Potty training is no joke. It's one of those things every parent worries about. When's the right age? What happens if my child isn't ready? What if my child isn't grasping the concept of using the "grown-up" potty? And it's not like we can stroll down memory lane and remember what we did as children. All we can do is ask our parents what they did with us and hope the same routine works for our children.
But what if it doesn't work?
Thankfully, parents are never alone. There are many moms and dads out there who have been through the same struggles and have found different ways of coping with these struggles. And since potty training is such a large task, it's nice to hear from other parents to see what worked (or didn't work) for them. After all, we're all in this together, right?
Sure, there are thousands of books out there on how to potty train a child, but sometimes all this scientific jibber jabber is just white noise. Hearing from actual parents is much more relatable; more honest. So here are 20 tips from fellow parents and specialists on tips for how to potty train toddlers.
20 Work Your Way Up
The hardest part about teaching a child how to go to the bathroom is they're not always honest with you. They may tell you they don't have to go to the bathroom, but then two minutes later *POOF* They've peed their pants. So if this happens to you, try this mom's method.
"When I thought my daughter was ready (around 26 months), we went to the toilet every 10 minutes—even if we were out. We slowly worked up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc., and after a day or two, she could pee on her own. Poop was a different story—I had to goad her with M&M's!"
19 Make A Weekend Out Of It
Instead of making potty training a long, drawn-out process, try tackling the process in a weekend. Literally, carve out three days to do nothing but focus on going to the bathroom.
"After a couple of failed attempts, I tried a new technique while mom was away on a well-deserved weekend with her friends. We covered the couch and chairs with plastic and bought 'manly-man' underwear—just like dad's. We spent the weekend in underwear and T-shirts, making a game every hour or so to see who could go to the restroom. There were very few accidents and just blocking out a weekend made for very little stress. It's still one of my favorite memories."
18 Got Food Dye?
It's not very often kids see going to the bathroom as fun, so why not make it fun for them? This may seem odd, but this mom used food dye to her advantage.
"To get my son excited about standing up to urinate, we put a few drops of food coloring into the toilet bowl so he could see the water change color as he used it. We did the same thing with our daughter, but we sat her on the toilet backward so she could see the colors." Vicki told Parents.
17 Monkey See, Monkey Do
One of the ideas many parents follow is knowing their kids want to be just like their parents. So if you're a mother who has a daughter or a father who has a son, try going to the bathroom and letting them watch. This way, they'll learn what to do and be excited that they're being JUST like their mommy or daddy. If parents don't feel comfortable doing this way, find another kid who is similar in age that their child can mimic.
"I wish I could take credit for his training, but the amazing teachers at his daycare did the hard stuff: Putting him on the toilet every 20 minutes, without fail. We just followed their lead at home. And I think the fact that he saw his classmates going on the potty made him want to also."
16 Go Bare
I never thought about this before, but this parent makes a great point. When a child is running around without bottoms, it's much easier for them to go potty then to try and take off all their clothes (especially when they're used to just relieving themselves in it).
"Once my kids were interested in the potty concept—around 2 to 2 1/2—we let them run around naked before bath time and encouraged them to use the potty. Then I let them go sans pants at home for extended periods of time (they did really well remembering to go as long as they didn't have any clothes on). After they mastered naked-potty use, we worked our way up to clothes (first just underwear, then eventually pants). This method was extremely painless — very few accidents or setbacks."
15 Have A Boy? Try A Urinal
It can be hard to potty train a child to is the opposite gender, only because men and women tend to pee differently. While sitting on a toilet for a boy may work sometimes, it may be easier for them to learn standing up first. This mom bought a urinal for her son off Amazon, and it seemed to be the winning ticket.
"Take a break for a few weeks then come back to it. Also, for us, bribery helped. A small toy or treat. I sat him on it and showed it to him and told him if you go pee, you get this. Also, a urinal helped to $12 off Amazon — sticks to the wall and is frog shaped. I am still working on getting him to poop. Suggestions on that welcome...."
14 Try Waiting Until They're 'Ready'
Sometimes forcing a child to go potty does not work. No matter if you show them how to do it or bribe them. So maybe hold off until your kid feels like they're ready. Just be sure to watch their cues.
"No idea if this is useful in any way, but we decided to wait until our daughter was 'ready,' which worked very well, but took a while." The parent continued on Reddit, "We tried to potty train at two years old, but also had negative experiences and decided to wait instead of pushing it. So we ended up doing it the really slow way."
13 If You Have To, Bribe
Now, there are many parents out there who disagree with the whole bribery thing, mainly because they feel their child will refuse to anything without some sort of treat. But, on the other hand, it seems to really work.
"Two words: Mini M&M's! Promise that each time your kid goes potty, she gets two or three, but if she wipes herself (a huge challenge for us) then she gets four or five. This makes a big difference since I think one of the reasons kids don't like to go is because the business of learning to wipe is kind of yucky."
12 Celebrate Small Victories
No matter how often or little your little one goes (or tries to go), celebrate the victories! Your child told you they had to pee? Celebrate! Your child finally wiped themselves without your help? Wahoo! One mom told Reddit that celebrating with their child helped significantly.
"Honestly. I took my daughter diapers away at 2 1/2. She peed her pants a few times and hated being wet so she used the potty. I just put her on it once per hour and celebrated like crazy when she used it. (We made a potty dance) She thought it was so funny."
11 Turn It Into A Game
Kids love to learn when learning is made fun. That being said, potty training can appear time-consuming, so why not make it into a game for your kid?
"Getting my son to learn the standing-up thing was hard, so we turned it into a game. I put five Cheerios in the potty and told him to aim at them when he peed. Every time he did it right, he got to pick out a prize from a bag of goodies I picked up at the dollar store."
10 Bring A Friend Or A Sibling
Today's Parent had a few parents recall what their potty training experiences were like, and it appears that the whole "monkey see, monkey do" concept works quite nicely. However, like everything else in life, the child should be ready on their own terms for this to work effectively.
"I will bring a friend of the child who is already toilet trained, and have that child go first,” one parent recalled on their experience. “If they refuse, we don’t push it, but we ask consistently.”
9 What Does It All Mean?
Maybe potty training will be an easier concept to grab if a child understands what it all means. They may feel like they're the only ones going through something so bothersome, but in reality, going to the bathroom on an adult potty is what one has to do. Explaining to a child why we go to the bathroom and what the process is like might actually be helpful.
"They have to have an understanding of what logically goes first, says Moore Place executive director Carol Bee." Bee continued saying, "Kids who can do this themselves save staff time. Flushing the toilet or pulling off toilet paper further helps kids feel in control of the world of the bathroom. Many daycares also have a stash of potty books around to help kids get used to the idea."
Kids like to learn in a fun environment. When they're at that young age, their senses are going crazy for colors, scents, and textures. Perhaps making your bathroom a more enjoyable place to be could make all the difference in the world for your child.
Many parents said they have a fun checklist next to the toilet for their child to mark every time they go (see below) or they decorate their bathroom in fun colors, keeping books and or a toy next to the toilet. Once the child is potty trained, parents can slowly take these things out of the bathroom to make it more "adult" again.
Many parents hope for their child to be potty trained before preschool or daycare, however, that's not always the case. Every child works in their own way. This is why daycare teachers need to be on high alert with children who aren't trained yet. These teachers may also have better ideas for children to learn.
Anne McKiel, director of the YMCA Dartmouth Childcare in Dartmouth, NS said: "We keep a sticker chart in the bathroom, and when they sit and try to go, they get to put a sticker up themselves.”
6 Take Breaks
News flash: learning to break a habit that a child has been forming for three+ years can be difficult! While going to the bathroom seems like an easy enough concept for an adult, it's a huge adjustment for a child. So, when needed, take a break!
"You’ll want to train your child in the morning and afternoon for a few hours at home. Let him eat, drink and play as normal, but every 15 minutes put him on the potty."
5 No Undies Means Nothing To Catch It
This is actually an amazing idea. Kids are so used to going number one or two in their diaper because that's all they know. They know their fluids will be absorbed by their undies and don't worry about telling their parents until after the fact. However, if you let your child run around the house pantsless — they have nothing that will save them from relieving themselves, so they feel like they have to go to the adult potty.
"Let your child peruse your home…naked, or in just a t-shirt. Because he’s not wearing a diaper or underwear, he’ll have no place to put his pee or poop; he needs to put it somewhere—in the toilet would be a good idea!"
4 Remind Their Sitters And Teachers!
Consistency is key when potty training a toddler. While breaks are definitely encouraged (take it easy on the little one), everyone needs to be on the same page to achieve the same goal. If a child isn't potty trained by daycare, be sure to alert the teachers or caretakers that your child is in the process and may need some assistance. Telling your child's teacher this is totally needed so they can look for signals. They want that child to be potty trained too, after all!
3 Be Prepared
I don't remember my potty training days, but I do remember my mom bringing a little fold-up toilet with us wherever we went. Bringing a small toilet (that a parent later cleans out) is a great way for your child to be consistent in learning to go to the bathroom while not at home.
"I love Potette—it’s a portable potty your child can use in the car or discreetly at the park. Potty Toppers come in handy when he needs to use a public restroom. Wipes and spare clothes are also important to store in the car and in your child’s cubby at school. Buy a few cheapie pairs of pants so you always have a clean set when you need them."
2 Bedtime Can Be Tricky
I think the hardest part about potty training toddlers is when nightfall rolls around. Wear pull-ups is probably a great idea at nighttime until they learn to recognize they need to use the toilet. So what can parents do to make bedtime mishaps lessen? Limit liquids.
"That might mean you serve a later dinner so your child’s full and doesn’t need more food and drinks right before bed. Remember, nighttime training often comes later than daytime training."
1 Love And Affection
Sometimes buying a urinal, bribing them with candy, and showing them that their friends do it doesn't work. Sometimes all a kid needs is a little TLC.
"I've heard all the tricks—stickers, bribing with toys, special underpants. But you have to pick something that's consistent with your parenting style. I didn't use rewards elsewhere, so I didn't want to start here. What did work: Lots of undivided attention, positive reinforcement, love, affection and pride when my kids were successful. Making a big deal about small steps of progress is key."
References: Parents, Reddit, Reddit, Today's Parent, Parenting