Potty training is hard, however doing so in phases was not only easier for me, but also for my two toddler boys adjusting to a new life skill. The phases can move quickly or slowly up to the parent and child and it's ok if one stage takes longer than others. No pressure, just learning, is what worked for us! Here is how I potty trained my boys in three easy steps.
Step One : Potty Training At Home
I started by buying underwear they WANTED to wear. I knew my oldest son needed Monster's Inc. Yes, I said needed. I knew he wouldn't mess over Mike and Sulley, pun intended! I found them in a Disney character combo pack at Sam's.
The first few days or weeks you can let them go naked if your comfortable with it. If not start them right away with underpants. No diapers allowed during the day at home. Also don't plan on going anywhere for few days or limit outside the home trips. This allows your child a chance to get use to the routine of the potty without interruption.
Show them where the toilet is located. I stressed not only the toddler one, but the real toilet too. This allowing them an option to choose because we know that potty training can become about control.
After gearing up with the potty and new underwear y'all are ready to go! Let them play as usual or continue your normal at home routine. You must keep a close watch on them because accidents will happy! It's ok though, this is how they learn. If you catch them starting to go, pick them up and run them to the potty so they understand what to do. After some point they will start connecting they need to get to the toilet. Don't worry if it doesn't happen in a week! Just keep it going, and I promise they will surprise you!
More Tips To Potty Train At Home
- Drinking -Get heavy drinkers to slow down and encourage light drinkers to drink more. You want them to “go”to get the hang out it, but no toddler wants to stop playing every 5 minutes to go to the bathroom.
- Transfer to cups– I had heavy sippy cup addicts. They wanted one full and all the time! I started by transitioning to cups. Half the day we only drank from cups with no tops in the kitchen. I found that reduced their drinking by 60% making potty training a lot easier. When we used sippy cups I would fill them 1/2 or 1/4 so drinking was still reduced. Again, my kids were heavy drinkers.
- Stool– I had a plastic stool from an art desk they no longer used. I slipped it next to the potty so I knew they could get up on their own. (I was never far, but it allowed them a sense of independence).
- Potty portable seat– Mine were not big fans of this. I still own one and use it in step 2.
- Diapers are for naps– When I started the boys still wanted diapers sometimes despite “cool” underwear. I knew he hated naps. I used that to my advantage. If you want a diaper then it's nap time or night night. He didn't want to go to sleep so he stopped asking for diapers.
- Potty books or videos– I own the Elmo potty training DVD. We watched it once or twice, but did not hold my sons attention enough to be useful. I still believe this DVD can help though, it is good material. Books are awesome! We read the potty books often especially when they were trying to go number two, which kept them on the toilet. However, I am also guilty of adding my own parts to stories that I knew would hit home with them specifically such as peeing on the floor. If they continued to do that I would change the book a bit to discuss the main character's problem with peeing on the floor, how that made him/her feel, and what he/she did to fix it. Opens discussion with toddlers about their own feelings and ideas even when they aren't talking too much, they will take it in!
- Terminology pee pee- I know they have endless names for going to the bathroom and private parts. My mistake was that I referred to my youngest's private part as “pee pee” so in the beginning he didn't connect the concept of going pee. He thought literally sitting on the potty was sufficient to “putting pee pee” in the potty.
- Rewards and reward charts- I used reward charts off and on without too much success. The key is that I wasn't consistent so, neither were my results. They have so many ideas out there and they aren't hard to make! They do work for some, so give it go! I used rewards inconsistent too, but suckers did give Zach the little push he needed for going number two which only took a few times.
Step Two: Outside the House
Step 2 is simply what I consider training outside the house. Once you've established your child can make it to the potty at home, you can venture outside of it. At this stage they are ready to wear big boy or big girl underpants all day even when you leave the house! This is an incredibly scary moment, or at least is was for me. I really had to get over my own fears even when my child was ready. Today I am sharing not only tips, but one of my first experiences with step 2 of potty training.
Be prepared for plenty of public bathrooms!
I never thought I would miss diapers….EVER. In this moment I did and I searched with wishful desperation in my purse for one to no avail. I had just reached the front of the line at Walmart in the midst of 5 o'clock basket traffic when my son looked up and said, “Mom, I got to go pee, now”. At this point I'm ready to make deal; throw a candy bar or two in there if he could just wait. No deal. He had to go.
The thought of public bathrooms make me cringe, especially with touchy toddlers! Something that happens quite often in phase 2 potty training. I threw all the groceries that were on the conveyer belt and I started NAScarting it to the nearest restroom. Grabbed both boys and sprinted like it was Black Friday and the toilets were $20 TVs on special.
As I mentally prepared to return to the vicious lines my son looked up at me and said, “Mom I did it! I made it”. In that moment all other “mommy” stresses melted away. He did it! We made it! This was a huge milestone and my son was beaming with pride, I was too. We all did the happy dance right there in that little stall. Although, I already felt defeated when we left the the line, we really both came out winners.
Tips for Potty Training Outside the House
- Potty before leaving the house or at least attempt it.
- Try to potty upon arrival at venue and before departure.
- Limit liquid intake or at least monitor it. I know 10-15 minutes after drinking, they can probably go.
- I don't allow drinking in my car, this reduces the need to go in-between places.
- Watch for their signs that “they need to go” such as wiggling, grabbing, stooping, etc.
- Encourage your own verbal warnings and follow through with going. Such as “I really have to go pee, I need to get to a bathroom” and then go. They will mirror that behavior as well as develop the vocabulary and tone of how to express themselves when they need to.
- Keep extra clothes on you, not just in the car (I tend to forget them in my car sometimes).
- Hand sanitizer and baby wipes will still come in handy.
- A portable potty top for toddlers is helpful as well.
- Extra ziplock, plastic,or paper bag for soiled clothes.
Step Three: Nighttime Potty Training
Step 3 is the ultimate goodbye to diapers! *GASP*, your there! Just like with steps 1 and 2 there will be mistakes! Nothing laundry detergent can't cure! Approach the first few times without expectations! This again is new to them. The biggest tip I can give is monitoring their potty habits and liquid intake. If you know they poop before bed or at night work around it. Try to get them to go before putting them down or if possible extend bed time a little so they can go. Once they get the hang of it they will start to go before without extending their bedtime.
Some say “don't let them drink two hours before bed”. I agree and disagree. Sure, if they don't drink 2 hours before bed they probably won't go. However, I disagree that they can't have anything without dry success. If you monitor it and do not let them have as much you can still give them 20 minutes and go potty before bed. You know your child and their bathroom habits. Feel it out and with mistakes you'll learn better how to accommodate the situation. Potty training is never one size fits all. If you don't want to jump right in to step 3 you can start with no diapers at nap time. Then with the experience you've gained through nap time success and mistakes you can apply that to bedtime.
Tips for night time potty training success:
- Make sure if they are eating and drinking before bed keep it at a minimum.
- Try to start getting them to go more frequent on the potty 30 minutes before bed.
- Of course always potty right before bed even if they say they don't have to. I make them try as part of routine you can do a night teeth brushing and potty.
- You can encourage them by adding a special book before bedtime if they go.
- Being wet or dirty is unpleasant for them so they will not want to repeat the experience too much. Give them support and make it a team effort to help them feel better about mistakes and doing things differently next time if necessary.
- Mistakes will occur regardless of length of time with success! It's ok even adults wake up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom which your child will do the longer y'all are at at it!
- Make it easier on yourself to change sheets in the middle of the night by using the Huggies Good Nights Bed pads or a cheaper alternative is puppy pads under your sheets. Layer a pad, then a sheet, another pad, then another sheet. This way if an accident happens, you can just take off the top sheet and pad, change clothes and go back to sleep!
Potty training can be frustrating and overwhelming! It's ok to stop and start again when you think both you and your child are more prepared. Timing can be a huge deal. I truly believe sometimes it's easier when they are really ready! Good luck!