Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Tips for Successful Potty Training

Potty Training

I will soon begin potty training my eighth child.  Having trained seven very different children, girls and boys, we've learned a thing or two.  Fortunately, all of our kids have gotten the hang of it fairly quickly...and I've never had one who just flat out refused to train.....yet.

So while I've got potty training on the brain, I thought I'd share some of our potty training tactics.  Potty training in our home is like boot camp.  It's all or nothing!  So I must be prepared mentally and physically.

For us, age does not determine when we begin.  We've had two train as early as 18 months and one train as late as 3 1/2.  It's important to take two things into consideration when thinking about potty training.

1. Is the child ready?
2. Are YOU ready?

For the child, you want to have a general sense that he is ready.  Is he showing interest?  Is he uncomfortable when wet or dirty?  Is he mature enough?

For you, are you prepared to stay close to home for the first week for consistency and continuity?  Are you prepared to clean up messes.  They WILL happen!  Are you prepared to make frequent potty trips? 

As I've had more children, and my life has become much busier, I have to mentally prepare myself to take on Potty Training Boot Camp.  If I'm too tired, or can't commit to staying home, I won't begin.  Inconsistency will only make things harder, as we all know.

Our Tips for Successful Potty Training

The Talk:  We try not go overboard in talking about the upcoming event.  We take more of a nonchalant approach.  We say something like, "Yay!  You get to start going potty in the big potty!  And each time you go in the potty, you get one of these treats!"  We have found that if we talk something like this up too much, it creates a sense of expectation that may clash with certain personalities.  We want to be excited, but also give a balanced sense that it's just the natural progression of growing up.  Make sense?

Rewards:  Nothing like a good old reward to get our kids excited.  Our two staple potty training rewards are M & M's and Skittles.  Our kids are very motivated by the possibility of a treat, so are generally ready to get down to business right away.  We usually give 2-3 pieces for number one, and 3-4 pieces for number two.  If they don't go at all, we don't give a treat.  Usually, by about the third/fourth day of training, and if the child is doing well, we begin cutting back on the treats, and phase away from there. 

Toilet or Potty Chair:  It really doesn't matter which you use.  With our older girls, we used a potty chair.  But as we've had more children, using the big potty has just been more practical. 

No Pull Ups:  When we decide to begin training, we go straight to underwear/panties.  We expect accidents the first day or two, so we keep lots of extra pairs on hand.  We also keep our carpet cleaner on stand-by.  And for really messy number two accidents, I just throw the undies away.  It's not worth the amount of clean up work involved (we usually use hand-me-down undies, so less painful to throw away), though I think I've only had to do that twice in all my years of potty training.

Timer:  The first couple of days, we remind the trainee to go potty about every 20-30 minutes.  Usually by the third day, they're skilled enough to go without being told, but sending them often helps to avoid those accidents.  Keep the fluids coming so that they'll feel the urge to go often.  Watch the clock or set a timer.

Praise:  Of course, lots of praise for successful trips to the potty helps to keep our children motivated.  This is a time for lots of grace, especially those first 2-3 days when they may have accidents. 

Night time: For most of our children, we've trained them for night time as well.  We limit their drinks in the evening, and then usually wake them about 10 pm for potty runs.  Over the years, we have had one or two kids use an occasional pull up at night if life circumstances made potty runs too difficult.  This is something each family has to decide for themselves, as you know what you can handle.  For example, when I'm very pregnant sick, and my husband is on a 24 hour work shift, I am not able to wake kids late at night to take them potty.  And I'm definitely in no shape to change bed linens in the middle of the night, so this would be a scenario in which I would gladly welcome a pull-up at night.

Consistency:  Like stated above, when I decide to potty train, I stay home for continuity.  Once I feel my child has really gotten the hang of it, then we venture out.  We also don't revert to diapers or pull ups out of frustration.  It sends the child a mixed message of what's expected.  Unless you feel certain your child wasn't ready to train after all, stay the course.  Don't get discouraged over numerous accidents.  Boot camp is tough, but it will pay off if you stick with it. 

Does your method look much the same?  What would you add to this list of tips?  Do you have any questions?  Please leave a comment....I'd love to hear from you.

Photo Credit


  1. LOVE this post(: I have 4 children 2 of which are currently in diapers and 1 of them doesnt need to be :/ he is almost 3...so I have to begin him potty training and I like how you go about it, I may just be using this advice...hes ready to do it, we just have to stick with it for him to fully understand and get out of diapers...again thanks for posting(:

  2. Can I just send mine over to your house? ;)

  3. Kris...You're welcome! You can do it! Sticking with it is the key! Good luck! :)

    Monica...of course! That way we can visit too! ;)

  4. Anonymous6:25 PM

    So my middle son just turned four a few weeks ago. We have potty training since around 2.5 or so, we have tried everything from sitting every hour on the hour, praise, punishment, candy, money! So we go a few days and I'll think ok this is it. But then we are back to square one, I'm getting very frustrated and I do not know what else to try. So any advice would be awesome!

    Thank You

    1. Hi Tracy,

      Can you tell me a little bit about what he's doing? You said he does well for a few days, and then regresses? Can you elaborate? Is he refusing? Is he wetting? This would help me with my thoughts if I knew more about what was happening. Feel free to email me at sacredmommyhood@hotmail.com if you'd prefer a private conversation. But as a little encouragement for now, he WILL eventually get it! I know it's frustrating, but hang in there! :) Hope to hear back soon!


  5. Now I only have two (both potty trained), but I really like potty training! Our method looks similar to yours. We start practicing sitting on the potty as soon as they start having any interest/awareness of the goings on 'down their' (usually around 12 months or so). Then as soon as there are a few successful attempts (and like you said, I am ready to give up a few days completely) then we let them run naked for a few days. I've found that if anything is on their bottom, they pee, so we do the naked thing until they have it down! I set a timer for my 2nd just because I was more distracted with the older child around. We've never done rewards mostly because they were too young to understand that motivation (18 months and 20 months). I will say though, that my oldest (3 1/2 now) still wears a diaper to bed. I don't know what the issue is....he must be a really deep sleeper or something. My little girl just stopped peeing at night (or she will wake up to go) at the same time she stopped in the day (18 months). Well, that's how we do it =)

    1. Amy, sometimes bed wetting, especially in older children/toddlers, can be an indication of an allergy. Dairy, wheat and food colorings are usually the biggest triggers. Might try an elimination diet and see if there's any improvement.

    2. Michele...thanks for adding that. I've heard that too. I read that dairy stimulates the bladder, so should be avoided in the late afternoon/evening if you have a bed-wetter.

  6. Thanks for that info! We eat mostly organic (so not many food colors), very little wheat and dairy, but I'll have to notice him not making it all night correlates to when he does have one of those things! He's always had a bit of a diary issue, so it would be interesting if that was it. Thanks for sharing!

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