Well, if there’s one thing that unifies us as parents, it’s that we all have to deal with potty-training at some point or another.
And if there’s one thing that divides us, it’s how we go about it. And when.
There’s a lot of hoopla around potty-training.
Like a lot.
Everyone thinks they know the “right way” to potty-train. I’m here to tell you that there isn’t a right way. There’s a way that works for you & your kid. And that makes it right, no matter when or how you choose to do it.
I’ll share our potty-training experiences & my potty-training tips, but different strokes for different folks, y’know?
Especially when it comes to something like potty-training.
This post contains affiliate links.
(If you just want to skip straight to the list of things you need to make potty-training smoother, click here. If you want to know about our very different potty-training experiences with our son & daughter + my potty-training tips, keep reading.)
We have never “tried” to potty-train our kids (well, I tried for about 20 minutes, but more on that below). I have a 6 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. Our potty-training experiences with them were very different.
Maybe I’m the only Mom in the world who feels this way, but I was never in a rush to potty-train. I think diapers are easy & I was never in a hurry to get out of them. Sure, diapers are expensive. But they make up for it in convenience.
My son potty-trained around 3.5+ years old. There were many people who couldn’t believe we hadn’t potty-trained him before then. Add to that the fact that my son is absolutely huge for his age—and always has been. He’s an extremely tall & big little boy. So that just compounded everyone’s surprise that he was still in diapers at 3 years old.
Fortunately, I had a husband who not only supported my desire to not rush potty-training, but who wholeheartedly agreed. He’s a urologist and though he doesn’t do pediatrics, one of his former colleagues is a renowned pediatric urologist—Dr. Steve Hodges. He writes books on potty-training. Literally.
When many of my Mom friends were potty-training their kids around 2 years old using the “3 day method,” I watched and listened. Most of them were successful. I was pregnant with my daughter & not eager to get my son out of diapers, but I decided to give it a try since 1) they made it look so easy and 2) I thought, “Okay, well I only have 1 child now so maybe it’s a good idea to knock this out before I have my baby.”
I tried potty-training for one morning. Actually, if we’re being honest, it was about 20 minutes.
In that 20 minutes, my 2.5 year old little boy listened to me, took off his diaper, peed on the floor and then showed me proudly. He did exactly what I’d asked him to try to do, albeit in the wrong spot. But my reaction broke him. I saw it and said “Oh no, not on the floor honey! We don’t want it on the floor, we want it in the potty!”
Looking back, I still bothers me that I got upset with him on his first try of a brand new thing. A thing he actually had listened to me about and just hadn’t done it exactly like I wanted.
My response crushed him. I saw the disappointment in him—disappointment in himself and in my response—and realized I was stressing my baby out. Yes, baby. 2.5 years old is a baby in my book.
I decided right then we weren’t ready—not him and not me. I held him, he cried, I cried, & then I called my husband and said “I’m not doing this, we’re not ready.” And he said, “Great. I don’t think we should be in any rush.”
God I love that man.
Later he called his friend Dr. Hodges to discuss it & Dr. Hodge’s biggest potty-training tip was not to rush. He pointed out that (save for children with special needs) every child potty-trains eventually. It’s not a race. Dr. Hodges sees all kinds of complications in children that can stem from potty-training too soon & kids not emptying all the way (see: prolonged bed-wetting & constipation, etc.). I’m not a doctor so I’m not going into any of that. I agree with some of it & I disagree with some of it.
Again, I’m not a doctor.
But I am a Mom.
And what I say is this:
What works for your kid, works. If they potty-train younger than most = GREAT! If they potty-train later than most = GREAT!
You do you. Or actually just let them do them.
I have many, many friends whose kids were fully potty-trained by 2 years old. Successfully and perfectly.
I have many, many friends whose kids were fully potty-trained by 4-5 years old. Successfully and perfectly.
When we did potty-train my son, it’s because he was talking about going potty. He was ready. I had a brand-new baby at home in diapers so I wasn’t thrilled that he was ready, but we rolled with it. He did beautifully. He started out sitting down to pee, then started standing up. To this day he usually stands but will occasionally sit to pee (kind of like my husband now that I think about it, ha).
He struggled with pooping in the potty at first. This is totally normal. It can be a really scary thing for kids. They worry about it splashing, about the sound it will make, about how it will fall out—you name it. He wanted to wear a diaper to poop, so we put one on him when he asked for it. Then when he inevitably pooped in the diaper, we’d empty it in the potty together & flush it.
One of the best things I bought was the Squatty Potty (linked below—I gotcha). We now own 3 if that tells you anything. Ever notice how little kids will do a little bend or an almost-squat when they are pooping in their diaper? It’s because that angle un-kinks the colon & allows the poop to come out in more of a straight shot.
Yes, we’re talking a lot about poop. But just keeping it real. There’s a lot of poop in Motherhood.
It took one time of him successfully pooping on the potty (while crying the whole time) to get rid of diapers for good. The second it came out he was so relieved & so thrilled that he’d done it. He never put on a diaper again. (We never messed with pull-ups. Or stickers/treats, etc., because we ended up just letting potty-training happen more organically….but I know that works for lots!)
Which meant we had to convert his crib to a toddler bed. Yes, he was 3.5 and yes, he was still in his crib. He loved his crib & so did we. He never once tried to climb out of it & he never once complained about it. It kept him contained & in his room…& happy. He actually cried when we changed it to the toddler bed, though of course he LOVED it immediately.
I already told you I’m not a Mother who feels the need to rush through any of these parenting/child milestones. And I wasn’t lying (obvi). I’m a big believer in the whole “the days are long but the years are short” thing.
So that was him. And this is her:
My daughter was ready to start potty-training when she was 2.5.
Potty-training wasn’t on our radar at all with her because our son was ready later. But, SHE started talking about the potty. Wanting to sit on the potty. She has a big brother & she wants to be just like him. So it only makes sense that she wanted to go potty like him, too. (And quite literally, might I add. That little girl wanted to stand up & pee just like her bro.)
She was ready to potty-train.
So we pulled our tiny toilet back out & just set it in the bathroom for her to try. She started using it. She surprised us how quickly she got it. So much so that she had to wear her brother’s little boxer undies for a few days while I Amazon primed her some.
She still wore diapers during naps & bedtime for about 6 months after she started potty-training.
My son never did that. He went straight from diapers to no diapers, period. But she was happy wearing diapers at naps & bedtime, and so was I. And I was in no rush to convert her bed so that she can get out & go potty on her own. I hold onto the crib years as long as I can because sometimes confinement = sanity (for Mama). Just like her brother, for a little while my daughter still requested a diaper to poop (constipation/hard poops make learning to go in the potty tougher).
My best potty-training tip is not to stress about it. And not to stress your child.
They will potty-train. It might be easy for her. It might be hard for him. She might do it later than you expect. He might do it earlier than you expect.
This is one of those things I think you just have to live your way into.
Another potty-training tip I want to give is this: If what you’re doing isn’t working, stop.
If what you try causes stress, stop. If you need to quit & try again a full year later like I did, do it. Don’t be swayed by what everyone else around you is doing. Do what works for you. And yours.
And my last potty-training tip: Be prepared for comments from others.
Whether your child potty-trains earlier or later, someone is always going to have something to say. I can promise you that. There’s definitely some judgment when it comes to potty-training. Prep yourself for being able to brush it off because you’re the Mom and you know what you’re doing (because even when we don’t, we do).
Oh, and if your preschool/daycare pressures you, don’t bend to it. Schools are in the habit of pushing & stressing about potty-training. Your kid is your kid. Not theirs. Stand up for what you want.
I have a friend whose daughter potty-trained really young & the school wasn’t “prepared” to have a child that young going to the potty. So they had to switch schools. I think the original school should’ve been more flexible & accommodated this little girl who was ready to use the potty. They have since made the necessary changes.
And then I have another friend who got berated by her daughter’s school for not being fully potty-trained by the time they thought she should be (2 years old!). One day, when her child realized she needed to go potty but was outside on the playground, she went off to a corner by herself, pulled down her panties like she’d been taught, and went. I applaud her for that. So did her parents. Her teachers did not.
You can’t win. At least that’s what it feels like sometimes. And it’s definitely what our kids feel like sometimes.
So there you go. I have 2 kids and had 2 very different potty-training experiences.
There was no “one right way.”
Both of my kids are potty-trained. Both are happy. And besides those stressful 20 minutes that one time, both potty-trained with no pressure.
here’s all the shit you need for all the shits. Just kidding, my mom would kill me for saying that. But it was too perfect & I couldn’t resist. Here’s what you need:
(items that made potty-training as smooth as possible for us):
Small Starter Potty: This one looks like a real potty & I really think there is value in that. It looks just like a smaller version of yours. It also makes a flushing sound, which kids LOVE to do. (Seriously, you’ll have to put a cap on the flushing in general cuz they’re obsessed). We only got one of these because we transitioned to the regular toilet as soon as they showed interest (see below).
Toilet Training Top: This is a total must-have. We have 3—one for each kid’s bathroom & one for the bathroom by the kitchen. It makes your toilet “their size.” They love it because it keeps them from falling in & makes them feel very secure. It’s super easy to clean & super easy to take with you on a trip or to Grandma’s or wherever.
With both kids we let them start in the small potty linked above, and the second they started wanting to go on the real potty we were all for it. So much easier (zero clean up) & makes it much easier for them to go on public toilets, too, because they’re used to it.
Squatty Potty: I’d say this is our other true must-have. Like the toilet top above, this is something my kids used every single day (& still often do!). It helps them poop so much more easily because it gives them a way to “bear down.” It doubles as a stool for them to climb onto our full size toilets, too. It was a game-changer for us.
Books: We didn’t go heavy on reading potty-training books. But both our kids love Daniel Tiger & this Daniel Tiger potty book is one that they both freaking loved. They can push a button to make a real flushing sound. I do think this book helped them be excited about the potty. The only other one we got was this Potty book because the “Yummy Yucky” book from the same author was one of their all-time faves.
Travel Potty: With my son, we honestly just let him pee on the pavement between the car doors if he needed to suddenly go potty. So I never needed a travel potty. With my daughter, we did that a couple times with me holding her while she squatted but it’s too hard to avoid getting it on her panties or shoes, so I wised up & bought a little travel potty & it has been AWESOME. I keep it in the back of my car & she goes right in the trunk. (And if I’m being totally honest, so do I. I use it all the time. Maybe it’s all the coffee I drink. Maybe it’s a leftover side effect from labor.) Then we pour it out, wipe it out, and voila! Done. We use it every single time we’re out & about.
If you have a little girl I highly recommend getting one to keep in the back of your car. If you have a little boy you can either be one with nature like us (ha) or perhaps be a more respectable human being and get one. Runner ups: this super simple Ikea one or this one.
Fave girl undies: THESE. I tried a few types and these are the clear winners. Adorable designs, super soft & thick without being too thick, no elastic to cut into them. Size up.
Thing I didn’t know I needed but actually really like: these toilet seat covers for when you’re out & about. I grew up putting TP on the seat in public places & did the same thing for my kids. BUT, kids love to hold onto the sides of the potty or prop their hands on the back (especially in public places because they feel like they might fall in), and the TP doesn’t cut it. These cover the whole thing & then you just toss them. I keep them in the diaper bag. Will I ever stop carrying a diaper bag even though there are no longer diapers in it? I think not. (I actually carry a diaper backpack that I freaking love & will never give up.)
Mom Potty-Training Pro Tip: These prune pouches. Seriously, these things are MAGIC. I used religiously FOR YEARS when my kids were struggling to go. They are a total mom-hack & I’ve been tempted to try one on more than one occasion. They’re just prunes + water. We kept these on hand 24/7. My kids would actually ask for “a purple pouch” when their tummy didn’t feel right. Kids get constipated. It’s a thing. These work. (And trust me, there’s so much to be said for making it easier for kids to poop, especially when they’re potty-training.)
Probiotics: It seems like it makes sense to share these here. Love these—gut health is important (especially when/if your kid is taking antibiotics. Or if they just came back from their grandparents’ house, ha.).
*If your child is on the bigger side or later to potty train (my son was both), these booster pads are a MIRACLE. At 3+ years old, his diapers would be soaked & overflowing. They couldn’t contain the amount of pee he had overnight. I found these booster pads & at night you just stick them in the diaper where they pee (make sure they don’t stick out the top of the diaper). They worked wonders & bought us probably 6 more months in diapers than we could’ve gotten with just diapers alone (his diapers were so full they were soaking through his PJs).
Questions about potty-training? Leave them in the comments. Already tackled potty-training? Tell me what worked for you & what potty-training items you loved.
Want more Mom Hacks & Tips? —> Check out why we LOVE the HOMER Learning App (ahem, guilt-free screentime)!
Or our favorite KwikStix “Paint Crayons” that we use for everything!
And if you’re struggling with getting your kids to clean up, this kid’s hourglass timer mom hack is coming to your rescue!
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