Top Potty Training Tips
Every child is different, so I know there is not one potty training method that works for every child. Therefore, I wanted to bring you the top potty training tips based on what I experienced while raising my own kids since each of them is so unique. Knowing each child has been made so individually makes us need to constantly adjust our methods as we are working with the uniquely created children in our lives. It keeps us on our toes, to be sure. I swear that each person thinks they have parenting figured out after they had one successful potty training or sleep training episode. They have it figured out until they have “that child” that throws their theories for a complete loop. Apparently, we need at least one child to humble us and bring us to our knees. I have one that challenges what I think I know in terms of behavior training. Another one has challenged my strategies for getting kids to eat healthy food. My youngest has challenged what I think I know in terms of potty training. I can tell you that in this process each of my children has responded differently to potty training. One of my children was potty trained before two and this third has finally arrived at age 3 1/2. Therefore, today I can’t bring you one strategy that is a guaranteed success. I can bring you the top potty training ideas that have worked for me or have been recommended by others. It might be a trial and error with your child. It might just take a lot of patience and a few more diapers.
SIDE SOAP BOX MOMENT: In this conversation I also want to encourage you not to judge. You might have easy kids. Some people do. They might be easy now but will challenge you like you never imagined once they get older. They may just be compliant, easy to get along with kiddos their entire lives. I can testify that if I had 3 like one of my children (I won’t name names), I would have considered parenting up until this point delightful and easy. When people say, “Parenting is hard.” I would have thought they just weren’t using the right recipe. With three, I have come to realize there isn’t a recipe. Parenting is more like a test kitchen than a cookbook. We have our expectations and try and remain consistent, but it takes switching it up and trying other methods. When you see “that kid” at the park who is throwing the tantrum as well as the bark from the ground at other kids, you have no idea how that parent is struggling constantly with “that kid.” It might be because of her lack of parenting…it might not. Please withhold judgement until you too have “that kid” that has challenged the very fiber of your being, and you are trying everything you know how to do the best you can with “that child.” Also, people like to think they have all the solutions for what has worked for them – whether it by potty training, sleep training, potty training or training kids to eat. They may even turn to the judgmental side of these issues. Please stop. Parenting is hard enough. If someone asks for your advice, kindly give what worked for you. You can politely ask if they want your experiences. However, just remember that people have different kids than your kids. You might have methods that don’t work for everyone, so try not to impose them on others.
TOP POTTY TRAINING METHODS
The Potty Party – This is the method we used for our oldest child, and it worked very well. I think I heard it on Dr. Phil back in the day – way pre-children. The concept is that you create a big party in celebration of the first success. I’m talking a big party. You have blowers and confetti. You turn on music and dance. We had a “pee pee in the potty” dance and song. It was a big deal. My oldest, especially, responded immediately to this because she gets totally amped up at the promise of a celebration. She had big victories by just celebrating the first potty experience in a major way. However, I wouldn’t say it was that simple for my other two. With the victory experienced with the first, we did think we had found the magic solution. It might be what exactly works for your child. I do wish it were that easy every time.
Reward Chart – A reward chart seemed to work well for my oldest two. We had a chart on the wall where they could earn stickers. Once they filled the entire chart they could go get a toy from the Dollar Store or a new pack of underwear. Kids who thrive off of a visual reminder of accomplishment will do well with this method. It will also work well with kids who like to see how they can earn things from their hard work.
Undies Hanging on the Wall – Sometimes kids are just motivated by the thought of a new accessory for their wardrobe – underwear. I think this was particularly motivating for girls. My son was intrigued by the super heroes and race cars that decorated his future underwear, but it wasn’t enough motivation for him to make the change. The visual reminder of undies hanging on the wall in the bathroom out of their reach may be the only motivation some kids need.
Cheerios to Shoot At – This was the first success we saw with my son. It was, for him, short lived. For other parents, I hear it has been all that is needed. The thought is that you throw Cheerios or some other flushable item into the toilet for them to shoot at. This is obviously a technique reserved for boys.
Candy Reward for Each Success – This is often a motivator for children. After all, a major goal of every child on the globe is to get candy. Get candy. Get candy. While some people healthier than I am don’t like the thought of food rewards, if food doesn’t seem to be an issue for the members of your family or for your kids, I really don’t have a problem with it. I would offer an M&M, marshmallow or some other small reward for each success. This would continue until going potty was the norm rather than the exception.
Baby Potty Training – Many people are choosing to potty training their baby – yes, their infant child. I did not attempt this. It felt like it is more a practice in training the adults about when it is time to rush to the bathroom with your child. Of course, the transition to your child going to the bathroom on their own and understanding where to go when it is time would happen more quickly and naturally. If you want to read more about this technique, please visit Baby Center. I never had the commitment to try something like this, but I’d love to hear your experiences.
“They’ll Do it Eventually” – I have heard the theory that kids are just ready to be potty trained at different times so don’t push it. Just try things out with your kids to gauge if they are ready. If not, take a break from it. I have heard this advice from older parents who are well past the potty training stage. I believe the quote I heard the most is, “They’re not going to go off to college without knowing how to do it.” Of course, we all want it before that time and as soon as possible in most cases. I would just gauge your child to see if they are feeling too defeated by the process. Kids develop at different rates, and maybe taking a break if things aren’t working well is great advice.
Potty Training a Weekend – My friend, Becky at Your Modern Family, put together a book with a method that works for her. Check it out: Click here to visit Your Modern Family.,” which is priced at only $9.99. She is a mom and a blogger that I trust, so I think it will be a great resource for you!
Refuse to Put on a Diaper – This is what finally worked for my son. I tried a number of the other techniques I am bringing to the table today. However, this is the only one that stuck with him. One day I just told my son, “I’m not putting your diaper on. If you can put it on, you can wear it. You’re a big boy now, and we’re done with diapers.” He cried for about 15 minutes…maybe longer. He struggled to get the diaper on by himself. Then, he announced he is done with diapers and was ready to put on underwear. We didn’t look back. He stopped wetting his diaper at night at the exact same time. Prior to that, he had been soaking through his diaper at bedtime. He declared to a few different people that he is a big boy now and big boys don’t wear diapers. That was that.
Potty Time Potty Training Watch – Here is an affiliate link to a tool on of my readers used. She said she had tried everything with her son, but this ended up being the magic tool that worked for him. The excitement of the fun music that played out of the watch was the only motivation he needed to go and try and hit the big boy potty. Thanks to my readers who give great ideas and feedback!
Outdoor Potty Awareness – A lot of moms have told me that they just let the boys run naked all summer. They become quickly aware of how their bodies are functioning and the sensation they feel when it is time to go. One reader pointed out that you could let girls do it too, which is true. I just never wanted to deal with urine dripping down legs. With either gender, I think it is best to make sure that this is done out of view of other people.
On the Potty At Regular Intervals – This is probably the method I’ve heard the most success with, but I think I wasn’t dedicated enough to make it happen. This is when mom sets a timer at regular intervals. After15 minutes or 30 minutes, the child is taken to the bathroom to sit on the potty to attempt to go. This happens all throughout the day until they are able to begin to regulate themselves.
Read Potty Themed Books – We have read a variety of potty themed books. Children relate to books. They can be a big influence and motivator for kids to use the potty. Here are some books that might help (affiliate links added for your convenience): Potty (Leslie Patricelli board books), Potty Book for Girls, The, The Potty Book: For Boys, A Potty for Me!, Sesame Street: Potty Time with Elmo (1 2 3 Sesame Street), The Potty Train, and Princess Potty.
Potty Time is TV Time – I did this one with my middle child. We had 30-60 minutes of TV time a day. I would just move her potty into the living room in front of the TV, and that is where she would sit during TV time. It helped her to have some successes on the potty and make the connection to her body and the potty sensation before moving on to some of the other techniques.
Drink and Wet Dolls – I just received a reader idea that I just had to add to the post. She got a Drink and Wet Doll that you give water, and then it pees in a potty. She used this doll as an example for several days. She would show her daughter how it worked, and then she would pretend reward the doll with an M&M after the doll went pee pee in the potty. I love this idea.
Magic Water Changing Color – This is another wonderful idea from a reader. She would put a drop of food coloring in the water. Then, when her son went potty the food coloring would spread and make the water change color. How magical and fun.
Potty Before Bath – Another reader began having the child is on the potty every time their diaper was removed before bath time. They may or may not go, but it is a convenient time for everyone to have the experience of trying.
Potty training is going to be a unique experience for each child. I hope this gives you some tools to try with your own kids. I’d love to hear about your own experiences.
Potty Training Tools
Affiliate links added for your convenience.
Fisher-Price Potty Training, Learn-to-Flush
Potty (Leslie Patricelli board books)
Potty Book for Girls, The (Hannah & Henry Series)
Pampers Kandoo Flushable Sensitive Wipes, 200 Count
More “Works for Me” Parenting Tips
Teaching Kids to Obey through Games
What to do about Whining and Crying
This is something I am having trouble with at the moment, my little girl was 3 in Aril and is stubborn , very strong willed but is lovely too,very caring ,she is however going to nursery in September and all children have to be potty trained. She also has a lazy bowel and has medication for it and some days gets very messy nappies and doesn’t know it is going to happen . I am not at all sure which way to go I keep getting told she will do it when ready. I have 3 older boys one was easy at 2 one was just before 3 and also easy and one was 4 and a bit and not easy at all. I had to just say like you did no nappies ,but he was not happy.
Being diagnosed with lazy bowel (I didn’t know there was such a thing) really does complicate things. Have you tried the interval training? That might be a good bet for you. It’s hard. I know you’ll figure it out. Keep me updated on how it’s going and if there was some sort of magic training that you discovered that worked well for you.
lazy bowel is just what our family dr calls it basically she is constantly constipated regardless of her diet, she has two different medicines to make her bowel work,but it mostly makes it too runny. I will try what you suggest and let you know how it goes , if it wasn’t for nursery I would just wait a bit longer. thing is though I think she is ready .
Why is outdoor potty awareness just for boys?
I guess it wouldn’t need to be. I thought about it, and I just thought it could get a lot messier with girls and urine dripping down their legs. I guess you can always hose them off. 🙂
I’m having problems with miss 3 ( was three at the end of March) she flat out refuses to go to the potty or toilet, to the point that she cries herself almost to vomiting if you put her on them and screams if you mention the idea of it. I’ve also had the same remarks offered such as ‘she will do it when she is ready’ but she needs to be toilet trained by the time she starts kinder. We have tried all methods, bribery, celebrating any small achievements, letting her choose her own pretty knickers, mean mummy ( putting her on the potty/ toilet kicking and screaming). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
That was my 3+ boy. The only thing that worked for him was me refusing to put on a diaper. It was an interesting experience with that, but it only took him about 30 minutes to realize that I wasn’t going to budge. That said, I have a strong willed daughter, and if I had chosen the same battle with that kid I’m not sure I would have had the same results. She would have probably had a stand off and been peeing everywhere. It’s worth a try with yours. Kids are so individual, and it sounds like you have tried so much. Let me know what does work because I’d love to add it to the post. It will happen!!
I just added another idea to the post. You can read it, but a reader bought one of those dolls that goes potty. She would demonstrate the doll going potty and give the doll rewards. That translated really well with her daughter. It might be worth a shot.
I had the same problem with my 2 year old. refused to even go near the potty.. even started having night terrors which we thought was a result of being stressed about the potty.. we gave a rest for a couple of months, didnt even mention the potty, then all of a sudden she turned 3 and i mentioned it one day while i was going to the toilet did she want to come and try and we made a little game of it, listening for the noise it made when you wee, and since 4 days ago she has been in big girls knickers since and even using the potty on her own, when she did something in it for the first time we made a real fuss about it saying how excited we were and now she will even sit on the potty even if she doesnt need a wee.. this is a big step for her when she wouldnt even go near it a few weeks before. I think it is just a matter of they will know when they are ready, you cant push them too much because they will get themselves upset about it and it may well push them to not wanting to go at all.. it is hard when pre school is involved but i am lucky that my preschool will do nappies, maybe you should have a look round and see if there are any in your area that will do that. Also some of the comments that say outside awareness is just for boys, that’s not true, you can do it with girls too, yes you would have the problem with wetting down the legs but in some ways thats a good thing because the child may realise they dont like that feeling and learn to go on the potty to avoid it.. plus if you do it in the summer when its hot you can stick them in a paddling pool. there are lots of different ways and my first 2 children were quite easy and very similar, it was the potty in front of the tv and giving them a game to amuse them, they would sit there for hours if i left them.. this child my 3rd has been a lot harder to train but she is getting there slowly.. her first day at school today in big girls pants but it seems to be going well… again it is just a matter of them being ready.. encourage but dont force as it may have a negative effect and take longer.. I understand the difficulties so good luck too all..
You were wise to listen to your intuition and wait until she was more ready. Thanks so much for telling your stories and advice. I think it is super helpful to hear everyone’s differing experiences.
I tried to start potty training my first daughter when she was 18 months old. She was not ready. Started putting pullups on her. I then bought a doll that wets and would put it on the potty after giving it the bottle that came with the doll. Just filled the bottle with water and set it on the potty. My daughter would watch the water come out of the doll and I acted excited about it. I then pretended to give the doll a M&M. This went on for several days. On her 2nd birthday she went on the potty by herself and I started putting pretty panties on her. There were a few accidents and she would get so upset that her panties were wet. Didn’t take long for her to figure out. Second daughter was a breeze to train. She just watched the oldest on and she started going on the potty when she was 18 months old.
I love the doll idea. I’m going to add it to my post, if you don’t mind. Let me know if it bugs you, but I just love the idea!! Thanks so much for your contribution.
I thoroughly enjoyed this post, especially the Soap Box section. We have four special needs kiddos and fostered over 20, all within the toddler range. Every single one of them has been different. Our oldest was afraid of going potty because he didn’t know where it came from. One day naked and he understood, but then it took incentives and reinforcers. He doesn’t like food much or candy, so we resorted to ordering a large lot of Matchbox cars off of e-bay. Every time he went, he chose one. He’s autistic and that was his obsession at the time, so it was worth it. My second, a food allergy kiddo, and also autistic, was motivated by the colored water trick. I would put blue or red food coloring in the toilet bowl. When he went pee, he saw the color change. Eventually he chose any color for the bowl, but he loved the color trick. My third with emotional needs potty trained in 3 days, and was motivated by blueberries of all things. My fourth… I’m not venturing to go there yet, although this post is reminding me that it’s coming very soon.
I love, love the idea of the food coloring. I hope you don’t mind me adding that idea to the post. What a fun idea. I’m thankful that you have added to the conversation. Thank you for your love for kids. It is so evident.
I’m currently potty training my 3 year old. We started with interval training. (food rewards didn’t work) after a couple of weeks of interval training she started telling us when she has to go. We went and let her pick out her own underwear. She still wets her diaper at night but we haven’t had any accidents during the day in underwear. Pooping on the potty is a different story, she still poops in her diaper/pull up but I figure pooping on the potty will come with time.
I’ve heard pooping can come a little bit later. Let me know if you find the magic recipe for that one. I’ll add it to my idea. Good luck. It’s glorious not to change diapers anymore.
My son is 2 and had going pee in the Potty down. We did the diaper refusal. After I refused he tried putting it on himself. When that didn’t work he sat on the potty that I had for him in the living room and went pee. We are now struggling worth going poop on the potty. We might try the reward chart but I’m not sure what else to do.
I have heard pooping often comes later. He’s still young, and I am sure he’ll do it soon. Let me know if a reward charts works for you. I love hearing other people’s experiences in parenting!
Here’s a tip I suggest to the parents in my classroom. every time you change your child’s diaper or take off the diaper for bath etc…tell your child to automatically sit on the toilet/potty chair whether they go or not, allow your child to sit for a couple of minutes. At the beginning they may get off right away, that’s ok too. Soon your child will learn to sit longer and longer. If you are using a potty chair, keep it in the bathroom, don’t put it in front of the tv or in the kitchen. I also suggest when you are considering potty training, change diapers in the bathroom. We start with this method at the age of 2.
Thanks! I’m going to be adding your idea to my post too. I am getting such great reader feedback here, and I really appreciate you adding to the conversation.
Thank you for this great article and for the critical comments regarding each child being different.
To Julie, I would suggest that she speak with the preschool regarding the issue, and request support and suggestions from them. You might also speak with the doctor regarding the timing and dosage of the medication. If your preschool day is only three hours, as are many, you might find timing will help you to have success during those hours. You could also, if you are comfortable with this, consult a nutritionist or a reputable natural food consultant to see if there is a natural food product that could support her system. This has been quite helpful for several families at our school over the years. (yes, I do live in Southern California) The 3 months until September, in the lifetime of your child, is quite a long while, and development alone may solve the issue. I wish you luck and tons of patience, and promise you that with love you will find a way.
Thank you so much for helping out my readers with your advice. I have no experience with that, so it is great to have someone with more familiarity weigh in on the conversation. I am so appreciative of the dialogue that is happening here with this post. It is great to hear everyone’s experience and helping one another as a community. It’s really a “what works for me” kinda conversation.
thankyou so much for your reply we have to give her the medicines at night before sleep and is supposed to work in the morning ,but works atany time , we also have taken her off dairy as a trial,i will speak to the nursery though and look into a nutritionist and see what they say as I don’t really like her being on medication. thanks again for your support and I am sure like you say with love and patience I am sure we will get there.
There are much better ways of toilet learning for children when they are ready and their bodies are ready, In my opinion, most of the ideas you mentioned were gimmicky at best. This is the adult being ready for the child to be ready and it should be the other way around. The child being ready and the adult supporting the efforts of the child.
I totally love all of your other ideas and posts!!!!
So, does that mean you are in the “They’ll do it when they are ready” camp? I think that is what you are saying, but you also said there are better ways of toilet learning, and I’d love to hear your ideas and add them if you are willing. Let me know!
I have had a little time to think about your thoughts about toilet learning or potty training. Is it just a hoopla meant to make a parent’s life easier? Is it too gimmicky? I am going to respectfully disagree with some assumptions here. I think about how many things I have pushed my children to do. Whether it is tying shoes, getting themselves dressed, going potty, learning to ride a bike – I don’t think it is wrong to challenge kids to achievements that they might necessarily think they are ready for. I don’t think it should be at the detriment of the child, but I think there is a healthy balance here. I do believe kids can accomplish more than they think they can achieve. I have had kids experience a lot of satisfaction from these kind of achievements and accomplishments. It empowers them to grow, learn to do things on their own and try new things. I think this extra push can be super beneficial to building esteem in our children.
I work with a preschooler and he will be 4 years old a week before starting school. He is being stubborn about potty training and says he will wear pants after his holiday and when he is 4. His mum is at her wits end and getting frustrated. he is a smart boy and wears pullups at the moment. Am at a bit of a loss as what to advise mum to do. Don’t want to give the child problems by forcing him if maybe he is not ready. Any ideas?
Ugh – Not fun. I don’t think I have more advice than what I wrote here. I did just tell one reader that we had way more success when we got rid of the little kid potty all together and had him use the big toilet. He also has preferred to stand rather than sit. I am sorry I don’t have much more than that. If she does find something that works, I’d love to hear about it so I can add it to the post.
I did the baby potty training and it worked amazing my son just turned 2 and hasn’t wore diapers in over 4 weeks no accidents. I might add that he is completely non verbal and being tested for autism, if it worked for him it can work for any baby!!
That’s really good to hear! It is great to hear success stories like this, especially for moms who might have kids they are concerned about developmentally. That is quite a testimony to baby potty training. Thanks for weighing in.
My son now 3 trained fairly easily at 2.5 but only with no clothes on. With no clothes on he can take himself to the potty and doesn’t have any accidents. As soon as I put pants on him he just doesn’t use it and doesn’t tell me he’s gone in his pants. Its so frustrating. We’ve tried charts, dancing, books, a fancy potty, most recently he has to take off his wet clothes and take them to the laundry basket. But he does understand because he’s does it with no pants on…
That would be frustrating. Is he just being lazy or does he not know how to take his trousers on and off? My son would sit at the toilet and yell afraid he wasn’t going to make it if I couldn’t un-button a tough pair of trousers. Have you tried an elastic band pair so that there is some ease to remove? I don’t know what else to suggest. Side note: It’s funny – I saw your email address was from the UK, so I switched to the word “trousers” so there wouldn’t be any confusion. I lived the England for a bit, and I know that “pants” meant underwear in the region I lived. Then, I looked back and thought, “Oh, she used the word pants.” Then, I realized maybe you meant underwear there too. That’s just my random tangent for you on how my brain was working in this conversation. 😉 Let me know what works.
When trying to potty train my son nothing seemed to work. Until one day his aunt told him he needs to make sure to feed and water the potty everyday so it don’t break. You eat and drink stuff everyday and the plants get their food and water as well so they can grow. So we need to remember to feed and water the potty everyday. For some strange reason that’s all it took. So depending on what he had to do #1 or #2 determined if he was feeding the potty or giving it a drink.
That’s hilarious. What a funny story and a creative aunt. Thank you so much for sharing it. That made me laugh.
With my two boys being 13 months a part I showed them the lets water the trees & tires cause they were afraid of the toilet but after we got that down I did the if you poop in it we will go buy your own underwear if you go & made it a big deal they got to pick them out & choose them & then can only wear them if they poop in the potty . But with my girl she was harder then that & because we had lots of other issues we didn’t know about till we started potty training
Thanks so much for sharing with us your experience. It’s really great to hear other people’s stories because it just validates the fact that children have different experiences in this potty training journey. It also lets other moms know what works.
My son is 3 1/2 yrs old. I have tried everything, food, chart, telling him he would get a bike, fishy, etc. but so far no luck, I started when he was 2 and he actually went pee a few times, but one time he pooped and now he runs when you ask him to go on potty. He even would sit on potty for a whole episode of mickey mouse clubhouse an still nothing. It was like he was holding his pee or poop til I have up and would put back on the diaper. I don’t want to rush him but the extra money from diapers and wipes would really come in handy. His father and I split up a few months ago and doing it alone really stinks! I think I’m going to try the outside one you wrote about hopefully it works!! Any other advice you can give or things to change would be great!!!
Thanks for sharing your potty training woes. I know it can be hard. One question that came to mind is, “Are you always having him sit?” I found that my son has been much more comfortable standing. He has learned to sit and go poop, but we had much more success when we just got rid of the kid potty and had him stand and go pee in the big potty. I would try the shooting at Cheerios or the last advice to have him pee to change the water color with food coloring. Try the outside too like you mentioned. I’m so sorry to hear about you and his dad. I imagine it would be hard to train a kid (especially a boy) on your own. Let me know what works!
With my first I randomly popped her on when I was going… One day she did it by accident & we cheered, high 5’d and that was that. She however wouldn’t poo on the toilet. Think she was scared of the poo hitting the water or whatever, but one day she actually watched me & laughed about my poo coming out… Gross yes… But you do what you gotta… After that, she had no issues & went both wee/poo on toilet. Second was similar in she followed her big sister & wee’d but always did poo in her knickers… Just persevered & she eventually did it. I was never angry with them for accidents, & btw, both my girls are constantly roaming the house with no clothes on & regularly wee on the lawn… Even had a few poo’s too. I celebrate the victories where I can! The down side to this… When we go to the park, I have to be careful & watch them… I have occasionally found them stripping their duds off to wee in the sand!
You are hilarious. Oh the joys of potty training. Thanks for sharing your stories.
I have a 3 year old boy he loves helping out and he always wants to flush the potty for me or his daddy. He can tell me when he needs to poop or he already has but he waits days or even weeks in between telling me so he can use the potty. He like every kid is different he doesn’t like stickers (actually cried one day because someone put one on his shirt) he hates water could care less about candy unless I’m eating it and doesn’t care about eating unless it’s a meal and doesn’t care what he wheres. I also have a 6 month old so I haven’t really been pushing the potty I’m going to try a little harder but it’s also hard because I work full time and I’m gone diffrent times all week. But I’m sure he will get it eventually I think I’m going to try the no dippers and see where that gets me. Thanks for the post (sorry about the Grammer my post is tiny I can’t really see it well)
It is so hard to potty train with a newborn in hands too. Let me know if the no diaper thing works for you. I am sure he’ll get there. You might want to try the idea of having the water magically change color by adding a drop of food coloring. I love that idea!
I use the Keep their Mouths Shut Method of trainjng and it starts at birth. My kids usually come with me to the bathroom and always mimics me.
Glad to hear about your success stories. I like to hear about what works for different people.