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Ten Tips for Potty Training from a Mama of 8

potty training

When I commit to potty training one of my children, I approach it with dread and fear.

It’s intimidating teaching a little person where to put their business! I can’t help but wonder how many messes I’ll have to clean up, how many extra disruptions and false alarms, and how many hours I’ll have to spend sitting on the edge of the tub or bathroom floor before it’s over.

It always seems like such a long week not knowing when success can be officially declared! But in the end I look back and wonder what the big deal was. Why had I procrastinated?

Frankly, I think it may all be more about when we’re ready. I’ve potty trained 8 children successfully so far and I think if I were to share some of my favorite potty training tips that work for me, they would be:

Ten Tips for Potty Training

{Wait Until the Right Time}

Wait until your child can communicate with you. Not even necessarily verbally, just so long as it is effective.

Watching their every move for any indication that it’s time or setting a timer that will go off way too soon will leave you sitting in the bathroom wasting an hour of your time. Eventually, you’ll cave in and  get them down at which point they’ll relax and do their business while playing with their Duplo’s 5 minutes later.

This forms bad habits. By waiting until they can communicate with you, they are being trained to not only use the potty, but to use it right away when they sit down. With my children, that is usually around 18-24 months.

{Train Yourself}

When you begin to wonder if you should start potty training, begin by taking a few months and train yourself to learn their signals, practice communicating, and studying what foods cause them to “go”.

For my children it’s always bananas. And they LOVE bananas. And if they manage to get ahold of more than one banana, I know I’m going to be in trouble with a huge mess!

Pay particular attention to how soon they go after ingesting it so you can time it properly. After you begin training, you catch it the first few times. You really want to set them up for success. The more accidents they have, the longer it will take.

{Mental Preparation}

Spend those months talking to your child while diaper changing about where their business is supposed to go.

Not in a condemning way, but like it’s something exciting.  This will lay the groundwork for the future communication that is necessary for fast and easy potty training. Once they start answering you consistently and correctly, it might be time to consider training!

{Get the Basic Equipment}

There are a lot of potty training bells and whistles. But I’m a minimalist mama and keep to the basics. I like to think of it this way: What did parents back in the day used to do? If they could go without, I can save the money and go without too. (It’s all this junk that makes the experts say it costs half a million dollars to raise a child to 18!)

That might mean you don’t need anything other than underwear to train your child, but I like to splurge and buy not one, but two potty seats- One to set on the ground and one to set on the toilet.

If you can afford both, get a little potty chair, but if not then stick with only the one for the toilet.

There can be something intimidating about learning the new skill and sitting on the big potty. Ultimately, the goal is to graduate them to it as quickly as possible to the real potty with the toilet seat since it’s a cleaner disposal method. The little chair is nice for taking while traveling too.

After going through cheap soft plastic potty seat after cheap soft plastic potty seat (kind of like this one HERE) and cleaning the nasty “spills” that accumulate in all of the seams, I must bring your attention to this wonderful seat that I consider a “must-have” especially if you’ll be training several young ones through the years.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 10.26.19 PM

Not mine- my bathroom floor is NOT that clean

{Lose the Britches}

I let them run around without any bottoms for the first day or so. Something about having an accident outside of any clothing really draws attention to what is going on.

Often once they have had an accident directly onto the floor only one time, they don’t want it to happen again. They might not put it in the potty, but they will start holding it.

Plus, I actually had this little guy I’m working with go sit on the potty without assistance already and we didn’t even know it. He couldn’t have done that if he had to mess with removing his bottoms. At the very least, don’t put them in pants.

{Skip the Disposable Training Pants}

Don’t cover the bottom with anything that even resembles a diaper.

Training pants by diaper companies are a gimmick! Do an extra load of laundry or two and just use little undies. You’ll save a ton of money and even more time in the process in the end because the transition will be made sooner. (And don’t buy the thick centered training underwear!! (Like these) Good grief those are even so expensive and won’t do too much to provide additional protection for the clothes.)

{Stay Home… and Indoors}

Pick a week to start when you won’t be heading out too much. You’ll want to be near a potty at all times. This week of consistent training will teach them to hold it and you how long they can do it for, then you’ll have more confidence when you do head out.

I won’t bother starting potty training during summer months either. We have several acres of property and could be too far from the potty to make it when nature calls.

I’d rather keep them in diapers a few months longer and wait rather than reinforce bad habits and make the whole process take longer and turn into a nightmare.

{Use Incentives}

Reward successes!

Make a big production and give a little incentive. A couple dark chocolate chips are keeping my little man motivated. Number two, gets double as a reflection of our deep gratitude. Don’t scold for accidents. Just like with a puppy, accidents are our fault. We weren’t paying enough attention.

{Take a Break}

If it don’t seem like they’re going to get it quickly or if the idea of it is terrifying to them (I had one child that was terrified to sit on the potty), take a break and come back to it in a couple of months. That time will make a difference in maturity and they will probably have forgotten the fear because it isn’t being reinforced.

{Establish Good Habits}

Begin teaching proper hygiene now. Toddlers love hand washing anyway, but I love to sing a little song to make sure they wash long enough.

Do you have any potty-training words of wisdom to share with us? 

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One Comment

  1. My son hates wearing training pants so I used 3-day potty training on him. By the 4th day, he's already diaper-free. I also used motivational tools and stickers on the chart to encourage him to use the potty trainer and lately, toilet with potty seat in it.