SKIP THE TEARS: 15 ESSENTIAL POTTY TRAINING TIPS
I’m not going to sugar-coat it: potty training can be a complete nightmare.
If we start off on the wrong foot or lose our patience, it can devolve into tears and chaos.
And sometimes kids use potty training to exert control, like one of our 4 children. In fact, her “antics” while potty training meant investing in a carpet cleaner. When this otherwise easygoing child was upset at me for anything, she’d find a spot to be alone, drop her training pants, and work her magic.
Suffice it to say, she earned the name “Poo-casso” for her one-of-a-kind carpet designs.
It was both disgusting, hilarious, and terrifying. (Welcome to Parenthood!!!)
But even that was worth it in order to graduate that girl from diapers.
After thousands of diapers, we’re willing to do just about anything if it means getting rid of the diapers.
And with the right potty training tips, it doesn’t have to be so hard.
When armed with best potty training tips and resources, we can make sure the potty training experience goes as smoothly as possible. These 15 potty training tips boil down exactly what you need to know as you prepare to potty train your little one.
The diaper-free life beckons, my friend. Let’s get started!
1) RECOGNIZE THAT EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT
It goes without saying that there is no one size fits all approach to potty-training.
One of the most important things a parent can understand is that every child and every situation is different and we, as parents, get to forge the path that is best for our child and our family.
Nowhere is this more true than with potty training where you are teaching a child to fundamentally change their behavior. There are A LOT of skills to learn in potty training!
Here is a breakdown of all the things a child has to learn to be fully potty trained:
- Recognize when they need to use the restroom
- Pull pants up and down by themselves
- Pee and poop in a toilet
- If using a tiny potty, then dumping contents into the toilet
- Washing hands
Those are a lot of skills for a little one to master. And not every child learns the same.
In potty training my 3 oldest kids, I saw firsthand how even kids close in age and raised exactly the same all responded differently.
The best thing we can do to prepare for potty training is learn as much as we can and get as many potty training tips as possible. So you are in the right place!
2) MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS READY
I cannot overstate this enough. You wanting it more than anything in the world does not count.
As awful as diapers can be, they’re easier and less traumatizing than cleaning up epic poop and pee messes from around your house. It can get ugly very quickly. Trust me on this one. Wait until your child is ready.
Your child should be showing at least a few of these signs before you venture into potty training.
- Pulling at or taking off a wet or poopy diaper
- Hiding to pee or poop
- Going long stretches with a dry diaper (shows bladder control)
- Wakes up from naps or in the morning with a dry diaper
- Interest in others’ use of the potty
- Telling you before, during, or after they’ve gone in their diaper.
- Child follows directions (this is extremely important)
Also, if your child seems ready but then resists once you begin potty training, stop and try again later. If things get too frustrating and negative, it could make potty training a near impossible task.
3) BEFORE YOU START POTTY TRAINING, PRACTICE THESE SKILLS
To make the potty-training process easier, here are a few skills to practice BEFORE you begin potty training that will help the process go more smoothly.
Again, our little sweeties have to learn sooo many skills when learning to potty train. Teaching some early will pay off when the real fun begins.
- Washing hands together after changing a diaper: You’re already washing your hands after every diaper change. So start doing it together. Explain and show your child that after you pee or poop, you wash your hands.
- Pulling pants up and down: Since the goal of potty training is helping your child gain toileting independence, being able to pull pants up and down is a completely necessary skill. But this is tough for little hands and bubbly buns. Before you start potty training, you can practice pulling pants up and down. Help your child place one hand on the back waistband and another on the front to work on pulling pants up and down.
4) GATHER THE TOOLS
Remember, there is no one right way to potty train. Depending on your situation, different resources will be more helpful than others. Moral of the story is find what works for you and your child.
You need the tools to make it easy for your child to go to the potty by themselves and wash their hands.
These are all resources that I have used and found extremely helpful:
- Potty Training Chair: A small potty chair with removable bowl is awesome for helping little ones learn to potty train. First off, you can move it to any room you are in for easy access. Also, kids can easily learn to get on and off (which is more of a struggle on the full-sized toilet).
- Toilet seat cover: Some parents opt to skip the chair, but use the seat cover to make the big toilet more manageable. We’ve used it as a bridge between the training potty chair and just using the big toilet as our children are quite small.
- 8-10 Training Pants (at least): You will, most likely have a lot of accidents in the beginning of potty training, so it’s important to have a nice stock of good training pants. Consider buying some a bit on the large side so it’s easier for your little one to pull on and off. Some of my favorite training pants:
- Step stool for toilet: Whether you start on the toilet or with a chair, once your child is on the regular toilet, a step stool will be necessary for your child to get on and off the toilet on their own. We own a few of these.
- Step stool for sink: Since the ultimate goal is getting them to do it all on their own, they’ll need a stool to reach the sink. I love this one–looks nice, sturdy, and it was really easy to put together.
- Potty Training Children’s books: These can be so helpful in not only teaching and reinforcing potty training routine, but also getting kids excited about it.
5) ALWAYS KEEP IT POSITIVE & UPBEAT
Kids respond soooo much better to our positive reinforcement and encouragement as opposed to getting upset and focusing on what they’re doing wrong.
Praise your child for the things they are doing right. If they’ve had an accident and you then practice running to the potty
If the potty-training process turns negative, things will devolve into a nightmare scenario where neither you or your child is happy.
Remember, if things are truly not going well you can try again later. Diapers are easier than disgusting messes, heaps of laundry, and lots of tears. Diapers are not forever. I promise.
Think about all the things a child has to learn to be fully potty trained.
These are A LOT of skills for a little person to master. It’s going to take time and lots and lots of practice.
So if your child has had the 6th accident for the day and it’s not even lunch, take a deep breath, keep teaching the skills, and point out what they’re doing right.
Are we perfect parents? Nope. We mess up all the time. And no one jumps out and yells at us for our mistakes. We need to be patient with our little friends as they learn all these new skills.
6) START WITH A FUN KICK-OFF PARTY
I’ve found that beginning potty training with a super upbeat, fun “potty training kick-off party” is really helpful for introducing underpants and the potty training routine. Plus, it gets the child excited about the whole process.
Some things you may want to try:
- Eliminate all distractions: Turn your phone off. If you have other kids, get someone to care for them. Keep it focused and your attention 100% on your little one.
- Give lots of water, juice, salty snacks: Salty snacks promote thirst, which mean drinking, and later lots of pee. This create opportunities for lots of peeing practice.
- Small rewards: Have small incentives for when your child follows directions, sits on the potty, practices the new skills, and of course, when they go in the potty. Stickers (see the bottom of the post for a free potty training chart) or small treats work great.
- Use a doll that can “pee”: This can help model the behavior and you can help your child to teach the doll to go pee in the potty. In my experience, it can be hit or miss mostly due to the difficulty of finding a quality doll that pees.
- Watch potty training shows and clips to reinforce routine and get the child excited.
7) USE ACCIDENTS AS A CHANCE TO PRACTICE
When potty training, accidents are 100% inevitable. But they can be valuable learning experiences for your child if you keep it positive and reinforce the potty training skills.
When your child has an accident, review the steps to see where they went wrong. And then practice the steps they missed
For example, “When you felt you needed to go, you didn’t run to the potty. Let’s practice that now.”
And then you’d guide the child to running to the potty from the area they had the accident (and perhaps other areas of the house) and practicing pulling down underpants and sitting.
8) FOCUS ON STAYING DRY
Instead of just talking about where we go potty, talk about how we want to keep our underpants dry. If they have an accident, have them feel that their pants and ask if they’re dry. When they respond that they’re not, reinforce that they want to stay dry and then review and practice the steps to going potty.
As they go throughout the day, ask them if their pants are dry and give them lots of praise for dry underpants.
9) READ POTTY TRAINING BOOKS
This is awesome for getting kids excited and reinforcing the toileting principles. My 3rd kid basically potty trained herself after I read her this potty book.
(But before you get jealous of my little unicorn, just note that she discovered the transcendent joy of fecal smearing shortly thereafter. Yep, she became my little Poo-casso)
Here are our favorite Potty Training Children’s Books:
10) USE INCENTIVES
Incentives can be very powerful in motivating kids to learn these new skills. Pick the incentives that align with your values.
For example, if you don’t like the idea of sugary incentives–which work for many parents–don’t do it. There is no one right incentive for everyone.
Some examples include:
- stickers (that can be used with the potty training sticker chart at the bottom of this post)
- special time with mom or dad
- small prizes
Treats worked really well for my kids (since they are rare in our house) so I’ve used M&Ms, Skittles, and mini marshmallows for reinforcing good behavior in the beginning. Things like sitting on the potty and waiting, pulling pants up and down, staying dry, and going in the potty can all earn treats at the beginning.
I also like to give incentives for reaching big milestones. We’ll get a $10 toy they want and display it (so it is a constant reminder) until they go like 3 days without accidents or something.
Feeling successful is very motivating for kids.
11)TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING IN THE BATHROOM
Let’s be honest, mama, you’re probably not going to the bathroom alone very often (or is that just me?). Make use of your company by explaining what you are doing and the routine (wipe, flush, wash etc). Your child will be familiar with the process and excited to be like you!
12) USE DIFFERENT APPROACHES
Since every kid is different, you may need to try different approaches. Some ideas include:
Sometimes losing the diaper and training pants altogether works really well for some kids. Feeling nothing between their little behind and their environment makes them more motivated to use the potty.
This has worked really well with a couple of my kids.
The Cold Turkey Approach
Ditching diapers 100% can be a useful strategy for some while others may take a more gradual approach. This approach definitely takes a lot of pateince and positivity.
Many parents who take the cold turkey approach will spend the first couple of days cleaning up repeated messes (I speak from experience). But a few days into it, often the child catches on and starts to do really well.
13) KEEP THE POTTY HANDY
As kids are learning to listen to their bodies, it’s important that the potty stay close.
I love these little potty chairs. They’re easy to move around your house so the potty is always handy! Keep the potty in whatever room you are in.
14) USE ROLE MODELS
While you can be an effective model for your children, I (and many other parents) have found that other children are even more effective potty training role models. If there are potty-trained cousins, friends, or siblings that can model peeing on the potty, use them!
15) ESTABLISH ROUTINES
Children’s brains crave routine and patterns. Creating a potty routine that you do over and over and over can be very effective in teaching these principles. If you want to sing a song as you do it, sing a song. Just be consistent.
POTTY TRAINING TIPS
Potty training doesn’t ave to be a nightmare. By following these 15 potty training tips, you’re ready to tackle the challenges that come.
Just remember that all kids are different. Be patient. Be enthusiastic and positive. And don’t be afraid to ditch an approach that doesn’t seem to work and try something else.
And be sure to claim your free printable potty training chart!
You’ve got this, mama!