There are many methods of potty training. You may have heard of potty training in 3 days, starting as early as a few months old, with rewards, without rewards etc. Additionally, among those many different methods, there are various forms of schedules, charts, tips, and very defined personal opinions.
SO WHERE TO START?!
I spend countless hours reading blog posts, watching videos and consuming a few books to try and understand what method was BEST for our family. We made a decision, readied the necessary items, prepared mentally, scheduled it on the calendar and our little one was potty trained in a few short days.
Stress-Free Potty Training This Weekend, Everything You Need To Know
In this post, I am going to go over the exact method, I feel works best for families who would like potty training to be several things:
- To start at the age where your child’s muscles have developed enough in order to be medically capable of holding their own pee and successfully potty training (medically, this is around 18 months of age).
- To begin when your toddler can communicate consistently with you for basic needs like “water” and “hungry”. Therefore they will be able to say your chosen word for “pee” and “poop”.
- The desire to potty train in a short amount of time (aiming at 1-4 days) which can happen when beginning at the proper age.
- Potty-training in order to have your child learn a new skill, grow, learn, step into a new milestone of life and see that smile of sheer joy and achievement when they’ve succeeded.
If any of these do not sound like your preferences, this post may not be helpful!
Please note, this is a sister piece to the post #1: How To Potty Train In A Weekend And Be Done! In post #1, I go into detail about:
- What method should I choose?
- When is my child REALLY ready for potty training?
- Where do I start?
- What do I really need for potty training? The bare essentials?
I do feel these two posts should be read hand-in-hand and I would advise hopping on over to the sister post: How To Potty Train In A Weekend And Be Done! in order to get a good picture of potty-training.
So, let’s get started!
Know potty training “lingo”
When it comes to potty training, the first step is to understand the “lingo”. This is SUPER important because it allows for consistency, clear communication and paves the way for potty training success. Most importantly, it allows your child to give you verbal cues sooner than later.
Here’s everything you need to know regarding clear lingo for your child:
- Choose what words you want to describe “poop”, “pee” and “potty chair”. If you say in one sentence, “Looks like you need to go potty. Go potty!” and then in the next, “Yay, you peed!” this leads to confusion. Decide with your partner, let your child’s caregivers know (if you have any) and stick to it. Also, note that you may want to use a public appropriate word for these definitions; one that you don’t mind your child screaming out loud at the grocery store!
- Do not ask your child, “Do you need to go pee or poop?” This will inevitably lead to many nos, can cause frustration and is pretty ineffective anyway (at the beginning). This is important. When you see your child giving you the “pee or poop cues” (we will go over this in a minute), say to your toddler, “Looks like you need to go pee or poop. Let’s go sit on your potty.” At first, this script may feel unnatural and you may biff it up a bit. That’s okay! Actively work on it and it’ll feel natural very soon.
- If your child is busy (or wants to do something else), is showing all the cues of needing to GO but refuses to sit on the potty, say “We can do _______ after we go sit on your potty and try to go pee or poop.” or “We can come back to doing _____after we go sit on your potty and try to go pee or poop.”
The pee or poop cues
Every child eventually will start showing signs of having to “go”. This may start as early as the third pee on the first day of potty training. These signs may vary by child but once you start potty training, you’ll know very soon! The verbal cues will likely come 3-4 weeks after potty training. For now, you will need to watch your toddler closely! Some children just do one of these things, some may do all or none!
- Standing very still all of a sudden
- A look of concentration
A note on poop:
Some kids don’t like pooping, which makes sense. If you’ve never felt something solid coming out into a potty EVER that may seriously freak you out. It may feel as if part of your insides are coming out! Encourage, be positive, hug your child, look them in the eye assuringly and tell them it’s going to be okay. Likely this will be challenging for your little one.
Prepare a PILE of books by the potty for going #2. We had some bubble wrap and THIS WAS AMAZING. She would sit and pop the bubbles on the wrap, forgetting she was scared to death of pooping. Then she would poop. Magic.
We also had some trouble with our little one staying on the potty when needing to poop. In fact, the first couple times she was crying so much and so adverse to going #2, she climbed onto me off of the potty and started pooping ON me. I solved this by giving her Honest Company Yogurt Bites (which she’s OBSESSED with since we never have sweet things like that in the house) and calmly telling her it was okay, to stay on the potty and I’ll give her some bites. After she had a few, calmed down, then I told her I would give her more after she pooped (if it was extremely obvious she needed to poop!). So we proceeded to read or pop bubble-wrap.
Note that some children don’t poop at all that first day and may go down to only pooping once a day at first.
How to potty train your boy OR girl and ditch the diapers FOREVER
We are going to break potty training down into Milestones and not days. This is important! Note that Milestone 6 is the ONLY block that can be done at the same time as Milestone 1. All the rest are in order.
- Milestone 1
Having pee or poop go into the potty (even if that’s you snatching up your peeing child and getting them onto the potty)
- Milestone 2
Your child recognizes he or she needs to go pee and poop (is beginning to understand the feeling) and YOU know they need to go potty. He or she then goes potty on the chair with or without your prompting.
- Milestone 3
Pants on (no underwear): your child pees and poops in public restrooms (you are able to leave the house) and your portable car potty.
- Milestone 4
Your child will do Milestone 1,2 & 3 WITH underwear on and not treat the underwear like diapers.
- Milestone 5
You can say your child is now consistent with letting you know they have to go pee and poop.
- Milestone 6
Naptime and night time potty training has been accomplished
Beginning potty training, Milestone 1 to 2
We are going to dive right into DAY 1, the morning you wake your toddler up to potty train. Please refer to post #1: How To Potty Train In A Weekend And Be Done! for proper preparation and the bare essentials you need to potty train.
Day 1 might be the most exhausting day of your life. All you will do is WATCH YOUR CHILD. Every second. Make SURE you prepare activities (refer to Post #1) and the potty-training area properly. Don’t do chores, don’t get on your phone or computer or read a book. Literally, keep your eyes glued to that little person. I can’t emphasize this enough.
Every “accident” where you miss your child peeing is an opportunity lost to create steps forward towards Milestone 1 and 2. BUT if accidents happen, don’t ever get upset. They will happen! Your floor will get lots of pee on it and you will likely get lots of pee on you too.
- Wake your little one up and just like we talked about in Post #1, show some excitement, talk about potty training day, explain how he or she will not need diapers anymore except for sleeping (we’ll get to this in a second) and talk about how your toddler is a big kid now and not a baby.
- Take the diaper off. Your child will be going bare-bottomed. This is essential for Milestone 1 to 2. Explain how your child will no longer need a diaper, “You are a big kid now, so you’ll be going poop and pee in your potty! It’s going to be so much fun!” Show him or her the potty with real excitement.
- Right after showing your toddler the potty, do your normal inside morning thing but add additional liquids if your child is 24 months old or older. (Note you’ll be home all day doing those planned activities we talked about in Post #1.) When your little one pees or poops, THIS is when you are able to teach them. Hense the extra liquid. Normally a child will pee 4-5 times a day. Temporarily, we’ll need them to go a little more in order to potty train efficiently.
- We do not keep anything sugary in our house, which includes juice or snacks but for potty-training, we budged a little for healthier options. Our toddler LOVED Honest Company’s Grape. It’s low in sugar and we added about 3/4 water to it but it’s already lightly flavored. Fruits are great too and ice-pops.
- NOTE: If your little one is practically inhaling his or her extra liquids, you may want to slowwww down. You’ll know this is true if your toddler seems to be shooting pee every two seconds and you can’t keep up.
- The first pee & reaching Milestone 1: Peeing in the potty. Likely you will see your child start peeing. Be calm and say with an even tone, “Ooops you’re peeing. Hold it, Honey. Let’s go pee in the potty.” Physically put your child on the potty QUICKLY (which should be at a very close distance). Keep that potty right next to you wherever you are! I also had a couple things in a basket like Flushable Toddler Wipes, her juice and those Yogurt Bites. Consider the BabyBjorn Smart Potty. It’s recommended by potty training experts and we love it. If there’s some pee in the potty, you both achieved Milestone 1!
- Depending on your parenting style, you can congratulate your child. We clapped, high-fived and told our little one clearly, “You peed in the potty! YAY!!!”She immediately understood this was the thing to do. You can also teach him or her to say, “I did it!” in order to learn self-praise.
- Further, I pointed to the floor where there was pee and said (in a positive tone, not scolding whatsoever!), “Uh-oh, you had an accident and peed on the floor. Let’s go pee and poop in the potty.” Then I smiled, pointed to the potty where she made some go in, “That’s good!” Try not to say, “It’s okay.” when your child has an accident. In reality, it totally is okay and expected (so not technically accidents at all yet!) but we don’t want them associating peeing on the floor as a normal or “okay” thing to regularly do. Again, clear and consise communication.
- I watched videos and read up on the timed potty-training style, where you sit your toddler down every 15-30 minutes and wait for them to go. This DID NOT work for us, frustrated our child and she didn’t have her first pee till 2 HOURS after waking (even though she drank TONS of juice). Jamie Glowacki (potty training expert who wrote Oh Crap! Potty Training, Everything Modern Parents Need to Know To Do Once And Do It Right) highly recommends the “start to pee and place on the potty” approach. From her decade of experience (plus more), she has seen FAR more success this way.
- For boys: Have him sit down for now and point the penis down. Show him and teach him how to do this.
- For girls: Start teaching her to wipe and learn how. Cottonelle Flushable Toddler Wipes are a fantastic transition from baby wipes. For pee, you can start to teach her how to use toilet paper as well.
- After the first few pees, you and your child should be taking steps towards Milestone 2: Your child recognizes he or she needs to go pee and poop (is beginning to understand the feeling) and YOU know they need to go potty (due to their cues). He or she then goes potty on the chair with or without your prompting. By the end of the day, you should have several seconds before your child has to pee. Additionally, your toddler should seem to be understanding the feeling that they need to pee or are about to pee.
- IF THERE IS NO PROGRESSION. It’s okay. This step CAN take some children 2-3 days. Remember to make SURE you are watching your child like a hawk and doing nothing else, putting ZERO pressure on your child, acting positive, NOT frustrated whatsoever and encouraging your toddler. Are you making today a happy, positive and exciting bonding experience with your child while learning a fun new skill OR are you frustrated, making it a big deal and putting pressure on them?
- Naptime & bedtime. We chose to start off by keeping diapers on for sleeping only (you can go cold-turkey and ditch the diapers completely if you choose) BUT clearly tell your child why a diaper is being put back on them, “We are going to put a diaper on because it’s nap time. You are learning right now and a nap is a very long time so you may not be able to hold it. We’ll work on it. You are doing SUCH A GOOD job today learning to go pee and poop in your potty. When you wake up, we are going to take the diaper off and you will go pee and poop in the potty again.”
- Consider holding off or pushing back naptime only a little if there has been zero poop. However, having a very tired child can throw off your entire potty training day, so use discretion. If your child’s schedule usually includes a morning poop, maybe delay by a normal amount of time where you know it’ll be okay.
- IF there is poop in the diaper IT’s OKAY. Especially those first few days. It’s only a not-so-good thing if your little one habitually begins pooping in his or her sleeping diaper.
- Your child may quickly be okay with not having a diaper for naptime. On day 8, we took off her naptime diaper because it was consistently dry. We made sure she went potty BEFORE her nap and had little to drink starting at least an hour and a half beforehand. She did have an accident on day 11 and randomly a couple weeks later during naptime but hasn’t since. That’s okay!!! Less liquid!
- Bedtime is the same. Clearly tell your child for right now, you will be using a diaper.
- Have some wine at the end of day 1. You deserve it. After day 1, you should feel like your child is “getting it” or you may be frustrated. Try not to be! If you think your child is being stubborn, look to yourself – did you act in any way negative towards them today instead of positive? Did you push or pressure? If so, make tomorrow a positive, exciting day. Try your absolute best to be genuinely positive, NEVER frustrated and NEVER pressuring or scolding. I know you’re exhausted but try the best you can (for your little one) to make tomorrow a FUN day.
Milestone 3 – solidifying skills with LOOSE pants on (no underwear) and leaving home for lengthier amounts of time
Once you feel like your child is starting to understand Milestone 2: Your child recognizes he or she needs to go pee and poop (is beginning to understand the feeling) and YOU know they need to go potty. He or she then goes potty on the chair with or without your prompting.
Move onto attempting Milestone 3: Pants on (no underwear): your child pees and poops in public restrooms (you are able to leave the house) and your portable car potty.
Now, don’t freak out about leaving the house just yet. You may be thinking, “But my child JUST started understanding that pee and poop goes into the potty!” That’s okay! We’ll take this step-by-step, I promise.
I waited an hour or so after naptime on day 2 to start introducing clothing. Make SURE you use LOOSE clothing, no tights or tight-fitting leggings. You will likely regret it. With this step, you are simply introducing a new learning skill; to have your child understand that pee does not go in the pants/shorts.
The reason for commando: underpants are wayyy too similar to diapers. You may have read or heard of others who just added the underwear during this step (do whatever you choose) but it makes sense to go from no clothing to loose clothing to underwear + whatever clothing. You are taking steps here. It worked for us, makes sense AND is taught by Glowacki in her Potty Training Book (which I highly recommend).
- Add loose pants or shorts when you feel your little one is beginning to grasp Milestone 2. He or she understands that pee or poop goes into the potty. This doesn’t mean there are ZERO accidents. Just that your little one is starting to get it and you feel there is an overall sense of progress. Try not to linger on Milestone 2 too long and avoid the bottoms.
- There will likely be a lot of frustration in this milestone! Usually, this is about day 2, you are tired and your child knows the game is on. Plus, you likely will have more accidents in the pants now that they are on.
- Watch intently for “pee and poop cues”. Now you will be unable to see them peeing as quickly and will need to understand their non-verbal cues.
- Start teaching your child to pull up and push down his or her pants/shorts. Show your child how to do this and clearly say “Push down your pants.” and “Pull up your pants.” Let them give it a try. Try to achieve a healthy balance between “doing it every time for them” and “letting them get frustrated and not helping them at all.” Help when needed and let them learn, trying your best not to just do it for them because they take foreverrrrrrrrr to pull those pants back up.
- Plan some quick “out of the house” practice runs. You can do it! Start small, like going on a walk around the block or your apartment. Remember to have your toddler pee first and try going out AFTER he or she has peed and make sure it isn’t their usual time to poop.
- Next, plan a quick trip in the car to a location near you (this may be the day after the first practice run). We did this on day 4 but do what seems right for you and your child. I read that one couple did this on day 2! And others at the end of the week. You will know. Once your child seems to understand that peeing in the pants is a no-go but peeing in the potty is good AND you feel like you understand his or her pee cues, plan a short trip somewhere. This may feel scary! Do it. But prepare correctly! In Post #1, I go over the “leaving home essentials” which include a potty in your car, something to cover your car seat (in case of accidents) and most importantly, a small collapsible child potty that goes OVER that nasty huge public toilet.
- Do NOT plan a major grocery run. Do NOT go on a play date or a mommy and me class or that awesome storytime at the library. Go to a location a couple of miles away like Target or a park and walk around for 10 minutes. Have your little one go pee before you leave. Say clearly to them, “We are going to out (or to the store) and we go pee or poop before we go. So let’s go sit on your potty.” Again, don’t go if it’s normally your toddler’s poop time. Your child will likely need to pee when you are out. In the future, it wont be so often. They will learn to hold it longer.
Important note: This milestone can be the HARDEST. I read in Glowacki’s book, online and have personally spoken to many parents that quit here. Don’t quit! Your child is NOT regressing. Just treat it like the loose pants stage is starting over again and it’s harder. This step can take anywhere from 2 – 7 days. It was hard for us too! I was close to tears during this step because I thought our little one was just not getting it. But then, the next day she did fantastic. Don’t give up! You started potty training because your child was ready. Keep going!
“Remember, that all your child has ever known is a diaper. Since she was a few hours old, she has worn one. She’s a little attached. It’s okay. This is just something to keep in the back of your mind.” -Jamie Glowacki, Oh Crap! Potty Training, Everything Modern Parents Need to Know To Do Once And Do It Right
Milestone 4 to 5 – underwear is no problem and in the end, your child self-initiates consistently
- Add underwear. The time to add underwear is up to you. Glowacki recommends not adding underwear till potty-training is pretty firmly established: after week 4. I read around and watched videos online by other experts. I felt this was a little long. After our child was having no accidents, we understood her pee cues AND we were comfortable with long outings, underwear was added. This was about day 5. No accidents. Do what is comfortable for you and your little one.
- Solidify skills. Self-initiation may not include verbal cues. These still may be nonverbal but now, you may be comfortable with just having the potty in the bathroom instead of carrying it with you throughout the house. Your little one understands what peeing and pooping is, how to hold it, gives cues and gives you both time to get to the potty.
- Leave the house for a longer amount of time (usually somewhere between days 4 and 10). On day 5, we left the house to get groceries and played outside for lengthier times! Practice, practice, practice. Make sure your toddler goes pee beforehand, you don’t leave during a typical bowel movement time and you’ve got what you need for pottying in the car and in the store.
- Prompting. At this time, you will likely still be promoting your child to go sit on the potty. Every child has their own “I have to go” cues; crotch holding, dancing, standing still all of a sudden and concentrating… When this is happening, say, “You are (whatever pee cues they are doing) holding your crotch. Looks like you need to pee. Go sit on your potty.” This helps them associate their own action (and realize what they are doing) with the feeling and the proper response.
- Elimination Communication (EC). Teach your child regular times people generally go the bathroom and prompt accordingly. This includes: after waking up, right before going to bed, before leaving the house, arriving somewhere after a long trip and after long activities. Keep in mind that it’s good to delay an activity (without bribery) if you know your child should be prompted during one of these “easy catches” in EC. Say something like, “We are going to the library so let’s go try to pee on your potty first.”
- You can also include potty in the normal routine of things you need your child to do: “Please clean up your crayons, it’s time to get ready to go then go sit on your potty.” Speak to your child in a normal voice as if potty training is all part of those everyday things. Further, you can categorize it as a “helpful” thing. “Please pick up your crayons and go sit on the potty and pee. Thank you. You are so helpful!”
- Let your child self-initiate. Usually, by the end of the week, you’ll want to start backing off the prompting. This allows your child to start going on their own quicker. Don’t suddenly stop saying anything! But casually address her cues with something like, “I see you have to pee. Your potty is in the bathroom.” Drop the matter. Go back to doing what you were doing. Let your child learn how to pull up and down their pants. They won’t get it right all the time but try not to be overbearing. For girls, teach them how to use toilet paper from tearing to folding (if that’s what you do) to wiping. Have them do this on their own. (You may want to start with pre-tearing TP and folding into an empty wipe box so it comes out like Kleenex.)
- The pee time frame. The time between when your child begins their pee cues and when they go pee will extend as they learn the feeling and develop those muscles. That first week, this timeframe can be 5 to 10 seconds. This is why you have a potty in your car and will need to pull over if you are receiving the cues! Your child is communicating with you and trusting you. Respect their learning, and what you’ve both worked hard for so far and pull over! After about a month of potty training, you may not need the potty in the car anymore and there shouldn’t be a mad dash to the bathroom at Target.
- Though, within those first couple weeks (that first week for sure!), if you see the pee cues and you are at the BACK of the grocery store whereas the toilet is at the FRONT (or you are in the car), say something like, “I see you need to go potty. Please hold it. We are going straight to the potty.” Once your toddler knows their cue has been acknowledged, they are likely to hold it longer.
Milestone 6 – Naptime and night potty training
Toddlers sleep anywhere from nine to thirteen hours a night. That’s a LONG time to hold it! But it can be done. This Milestone is a little different than the others because it can be done in tandem with daytime potty training. We did not do this but you can definitely choose to. Glowacki, states that night training while day training is the most efficient way to train. Which makes sense but its A LOT to do at once. At least I felt that way! Do what you think is best.
Note that night training can come naturally to some children. Some dry-nappers can easily do so at night. It depends! It’s okay to wait till age 3 to night train but try not to wait any longer than that. It is critical that your child learns how around the age of 3 and under in order to train their muscles properly. If nighttime training goes unaddressed, your child may likely become a bed-wetter.
- Fluid intake must be monitored. Make sure your little one is lessening their fluid intake 2 -3 hours before bedtime. Look at it like an upside down pyramid. When your child wakes up they can have all the fluid they want, then by the end of the day (a couple hours before bed) it tapers off. If your kiddo demands water, give him or her a tiny cup. We did this with those little medicine cups. She loves it! This way she’s not sucking down liquid through a sippy cup.
- Wake your child to go pee. Start with 2 waking times. Try starting with 10 pm and 2 am. If your child is not peeing during those times, you’ll have to adjust times. There will be a little guesswork here to figure out your child’s individual 2 nighttime pee times. If your child has a pattern of dry diapers in the mornings, try waking them at least once at night. You are teaching your child not only to go in the potty at night but to wake up when they need to go.
- Start with the potty near your child’s bed. Set your alarm, have your toddler wear two piece pjs, try not to turn on blaring lights and carefully lift him or her out of bed. When you place your little one on the potty, they will likely be half-asleep. Whisper for your child to pee. You can also make a sort of pee sound like, “ssssssss.”
- If your child does not pee, simply pull up her pjs and put him or her back down to sleep.
- Cut it down to one waking once you understand their pee schedule. Communicate with your child and tell them not to pee unless you come get them. You can also ask your toddler to let you know when they need to go. “If you wake up and need to go pee or poop, let mommy and daddy know. Say pee! or poop! and we will come to get you.” Hopefully, you have a baby monitor and can hear them and wake. We did this.
- Push the time up slowly until it’s 2 hours before their typical waking time. Then stop waking them to go pee. This may happen quickly or take some time. Remember a key is to monitor those fluids a few hours before bedtime.
Night time accidents will happen. Sometimes there was too much fluid given or you’ll forget to wake etc. Tip: keep an extra set of pjs, underwear and a thickish blanket by the bed. Change your little one if there has been an accident, have him or her sit on the potty to release anything left over and then you can place a thick blanket (preferably fleece) over the whole bed. This will ensure the top is dry. Change the whole bedding in the morning. Now, you don’t have to do this but it helps when you both are super tired.
Also, note that night accidents are on you and/or whoever is caring for your child at night. Your child will develop the capability to go pee at night but for now, you must be the one to initiate and teach. If there are a lot of accidents, be patient, encourage your child and adjust those times. You can do it!
- Understand accidents WILL happen (even after potty training). Do you learn something and then never make a mistake? No! It happens. Especially in the beginning, try to see potty training as a process. Your child will become progressively better at potty training. Try not to count peeing or pooping off the toilet as an accident the first week. You and your child are learning. After a couple months, then see it as an accident!
- The reason you are potty training is VERY IMPORTANT. If you are doing it because of social status or for your own benefit, it may go badly. The best reason is because you want your child to learn and find joy in developing a new skill; to help them reach this new milestone and be PROUD of themselves! Do it for that look of sheer joy on their face.
- Refusal to sit on the potty. Sometimes your child will flat out tell you no when you ask them to sit on the potty. This is different than learning to SIT on the potty during Milestone 1. When your child tells you no, respect their answer. They are learning to be independent when going to the potty. This is good. You don’t want to be holding their hand for potty-purposes till college. Try saying something like: “Let’s try. It looks like you need to go. If you don’t go pee or peep, we can try again later.”
- IF your child is super involved in what they are doing, they may be showing those potty cues but refuse to leave their activity. Try to keep in mind, it can be hard for anyone to switch instantly from something they are doing. Give your little one at least 20-30 seconds to respond, be patient, clear and direct. We use the phrase, “Look at mommy. (If that doesn’t work, then “look at mommy’s eyes.”) Thank you. Let’s go sit on your potty. Say yes, mommy.” Eye contact is a fantastic indicator of listening. Saying “Yes” with eye contact further shows affirmation of your request.
There will be a day where you don’t think about potty training. I promise! Remember to read How To Potty Train In A Weekend And Be Done! along with this post, stay positive and don’t give up. If you have any out-of-the-box questions or special scenarios, I highly recommend ordering Jamie Glowacki’s book: Oh Crap! Potty Training, Everything Modern Parents Need to Know To Do Once And Do It Right. In fact. I recommend reading it over before you start potty training. It’s a SUPER quick read and even has a cheat sheet page for your significant other or additional caregivers.
Good luck, momma. You CAN do this!