20 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Potty Training

A small child learning to sit on one of those little training potties and do her business is quite the adorable image. I remember when I was pregnant for the first time just a few years back, and excitedly installing special kiddie toilet seats in both of our bathrooms.

And it is truly quite adorable to see my youngest ditch the bottoms and run down the hall for a triumphant number 1, just like her big sister does!

But it doesn’t mean that it’s always an easy process to go through.

Parents take on all sorts of different tactics, and I think I’ve ended up testing out a little bit of many different approaches.

In the end, I think it has to be what works well for you, but mainly what works well for your child. It is their body, after all, and only they can control it.

Yes, the quest to ditch those diapers can be quite an experience (sometimes a very drawn-out one), with plenty of messes, frustration, and emotion in general along the way.

But in the end, it is what it is: a kiddo getting comfortable with (and capable of) going pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty.

With one child very nearly in preschool and another still happily toddling around at home, allow me to share with you now 20 things I wish someone told me about potty-training (aka a few interesting things I’ve learned along the way).

20 It Can Happen At A Snail’s Pace


I feel like some parents described to me their kids suddenly starting to just do it overnight. Like, one day they were in diapers around the clock, and the next they were completely done with the things forever.

I’m thinking some of these cases might have been the parents not clearly remembering or something, but hey, I guess it’s different for everyone.

My own mother claims I said, “No more diapa!” when I was 1 year old and never looked back.

Well, I’ve found that even kids with great enthusiasm to use the potty can take many months or even a few years to completely get the hang of it, starting with some pees in the potty and gradually working their way up to wearing undies allll the time.

19 Let Them Lead The Way


I’ve seen one child start out very excited to use the little potty, then not quite decide to make a total transition, and seeming to resist even more when urged AT ALL to go ahead and make a total switch.

I’ve also seen one who wasn’t even offered gradually go to doing most daytime peeing in the potty, months and months before even turning 2 years old.

My feelings in the end about the whole thing?

It can be easier to let them completely lead the way, to just let go of trying to control it at all as the parent.

18 Like Night And Day


I’m not sure I ever understood before I became a mom, a few years back now, that potty-training didn’t always happen as one complete transition to wearing absolutely no diapers at all.

What I know now is that many times, nighttime training might not come until much later, or at least somewhat later.

It’s one thing to be up playing and realize (sometimes with some encouragement) that you need to visit the bathroom.

It’s quite another to realize that you have to go while sleeping or very drowsy in bed, understand that you are allowed to get out of bed to go to the toilet, and then actually do it in the middle of the night or early morning.

17 Pull-Ups Can Hinder Progress


Television marketing of the 1980s must have really worked on me because I just can’t really shake the sense that dude, Pull-Ups are kind of cool!

But the training pants / diapers can sometimes get in the way of the steady progress your tot has worked so hard for.

I’ve seen one child so far who was regularly peeing all the time in the potty during the day, and beginning to poop in the potty, and sometimes pee in the potty during the night, suddenly switch to always peeing and pooping in a pull-up at night-time. Sigh.

The goal was to avoid the bed getting wet every single night once she decided to start trying night-time panties, and she was so excited about Pull-Ups… and the point is you can use them just like panties, still visiting the potty, right? But it kinda backfired.

16 When A Group Mentality’s A Good Thing


Being early to self-potty-train and a total bathroom expert by the time I was a young preschooler (funniest thing to brag about ever?), I was the kid who the preschool teachers and parents wanted to hang around with the group of kids who were lagging a bit in this department.

Especially after seeing my second dive into self-potty-training with such incredible enthusiasm at such a young age, and letting nothing deter her, I understand just how motivating it can be to be hanging around other kids who are already using the potty.

Diapers are SO last season, and using the potty is THE cool thing to do.

In other words, hanging around other kids who do it can really help.

15 Elimination Can Be Emotional


Whether you’ve studied Freud extensively or not, if you are a parent, you may quickly come to realize that dude, pooping can be very emotional for young kids.

My own family’s pediatrician has seen it happen enough over the years that he can predict which personalities will likely have some trouble, um, letting go…

He recommends not making any sort of big deal of it when that number 2 does make into the ideal destination, simply wiping up and moving on.

Additionally, he says it’s important to keep things flowing as easily as possible (through diet or sometimes supplemental fiber), so there’s no struggle or pain when it’s go time.

14 They Might Try To Will It To Stay In


Like we already touched on above, some kids just have a harder time than others warming up to the idea of letting go of what needs to be, well, let go, usually at least once every day.

Basically, I’ve now learned that young children might even hold their poop in until they are comfortably in a diapers again, say at bedtime.

In addition to this, all sorts of behavior might emerge as they (I imagine very uncomfortably) try to make it through the panty-wearing hours acting like nothing needs to happen at all, or even very obviously trying to hold it in.

You’d think it could be as simple as just sitting and letting it out, going in their underpants, or even asking for a diaper, but oh, no… not always.

13 Not Just Praise But Also Presents


We see our children learn and master so many skills and behaviors with the encouragement of our (sometimes abundant) verbal praise.

I found that when it comes to potty-training, simple praise is not always exactly enough to get the job done.

What might work better, in fact, if needed, is positive reinforcement in the form of something more tangible.

Young toddlers may be too young to understand the concept of bribery, but I’ve heard of parents giving them little “presents” to unwrap while they actually sit on the potty.

We’ve used a star / sticker system, where if you collect enough, you get a new book or toy.

12 A Screen-Time Tool


The Elmo (of Sesame Street fame, of course) book about learning to use the potty was fun for my kids to read, with its myriad flaps and colorful images, but as far as getting them more excited for bathroom learning, I don’t know that it really did much of anything.

But recently, I asked around to see if anyone had any Sesame Street DVDs to pass along, and happily, one of them was all about potty time.

I just meant it to be a fun treat: We don’t watch much TV around here, and I mainly just wanted to have something to put on occasionally.

But my toddler took it all to heart, catchy songs and all, and now insists on peeing in the potty more than ever and often says, “Just like Elmo does!!!”

I learned that this might be a good way to use screen time as an educational tool.

11 Frequently Frustrating


Now, I see how much easier and better it can be to just, well, go with the flow (ha!).

I think it was just a little too easy to really want my first’s early progress with potty-training to quickly progress into not needing diapers AT ALL — because I was currently pregnant with my second.

I know for a fact that a lot of moms feel that way and therefore have very high hopes that the first will be done with diapers by the time the second comes along, even if they are still VERY young to be tackling all of that.

Basically, I just want to say that it’s easy, especially as a first-time parent who wants to find control and sense in everything, to get frustrated about it.

10 Of Petite Public Potties


I came up with something that ended up working really, really well as I went, along the way, and JUST in time.

What I mean is that after my second baby had come along, and getting out of the house was already challenging enough (even without having to worry about getting back home before my potty-training first child had to go pee again), I realized a really good way to get the older sister to start using public bathrooms.

She went from zero interest in using a toilet out in the world, that wasn’t her little training potty at home, to using any public toilet, all in a matter of weeks.

What I did was take her at least once a week to the local library, where they have a children’s-sized toilet in a special little kids’ bathroom. It’s not even that much smaller than a full-size one, but I introduced it as a very special toilet that was JUST her size, and it did the trick!

9 A Stepstool As An Even Earlier Step


You might not think that it’s time to get a stepstool of some sort until your child has already mastered using the little plastic potty and is completely ready to use the real deal, but I realized that it was great that we ended up having one around before this point.

The big factor is that a stepstool makes things like handwashing much, much easier.

And clearly, handwashing is a crucial final step to using the potty, no matter how old or how much of a master you are.

Even though it would be more than a year before my oldest was tall or capable enough to reach the faucet herself while standing on the thing after we got it, it actually allowed me to prop my own foot on it so that I could easily support a baby or toddler on my knee and help them clean their hands.

8 Upping The Household Toilet-Seat Game


I hinted at this one in the opening section of this article, and now let me explain.

When we moved into our current place somewhat shortly before I was pregnant for the first time, the toilet seats needed changing. Well we kind of put it off, even though it’s really a pretty cheap and easy fix, and then finally tackled the task once we were expecting.

To my great delight, they had special toilet seats at the hardware store for the tiniest of toilet-training bottoms!

They stick up to the lid when not in use with a magnet, and can be easily placed down for that little one to feel comfortable and secure when sitting on the real porcelain throne at last.

We didn’t end up using them for quite a while, as the little training potty was the clear favorite, but they were there, ready, as soon as our child was.

7 One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


Like I said earlier, talking to other parents before I was one myself had me thinking that it was going to be a short period of training, and then no more diapers at all.

Now, I see clearly that toilet training can often be very up and down, with some good progress and then a big step back, with extreme interest and then total disinterest, at more than one point along the way.

I mean, it’s toddlers we’re talking about here, so I guess it sort of makes perfect sense.

Especially if training starts very early in toddlerhood, I think it’s good to assume that it will be a process, not always steadily going forward.

6 What Moms May Mean By “Potty-Trained”


I used to think that when a mom said her little one was “potty-trained,” it always meant, without a doubt, that the kid no longer wore any diapers at all, ever, day or night.

Now, I see that, I’d say MOST of the time, parents simply mean that the child has transitioned to regularly using the potty.

They often still wear diapers or training pants (Pull-Ups) at night, sometimes for many months or even a few years after they regularly go in the potty during the day.

So basically, don’t let the phrase “potty-training” intimidate or confuse you at all.

It goes differently for everyone.

5 My ‘Pee By A Tree’ Trick


So you’ve got your little one going in that cute little practice potty at home: Great!

But in this thing called real life, there is not always a tiny little, familiar plastic potty nearby.

It can already be challenging enough to, like, get out the house with very young children, and so it can be very hard to have this, too, hindering your ability to get out and get stuff done or have some fun.

So for the times that I wasn’t near our own little potty, or before my child was quite ready to use a full-size public restroom, I came up with a trick I like to call “pee by a tree.”

Now, don’t blame me if you get caught telling your kid to go somewhere it’s not legal or is frowned upon, but for us, this is what really helped during that time of transition, and still occasionally when she just really, really has to go.

She thinks it’s great fun.

4 The Wonders Of Silly Words For It


Sure, in many topics, I like to talk about things in terms of emotion, nuance, and associations.

But I’ve always had it in my head that when it comes to a child’s body and health, it’s best to use the most straightforward and correct term, such as when discussing anatomy, for example.

And so, around my house, we kept it super simple, not going as extreme as to use terms like “urination” or “stool,” but just good ole “pee-pee” and “poo-poo.”

Well, to go back to that Elmo DVD again, I recently learned how it makes the topic lighter and just more silly and fun for young kids to learn about the other words, too.

There’s a segment in that particular program in which many kids are shown saying what they call it, from “caca” to “boom-boom” and beyond, and when I saw my little sweetie smiling wide with sparkling eyes and stifling giggles as she watched, I knew we were onto something, and also reinforcing the idea that, again, no matter what they call it, EVERYBODY does it.

3 No Time In Their Busy Schedule


This is something I think every parent must sort of learn as they go.

If you think about it after the fact, you will probably realize that you’ve observed parents around you doing it before, time and time again.

It may not have been clear to you at the time how a mom or dad could have possibly known that their toddler was about to have an accident if he didn’t head toward the bathroom, but once you have your own working on mastering the skill, you’ll start to understand.

When I see that dance, a hand holding quickly over the region in question, or more and more frantic activity, I know it’s time to ask if someone needs to visit the potty.

My child even resists it sometimes still at that point because she’s just having too much fun, but I’m pretty much always right.

Even when kids are trained, it can be up to parents to notice the crucial signs and encourage a quick sit.

2 On The Same Schedule As Mom


What I’ve enjoyed about hanging out with a mostly potty-trained person around the clock is that it doesn’t really continue to be so much effort as we go.

For example, even if it’s been a while since my child has gone to the bathroom, and I haven’t thought to ask (say we’re out at a restaurant or something instead of just at home and on our regular routine, it almost always works out that when I have to go, I end up asking if she does, too, and she always does.

It just sort of works out, spending so much time together (and kids having such small bladders), I guess.

1 Counting Your Underpants Losses

I really, really try not to just throw any clothes away.

Like, I can’t believe how devoted I’ve been, over the years, in this effort.

My husband and I even scrubbed out each and every bright-yellow-stained onesie, be it the middle of the afternoon or the wee hours of the morning.

It just felt like we should at least try to save each garment before just throwing it away.

I’ve kept up the effort during potty-training, too, but I was forced to realize at a certain point that there would inevitably need to be at least some small underpants losses.

Sometimes, it’s just not worth the dirty work or wouldn’t even adequately remove the, um, stain.

Basically, be prepared to just throw at least some itty-bitty underwear away.

Reference: This one mom-of-two’s experience.

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