Kids Toilet Training: A Simple Method to Potty Training Boys, Girls, or just Stubborn Toddlers in General
Potty training. Ugh. I’m pretty sure I was dreading it even before I got pregnant. I’ve heard serious horror stories and witnessed some unpleasant potty training problems in person too.
Take a barely-not-a-baby and expect self-control and bladder-control? You can have high expectations, but I just expected a mess. But in the end, I found a method that not only worked, but worked FAST and WELL.
Before I get into my potty training tips, I’ll share how the process went for us.
(This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure for details.)
As much as I dreaded potty training, I also hated the idea of a “big kid” in diapers. Not only does paying $30+ a month get old, it just never sounded tempting to wipe a walking, talking human’s poop. So I googled lots of potty training tips in preparation.
I considered Early Potty Training (aka Elimination Communication – where you begin toilet training from the early baby age,) but after a brief attempt I decided that running my non-yet-walking kiddo to the potty a thousand times a day was worse than potty training a stubborn toddler sounded.
Then I got pregnant with Baby Brother and resolved to have my almost 2-year-old toilet trained before I gave birth.
Buuut that didn’t last either.
Once I felt huge and was balancing momming, being miserably pregnant, and caring for another 1-year-old part-time, I gave up that idea pretty quick.
Even though my son was showing plenty signs of potty training readiness and had even had a few successes, it just wasn’t feasible during that time.
So I put it off a bit more.
Then I had a newborn. We were actually having some progress just before I had the baby, but my tot’s way of adjusting to being a brother was to exert his independence in the forms of picky eating and…you guessed it…using the potty. No amount of magic potty training tips were going to make that easy. I opted not to attempt potty training a stubborn boy in between breastfeeding sessions while functioning on basically no sleep.
Sooo I put it off. Again.
When my baby turned 4 months old we travelled to our home state to visit family. I definitely wasn’t about to take a potty-training toddler on a 10+ hour road trip. He would be two and a half by the time we got back, so I committed to making it happen after that.
Like really. We were ready to give it our all.
During the weeks leading up to the trip I could tell he would totally be able to use the potty if we tried. I looked up more potty training tips and signs of readiness. He was waking from naps with no pee, he would tell us when he was going in his diaper, and he was even able to keep himself from going in the floor when running around having “nakey time.” But I waited it out and bought one last pack of diapers before we hit the road. (Totally worth it, by the way. Keep reading.)
We explained to him that when we got back from Grammy and Papa’s house, it would be time to start using the potty like a big boy.
The day after we got home I put a few of those potty training tips into action. We told him it was time to use a potty instead of diapers.
AND HE DID.
It was seriously amazing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. He had one accident in the first week. ONE. That’s it. He has pottied like a pro ever since.
So here is the KEY to my super-secret genius potty training tips:
Wait until wayyyy after they are ready.
Yep. I mean, what could be an easier potty training tactic that just not potty training?! It’s the perfect lazy-parent’s (or busy-parent’s) method to getting your toddler to use a potty with minimal struggle, frustration, or mess. I’ll go into detail more below.
(Of course, I can’t guarantee that this is the best potty training method for every family. But it worked for us and I’m definitely going to try it with Baby Brother when he is older. I’ll also say that these potty training tips do not include night training. My tot still wakes up with poop every morning and I’m sooo not going to scrub it out of sheets. We’ll be waiting till he’s way past ready on that one too. I’ll keep ya posted. But as far as daytime potty training, this method is awesome.)
So in case you want to give it a shot, here is exactly how the process went for us…
10 Potty Training Tips for Parents Dreading it:
Let your toddler “practice” for fun
From around 18 months or so, I would put my little guy on the potty now and then. Especially when he said he had to poop while taking a bath. I was OVER cleaning poop from the tub and bath toys. We had a few successes that way, as well as trying the potty out for fun at home occasionally.
Because of this, I knew that he knew HOW to use a potty. The idea wasn’t foreign to him or scary at all. We also let him see us using the toilet pretty often, which I think helped a lot with preparation too.
Get a potty early
Go ahead and buy whatever toddler potty you plan to use in advance. Make a thing of it and let them try it out for fun (even if they don’t actually go.)
This is the potty we used for potty training. I LOVE it. It’s not bright and “toy looking” and it makes them feel like they are a big kid, which is kinda the point. They can even practice flushing, which is practical and pretty cute.
Having their potty around a couple months ahead of time will take the uncertainty out of things a bit. They will know what it is, where it is and how to use it when the time comes. I think this is an important early step in my potty training tips.
Let them set the pace, then wait longer
My mom kept telling me that potty training boys goes better closer to age 3. I didn’t want to wait that long, but you see how that turned out. In the end, I’m SO glad that we waited until he was big enough to communicate clearly with us and us with him.
Like I said above, he started showing signs of readiness around 18 months to 1 year. We waited another 6 months to a YEAR before doing structured training. I can’t give you an exact potty training age for your kiddo, but wait until you are sure and can really communicate with one another. We were confident that he was realllly ready and could “hold it” if need be.
This cut down SO MUCH on messes.
He tells me he has to go and I can say “wait!” and he does. We go to a potty and he goes. This is especially fantastic for when you’re in the car and can’t stop instantly.
(Number 2 is a little more tricky, at least for us so far. He has definitely had some successes, but he holds it a little too long and ends up constipated, which is pitiful. We are working on that, but to date, no poop in the undies, so I still call it a win overall.)
If you use any of my potty training tips, use this one! Waiting until past the point of readiness gives everybody confidence and takes away sooo much stress.
Don’t attempt potty training during major life events or extreme busyness
Like I said above, when I got pregnant it just wasn’t easy for me to devote the attention he needed to potty training. Then when we had the baby, it wasn’t a good time for HIM.
When things are changing they seem unstable, which is a BIG deal to a toddler. They need to feel super comfortable and confident as they take on this big challenge. Avoid trying to potty train during big transitions like new siblings, traveling, moving, starting day care, transitioning beds, etc. I really think this will save you a headache and save your little one some heartache.
Set a date they can understand
Decide when you’re going to go for it and help them understand what’s coming. If you just spring it on them one day, it might not go so well. Since toddler’s typically don’t read calendars, try using a time frame that makes sense to them.
For us it was “after we get home from our trip to visit family.” Maybe for you it’s “after your birthday party” or “when we are all done with this project.” Whatever it is, make sure they understand what to expect and then stick to it.
Talk it up way in advance
We made sure our boy was excited about potty training by making a big deal out of it. Every time we changed his diaper we would say “it’s almost time for you to start using the big boy potty!” This is another reason why it’s great to wait until they can really understand. You kinda need their cooperation on this one.
Another great way to get them looking forward to potty training is giving them some incentive. Our tot hates wipes. He doesn’t like how they are cold and he really dislikes us using several on his big poopies. So we started saying “when you start using the potty that means no more wipes!” He loved that idea and jumped on board.
Once we actually started the potty training process, he shouted “no more wipes!” in excitement. So cute.
I’ve had other mamas tell me about the method of staying home and potty training in 3 days. I have read a lot of potty training tips and I think this is A LOT more realistic if you wait past the “ready” point. Especially if you’re potty training a stubborn toddler.
If you stay in, you don’t have to worry about confusing them by using a diaper in the car, which is great. I know staying home for 2-3 days is a bit of a challenge for some, but I highly recommend giving this a shot. If you need to order your groceries online and have hubby pick them up, do that. It really is worth the few days stuck in the house to assure they get LOTS of practice time on the potty.
(We used these training pants in the car the first few outings, just in case. They are super soft and comfy, with extra padding for leaks. He still wears them as undies sometimes. I recommend getting a couple packs. )
Once we were ready to officially start the process, I set up the potty in our living area (because that’s where we hang out and I didn’t want him having to run to the bathroom and risk an accident.) I tried to make it cool. I put “his very own” roll of toilet paper next to the potty, set out his potty book and some other books, and told him it was his special potty spot.
Don’t put the potty on a rug or carpet, especially if you’re potty training boys and teaching them to aim, if you catch my drift. Learned this the hard way. If all you have is carpet, maybe you could set down a plastic liner or waterproof pads like these for a few days, then just wash them.
Another thing that helped make our potty training experience a success was making it fun for little man. We got tons of cool undies, read this book over and over (it’s awesome,) and even let him run around naked for fun (undies and nakedness also help cut down on time between the urge to go and the going.) The fact that these things were special and different helped him understand that we were transitioning into something new and it was a big deal!
We also used a treat jar. I put a jar of M&Ms, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips next to his potty spot and let him pick one every time he successfully used it. You could also use stickers. First he had to flush (that’s why I love this potty) and wash his hands.
Some mamas have really good reasons not to use a reward system for potty training. You do you. But for us, it worked wonders. After a week or two, he was so good at going that he didn’t even ask for a treat anymore and I put it away while he was asleep. He never noticed.
Get it alllll out
Ok, here’s a tip courtesy of my failure. My smartie-pants toddler figured out that if he peed a lot of times, he got more treats. (Another negative of the reward system, I guess.) I noticed he was going 3 or 4 times within 15 minutes and asking for a treat every time. Hmm.
Turned out he wasn’t really emptying his bladder every time. So, the next time he went I helped him understand how to get it allll out and not get up until he was totally done, even if the pee pee stopped for a second. After that, we didn’t really have a problem and he now knows how to fully go.
You do want to encourage them to go pretty often (we asked him if he needed to go every 20 minutes or so,) but if they’re actually getting pee pee out super frequently and if it’s not very much, you may want to work on asking them if there’s more that needs to come out before letting them be done.
Once the potty training is well under way, make successes a big deal! Just like adults, toddlers need to know that their loved ones notice their accomplishments. We made it exciting each time he filled his potty, then before bed we told him how proud we were that he was using the big boy potty.
The one accident he had, I just explained to him that it was important to go whenever he needed to. We sing the “if you have to go potty, stop! And go right away” song from Daniel Tiger all the time. I let him know I was disappointed, but tried not to shame him. He watched as I cleaned it up and I explained why messes are a no-no. I even let him “help” me clean it up by getting a towel.
After several days of doing really well, we let him call all of his grandparents and tell them what a good job he was doing. I think this meant a lot to him and encouraged him to keep up the good work.
I know some people try not to praise too much during potty training, but we haven’t noticed any negative effects from this. Over time, we phased out the excitement and now it’s just a normal part of our routine.
My Potty Training Tips in a Nutshell
Ok, so I really like super simple, clear, step-by-step instructions. Just in case that wasn’t clear enough…
Here’s whatcha do:
- Look for signs of readiness
- Get a potty early and let them practice occasionally
- Wait until AFTER your toddler seems reallllly ready (this is key)
- Set a date and talk it up
- Use incentives like undies, books, and treats
- Stay home for around 3 days and let them be naked or in undies
- Put the potty in the area where you spend most of your day
- Encourage them to go pretty often
- Make sure they get it all out
- Show pride when they go
- Help them understand why accidents are sad for everyone
- Let them brag on themselves
Alright, that’s it. Nothing mind-blowing. Just good ole mama procrastination that ended up being a genius method to potty training. I hope these potty training tips make your life so much easier and give you less mess.