemary scent is delightful and not overwhelming.
- Get several packs of underwear. Because realistically, who can keep up with all that laundry?! Lucky & Me underwear are a delight. Plus you can try them for free and decide if your little likes them. But Penny & I sure do. They fit great, hold up to washing, and are super duper adorable. If your kid has an opinion, let them pick out their own new underwear! Who am I kidding, of course they have an opinion. They’re a toddler.
- Tiny toilet or potty seat? My personal preference is a potty seat. The thought of cleaning out a tiny toilet makes me die a little inside. But it’s totally up to you. My favorite potty seat for girls and for boys (a giant pee guard is a MUST) is on this potty training supplies list. If I was forced to use a tiny toilet, I would probably use this one. Not too many pieces and relatively easy to clean. Again, get their input too! If they picked it, they are hopefully more inclined to use it. Because again, who am I kidding, toddlers change their mind like it’s their job.
- Keep those wet wipes around or get some flushable wipes. Nobody likes dry toilet paper for wiping. Especially not a toddler.
Four. Just like with everything in life and parenting, have a plan but don’t be afraid to change the plan. You’ve got to give your plan time to work (or not work) but I would say if you’re not having success within 72 hours, try a different approach. There are so many different options out there when you’re thinking about potty training (again, as with all things in life and parenting) but every child is unique and will need a slight variation on the standard. My go-to is to hit it hard and get your kid potty trained within 3 days. I’ve got a detailed post about my favorite potty training method here. If you’re not every able to just totally devote 3 solid days to potty training and basically canceling the rest of your life (um, hello, this is pretty hard for most people with more than one kid), I get it. One of these days I’ll write another post that gives a more modified approach.
Five. Know that accidents WILL keep happening. No kid is perfect. Every kid gets distracted. Don’t shame them. Treat it like it’s no big deal. Offer them hugs and support and a no worries, you’ll get it next time attitude! Toilet training is hard enough without stressing your kid out about it too. Trust me, I’ve done it. It’s not good.
Six. Don’t be afraid to take a break. Give it three days and if you’ve truly given it your best effort and it’s not sticking, call it for a few weeks (or months). Like I noted at the start, I jumped in way too early with my first boy. Admitting defeat is not a permanent defeat. It does not one any good to power through toilet training when everyone is just crying and frustrated all day long. It’s not defeat. It’s wisdom.
Seven. Don’t think that because they stay dry all day they can stay dry all night. It’s two totally different processes. My kids were generally in pull-ups for many months after they were fully potty trained during the day. It’s normal and no big deal. That just comes when they’re developmentally ready and there’s not a lot you can do about it. If it continues for over a year AND they’re over five years old, I would talk to your pediatrician because then it could need some more intensive intervention. But again, that’s different than just regularly old potty training.
Eight. Be a team player. When you’ve got a teammate, this process goes so much more smoothly. Decide who is on duty for what and when. Dave hates poop. Like to a comical level. So I deal with almost all the poop incidents and he takes on laundry duty. Split up the load in a way that makes sense and doesn’t allow for any one person to get totally tapped out. Sitting on the bathroom floor for 80% of your day can get exhausting.
Nine. Don’t compare your kids. Each of my kids potty trained at a different age and at a different rate. Consider each of them as an individual island. If you’ve potty trained before, consider what worked in the past, but don’t be concerned if absolutely none of your methods work for this kid. I’ve toilet trained probably no less than a dozen kids and each needed a slightly different approach.
Ten. This is last because I want to hit this point home big time. Don’t give in to peer pressure. If you don’t have any reason that your kid has to be potty trained RIGHT NOW and they’re not showing all the signs, don’t do it. Yes, your neighborhood park mom may be bragging that her 18-month is is already completely potty trained and she basically did it herself, but parent, know thyself. My parenting mantra over the years has become I don’t care what you do with your kids, unless I ask, I don’t want to hear about it. And I am willing to bet her kid still pees in her car seat because she didn’t pull over fast enough. Your three (or four) year old won’t have that problem. AND your older kid will be fully independent with the process must faster. In my book, you’re not fully potty trained unless you can self-identify that you need to go, pull down your own underpants, get up on the toilet by yourself (with step-stool support of course if you’ve got shorties like me), wipe urine independently, get down, pull up your underpants, and flush. All by yourself. Can an 18-month old do that? I think not.
Parents, you’ve got this. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks or gadgets or whatnot that have worked for you! I’d love to hear your success (and failure, cause let’s be honest, they’re way more entertaining) stories!
Penny is wearing Lucky & Me underwear in these photos. They were provided to us to try and out and share our experience with our readers. Our opinions on these garments are 100% our own and we truly love them. In fact, I’ve got an order places for more right now!
Lucky & Me is a chemical free underwear line featuring an organic clothing line. Founded by a Husband & Wife who just weren’t satisfied with today’s underwear line up for Kids, Lucky & Me has amassed Happy Moms & Dads from all over the country. See www.luckyandme.com or www.amazon.com/luckyandme for more.