Real Life Potty-Training Tips from a Mom of Three

Ok, mama: here’s the thing. I know you’re sick and tired of buying diapers. They’re expensive and messy and require that you carry a bag of diaper-related goods everywhere. Maybe you have another little one on the way and you cannot imagine having two children in diapers. Maybe it feels like all the other children your toddler’s age are already potty-trained and you’re feeling behind. Maybe you have an event coming up that requires that your child be potty-trained. I’ve been there.

That said, I’m going to warn you that my best potty-training tips, especially the first tip, is not popular.

1. Wait

Just wait. After you’ve waited longer than you feel is necessary, wait some more. There is no trophy for the toddler who is potty-trained first. And no kindergarten teacher asks you how long your child has been potty-trained.

Until you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that your toddler is interested in using a potty, trust me: save yourself the battle of the wills. It will test your sanity and actually make your child LESS interested in potty-training. Also, you will be cleaning up more accidents than you have time for, and for a longer period of time than is necessary.

I recently had my youngest (a 3-year-old boy) in full-time diapers to full-time underwear in two days. With no accidents. He was just ready. How did I know? Here are some things you can watch for to know they are ready:

  • Interest in mom/dad/big brother/sister using the potty.
  • Awareness of needing to go to the bathroom (for example, my son would run under the dining room table to poop).
  • Periodic dry diapers overnight or during naps.
  • Your child is able to tell you that his diaper is wet or dirty.
  • Your child can follow simple instructions and understands bathroom words like “potty”, “underwear”, “diaper”, “pee-pee”, “poop”.


    2. Encourage Involvement

    Encourage your child’s involvement as much as possible! She can help pick out a potty chair (or multiple!) and underwear with her favorite cartoon characters. The more choice she feels she has in the matter, the more cooperative she will be!

    3. Enlist the help of characters

    Enlist your child’s favorite characters to help! There are countless shows for kids to watch about potty-training. Daniel Tiger is my favorite. He sings a sweet little potty song and makes using the potty look much less frightening to a toddler.

    4. Make a decision on pull-ups or underwear

    Decide whether you want to use pull-ups or skip straight to underwear. Personally, I purchased pull-ups for naptime and overnight, but skipped straight to underwear during waking hours. Some kiddos are motivated by the ability to pull a pull-up up and down, but for others, it feels the same as a diaper. Therefore, those kiddos have no qualms about using it as one. If you do skip to underwear, though, just be prepared to clean up messes!


    5. A schedule is needed

    It is important to get on a potty schedule. First thing when your toddler wakes up, take him to the potty. And the last thing before bed. During the day, you might start by taking him to the potty every hour or so “just to try”.  If he goes, great! If not, take him again in another 30 minutes or so.

    6. Motivation

    Our potty-training tips come to an end with an important tip: keep her motivated. In addition to heaps of praise for even just trying to sit on the potty, figure out what motivates your child! While I’m not a parent who typically rewards my children with food, I make an exception for potty training. I know, I know, it’s not ideal, but it worked.

    Each of my kiddos got a single M&M when they used the potty. After a whole day of dryness, they got to choose a small toy as a reward (think Hot Wheels here). After a while, we simply phased the treats out. And honestly, my kids didn’t even notice.

    There are all kinds of potty-training tips for toddlers. Some people swear that it’s best to let your toddler run around naked. My toddlers always hated to be naked. Others swear that “potty boot camp” works, taking your child to the bathroom every 15 minutes for 3 days. That would send my children over the edge. Bottom line?

    There’s always going to be a bit of trial and error involved, but you know your child best! Find what works! Just summon up every bit of patience that you have, keep it positive, and if your child is refusing to use the potty at first, let it go! Come back to it in a month or two when they are more interested.

    Good luck, Mama!

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