A Veteran Mom's 20 Best Potty Training Tips

An event ten and a half years in the making came to the Frog house this week: every single child in the house is now potty trained. Squeeeeee!!!!!! I thought it would never be over. When you're in the thick of it - the diapers, the wipes, the breastfeeding blowouts, the diaper rashes - you feel like it's never going to end. But then you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you make a run for it.

I mean, yes, there is a little, tiny, very twisted part of me that is going to miss this:

It's so tiny. And that baby smell
 they have (when they're clean, of course).

 . . .but seriously, I'll survive. So will you because I am sharing my best potty training (or toilet learning as it's cool to call now) tips with you. And I even got some friends to help me, so let's dive right in.

1. Lay the groundwork early by being careful what you say. I'm talking really early! No matter what age your child is, never act like changing her diaper is gross or a bother. She will eventually pick up on those cues and begin to think it is something to be ashamed of.

2. Use words consistently for body parts and "bathroom stuff" that are comfortable for you. These are the words that your toddler is going to use, too. So if you can't say penis without giggling, he won't take it seriously either.

3. Let them see you go to the bathroom. Or dad or big brother or sister. This might pique their curiosity of how everything works.

4. Watch for signs that your child is developmentally ready and aware of his or her elimination habits. That may sound technical, but it simply means that he is aware of his body, he pulls at his diaper when it is wet or poopy or asks you to change it. It may also mean he has a special "pooping spot" or he hides to poop. This is a good sign. (And super cute and funny, too!) You may have to wait a little longer until your child is coordinated enough to get on the potty by himself and pull up and down his own pants (but you can help).

5. Buy a potty chair and put it in the bathroom. There are sooo many out there! BABYBJORN Potty Chair - Red is the one I like (It comes in lots of different colors. Just don't get white). It is two pieces and easy peasy to clean. I've used it with two of my boys, and they found it comfortable and easy to get on and off. You don't really need anything fancy like a singing potty or a learn to flush potty. Just keep it as simple and as focused on the task at hand as possible.

5. Start talking it up! Dr. Harvey Karp, legendary pediatrician and author of several books such as The Happiest Toddler On The Block, says to tell your child her poop and pee WANT to be in the potty. Cheesy, yes I know, but I found myself saying it anyway. And I could see the wheels turning in Edgie's head. Tell your child it's time to go on the big potty like Mommy/Daddy/brother/sister. Edgie actually used to get such a sore bottom if I didn't change him right away (Hello, fifth child!), that I started talking to him about how his bottom would feel better in undies.

6. Have them practice sitting on the potty fully clothed. No pressure, no threat, no scariness. Have her sit next to you while you pee ('cause, you know, you really never can pee alone). If she doesn't want to, don't push it. She may not be ready.

7. Reward the effort. Even they just sit fully clothed, praise, praise, praise. But don't overdo it.

8. Don't be discouraged if your child is not ready. Joey was my oldest, and he showed signs of interest at age two. I was all excited, but he wasn't really ready. Girls tend to be ready earlier than boys. The typical ages are between two and three; although some children are trained at 18 months and some not until they are four. And for goodness sakes, do not compare yourself to another mom or your child to another child. Just because little Nevaeh was trained at 18 months, doesn't mean your sweetie needs to be. Every one's situation is different. Day cares or grandmas may train kids or some kids train themselves (so I've heard this rumor). It will happen. My boys were all just over three years old. By this time, they were ready to be trained in about a day to three days.

9. Read about it. There are lots of great books for boys and girls. The one we read was called The Potty Book: For Boys. I replaced the main character's name with Edgie's, and he loved it. When I would make a mistake and read the character's name in the book, Edgie would correct me by saying his name. I could see the little wheels turning in his head every time we read it.

10. Determine what motivates your child and use it consistently. When the pee happens - and it WILL, I promise! - decide what you're going to use as a reward. The reward can be a motivator as well. Different things work with different kids. For us, it was as simple as a sticker chart with the boys' favorite characters.

Moms on Facebook had these ideas:
Amber:  'Treasure' chest on top of fridge bc he loves Jake and Neverland pirates. It's a bucket filled with candy, gum, small party favors from dollar store, small toy trucks, bubbles, etc. everything came from dollar store and he picks a 'treasure' every time he sits on the potty. We encouraged just sitting and rewarded that first now it's a treasure for going. Works great for bribing him to sit.

Michelle: Pennies for Potty! My son loves money and it was more effective than stickers or treats. Then at the end he could see how much he was earning for going potty.

Heather:  I have a day care and we use M&m's... 2 for pee 4 for poop!!!! Works every time! The last child took 3 days to potty train.

Melissa:  We did sticker charts. Certain amount earned you a little something (candy treat, half hour extra at bed, etc).

Tina: Candy. A pee pee on the potty dance. Candy. And more candy.

Colleen: My son was doing okay, we were going through 2-3 pair a day. When Christmas came (about 2 months after his third birthday and a month after we started trying potty training), Santa left him a letter that said he had to use the toilet and he would be watching. Not another accident ever. Not even overnight. Thank you Santa.

Elizabeth:  I used the Potty Scotty Kit - Boy Potty Training Doll, Book & DVD, it came with an atomically correct doll and a whole methodical system. It worked perfectly! 

Brenna of Suburban Snapshots I asked Anna every 20 minutes. Also, her reward was something she would never, ever have outside of potty training, something really exciting and rare, like gum, or Tic Tacs (don't ask).

11. Get undies with their favorite character. Don't mess with Pull-Ups. Pull-Ups are okay for night time until night dryness has been conquered, but undies - or naked - is the way to go. Since Pull-Ups feel just like a diaper, this really isn't accomplishing anything. You want your child to get used to the nice soft feeling of the undies. And by going naked, they will be more aware of their need to go to the bathroom. I got silly and talked to Edgie in the character's voices asking him to "please not poop or pee on me." He loved that, and pretty soon he was promising not to poop and pee on the characters.

12. Winter and summer are the easiest seasons in which to train. Seriously. Facebook fan Shanni says:  "Go naked. (Why not?...it's summer.)" And in the winter, you're not likely to be going many places anyway. Pick a really cold few days and just stay inside. 

13. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Give them lots of milk and water to drink so they have to go potty. Put the potty seat in the kitchen if you want to. Years ago I saw this television program about a woman who calls herself "The Potty Whisperer." She trains kids in one day by putting the potty in the kitchen, giving them all they want to drink, and making them clean up their own pee. She swears it works. But be careful what you give them to drink, warns Robyn of Hollow Tree Ventures. "With my first, I gave him all the fruit juice he wanted so he'd be motivated to drink (since it was so much sweeter than the milk he was used to). Lessons learned: 1) Too much fruit juice leads to diarrhea. 2) Diarrhea is a great way to make your child terrified of the potty for several more months. Sorry, kid."

14. Poop will happen. But it usually takes time, and kids are usually scared to do it. It may come much later than the peeing. My best tip for tackling this is to leave them completely bottomless and then follow them around. They will start to panic a little when they feel like they have to poop. They may go to their old pooping spot. They may ask you - beg you - for a diaper or undies. Then you scoop them up, put them on the potty, and out the poop will come. Then, a revelation! They will see that pooping on the potty wasn't so scary after all. Worked like a charm for my boys. Sometimes though, a child just can't get bowel trained. This may signal a problem. Talk to your pediatrician about the possibility of a tethered cord. Slim had a tethered spinal cord. He had a surgery to loosen it and was bowel trained shortly after that.

15. Set a timer for your child. Facebook Fan Candy used a Superhero watch and set the timer for every 15 minutes. If they are doing well, set it for every half hour, then every hour. I've been trying to drink more water this summer, so consequently, I have had to go to the bathroom a lot. I just made Edgie go every time I did. Now he's saying, "Come on, Mom. We have to go potty!" Sometimes he just wants me to sit in there with him.

16. Involve the whole family. Let your child sit in the bathroom with Mom and Dad or sit alongside an older brother or sister if they are willing. Dr. Karp says to "gossip" about your child's accomplishments; meaning, let them overhear you telling Daddy or siblings or calling the grandparents to tell them about her potty accomplishment. Better yet, let her call grandma to tell her. Have the whole family do a potty dance and cheer.

17. Have a plan for outings. You're going to have to go out of the house at some point. Please DO NOT go back to diapers! Stick the potty seat in the trunk of your car if you have to. Just because you're done with diapers doesn't mean you won't still have to pack a bag for a while. Bring extra undies and bottoms - maybe even socks and shoes, too - and a plastic bag in case. If you're nervous or unsure, put on a Pull-Up or plastic pants over the undies. Know where the bathroom is wherever you go (odds are, when you were pregnant you already familiarized yourself with every bathroom within ten square miles of your house). Don't be scared to leave the house. Janel of 649.133: Girls, the Care and Maintenance of. is a little, but she says, "We're still struggling a little bit with the whole underwear thing when we leave the house, but I see the light!"

18. Don't look back. Many moms agreed, once your child has gone on the potty, don't go back to diapers (maybe only at night until night training is established). You've both worked hard and you can be proud of what you've accomplished. And yes, if you time it right, it CAN be done in a day. Here is an interesting Facebook thread on that subject.

19. Patience and positivity are key! If it doesn't happen all in one day for your child, don't sweat it. Stress Bubbles says:  "PATIENCE. PATIENCE, PATIENCE. Every child is different. So is every Mother's frustration threshold." Never scold your child for having an accident. Just say, "That's okay, it happens. Let's clean it up." Potty learning can happen quickly or it can take time. Either way is okay. You're still doing a great job. Meredith of The Mom of the Year says, " I have no genius, only prayers. My son somehow now uses the toilet, but I'm not sure how we got there."

It will happen parents, I promise. And when it does . . .

20. Reward your child. Praise, high fives, hugs, kisses, even a special toy - let your child know he accomplished something big and that you're so proud of him!

New truck and truck undies - such a boy!

So what questions do you still have? What advice can you share? Leave it below and let's discuss.

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