I remember being terrified when thinking about potty training my son! I had no idea of how to potty train a toddler, and I thought it would be the most difficult task in the whole entire world! Do you feel me?
I thought he was gonna pee the whole house, my couch, carpet, his bed (meaning I would have to change the sheets every day)… The thought of “potty training” basically gave me the chills.
I did my research and the more I read, the more terrified I was. I read about kids being potty trained at 18 months old, and I also read about waiting until they were ready. It didn’t even cross my mind to potty train him at 18 months.
I didn’t think he was ready yet, and most importantly, I wasn’t.
Is your toddler really ready to be potty trained?
I wanted to wait until he was ready. Some of the signs that indicate a child is ready are: they ask to go potty, they can pull their pants up and down, they can follow simple instructions, and so on.
I believe there’s no right time to potty train! I think the right time is when it works both for the child and parents. But, before I started potty training Sam I really wanted to have an idea of how ready he was, and if I was walking in the right timeline for us or not.
At the time, I just compared his actions to the lists of signs I could find online. But, you’re lucky, because I just found this really cool potty training readiness quiz by Huggies, and I think it’s a fun way to have an idea of how ready your toddler is. Of course, this won’t be the determining factor, but it will just help guide you on it.
How I wanted potty training to happen
Now, getting back to how I wanted this to go down. Sam had all the signs of readiness I read about, so I felt like he was actually ready. He was about 30 months old, so a little closer to turning 3, and I was starting to feel desperate, thinking I was taking too long.
I wanted to do the whole thing slowly, which makes it easier for the child to adapt. I read about how people who do it over a weekend do not succeed, because the child keeps having accidents, and therefore, is not potty trained yet.
So… my plan was to buy pull ups and start making him use the potty once in a while. Then, he would eventually use the potty more and more until he was completely potty trained.
In my head, the whole potty training thing would happen very naturally. I could definitely expect accidents here and there, but going with the slower route would certainly make things smoother. Right? It sounds like a clever plan, doesn’t it?
Except that in reality, things don’t always go as planned. I bought the pull ups, and even though I talked to him a lot about the potty, he would never ask to go. Also, every time I asked him if he wanted to go, he would say a big NO.
So, potty training for us didn’t happen how I’d planned.
To be honest, I think it was for the best. I love how it went! It couldn’t have gone any better!
How to potty train a toddler
I asked a lot of moms about how they had potty trained their kids, and so did my husband. It turns out that two of our friends had a very interesting approach to the whole thing, and we decided to try some of the things they did with Sam.
We did a mix of what we read, what our friends did, and what we thought we should do. Everything in a way that worked for our family. I will share 6 tips that I thought were a game changer in our potty training adventure. Here we go…
Ditch the diaper (during the day)
Remember I said Sam would always say no when I asked him if he wanted to go potty? Well, if I had waited until he’d said yes, he would probably still be in diapers right now.
Both of the friends I mentioned, completely ditched the diapers (during the day) when they decided to potty train. That’s what we also did, and it worked very well for us. So, yeah… The pull-ups didn’t really work for us! They were unnecessary.
Do you know why? Because when he had the diaper on, he just knew he could go potty in there, and he would turn out fine. That’s why he didn’t even bother to use the potty. Because it didn’t make any difference if he had the diaper on!
Once we removed the diaper and put him in underwear, whenever he did it, he’d get wet or dirty, and he hated it! He hated the feeling of being wet or dirty. He’d cry and be a little desperate. That’s where the next step comes in!
Explain what’s happening
Talking to them very openly about what’s happening, really helps them understand they have to use the potty. There is no way around it.
Every time they pee or poop, explain to them that you’re potty training and that they have to use the potty. Explain that if they use the potty, they won’t get wet! Woohoo!
At first, they might not tell you if they want to go or not because they still don’t really understand what wanting to go really feels like.
To help my son, I kept him seated on the potty, without his underwear for a while. He had never done anything in the potty, so I had to do something to help him go for the first time, and this worked perfectly.
Since he was just seating on the potty, he went whenever that feeling came. When he peed in there for the first time, which didn’t take long, I cheered with him and praised him for getting it right. At times, I also gave him some of his favorite snacks but always emphasizing his actions rather than the reward he was getting.
After he went for the first time, I dressed him back in his underwear (he didn’t wear shorts for the whole day) and let him go play.
Ask every 30 minutes if they want to go potty
The whole potty training thing is very new to them! As I said, they don’t really know what it feels like to want to go, because they never had to pay attention to that. They would just go.
I had to keep asking my son every thirty minutes if he wanted to go. In the beginning, this was the max he could hold! Can you believe it?
If I forgot to ask him, we had an accident! And I did forget to ask him many times because the whole thing was pretty new to me too! In the first day, we had 6 accidents.
It’s ok if you forget to ask them in the beginning, but asking them is a very important step to encourage and remember them to use the potty.
Keep the potty close
Where do you spend most of your day at with the kiddos? For us, that’s the living room, because that’s where all the toys are, and it’s really close to the kitchen, where I’m constantly going to get meals and snacks ready for everyone.
Since he couldn’t hold it for a long time when the urge to pee came, we kept the potty very very close, so we wouldn’t have to walk a lot to get to it.
Our living room is covered in carpet, and I didn’t want it to get stained and smelly, so I put a big plastic mat on the floor to cover it well and prevent from staining when the accidents happened. Here’s a similar one to the one I used.
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Avoid leaving the house
Another thing that will really help you, is not leaving the house with them, at least in the first few days.
First, they’re not used to tell you when they need to go potty. Second, there might not be a bathroom close to you at the time they need to go. Third, they’re not used to that bathroom and maybe they won’t feel comfortable enough to go there.
So, the best and safest option is to stay home until they can at least tell you they need to go. We stayed home for three days, and then we started running some errands out as usual. We had 6 accidents on the first day, two on the second, and none on the third! After that, we were good! I hope it will be like this for you too.
Repeat the same thing the next day
Next day, just do the whole thing again. Let’s recap all the steps we covered, so you can have a smooth potty training experience:
- Ditch the diaper (during the day, for now)
- Explain what’s happening
- Ask every 30 min if they want to go potty
- Keep the potty close
- Avoid leaving the house
Hopefully, by the third day, they will be fully potty trained, going on the potty like little superstars!
I want to remind you of one thing though. Every family is different, every child is different. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not work for me.
I share those tips in the hopes that they will help you and your family, giving you some ideas, and some tricks to use in the many journeys of motherhood. I know it can be hard, it can be scary. We can feel the mom-guilt even before anything happens, but you can do this. For some motherhood encouragement, read this.
I’m here if you ever want to talk. If you need help and advice, shoot me an email and let’s talk motherhood. My goal is that we can help each other and that we can lift each other up!