9 Potty-Training Tips to Keep Their Butts on the Toilet and Your Sanity Intact
Potty-training can be one of the most frustrating stages of parenting. We all want to get our kids out of diapers, but the path to that paradise looks different for every kid. For some, it's an easy process full of rewards, praise, and positivity; for others, it's a literal sh*t show. But no matter what kind of potty-training parent you are — or if you're training a kid who's enthusiastic about the potty or reluctant to go near it — there are simple steps you can take to get to the finish line while keeping your sanity intact.
Look For Signs They're Ready
Trying to potty-train a child who isn't ready or has no interest just causes a lot of frustration. Instead, look for readiness signs (and get yourself ready, too). If your child is complaining about their wet or soiled diapers, is hiding to pee or poop, or is telling you they're about to go or have just gone, they're probably ready to try out the potty. Other signs include being interested in others' use of the potty (or trying to copy that behavior) and having a dry diaper for longer periods of time, especially when waking up from a nap.
Add Some Potty Talk to Your Life
The first step in getting your child used to the idea of going on the toilet is to talk about it . . . a lot. Read them books about potty-training, let them watch you use the toilet for reference, and talk about older children they know who use the potty. Start planting the seeds, so they can wrap their heads around giving up the diapers before it actually happens.
Get Your Supplies Ready
There's no need to purchase a potty-training arsenal, but you will need a few items. A potty seat is a must. Some parents prefer the self-contained kid potties, while others (who don't want to clean out those tiny toilets) go straight to a potty seat that fits on top of your regular toilet like the Fisher-Price Perfect Potty Ring ($13). If you plan to potty-train in just one area of your house, you're probably good with one; otherwise, put one in every bathroom your kid will use regularly.
Other necessary items: a stool to help your child get up on the potty if they can't do it on their own, plenty of wipes and cleaning supplies to help with messes, and some nearby books to entertain your child on long potty-sitting sessions.
Be Prepared For Some At-Home Time
At the beginning of your potty-training process, you'll want to schedule at least a few low-activity days where you can be at home focusing on the task at hand. During those days, plan to ask your child if they need to use the potty a lot, and be prepared for a lot of false alarms and accidents (you might want to roll up your favorite rugs and cover your couch with towels). The first days can be frustrating and messy, but believe me, things will eventually click for your kid.
Get Them Naked
When I was starting to potty-train my first child and asking other moms how to do it, I was shocked at how many people told me to "get her naked" — and how well it worked. Keeping your little one out of diapers or underwear signals to them that they have to pee and poop either on themselves or in the toilet, and hopefully they'll choose the latter!
Give Positive Reinforcement and Rewards
Stickers, small pieces of candy, or a star on a reward chart like Kenson's "I Can Do It" Potty System ($15) is a great way to motivate your child and celebrate when they're successful. Also think about adding bigger rewards to your training, like a trip to their favorite ice cream shop or to the toy store to pick out a new action figure for an accident-free week. If your child is excited to get in big-kid undies, let them go with you to choose some as a reward for a potty job well done.
Be Proactive With School and Childcare Helpers
Most preschool teachers and daycare helpers are more than happy to assist you with your potty-training efforts, but you need to inform them of your child's progress and challenges so they can help effectively. If your child needs a reminder to use the toilet, tell the teachers and aides. Also, take your child to the school's potty to help them become familiar and comfortable with a new bathroom situation.
Think About Naps and Nighttime
Some parents want to be done with diapers completely right when their child starts using the potty; others are fine with continuing to use them for naps and overnight. If you want to get rid of them ASAP, be sure to stock up on extra sheets and a mattress protector. If you're the latter, look for signs (dry diapers at wake-up time) to see when your child is ready to ditch the diapers completely. All potty-training parents should limit liquids before bedtime, and make sure your child empties their bladder completely before falling asleep to set them up for success. Also check out these helpful tips for nighttime training.
Know Accidents Happen
For the rare child, potty-training is a few-day event that ends with 100 percent success. For most children, it's a longer process with occasional setbacks. Don't be alarmed if the child you thought was potty-trained has an accident or a series of them. Illness and schedule or environmental changes can affect your child's toilet use. Stay positive, don't shame your child, and gently help them get back on track.