How To Potty Train Your Toddler

 So ironically, after I briefly mentioned potty-training in a post a couple weeks ago, I got a few requests for a post on my potty-training strategies.

This is ironic because I think I am the absolute last person who should ever be giving advice about potty training!  Here is a brief history of my potty-training resistance. . .

Early This Year:  I knew I should probably start thinking about potty training when Wyatt turned two.  So in February, I gave it a go.  Wyatt might have been kind of ready, but I lasted all of two days before I decided I just wasn't ready and gave up.  Someone I know started potty training their kid at two and half, and he got it right away.  So decided to wait until two and half too.

Early Summer: I was pretty much dreading July/August this year, because I knew I should probably start by then.  Wyatt was ready.  I was still not.

July/August: We started, but let me be honest, it was a half-hearted effort on my part.  Which only served to confuse my poor child.

September: I finally buckled down and decided to get serious, and I stopped buying diapers.  That brings us to now.

I made lots of mistakes, and I've felt pretty overwhelmed about it all.  Potty training is hard!  Not even a month ago the words "Surely I can just hire someone to do this for me," have passed through my lips.

But unfortunately, I don't think there are professional potty-trainers out there.  Even if there were, you probably shouldn't hire them for your kid's sake (two years old is not too young to get embarrassed).  No, this task falls squarely on mom's shoulders.  *sigh*

So, I bring you a few potty training tips from possibly the worst potty trainer to ever grace blogland.  You're welcome.

1.  Get all the gear.  I can't tell you how many trips I've made to Walmart for more potty training accessories.  You might think you don't need all that stuff, but unless you are one of the lucky ones whose kid understands everything right away, I have news for you.  You are going to need it.  Here are the things I recommend:


1.) Step stool.  For help reaching the toilet and the sink.  We have a light-up Disney one, and Wyatt loves it.  This Bumbo one looked nice too.

2.)  Free-standing potty chair.  I think it's good to start with this at first, and it's nice to have if you need to go somewhere (we haven't done the whole public-bathroom thing yet).

3.) Child toilet seat.  For practicing on the "big potty".

4.) Training pants.  I like to use these at night.

5.) Underwear.  We use regular underwear during the day.  Buy more than you think you need.

6.) Plastic pants.  Also for use at night.

7.) Stain remover/disinfectant.  There will be accidents.

8.) Rewards!  Smarties do the trick for us.

2.  Go to Goodwill and buy more pants.  Because your former diaper bag will be stuffed full of dry pants and underwear from now on.

3. It's fine to let your kid run around the house with no pants at first, but be sure to practice with pants too.  I think I tried every potty training method out there, and the nak.ed method was one of them.  Later on I learned that you need to practice with pants too if you are ever going to leave the house.  I decided I don't really like that method much.

4.  Once you are in, go all in.  I.E. Don't put your kid back in diapers at night or when you have long car trips or when you put your child in the church nursery.  I think this was my biggest mistake.  It totally confused Wyatt on when it was okay to go in his pants, and when it wasn't.  Once we dropped the diapers it took a little re-training, but he understood everything so much better.

5. Be prepared for potty training to take over your whole life.  You'll probably spend most days either washing laundry or running your kid to the potty chair or giving him more water so he'll have to go.  I'm told this doesn't last forever, but right now it kind of feels like I've never been doing anything but potty training.

6. Rewards, rewards, rewards.  Around here it's candy.

7.  Try actual underwear.  I think training pants are fine, but Wyatt responded a lot better to actual underwear.  I think he felt more grown-up wearing them, and they felt different than a diaper (as opposed to training pants, which are thicker and somewhat absorbent).  We only use training pants at night (because sometimes you need a little bit of absorbency).

8. Don't expect too much at night for a while.  Most kids understand holding it during the day a lot quicker than they understand holding it at night.  Just have some dry underwear ready and use plastic pants to save the sheets.

9.  Do expect accidents.  They will happen, and they'll probably happen for quite a while.  It's all part of the process.

9. Don't expect it to happen in a couple days.  We all have that friend who potty trained her kid on a weekend, and the child has never had a single accident since.  I'm not saying I don't believe it, but I am saying that I don't think that's the norm.  When you are potty training it sometimes feels like you must be doing everything wrong, because shouldn't this only take a week?  Um, no.  Those people who had it easy are just the people who talk about it (I would too if it happened that quickly).  I'm pretty sure the majority of kids take longer than a week to understand potty training, and most kids aren't completely potty trained until they are over three years old (the average is 36 months for girls and 39 months for boys - that's an average).  It's okay.  You're not doing it wrong, and the accidents won't happen forever.  They all get it eventually.

(Wyatt's monkey practicing using the potty chair.)

We're not done potty training Wyatt yet - if my mention of potty training a couple weeks ago made it sound like we had it done, I mistyped!  I'm just really happy because I see progress!  Progress is my goal until we finally reach that point where I can say he's completely potty trained.  I'm not putting a time limit on myself anymore.

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Taara said...

We had a slow start to potty training too - with moving homes and other "big" things happening, it got pushed and pushed. I totally agree with just stopping diapers, it's much easier for the child to understand. The only plus to waiting so long with Lucas is that he and Elena potty trained at the same time and we were totally out of diapers for 5 glorious months until the twins arrived. I'm hoping to train them pretty early...we'll see how it goes! Be encouraged that it is usually easier with girls!

Sarah said...

We started potty training Josie in May, and now, about five months later, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we are having far less accidents than even just a couple of weeks ago. It does seem to last forever but then suddenly you realize that you haven't cleaned up THAT kind of accident in a while, and you realize that you haven't changed sheets (because of accidents, not general cleanliness) in who knows how long. It's a great day when you realize that progress has truly been made despite your worries and fears!

HIS daughter said...

Oh thanks for sharing this! Elijah is 18 months old and we have not started yet because potty training scares me to death! I think that two is a good age :) I will definitely be re-reading this post in a few months! Hugs!

Amber said...

If it makes you feel any better, I started potty training Eden in April, and she's still not fully trained. She has a fear of going #2 in the toilet. I tried the whole "no more diapers" thing to force her to go in the toilet. And she just didn't go for...7 days. So then I had to buy laxatives and put her back in a diaper. So we still do diapers at night and nap time (and she uses those times to do her business when she wakes up). I figure she'll let me know when she's ready. For now, my goal is not to push her and to make the process as stress-free as possible. So we didn't get it done in a weekend either. And that's ok :)

The Clem Family said...

Potty training is not fun for sure. I had the help of B's school teachers since he was in school 5 days a week while I was on bedrest so I am having to learn all this the first time with Ryder. I will say it is easier with the younger kiddos because they have an older sibling to cheer them on and show them the ropes. My tips for going potty in public places with boys is to let them start standing up to pee. I would let Brody stand on my feet when he wasn't tall enough or stand on the actual potty seat. This keeps them from having to sit and have their hands all over the nasty potty. They also make disposable potty seats for kids that cover a whole lot more of the potty than the ones they have in some bathrooms. I do disagree with the diapers at nighttime. My oldest is a crazy heavy sleeper. I literally can sing and dance in his room at night and he won't budge. He literally has only had one night where he wakes up dry because he doesn't even know he is going at night. He wakes up and goes straight to the bathroom by himself, but still isn't dry. We would be changing underwear and sheets every night. He was getting super upset with himself whenever he wet the bed but still couldn't control it. In those cases, I think it is still ok to put your child in overnight pull up type diapers. It truly is different for every child and you just have to see what works best for your child. I am not typing this to be argumentative...just know it is something I beat myself up over as a mom. :)

Venessa said...

Thank you for this post. We started in May when she turned 2 and quickly ended it when it was clear she was not as ready as we thought. We are starting to think about it now that she is moving towards two 2 and a half and all these tips are great reminders. I am hoping we get this done before we add another baby to the mix!

Kate Craig said...

This is exactly why we wanted to hear from you! Because we don't want to hear anymore of this potty training in three days business :)

Brittney said...

This is so great!:) For the record I only know of one person who was able to potty-train their kiddo in three days..and it's quite suspect to me, lol;) For us personally, we definitely had to wait until our little man was ready - I was 'there' ahead of when he was so it was a lesson in patience with God's timing for us! Mostly I selfishly just wanted him to be out of diapers by the time baby got here and the Lord sure humbled me in this regard. We started off using stickers as rewards for both #'s 1 and 2 but quickly found those weren't incentive enough for #2, so we switched to 50 cent matchbox cards (kept stickers for #1) and those worked like a charm. I can't tell you how excited my son was to receive a car each time - he would come running out of the bathroom, proudly telling us he'd gone potty! Haha. At 3 1/2 he's fully trained now, aside from naps and nights when we put pull-ups on him because he continues to have accidents that soak through everything, despite limiting liquids at bedtime. We've found that this is something that can't quite be trained (yet) because it's an involuntary thing, it just happens. But not all the time. As far as starting potty training with a boy, we found that 27 months - when our friends recommended starting - was a good time. Right around age 3 is we considered John completely day-trained. Anyway, enough about us! This was a great post and I'm sure it'll be helpful for many other Mama's. Good luck with all your training endeavors, sweet friend!

Melanie said...

Thank you for being honest about this subject! We started out on a high several months back with Makayla going potty 'pretty' well. It seems we fell off the potty bandwagon. Its just as much them being ready as YOU being ready. We really need to get back into the swing of things around here as well. My most valuable resource on getting ready? Prayer! I've been asking God's guidance on this one not only for her to be ready..but me as well!

Dove of Snow said...

Wow, I think you're doing great. Especially because although we are yet a ways from starting potty training with our baby boy, I do NOT look forward to that stage! But I love your tips here. Thank you!

Lauren said...

Thanks for this post! Elyse will be 2 in December, and I figure we'll start talking about it more after the holidays. She is interested, but not enough to try it out yet....and I'm honestly not in a hurry, I really don't mind changing diapers!

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