Potty Training: Your Comprehensive Guide to Success

Last Updated on October 4, 2023 by Michele Tripple

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Is your toddler ready to make the big switch from diapers to the toilet? Buckle up! Potty training can feel daunting, but with a little preparation, you’ll be a potty training pro!

Everything You Need to Know About Potty Training

Potty Training 101

Who’s ready to take the stress out of potty training?!

So many parents just groan at the thought of it, and I’ll admit that I’ve been that parent before. I’ve heard horror stories of potty training accidents, tantrums, and everything in between.

But let me tell you a little secret… you will survive! If you can power through a few intense moments, you’ll come out of the experience with an independent, autonomous, happy little kid who is so excited that they’ve reached this big-kid step.

What is the Best Way to Potty Train?

Here’s the number one question I get from friends and family about potty training: what is the best way? 

After training 4 kids, I’ve learned a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts” of potty training. 

I’ve also learned that the best way to potty train one child might be totally different than potty training another. Even between each of my kids, there have been differences in what they need and how they react.

Luckily, though, there have been plenty of potty-training moms before you, as well as medical professionals to help lay out some basic developmentally-appropriate methods you can incorporate into your plan. 

Potty Training Methods

If you’ve already started thinking about or researching potty training, you may have been surprised to see that there are so many methods to choose from! 

Since there are millions of unique toddlers, there are also millions of unique ways to potty train! It’s hard to say which way is best, but there are some great tried-and-true methods. 

I have a few personal favorite potty training methods:

  • Montessori potty training: a method with an emphasis on teaching about the potty at the child’s pace using child-sized potty training products.
  • 3-day potty training: a quick method of bunkering down and training all at once
  • Child-oriented method: letting your child take the lead on pace, schedule, method, etc. with their potty training experience
  • Parent-led method / Timed method: you as the parent will choose a schedule for potty time and take the lead, often using potty training alarms as reminders.
  • Day-only method: this method has a focus on daytime potty training before worrying about the night time potty training. 

These are some great ways to get started, but don’t be afraid to combine a few methods and do what works best for your little one!

What Age Should a Child Be Potty Trained? 

The average age to potty train is between 2 and 3, but children usually potty train on their own timeline. You may have one child who seems ready at 18 months and another who doesn’t seem ready until closer to 4 years old!

On average, potty training boys are more successful potty training a bit later, while potty training girls may benefit from some early training.

The point is that there is no magic age for potty training. Alternatively, you should look closely at your child to see any sides of potty training readiness. 

Signs of Potty Training Readiness

Instead of focusing on the age of your child, it is important with potty training to look at their temperament, development, and other individual factors.

Though there is a general age for potty training, it’s more important to ask yourself some questions about their unique readiness. Here are a few examples:

  • Does my toddler react to their diaper being full?
  • Does my toddler understand and follow simple requests?
  • Can my toddler keep their diaper dry for a couple hours?
  • Has my toddler shown interest in the potty?
  • Does my toddler show signs of desiring independence?
  • Does my toddler understand basic body and bathroom terms?
  • Can my toddler remove their pants, walk to the bathroom, etc. independently?
  • Does my toddler vocalize about their potty needs?
  • Can my toddler sit still long enough to focus on the potty?

If you are answering yes to most of these questions, then your toddler may be ready to start potty training!

What is the Best Way to Start Potty Training? 

You’ve chosen your method and your child is showing signs of readiness… what’s next? 

Starting potty training will depend a bit on the method that you have chosen to try, but there are a few things you’ll want to make sure you do before you start.

Plan your clean-up method. Be prepared for the inevitable accidents with some cleaning products. I love using Vital Oxide for gentle disinfecting around my home! You also may want to grab a carpet spot cleaner if you don’t have one. It’ll come in handy!

Pick a date to start. Circle a date on your calendar and stick to it. Think about a potty training schedule and make sure you’ll have a good block of time at home to get started. If you plan on going out while potty training, make sure you have a potty training kit with all your essentials! 

Get your supplies. Make sure you have all your potty training needs ready before you start. I always have potty charts, potty training watches, potty training rewards, potty training underwear, potty chairs and seats, potty training books, potty training games, and a potty training step stool on my list. It’s a good idea to introduce your child to these things before you start to help them get familiar!

Potty Training FAQs

Even with the best method and supplies, you’re bound to have a few questions. Let’s answer some of the most common ones!

How Do You Get Your Toddler to Tell You They Have to Go Potty? 

This is a tricky one! I always got so frustrated when my toddlers wouldn’t tell me they had to go, but most parents deal with this as well. 

If your child isn’t telling you when they have to go, don’t get discouraged! It doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t ready to be potty trained. It just takes some time to connect what they are feeling in their body to needing to go to the potty. It’s all new territory for your little one.

With all the distractions in their day, it’s helpful to keep talking about the potty. Work the potty into your conversations so it stays fresh in their brain. 

You could also make up a code word! Make it a fun game so that they will be more excited to tell you when they have to go.

How Often Should I Put My Toddler On the Potty?

The average young child has to pee about every 2 hours, but if you’ve been changing their diapers for the last couple years or so you probably know their potty schedule best!

In the beginning, you may want to go more often for the sake of practicing and avoiding accidents. 

Don’t push too hard to go too often, but go as much as they are comfortable with to get as much exposure to the potty as you can. 

How Long After a Toddler Drinks Do They Pee? 

If your toddler has just gulped down a large drink, you can expect them to have to go to the bathroom pretty soon after.

In my experience, it takes about ½ – 1 hour for the urge to pee to come after a large drink. So after meals or other times that they may be drinking more, make sure you have a potty close by.

Should I Put Pants On When Potty Training? 

Pants or no pants? There are pros and cons to both options.

If you choose to have your child wear pants while they are potty training, they will be able to more realistically practice how they will be going potty in the future. However, when accidents come it can be more difficult, and you may not want to deal with taking pants on and off all day.

If you choose to have your child go without pants, they have a lot more freedom as they practice. It’s easier to not worry about pants, but they’ll have to learn it later on. 

Do Pull-ups Confuse Potty Training?

I’m personally not a fan of using pull-ups. I think they can be very confusing for an already new experience for your little one. It gives a mixed message to offer a pull-up but also to say they need to use the potty. 

If you only do pull-ups during bedtime or naps, you may risk potty training constipation if they’re holding in bowel movements until they can wear one. Potty training poop anxiety is a real thing for most kids while potty training, and pull-ups can make it worse. 

Because they are so absorbent, they may even confuse your child’s body feelings while potty training!

While the idea is great and it makes it easier in some ways on you, it probably won’t be helpful to your toddler while potty training. 

Should I Force My Child to Sit On the Potty?

Talk about pressure! It’s a totally new situation for your little one, and it’s very possible that they won’t always want to sit still and be patient on the toilet. 

One of the hardest and most emotional parts of potty training for me was knowing that my child had to go but watching them go through potty training resistance. You’ll likely come to a crossroads where you can either force them to sit on the potty or let them have an accident. 

Here’s my advice: find the root of the problem. 

Talk to them about why they are feeling hesitant. Maybe you are moving too fast, pushing too hard, or going too often. 

Try to ease their fears. It’s always helpful to let them take a little break. You want them to feel in control and trust that you are on their team!

When all else fails, use distractions! Be ready with potty training songs, videos, potty training books for toddlers, or conversations to keep them on the potty. 

Potty Training Tips

Focus on the excitement. This is a big deal! Your little one is growing up and they get to have a new kind of independence now. Through all the accidents, try to focus on how exciting this is. Celebrate little victories as they come and enjoy this time together.

Don’t compare. I’m sure you’ve heard about a child who’s never had an accident. Or likewise, you may be worried about starting after hearing tales about a child who took years to potty train. Don’t forget that you have a unique child in front of you. Comparisons almost always end in frustration.

Be patient. Give some grace to your little one, especially when you are potty training a stubborn child, and give them the space they need to grow through this experience. Even if your child potty trains overnight, it’s still going to feel like a lifetime in the heat of the movement. So be patient and know that soon it’ll all be worth it!

Stay calm. Especially during accidents, it’s so important to put on a brave and loving face. You may be frustrated, but the calmer you are, the more helpful you can be to your child. They need you. If you’re getting overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to leave the room for a minute to take a break. 

Be prepared for accidents and potty training regression. Everyone hopes for that perfect child with no accidents, but it’s helpful to prepare yourself for the worst. Mentally and physically prepare for lots of accidents and know that it won’t last forever!

Don’t give up. This is the most important advice I can give. If you are like me, you are going to have moments where you want to quit. Commit to potty training and stick to it!

Changing your plan or quitting early and going back to diapers is going to be really tempting the first week or so. You won’t be the only mom that cries after a few days and wonders if it’s worth it. I promise it is. 

After all the stress is over and done, you’ll have a potty-trained little kid that’s grown up right before your eyes. 

We hope that this comprehensive post on potty training has helped you feel like you have got what it takes to take on the job of potty training! We know that you can do it! 

Be sure to share your potty training tips in the comments below!

Ready to Potty Train? Check out all these Potty Training Posts to help!

8 thoughts on “Potty Training: Your Comprehensive Guide to Success”

  1. A mother has to go through multiple battles daily, your post is a solution for one of her problems. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

  2. I wish this was a resource that was available when my kids were small. Raising my kids in Montana, I actually taught the boys to aim outside. LOL

  3. I am actually in the battle of teaching my 4 year old son on how to use a comfort room and these things I’ve read really help me a lot..Thank yoU!


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