Two of the most daunting words in a parent’s life are often, “potty training.” Visions of wiping up puddles, stopping at road side rest stops, and extra laundry (as if the mountain could get any higher!) plague parents. All of this and the fear of your child being the last one in their class to be trained, make the impending task far more intimidating than necessary. Here are 5 Potty Training tips that will help you and your child reach success!

Parents Stop Worrying

First tip: stop worrying about when your child will be potty trained. I assure you that your child isn’t concerned, so there is really no reason for you to be. The stress of a child being “behind” with potty training comes much more from the parents’ fears of being unsuccessful, rather than the child’s. And remember, children pick up on your stress which could make them more anxious about the potty. Give yourself a break and remember that your child won’t go to college in diapers – they will get it!  Children are most likely to potty train successfully when their body is ready and they feel appropriately motivated.

Look for the Signs

Is your child’s body ready to potty train? Success will be more likely when the bladder and bowel muscles have developed enough for the child to be able to control them. This typically does not become possible until around 18 months, at the earliest. Starting to potty train before a child is physically ready can lead to failure and frustration on the part of the parent and child, making future attempts more of a struggle.  

A child will not have success until he is able to recognize the physical need to pee or poop. Children will often pause what they are doing when they are peeing or pooping. Look for signs that it’s happening and point it out to your child! Saying, “Oh, are you peeing now?” can help the child recognize what is occurring and become more aware.

A child should be able to go at least 2 hours with a dry diaper before potty training begins. Some children will actually begin to dislike the feeling of being wet or dirty and will want to be changed quickly. If this isn’t the case don’t be discouraged; all children are different.  

Make Potty Training Exciting

When your child is showing signs of physical readiness, get them involved in the potty training process! Taking a trip to the store to pick out a potty seat or chair is a great way to get your child on board. Initially, just allowing your child to sit on the potty and get familiar with it is great; even he wants to leave his pants on. Singing songs or reading a few books while sitting on the potty allows for the child to spend some time sitting there, allowing for a higher likelihood of accidental success.

When your child is successful for the first time, don’t be afraid to make a BIG deal out of it!  Jump up and down, clap your hands, sing a song. The more positive reinforcement, the better! Some children respond well to sticker charts, but others can feel discouraged by these when they don’t have a successful attempt. Know your child and what works best for them.  

Once the child has been successful a couple of times, picking out some big kid undies can be a great incentive to keep up the good work! Parents, you can purchase waterproof rubber pants to go over their undies if you are concerned about ruining your carpet or furniture. The rubber pants allow for child to still feel wet, unlike pull-ups, but keep a majority of the pee off your furniture.

Make it Successful

While potty training, keep that potty seat close by (or have a few spread around the house in key locations like the playroom). When children first begin to recognize that they need to use the potty, they often need to do so quickly.  Having the potty easily accessible will make the chances of an accident decrease. There are tight sealing travel potty seats that you can take in the car or stroller as well!  

It’s also important to put your child in clothing that they can easily take on and off. Loose fitting leggings or pants, dresses or skirts are best. Underwear can be easier for children to pull down versus removing a diaper. The less roadblocks, the more likely your child will feel successful, and not overwhelmed, by their newest endeavor.

In addition, potty training success comes from having everyone on board. Make sure Mom, Dad, and any caregivers like your nanny are all on the same page and consistent in the process.

When Accidents Happen

Reassurance is so important when those inevitable accidents happen (which they will!). Shaming a child for having an accident will never have positive results. Remind children that it can happen to anyone and that they will get it next time. Feeling your confidence in them will help your child have confidence in themselves as well!

If your child is consistently having accidents, try setting a timer for every 15 minutes. Have your child try sitting on the potty each time. When he is able to make it longer stretches extend the potty timer. If the timer turns into a fight make the timer a fun song on your phone and dance your way to the potty. You want to keep the experience positive!

If your child isn’t yet showing signs of readiness, you can still introduce the idea of potty training through books and talk about it. They will become interested before you know it! My favorite is The Potty Book For Boys (And Girls). If your child has a favorite character try their potty book, like Elmo, Thomas The Train, or Daniel Tiger. Take it one step at a time and parents remember to take a deep breath this is an exciting milestone!

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About The Author

Sarah PSarah Proctor has worked with young children for over 25 years as a teacher, childcare director, nanny, and mom of two girls. She has her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration from UMass Amherst. In addition, Sarah has her Director 2 certification from the Department of Early Education and Care.