This past month, we tried potty training our oldest child. I did a call-out on Instagram asking for advice from experienced mamas, and got some incredible input. While some advice is contradictory, I compiled it all here, since it’s exactly what I wish I had heard before we began the process. Pick and choose the words you need to hear to start this adventure, and be sure to check out the end of our story and a list of 7 potty training essentials at the bottom of this post.
(Note: A huge thank you to all the mamas who wrote lovely advice to me. The quotes below are anonymous and I’ve removed names, to protect a sensitive season in little ones’ lives.)
1. Push liquids, so potty breaks are a must. Set a timer for every 10-15 minutes to try to go on the toilet. This leads to quick success and positive feedback. Gradually increase the time between sitting on the potty. OR…
2. Tell your child, “Tell me when you need to go to the bathroom,” and watch them as they play. Watch for signs they have to go and when they start to show those signs help them sit on the potty. Reminding them to tell you gives them some control. It’s a lot of focus for three days.
3. Go into it with very low expectations.
4. Accidents are part of the process. The accidents have to happen so they can learn.
5. Every kid is different. Don’t burden yourself or your child with timelines others may have experienced.
6. Don’t rush overnights. Start with daytime, and wait until pull-ups are consistently dry at night.
7. Switch to a pull-up for nap times too.
Motivation + Rewards:
7. Cheer every victory!
8. Call others to celebrate success and multiply the praise.
9. Watch favorite movie trailers or read books while waiting on the potty.
10. Create a sticker chart where they can earn a larger reward, like a toy or book.
11. Stock up on M&Ms as an immediate reward for successes.
12. Fun undies are an exciting change to a kids’ wardrobe.
13. Dance parties after each success!
When It Isn’t Working:
14. No pressure. They won’t wear diapers to college.
15. It will happen when they’re ready. Sometimes it takes 2 days, sometimes it takes months. Every kid is different.
16. So many mothers told me they tried, then stepped back, tried again and click – it happened! You’re not alone.
17. “Finally, something clicked.” Wait until they’re asking to go on the potty.
18. Let your mama gut win over the fear of hearing, “they’re too old to still be in diapers.”
The Things I Wish I Had Done Differently:
19. Make sure to have all your supplies on hand ahead of time.
20. Don’t jump in the deep end. Try potty training for one afternoon, or a shorter period of time, if you’re not sure your little one is ready.
Welp. After two days of trying to potty train, we took a step back to diapers. I made some poor timing choices, since we had just returned from a trip and the kids were readjusting to our normal routine. Throwing potty training on top of that was really stressful for everyone. I also didn’t have all the supplies I needed, like pull-ups, a portable potty, or the little ring you can place on a toilet. So, sitting on the potty was uncomfortable, and I was constantly worried about accidents on our couch or rugs. Looking back, it would be easier to start with pull-ups instead of undies right off the bat.
But…Once I had mentioned potty training, my oldest got really excited about big kid undies, so I felt like I needed to follow through despite the warning signals clanging in my head. Ultimately, she just wasn’t quite ready. I really thought she was, but from the sounds of things this happens to a lot of moms, especially with their oldest child. And stepping back was the wise thing to do, rather than push forward in stubbornness. After one really rough night readjusting, she’s fine being in diapers again. I have no doubt it “will click,” and she’ll let me know when she’s ready to try again. And I’ll also be much more prepared too.
If you have advice, feel free to add it in the comments below!
1. Honest Co. training pants have such fun designs, they are a reward in themselves. I’d have them on hand for training and then for outings when you don’t want to deal with dirty public restrooms.
2. My favorite thing about this potty ring seat are the handles, since toddlers’ instinct is to hold on to the seat.
3. We also bought the portable potty chair, so we don’t have to hang out in the bathroom all day. For less than $10, it was worth having the choice, plus we’ll use it when traveling.
4. As soon as your toddler starts touching everything in the bathroom, you’ll realize how much you need to wipe down everything. These Honest Co. products are strong and safe for little ones’ skin. And hand-washing becomes as much fun as going to the potty, so have lots of soap ready to go.
5. How cute are these days of the week underwear?!
6. Watching the episode, Prince Wednesday Goes to the Potty / Daniel Goes to the Potty, was so helpful for getting Evelyn excited about the process and giving her language to use about needing to go potty. You can listen to the little Daniel Tiger ditty about potty training here. (The episode is free on Netflix or Amazon Prime or you can grab the DVD.) The book, Going to the Potty by Mr. Rogers, is sensitive, straightforward, and respectful.
7. M&Ms. Enough said.