How To Potty Train Your Toddler

Are YOU ready?

I won't lie. Potty training is not fun. I've been through it three times now. There are a lot of different methods out there and a lot of products and books that you can waste your money on, but take the advice of a mom who had her three boys trained before they were three.

  1. Determine Whether or Not YOU Are Ready to Potty Train. If your child can walk and follow simple instructions, your child can be potty trained. The question is, are you ready to make a commitment to teaching your child? Your child will commit and succeed in direct proportion to your commitment. If you give up or slack off, expect your child to do the same. If you decide to quit and pick it back up later, it will just take that much longer.
  2. Think of the cost savings and the years not spent wiping tushies. Most children these days are not potty trained before they are three. And a large number are still in Pull-Ups at the age of four. Imagine, if your child is eighteen months (two of my sons were potty-trained before they were 2, the other took longer as I was a working mother), he or she can be potty trained by the age of 2, that's one to two years of  not having to buy diapers or Pull-Ups and not having to wipe icky tushies. That right there is reason enough to buckle down and get to work.
  3. Set an example. Maybe you're one of those rare parents that has somehow escaped having your child follow you into the bathroom. If you are, now is the time to give up your right to privacy. Let your child (in a modest way) see you going potty on the pot. If you have a son, dad take your boy and show him how it's done. Ladies, model for your girls that princesses go pee-pee on the potty.
  4. Invest in plastic-covered training pants. NOT DISPOSABLE!!! Kids are smart. You can put a diaper in a different shape on them and they're going to know it's still essentially a diaper. Save yourself some training time, buy the cloth. Children find the sensation of being wet in a cotton diaper much less favorable than being wet in absorbant, disposable underwear. Babies R Us sells some. Wal-Mart used to. Either check online or in your local store. Take your child with you and let him help you decide which ones to buy. Buy at least a dozen pairs and plan to do laundry EVERY DAY. I use to fill my washer half-way up with soap and water in the morning and just toss the plastic covered skivvies in there after they were soiled. At night all you have to do is turn it back on.

    NOTE: If there is poo-poo in the undies, carefully pull them off your child while standing next to the toilet. Empty the contents into the pot, turn the undies inside-out and swirl until everything that can come off has come off. I kept a small bucket beside the toilet for such occasions. That way I didn't drip icky water all the way down the hall to the laundry room.

    If your child has only tinkled in the undies, help him take them off in the bathroom -- because that's where pottying is done -- wipe him off, place clean undies on him, and allow him to throw his undies into the wash. Kids like to be as involved as possible and even such a small thing makes them feel like a big kid.

  5. Buy a potty seat. You can either buy a potty chair or a seat which fits onto your toilet. If your child is smaller it is best to get a chair. There are also mini-urinals out there. I tried one on my youngest son but that's not how his brothers went potty and he wouldn't use it. If possible, take your child with you and let her help you pick out the chair.
  6. Have a discussion with your child about the upcoming changes. Put the chair and the plastic covered undies in their proper places. Show your child where things are at and discuss with him the reason you have these things. In everything you say, let there be excitement and enthusiasm. It works wonders. (At this point it's best to have diapers stored out of sight.)
  7. Start first thing in the morning. As soon as your child wakes up, take her to the bathroom. Take off the diaper she is wearing and set her on the potty (even if she argues with you about it). With all the early morning enthusiasm you can muster, pull out a pair of the new undies and put them on her. Explain that big girls (or boys) keep their undies clean and go potty in the pot. Keep everything on a positive note.
  8. Check the undies frequently. I use to check ever half-hour to an hour until it got to the point where it was just automatic for me to pick my son up and slide my finger under the skivvies to do a wet-check. Any time I hugged them or brought them a toy or a cup, it was just automatic.
  9. Change them in the bathroom. When she is wet, take her to the bathroom, saying something like, "Are you wet? Where do big girls go potty? That's right, in the pot. That's all right, we'll try harder next time." (No matter how many times you have to change her, remain optimistic. Depending on the child, potty training can take weeks or months. Remain consistent and optimistic and it will click so much faster.) Even though she has already gone, set her on the toilet, even briefly, just to remind her -- that's where we go potty. Give her the wet undies and help her throw them in the wash.
  10. Only use disposables at night or when traveling. Make it clear that during the day, when we're at home, we wear underwear. Once your child is going hours without an accident you can feel safe taking him to store or to the park without a disposable. Hype this event up as much as possible, it's a big day for both of you. But be certain to take along a change of clothes, wipes, and a plastic bag for soiled items, just in case.
  11. Make the switch to big kid undies. When your child seems to have gotten the idea a bit more (i.e. they are actually trying to get to the toilet and are having fewer accidents), switch to big kid undies. This is another opportunity for you to go shopping together. Allow your toddler to pick out his or her new underwear. It's a very exciting moment for them and you should be excited for them.
  12. Continue to be supportive and enthusiastic. Potty training is an ongoing process. Even after your child is successful at going all day and night without an accident, there will be those times when he is too busy playing to bother with going big-boy-potty. Remain positive. Gently remind your child that big kids go in the pot. Always remain prepared, even if it's been a long time in-between accidents. I always kept emergency wipes and clothes in the car. Always, always remember that the more positive you remain, the more comfortable your child will feel coming to you after there has been an accident. Keep the shame out of potty training. Work at it as a team and the your patience will reward you.

Gwenn Bailey is a trained Christian Life Coach, mother of 3 little boys, an unwilling divorcee, full-time student and housekeeper. You can visit her website at

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