Potty training can be a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are 8 tried-and-true tips to survive potty training *without* losing your mind!
That glorious day has come. After six-and-a-half years I am no longer changing diapers. My youngest (and last) child is potty trained.
While I don’t imagine this freedom will compare to when my youngest moves out of the house, I do think it’s a foretaste.
All parents look forward to the day their child is potty trained but few look forward to actually potty training. But while it’s not fun to rush a peeing child to the toilet or clean up the millionth accident of the day, potty training doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience.
I actually kinda like potty training. With all three of my kids it’s been a special time to stop and focus on them, even if it is when they’re sitting on the toilet. It’s a chance to celebrate their achievements and watch them become independent. And it means I’m not washing cloth diapers or buying disposables. Hallelujah.
So with my last child recently potty trained, I’ve done some reflecting on what made potty training survivable for me and how I was able to potty train all of my kids around their second birthday.
Here’s what I came up with:
8 Tips to Survive Potty Training Without Losing Your Mind
1. Start when you’re ready
While it’s great when your kid shows readiness signs, you can also start potty training when you’re ready. If you’re up for it, give it a shot! If nothing else your kid will learn something about using the toilet that you can build on later.
Find some extra time in your calendar, make sure you’ve got lots of grace, patience, and floor cleaner and go for it. Because your readiness may help your kid be ready.
2. Go commando and ditch the Pull-Ups
Okay, this is just asking for more messes but you know what? It gets the job done faster. If your kid is naked, you can recognize the signs that they’re getting ready to do business and you can do something about it before it happens. Once they recognize the signs themselves it’s one less barrier between them and the toilet. And there’s not a pile of soiled laundry to wash.
For the first outings, go somewhere with an accessible public restroom and make it a point to use it. Teach your kid that they use the toilet at home and away.
If you’re going to be somewhere without an accessible toilet for a long time, it’s okay to put them in a Pull-Up/diaper but get them to the toilet as soon as you can. Don’t let them, or yourself, slip back into old habits.
3. Teach independence
Have your kid do as much of the potty routine themselves as possible. If they know from the beginning it’s up to them to pull their pants down, flush, wash their hands, etc. it’s easier for them to do the whole thing by themselves once they’re ready. Help them with what they need help with, but don’t do it for them. Using the toilet is a big step towards independence – encourage that.
And enjoy that you’re not the one responsible for cleaning their rear end anymore.
4. Reward with praise and stickers, not sweets
When I was getting ready to potty train our oldest I don’t know how many books and articles said to give her a marshmallow as a reward.
No, no, and no.
I wasn’t going to teach her that she should be given junk food as a reward. So I did a sticker chart and gave lots and lots and lots of praise and it worked so well that I stuck with it.
At first, if my kid sat on the toilet long enough for me to sing the ABCs they got one sticker. If they did anything in the toilet, they got two and a very excited mama. As they got better, they only got a sticker if they went in the toilet. Eventually they lost interest in the stickers because it was no big deal to go in the potty.
5. Treat accidents matter-of-factly and have them help clean up
I got this idea from a book and it’s fantastic. When your kid has an accident, you just say something like, ‘Oops! You had an accident. We go pee in the potty, not on the floor. We need to clean this up’ in a firm but unaffected tone. Then, with your kid, you get the cleaning supplies and have them help you clean it up so they know the consequence of them not using the toilet.
No shame, no yelling, just good ol’ cause and effect.
Plus your kid will learn use the toilet AND clean up after themselves. Double win.
6. Stop if you don’t want to do it anymore
If you’ve done everything you can to potty train your kid and they’re just not getting it and you’re frustrated, short tempered, and at your wits end, stop. Just stop.
While it’s great for your kid to be potty trained, it’s not worth both of you being miserable. Give it a break and come back to it when you’re ready. It could be a totally different story another time around.
7. Use a potty seat, not a potty chair
You totally don’t have to listen to me on this one but I have to say, I love potty seats and here’s why: my kid poops/pees straight into the toilet and I don’t have to clean it up. They flush and that’s it. I used a potty chair with our oldest and while it was cute to see her sit on her little potty chair I didn’t like cleaning it out after. Yes, I had to lift my other two kids onto the toilet so they could use the potty seat but it was so worth not cleaning up the mess.
8. Celebrate yourself
You just spent the day teaching your child to do their thing in the toilet, not in their diaper. You cleaned up more messes than you can count and you mostly held it together when your kid resisted sitting on the toilet when you knew they had to use it.
So once they’re in bed and no longer at risk of making yet another mess, treat yourself. Do whatever you do to savor the small victories and remember that you’re one day closer to never changing your kid’s diaper again.
That is totally worth celebrating.