Our Potty Training Method

If you don’t have a toddler, this post will be of zero interest to you! 😉  Carry on.


I’ve had quite a few mamas ask about our potty training method… And not just with Milo (who just turned 2, but also when I potty trained my older two – they are 20 and 14!).  It all started 18 years ago…  My my things have changed in the last 18 years.  I can tell you this… when my oldest (Gage) turned 2 it was EXPECTED that you started to potty train your kids.  Right after Gage’s second birthday, his grandmother bought me a paperback book called 3 day potty training.  Yes, a book.. like with pages… it was the ONLY resource I had!  I didn’t have message boards or pinterest or google!  I had to sit down and read that darn book. It’s not that difficult, the hardest part is keeping your patience when you have cleaned up pee and poop for a few days – cause that’s going to happen, at least once.

I personally think there are a few signs you need to look for to know if your child is ready.  If you notice your child is staying dry longer during the day and s/he is staying dry at night, then they are most likely ready.  Some people say, “oh, s/he is staying dry quite a bit during the day but still wet at night a lot… I’ll just use pull-ups at night.”  Um, I’m going to say this.  Pull-ups are not a good idea.  When your kid is ready to potty train, they need to be ready to potty train.  Pull-ups are confusing to a toddler.  And then I’ve also heard, well, “my kid wasn’t interested in potty training when they were two.  My oldest potty trained all by himself at 3 or 4″… Okay.. well, if that works for you then I say great!  Honestly, your kid is probably ready before they are “interested”…  You’ll learn that kids are like that… Sometimes they are ready to learn a new skill but they may not be interested.  I personally knew my kiddos were [physically] ready so we trained at 2.  And now that Milo has been trained for 3 months I can’t imagine him being in diapers… I really just can’t.  But again, I think it’s a parent’s decision – because either way takes a lot of commitment.  You are either going to have to take a solid 3 or 4 days teaching them about pottying or you are going to be changing wet and poopie diapers for an undetermined amount of time…

1. Buy a potty.  The cheap ones are just as good as the expensive ones.  This time around we had 2 so I could keep one upstairs and one downstairs.  I think we ended up using the $10 one from Target the most tho.  The one that “flushed” got annoying.  It did turn into a stool and Milo still uses it for that.

$10 - something similar can be found at your local Target, Walmart, etc.

$10 – something similar can be found at your local Target, Walmart, etc.

2. Buy training underwear.  Training underwear is really thick cloth underwear.  The thin little tighy whities and panties are cute but they don’t hold pee!  Trust me, get the training underwear, you’ll be cleaning up less messes and the kiddo will still feel like he is wearing “big boy underwear”.

Again, buy these at Target, Walmart, Babies R Us... or online.  They are usually called "training pants".

Again, buy these at Target, Walmart, Babies R Us… or online. They are usually called “training pants”.

3. Special snacks and treats.  I’m not sure about your toddler, but mine doesn’t get to have candy or sugary drinks.  So potty training week we loaded up.  We used M&Ms, juice boxes and stickers.

4. Take off work or clear your calendar.  You need to commit to staying at home for 4 days.  Yes, I know the “usual” method is 3 day but 4 days is better.  Your kid will feel more confident and on day 4 you can start leaving the house.

5. Day 1: Celebrate no more diapers.  Talk about only going in the potty from now on.  Read books on going potty (we owned a couple, but you can get them from the library as well).  Then start with the liquids.  Sit on potty for 5 – 10 minutes.  If he doesn’t go, it’s ok.  Get up and do things like normal but try to keep all activities in one room and bring the potty to that room.  This last time we stayed in the living room (wood floors, easy to clean up but we still put a towel under the potty) and our bedroom (carpet but I put 2 thick towels under the potty).  You can watch TV or play games or with toys or whatever you usually do but try and stay close to the potty. Continue to ask about going potty and sit on the potty every 20 – 25 minutes.  If s/he goes in the potty you have to have a huge celebration!  Give a treat and a sticker and sing and dance and look at the pee (or poop, sorry, but it’s necessary).  Then make a big deal about emptying the potty into the big potty and flushing, etc.  There will most likely be a LOT of accidents.  If you catch them going potty immediately put them on their potty and say “We go on the potty now.”  Don’t get angry, you are in instructional mode.  Your toddler should have to go pretty often if they are drinking a lot – this is why you need a special drink that they especially love.  By the end of the day you may have gone thru 8 pairs of underwear and cleaned up pee just as many times but hopefully you were able to get them to go IN the potty a few times and have a big celebration.  You will most likely want to quit after day one, but they are learning.  Also, you will most likely have to do a lot of laundry.  LOL, I was doing laundry twice a day to wash underwear and the towels that got peed on.  Cut the liquids at least an hour before bed but continue to try and potty.  Going potty should now become part of the routine of things done just before going to bed.

6. Day 2… Go to the potty IMMEDIATELY when they wake up.  In fact, listen for them to start waking up and head to the potty.  Yes, they will probably be cranky and NOT want to go but just do it, they’ll get used to it.  You’ll need to continue to do this in the mornings and after naps for several weeks.  Day 2 will start much like the prior day.   You still keep the method of staying very close to potty and constantly talking about going potty.  You will also still need to put them on the potty every 30 minutes or so.  Just do normal liquids today (like before you starting training) but keep it up with the treats and prizes.  By the end of this day you will probably notice that there are less accidents (you may still have quite a few).  If you stick to a routine you will be able to put them on the potty and they’ll go.  I also started on day 1 writing down when mine would go and when they would have accidents.  This helps you keep track and also, hopefully you will see a decrease in accidents.  So if they had 20 accidents the first day and only 10 the second you will see an improvement.  Like I said earlier tho, by the END of second day you should be seeing a vast improvement.  Hopefully they are also talking more about going potty.

7. Day 3… More of the same.  You may be able to stretch to 45 minutes between sitting on the potty but if you notice more accidents, go back to 30.  We were at about 45 by end of day 3.

8. Day 4 and on.  On day 4 we started leaving the house.  We’d go to Target or to a restaurant.  Always pack extra training pants.  And offer to go potty while you are out.  You can pack one of those potty toppers in your diaper bag or you can sit them on the potty and hold them so they don’t fall in.  You’ll figure it out.  We occasionally sat on the big potty during the first 3 days just so it wouldn’t be such a surprise when we were out.  If you have a girl, this is much easier.  Moms of boys, just get ready to either have to clean up or get peed on!  Best practice I’ve found is sitting mine on the big potty and having him lean forward so the pee will go in the bowl.  If it’s easy, there are times I just took one of his shoes off and then removed one leg from his pants so that he could actually get his legs open wide enough to sit further back on the potty.  You can practice at home.  You’ll be surprised that they actually catch on pretty quickly.

You are most likely still going to have some accidents.  Milo has been potty trained for almost 3 months and we still use the training pants.  Sometimes he’ll wear the regular thin underwear but for now I prefer the thick ones.  He no longer has accidents but for the first 6 weeks or so he’d have an accident a few times a week.  It’s not a big deal and unless you actually feel those training pants you won’t even notice they are wet.  I find that if I don’t remind him every couple of hours he tends to get busy and distracted and forget. Most of the time we stick to a routine and if he needs to go more often he’ll let me know (especially if he needs to go #2!).  We go first thing in the morning (around 7:30, at snacktime around 10, before nap at 12:30, after nap around 3, usually a couple times in the evening and then right before bed around 8.  We often go when we are out because he just likes going to public restrooms – gross!  But I always take him because if he asks, we go!  You can stop with treats/stickers whenever you want,  We did M&Ms only for the first few days.  Stickers a little longer or when he’d remember – maybe a week or so.  *Note:  if your toddler is in daycare they probably have a similar routine on when they go to the potty; they’re professionals, it won’t be their first rodeo when it comes to potty training.

The most important thing I can tell you about this method is don’t go back… Commit and continue.  You WILL get frustrated but sometimes life is frustrating.  Don’t get angry but by day 3 I would begin to use a stern voice when Milo peed in his pants. (Not harsh or loud – angry won’t help…, just letting him know that I wanted him to go potty in the potty).  The key is the praise and the celebration and the singing and dancing… you must sing and dance and make up fun potty songs!


Good Luck!


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