Quick and Simple Potty Training | Without Stressing Everyone Out

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So you’ve finally had a good stretch (hopefully!) of sleeping at nights and you think the hard part is behind you. 

Welcome to potty training. 

The new challenge that’ll make you wish for a sleepless night if it meant you could keep your toddler in diapers. 

I am joking of course. But…when I started potty training my oldest I did often think, “why did everyone talk about sleep issues being so hard? This is way worse and no one even mentions it!” 

Potty training is a challenge but they WILL get it and you WILL feel like a superhero for helping them. The plan I outline here will help make potty training easier and speed the process up without bringing unnecessary stress into your home. 


First things first, expect the unexpected and be cool about it my friend. There will be messes, there will be regressions, there will be day training and then night training, there will be a lot of laundry. Buckle up for the ride and be okay with the messy process. It seems like you’re getting nowhere and then suddenly the breakthrough comes!

And of course, as with absolutely everything in parenting, the less stress we introduce to the process the better. Especially when potty training. Children do crazy things when they are scared and stressed while potty training. I mean the type of crazy that can have them in a doctors office and keeping calm will help avoid such things.


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But fear not…

All that being said I am giving you my secret sauce for potty trining that has led me to success. Truly I consider this a no-fail, straight-forward method. 

I would argue that whats in this post is all you need to know to successfully train your child. But, I love having handy books so here are my recommendations:
How to make your child love going potty?” by Susan Urban. Super short, sweet and helpful.
Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki

I haven’t read the latter but it comes highly recommended. 

This method

Can I promise you this method will get your child potty trained in a weekend? No method can…no matter what they boast. 

Although, of course, anything can happen. 

My children started really catching on after 3 days of fully-focused potty-training. 

Before you can even begin the training there’s plenty of work to be done (as you will see below)!

Side note… Many people told me during the potty training season, “Don’t worry, they won’t go to college in diapers!” Thanks. Very helpful. 

Observation and method go hand in hand to make the recipe for potty training success! Combine that with a laid back, totally committed but completely unfazed parent and you CANNOT FAIL. 


Are they ready?

I am sure at this point in your parenting journey you have already realized that children develop at different speeds. Most children can be potty trained around the age of 2. It’s encouraged that you make this transition before your child is 3 and asserting their free-will whole-heartedly. 

We as parents can so quickly fall victim to the comparison trap. The average age for most milestones in childhood is pretty broad. When your child falls out of that “average” time frame it still doesn’t promise a problem. Perhaps your child isn’t average and that can be a gift! 

Not to mention there will always be the miracle child who started peeing and pooping on the potty at 6 months old and never looked back. Definitely don’t compare your kids to them or hang out with their parents for that matter. Joking…kind of. 

These questions will help you determine if your child has a higher likelihood for success.  Age is not the most important factor in determining your child’s readiness to potty train so ask yourself this…

  • Can your child walk?
  • Can your child pull down and pull up their pants?
  • Can they keep a diaper dry for around 2 hours?
  • Can your child communicate with you (if not in speech then with actions and gestures)?
  • Can your child understand simple instructions?
  • Has your child been hiding when they have to go to the bathroom?
  • Has your child communicated their discomfort in dirty diapers?

If you answered mostly yes to these questions your child sounds ready to give potty training a go!

Free sticker chart

*A question that frequently comes up on these lists of readiness questions is, “Will there be a big change in their life soon, such as a new sibling or a big move/vacation?” 

Although I think this question is something to consider it is not as important as the ones above. 

Now, if your baby is going to be born this month or the vacation and move is happening very soon then waiting until the dust has settled is common sense. If there is an event happening two or more months from now than get started anyway. The timing for change will likely never be perfectly convenient! 


**Another question that frequently comes up is “Have they already transitioned to a toddler bed?”

Essentially asking, “will they be able to get themselves in an out of bed at night to use the bathroom?” 

Training your child to stay dry at night is separate from training them to stay dry during the day. They are separate events, even separate milestones.  I’ll go in more depth about what to expect in regards to nighttime training below but don’t put off potty training because of the bed your child is or isn’t in. It won’t end up making a difference.


Last but not least, are YOU ready to potty train? 

I started to train my oldest daughter to use the potty at 18 months. My mistake here was that even if she might have been ready, I was not. I was 7 months pregnant and I couldn’t easily sit, stand, clean, chase and all the other wonderful tasks that come with potty training.

After making sure that your child is ready to being training, make sure you are ready too.

Are you and your spouse and any involved caretakers on the same page? Lack of commitment from other significant people will wane your determination. Commitment from all parties is fundamental to success. If the other people in your child’s world aren’t prepared you should either find a compromise with them or knowingly move forward with unwavering conviction to get this done as you carry the load.

Talking…

HYPE THIS NEW SEASON UP! Potty training isn’t like learning to roll over, it can’t come as a surprise

To ensure success you have to communicate honestly and openly with your child about what’s to come. S-P-E-L-L it out. Tell them the who, what, where, when, why and how. 

Don’t assume because they’ve never once let you go to the bathroom on your own that they know what actually happens in there.  

I have even heard that you should talk about potty training all the time leading up to the start. It definitely can’t hurt to include it in as many conversations as possible!

Avoid using negative words like dirty, stinky or gross. These words create shame. We want this to be as positive of an experience as possible. We want our kids to feel like they are doing something amazing… not something disgusting. 

Praise and positivity will be your greatest weapon to motivate your children. 

Hopefully you have heard already and maybe have begun, but prepare yourself to use the proper terms for body parts. As soon as we start talking to our children about their bodies we need to consciously take shame and embarrassment out of the situation. They need to be able to honestly talk to us about anything without embarrassment. Read this article from “Focus on the Family” about how and why to use the proper terms for our bodies to avoid embarrassment, shame and potentially abusive situation. 

If this is as uncomfortable for you as it was for me, practice saying the words to yourself when you’re alone. I could not even do that at first! 

Just so you know, your children will embarrass you by using the wrong word at the wrong time. Although, what you achieve through this practice far outweighs the embarrassment.

That being said, I have yet to find a great alternative term for “butt”. I mean, “butt” seems as cutesy as “tush” or “bottom” right? I mean is anyone saying “gluteus” to a 2 year old? But I digress…

Preparing…

Do you have what you need?

Free sticker chart

I recommend having…

  • Big kid underwear. Include your child in the process of choosing their big-kid underwear whether thats looking online together or going shopping. The most important thing to them might be the picture on the front but make sure the quality and fit will be comfortable. It won’t matter that Paw Patrol is on the front if your child is itchy or the fit is tight!
  • Small portable potty (this one is my favorite). So many people will tell you not to make the investment but I profusely disagree. This specific potty is portable, which is key in my potty training method. There is reward music ONLY when the child is successful in actually using the potty. Training toilets that have a button or lever to play music will not encourage your child to USE the potty because they can have the “reward” anytime they want. Additionally, this model has grow with me features and it’s comfortable for the long sit times. And of course it is child-sized in a way that fits both boys and girls because of the raised front.
  • Old towels to lay out over carpets and furniture for the first few days.
  • A pack of pull-ups. These are for nights, church, long car rides etc… more on this later.
  • Sticker chart and some favorite stickers. See my free printable potty sticker chart above!
  • A few books on potty training. Maybe skip library books for this one. Try thriftbooks instead!
  • Fun activities. You need something to encourage them to sit and stay on the potty for a while. Try things like a tonies box, books, play doh. Maybe make a quick trip to the dollar store and grab a few new toys to take out as “potty toys”.
  • Favorite drinks and convenient water bottle. Get them drinking!
  • Treats. Think fruits, yogurt bites, fruit bars. Sugar sweets can work against you if your child is getting too many in a day. They may be using the potty but the sugar will likely disturb their sleep and their mood. 
  • I went pee-pee on the potty dance. I am not joking, make one up and have it ready!
  • Cleaning supplies because there will be accidents.
  • Pee pads for the car seat.
  • Doggie bags. These are a diaper bag staple for me anyway. Not because we have a dog but because things get wet, dirty, stained, and this is the best place to put things. It’s also helpful for using for dirty diapers or trash while you’re out.
  • Pack extra clothes and underwear every time you’re out.
  • Flushable toilet seat covers. For when you are out and about.
  • Step stool to get them to the large potty.

Not necessary but helpful…

  • I never used a toilet insert or special child sized seat with steps to train my kids but it can’t hurt. The problem is that whenever you go out there will always be a regular sized toilet without an attachment. Not to mention that whenever guests come over this thing will awkwardly be in the way. 
    All in all I just saw it as an extra step that you’ll have to get rid of and they don’t really need. None of my kids have fallen off or into the toilet although a few other things have…that poor Olaf tones figure.
  • Flushable wet wipes.
  • Loose fitting bottoms. Some people say tight pants or shorts mimic the feeling of a diaper and will prolong the transition. 
  • Waterproof fitted sheet. See “Night Time Potty Training and Pull-Ups” below for more details.

Let the diapers run out

My favorite way to get started is by “running out of diapers”. Words have power especially with children so before those diapers run out, take your kiddo to go buy some special underwear and put it in the drawer until the time is right. 

This is a great visual for your child to see the diaper pile thinning. Plan to start the day after the last diaper is gone. *This can be manipulated to suit your ideal timing. Telling your child things like “when we are out of diapers we can start using your big kid underwear!”, can really help a child understand the change that is taking place. 

*I don’t ever encourage lying to our kids, so I am not telling you to. Even with the small things. If you can justify the small lies now you’ll be able to justify big ones later. If you’re putting diapers away to make the pile seem like it’s dwindling simply say, “this pile is the last of the diapers we are going to use.” We are going for a visual aid not mental manipulation.

Diapers out, underwear in. 

Nighttime Potty Training and Pull-Ups

As you know, our goal is to completely abandon the diaper way of life. Therefore, to get started at nights you will want to start using pull-ups instead of traditional diapers. The slight difference between diapers and pull-ups will be enough to keep your child from thinking diapers are still an option and introduce the option for some independence.

Don’t expect dry nights from the start. You can expect your child to stay dry at night up to 6 months after regular daytime potty use. And the “training” process looks much different. 

Ideally, you’ll want to only use pull ups at night and underwear during the day. Keep this part of the transition as relaxed as possible. You can casually start encouraging them to keep their pull-ups dry if possible. You don’t even have to mention when they wake up and are wet. 

Jump down to “the first night” for more details on how to “train” your child to stay dry at night.

In those first months, pull-ups can also be used for social events, dropping your child off at church or kids programs, long car rides or whenever you need the extra protection. Your child can come become confused and start to depend on them for leaks if used too often. 

Most children are able to sleep through the night without pull-ups about 6 months after being trained to use the potty during the day. 6 months! My oldest was a little longer and my middle child was way less. 

This is why your child’s bed situation doesn’t matter. Whether they are in a toddler bed or a crib no one is getting up in the dark to use the bathroom yet. Even when my children were night trained I still asked them to yell for me if they needed to use the bathroom. A 2-year-old walking around a dark house alone? No thanks. 

After about a week of dry nights you can switch to underwear if you want! You don’t want to discourage their natural progress by putting them in pull-ups unnecessarily. This is when the fitted waterproof sheet comes in either for the crib or toddler bed because again, messes will happen. 

To keep the mess minimal, try to also keep the amount of stuff in bed with your child minimal. 3 pillows, 2 blankets, a sheet and 5 stuffed animals will be a lot to wash at every accident. 

Don’t wane, the process I outline here will work if you stick to it.

Choose an ideal day 

When the day has been chosen make sure you have at least a week with no commitments. 

It’s important to be home for 2 full days and only out for short periods of time on the 3rd and 4th day. 

4 days is all it should take for your kiddo to start getting the hang of things and accept their new way of life. As much as a toddler can accept anything that is. This way there is no stress. It can be light, encouraging, focused training. 

Remember that the process is gradual even under the best of circumstances. Celebrate every win!

If you have the luxury of choosing a warmer month, this would be ideal. Your child will spend most of those 4 days partially or completely naked from the waist down and you don’t want them to be chilly. Otherwise grab a big pack of socks as well!

THE GOLDEN RULE

Never, ever, I mean NEVER ask a child if they have to use the bathroom. Guess what the answer will be 100% of the time? 

“No.” 

Get into the habit of saying “Okay, it’s time to go sit on the potty! Who’s going to get there first, you or me?!” They need to learn this is a pretty non-negotiable part of their new lifestyle.

Day 1

Set Up

Put the training potty in the main play space of your home. Where do you spend most of the time during the day? Put away whatever you don’t want getting peed or pooped on. Otherwise, put towels down where your little one can go. I always made a little pathway with towels and a spot on the couch where there would be that extra protection. 

This does not mean that your child cannot use the big potty. If it encourages them to actually pee then let them try every bathroom in the house! Switching between potty will also allow them to get used to a regular toilet and make the training potty to big potty transition seamless. 

The point is having the potty where your child can always see it. Out of sight, out of mind! We need to avoid that. 

As you observe them the first few days you will begin to learn the tell-tale signs that an accident is coming. This is when having the potty super close and convenient is helpful. 

Place the potty on the floor and the sticker chart on the wall close by. Set up a basket next to the potty with books, a Tonies Box with a new figure, Timio with a new disc pack, whatever will help keep their interest while on the potty and give them an incentive to sit. Consider making those “potty-only” toys that can’t be used at any other time. 

Keep their water bottle full and accessible. Encourage them to keep drinking. 


Dress Code

Ideally, you will keep them naked from the waste down (except for maybe socks) for the first day or two. Once they have managed to use the potty (even if its by accident) you can bring out the underwear if you think that will encourage them. 

Feeling the accident happen will help teach your child this next step faster. Reinforcing accidents with your love and patience will keep shame and embarrassment away while motivating them to learn how to use the potty!


Keep Watch

Watch your child like a hawk because the second you think, “they’ll be fine for a minute” will be when the mystery puddle will appear. When your child starts squatting quietly, looking around, or wandering off, pick them up and swoop over to the potty. 

Share with them what you observe, “Whenever you squat down like this you usually have an accident. If you start squatting try and think about using the potty.” Chances are your child doesn’t recognize the behavioral patterns they have so sharing with them can help. 


Routine

Have them sit on the potty every 20-30 minutes for 5-10 minutes. Set a timer to remind yourself. 

If your child enjoys movies or a TV show, play it only when they are sitting on the potty. Show them the Sesame Street potty training episode on YouTube. Whatever it takes to get them to sit and stay long enough to use the potty. 

And when that potty music goes off because they successfully used it… you go nuts! Break out the “You went pee pee on the potty” dance and jump around singing. They have to feel like they just achieved something incredible, because they did! 


Cleaning Up

When messes happen, clean them up calmly. Tell them, “I want you to use on the potty now” Or something to that effect. No shame, no blame just make your expectations clear. 

The first few times there’s an accident on the floor you can clean it for them. After a few more times you can have them help you clean. Once they have started to get the hang of using a potty they can start doing the brunt of the cleaning work in your team. It can help children to realize the new consequences of peeing without thinking. There’s a mess for someone to clean up! 


The First Night

Be sure that before bed they sit on the potty and try to go. When you put them in pull-ups for the first time, explain to them the difference between diapers. Tell them the goal is to keep them dry like underwear and what they should do if they have to use the potty at night. (Parental preference here but I always told my kids they could call for me if they need to use the bathroom and I’ll come help.) 

Some people tell parents to wake their children at nights to go sit on the potty. I think this is crazy and the reasons seem painfully obvious. We don’t want to make steps backward in sleep to make steps forward with the potty. Your child can be trained during the day before they are trained at night. It’s okay that night training takes longer and is a more natural learning process. 

Bring your child straight to the potty first thing every morning and celebrate dry pull-ups by going wild! And stickers. 


Rewards

I used a sticker chart and this pack of Sesame Street books as a reward for going potty. After the books ran out I would use a snack such as goldfish or special fruit. 

I’m not ashamed to say that when I was teaching them to poop on the potty I would give them anything they wanted. Gummy bears, skittles, marshmallows WHATEVER just go!! What’s important to remember is that when your child gets the hang of a new skill, the need for rewards will naturally taper off but the new habit won’t. 

Day 2-4 

Depending on how your child did the first day you can add underwear but don’t change too much else. I wouldn’t add underwear until they show some signs of willingness to use the potty. 

Keep the process similar and don’t give up. Keep the praise, the stickers, the treats coming and keep the pants off. 

If you want to get outside, have your child put on underwear and loose pants or shorts. Keep the time short (under a half hour) and go straight to the bathroom upon your return. 

Remember that accidents are more likely to happen when your child is upset, or physically active. If you feel a tantrum coming and they haven’t peed in 20 minutes I would rush off to the bathroom. 

Day 5 and beyond

Continue using a timer for the first week but you can extend the time as your child needs. Make underwear and pants a regular part of the day. Do not begin to ask them if they need to use the potty. Keep pointing out when they are showing signs of a possible accident and bring them to the potty. 


Transitioning to a big potty

Ideally there will be no transition because from day one there will be a mix of using the adult toilet and the raining potty. 

If the big potty is scary to your child, then the little potty will bring them comfort and peace in the beginning. When they are using the potty regularly you can start to only reward trips to the big potty. For the first and last potty trip of the day you put them on the big potty. Whenever you are out at someone else’s home you take them to the regular potty there. 

Now, if your child is excited to use the big potty then leet them go for it! Otherwise, make using the big potato like a reward! Tell them after they use the little potty successfully 3 times they can try the big potty. 

Troubleshooting

Like we said at the beginning, all children are different. If after 3 days of focused, bare-bottomed, potty training your child is not successful at all then take a break! 

If your child seems stressed then tell them they can stop training for a few days and try to address the specific issues. See if there are some creative solutions for whatever is causing your child’s stress. Take a 2-week break and start again. Take one of those two weeks and prepare your child mentally for the next attempt. 

Like with every challenge and milestone there can be dark before the dawn. The difficulty of potty training will pass and your child will be a pro for life. Stay calm, stay consistent, and stay encouraging… breakthrough is coming! 


Potty Training Pin

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