7 Potty-Training Tips From Real Moms

Are you longing to say goodbye to diapers but not sure when to start potty-training or how to go about it smoothly? Kiddos can be unpredictable, but your child finally becoming potty-trained is a huge weight off your shoulders and teaches kids valuable lessons about self-restraint and behavior, Here to the rescue are the top potty-training tips from readers.

1. Be Patient

The top potty-training advice from many moms is to start only after your child signals their readiness. Usually children begin showing interest between the ages of 2 and 3. Keep an eye out for common clues, such as your child asking questions about the bathroom and toilet, staying dry for longer periods of time (indicating stronger bladder control), wanting to wear "big kid" underwear, or telling you when they've soiled a diaper. These signs of readiness may intensify gradually or, as Wisconsin mom Tracy M. found, appear quite suddenly: "One day she walked up to me, about three months before she turned three, and said, 'Mommy, I want to wear undies.' And since that day she has."

2. Make the Potty Fun

Several readers suggest making a potty chair or toilet seem interesting and nonthreatening. "We bought the potty chair and put it in the living room so he could play with it and sit on it for fun," Amy B. shared. Others encouraged making "potty time" fun with special books or toys.

3. Skip Pants

Many moms find bare-bottom playtime can aid in potty-training. Amanda B., a mother of two children, shared: "I have just left her pull-ups off from the time she gets up in the morning." Of course, with this pants-free tactic, accidents are inevitable. To minimize messes, Lucy S. kept her 3-year-old in specific parts of the house while he was potty-training: "I blocked off rooms of the house where it wouldn't be okay to 'have an accident,' and just let him feel when he needed to go and run to the potty . . . after two days of wearing nothing and going when he needed to, he got it."

4. Offer Praise and Prizes

"Praise and prizes go a long way!" said Monica B., a mother of four in Wisconsin. "If they do anything, make the biggest fuss you have ever made in your life. Cheer, clap, dance around . . . Make the child feel they have done something wonderful and they'll want to do it again and again." In addition to verbal praise, many readers have successfully used tangible potty-training reward systems involving candy, toys, and sticker charts. Renee H., a mother of two, remembered: "Each time he used the potty we made a huge deal about it and gave him a treat — M&Ms and Smarties worked the best. At first I gave him like six of one or the other; then as time progressed the treats got less and less until he forgot about asking for them all together."

5. Ditch Diapers

"Once you take off those diapers and put on the underwear, never put on the diapers again," recommended Emily M., one of several moms who argued that using diapers or hefty pull-ups after beginning potty-training is confusing for a child. Cecilia B., a mother of three children, also opted for training underwear, believing training underwear is less comfortable after an accident than pull-ups or diapers and therefore more likely to encourage a child to use the toilet. Other potty-training moms follow a no-diaper policy during the day only, since nighttime potty-training often takes longer to achieve.

6. Ready, Aim . . .

The standing element presents additional challenges for potty-training boys. One trick many moms shared is to toss circle-shaped cereal (like Cheerios) into the toilet and have your son take aim. Brandie H., a mother of two boys, explained: "Get him a stool so he can stand up to pee in the big toilet. Throw a few cereal loops in the toilet. Have dad or an older brother show him how to pee in the toilet to make those fruit loops move around! You'd be surprised how fun that can be for a 3-year-old."

7. S#*! Happens

Just when you think you're done with diapers, your child may regress or have frustratingly inconvenient accidents. Christina H. remembered: "He was fully trained except for at night and then he went back to pooping in his pants. I wanted to scream." The truth is, accidents are a normal and common part of potty-training. "Have patience and expect setbacks," Kelly S. recommended. And take comfort in the fact that the potty-training stage is just that: a stage.