Ah potty training, the parent’s rite of passage, the thing we dread and anticipate in equal parts. No more diapers? YES! Cleaning up accidents? HARD PASS!
Today I am here with TONS of tips but also to say: Learn from my mistakes! I did the biggest rookie no-no my first time around with Anabelle, and I’m here to help you try to avoid the same one when you embark on this big, fun step in life.
This is the same advice I JUST gave to my own sister on the phone today! It’s my experience, coupled with the hindsight of failure the first time around, to create a successful method that WORKS!
So when I got pregnant with our second, our first had JUST turned two. Right after that I started thinking, “I’ve GOTTA get her out of diapers before I have another bum to change all day.” And so my quest for potty training perfection started. I read a top recommended book that preached that 21 months is the magical age to potty train your children. My type-A brain got it into my head that there was a method and a system I HAD to follow and it would be perfect and I would be patting myself on the back when it was all over.
Spoiler alert: it was a no go, and it took a full EIGHT MONTHS for our oldest to be fully potty trained! Once I dropped others’ expectations (and my own agenda), I found something that worked well for my kids the other two times I’ve potty trained!
Table of Contents
What’s the best age? This is my BIGGEST TIP. You ready?
You potty train when your child decides it’s time.
Revolutionary, right?! I actually just asked my therapist the science behind that book I read saying 21 months is the best age and she had an interesting response! After about 21 months, most kids start developing a more decisive skill-set that can make them push back on things they are told to do. Some experts think it’s better to start children before they know to push back, but I had the totally opposite experience.
Ani was NOT having it, thus our 8 month journey until she was finally potty trained. I wish I would have waited until SHE was ready (not when someone else told me to or when it was convenient) because it would have gone much smoother!
Because of what happened with our oldest, I was terrified to potty train our second. I wanted to wait as long as possible to avoid that same situation again. She was showing signs and asking to go potty in the toilet and I was super resistant. She was literally begging me and I finally let go of my own insecurities and went for it! Our experience was night and day different from the first time! Lyla was READY, and she literally potty trained herself in a day.
The same thing happened with Millie! I was NOT planning on doing it anytime soon because #life, but one day (after asking for weeks to go potty in the toilet) she literally took off her diaper and started going potty all by herself! I was like: okay, we are doing this!
There are so many items and products out there that are supposed to be helpful for the whole potty training business, but for the most part for me they are superfluous and unneeded! This is just MY personal experience, but the simpler the better, right?
For example, that extra seat for on top of the potty? I’m not carrying it around with me. I need my kids to feel comfortable going to the bathroom on a full sized toilet so that when we are out and about it doesn’t become this whole issue!
A small potty is something I’m not into either. Mostly because cleaning it out is enough to make me want to gag, but my girls have done totally fine without the extra piece of furniture in our bathroom.
STEP STOOL: One thing I swear by though is a step stool! This is so incredibly helpful for kids to have more independence at home, AND to be able to wash their hands after going potty. I love this stepping stool because it has two steps, is inexpensive and has 63 perfect reviews! If you’re wanting something more aesthetically pleasing, this stool can match your decor and still be functional. I think it’s super helpful and important to have a stool in each bathroom if possible!
UNDIES: Another thing you NEED (that may seem obvious) is UNDIES! Lots and lots of undies. And not the “training pants” (the glorified cloth diapers they sell). You want the thin underwear that your child can actually feel when they start to pee. Why? They need to experience the accident and realize that it’s uncomfortable and they don’t like it so they don’t keep doing it! Let your child pick out their favorite characters so that they are excited about wearing the undies!
Another tip: you can tell your toddler, “Don’t pee on Elsa!” or whoever is on the underwear and it helps them remember to go potty in the toilet, not in their undies!
POTTY SEAT TO-GO: This little emergency potty has been a lifesaver! It’s like a potty seat on a stool and it comes with a little carrying case that makes it super easy to keep in my car. There are always potty emergencies so I want to be prepared! This takes up no space, is easy to use and clean, and keeps us on track when we are out at a park or on a road trip. Tons of other moms I know swear by this little lifesaver too. Trust us.
This is a controversial topic. For two of our girls, we did not use pull ups at ALL. Like not even at bedtime.
For Millie, we are using them just for naps and bedtime and it’s been totally fine! She’s a little younger than Lyla was at 3 when she potty trained, so I have no qualms about her wearing pull ups only to sleep in.
I really think that the usage (or non-usage) of pull ups totally depends on the personality of the kid. Are they still napping? Do they sleep really deeply? Do they drink a lot of fluids at night? Are they older than 3? Try a pull up out for a couple days (to save you having to wash sheets over and over) and if it stays dry, ditch it! Listen, your kid is not going to go to college in a pull-up so it’s not a deal breaker, I promise!
I’m a big fan of throwing away the diapers and going all in from the start! If your child is showing interest in potty training and you’ve decided to go for it, don’t take two steps forward and one step back. Get rid of the diapers and move forward! You definitely want to make sure you have about 3 days to stay home and focus on getting the new routine down. This isn’t something to start and go halfway in. Plan on reminding your child to tell you if they need to go. Plan on accidents. Plan on laundry. Plan on lots of TIME spent in the bathroom.
A lot of people like to say to have your kid run around naked for three days; some people say that doesn’t work because then they don’t ever want to wear clothes after that. My kids always have a fascination with being naked around the potty training age so I try not to encourage more nudity ha! I always put my girls in undies and either a dress or a t-shirt on top. That way it’s easy to only have to pull down undies (and it’s less laundry!)
If you start when your child is ready, and are on THEIR timetable, and you’re consistent, usually they catch on by day 3.
If they aren’t getting it, and there’s lots of tears and frustration on both sides I would reevaluate and ask yourself: are they really ready? If there’s one thing I could do I would go back and recognize that my oldest was NOT ready and we could have saved ourselves a lot of energy! We literally tried everything with her and nothing stuck. It’s not the method that failed, it was the TIMING! Honestly, it is easier to keep your child in diapers until they are REALLY READY!!
Potty treats are v v important. Millie’s treat of choice is peanut butter m&m’s! I hide them up high in the kitchen and then every time she actually goes potty she gets one. I don’t give her one just for trying because I want her to associate the treat with actually going to the bathroom. Along with the treat, we always make a BIG deal out of it when she goes! We cheer and praise and clap and tell her how proud we are of her. I also always let her flush the toilet and say “bye bye” to her pee or poop, because apparently that’s uber exciting for a 2 year old. Oh, the things we do as parents haha!
I also like to buy alllllll the different kinds of juices when I know I am going to start potty training! Pear, apple, grape, even prune juice so that they are super hydrated and actually NEED to pee quite often. The juices will also act as a mild stool softener so that kids aren’t afraid to poop in the toilet! Hydration helps kids catch on really quickly because there’s ample opportunity to use the bathroom.
It’s a really big deal to not give attention to something you don’t want your child to do. I’ve been reading this book called Just Ignore It and seriously the principles apply to everything about parenting, even potty training.
It’s important to not freak out, yell, or shame your child.
Instead, when an accident happens, just rush them to the bathroom, try to catch them in the act, and help them finish in the potty. If they are already done, just clean up the mess and move on without drawing attention to it. Don’t say “it’s okay” (because you don’t want them to think “oh no biggie, I can do this instead!”) or dwell on the accident because you want them to only be getting attention when they actually go in the toilet. Give all your energy and attention to the behavior that you want your child to keep doing: going potty in the toilet!
This is also another SUPER important tip: instead of saying “do you need to go potty?” every 5 minutes, say these words exactly: “tell me when you need to go potty!”
Once they start recognizing those cues and letting you know when they need to go, give them tons of praise. Teaching them to tell you that they need to go is a HUGE step in being potty trained!
Once your child seems to be catching on, plan a small outing so you can put the hard work into action! Go on a walk, run to the store, go grab a smoothie! Just make sure you time it for right after they go potty so you’re not a nervous wreck the whole time 😉
I hope these tips help and make you feel empowered when it comes to potty training! Good luck!!