How to Potty Train Your Toddler – The Ultimate Guide

Teaching your little one how to use the potty can be both rewarding and frustrating. We want to help you to focus on the rewarding aspects of potty training by fully preparing you for what it is to come.

We will discuss average ages for potty training, how to help your child get ready to potty train, how to know when they truly are ready, what exactly to do during training and possible obstacles along the way.

Knowing the possible obstacles will help you to be prepared with possible solutions, helping your child to smoothly transition from diapers to big kid underwear.

When To Start?

The two most popular questions among parents in regard to potty training deal with the age of the child and how long it will take to train them.

There is no definitive age and it is super important for parents to understand this. We know you still need answers, so we will give a general time frame. We will also give lots of information to help you figure out when your child is really ready.

It would be so easy for parents if there were a definitive age to begin potty training. Milestones do not go by age, however. They have much more to do with whether or not the child is developmentally ready.

Most children are ready sometime between eighteen months and three years of age. The average age is about twenty-seven months. There’s some difference between boys and girls. According to American data a median age for daytime continence is 32 months for girls and 35 months for boys [source].

How Long It Will Take to Train Them?

Typically, it takes anywhere from three to six months to potty train a child. It can take less time or more time, depending on the child.

Starting before the child is ready can drag out potty training for much longer. Other situations that may cause it to take longer to are stress, being sick, there is a new baby in the home, moving house or changing childcare provider.

Staying dry during the night can take up to several years after a child is trained during the day. Using night time training pants until the night time wetting stops will give the child peace of mind as well as a dry bed.

The Child’s Personality

Knowing your child’s personality will really help with potty training.

If they have a nonchalant attitude toward using the potty, then they may have an easier time training than another child who is more emotional about using the potty.

One particular emotion that some children have when it comes to potty training is fear. They fear that they will have an accident and be embarrassed. Some fear that they will fall into the potty. Others fear that their parents will get mad if they do not make it to the potty in time. These children will need some extra patience.

Others will be so excited to get out of diapers that they will quickly learn and will not mind accidents along the way. Each child is different, so do not compare them to other children.

Developing Their Interest

Before you start the actual potty training, you will need to help develop some interest in the topic. You may notice your child saying that they want to use the potty.

Talking About The Potty

If they do not, then start by talking more about the potty. Tell them how nice it is to have a place to put your pee and poop. Yes, use the words “pee” and “poop” or other words that you have established for your family.

If your child goes to daycare or preschool, they are most likely going to use the words “pee” and “poop”. You cannot hesitate or sound afraid to say them or they will think that what comes out of their body is something to be ashamed of.

Making Them Aware That Have Peed or Pooped in Their Diaper

Another way to develop interest is to ask your child to let you know as soon as they realize that have peed or pooped in their diaper.

Help them to learn the difference between pee and poop so they can tell you which has happened.

As soon as they tell you, change them and discuss how they could have put the pee or poop in the potty instead of in their diaper. When they begin to think of it as putting it somewhere, it can make a difference for some of them.

Demonstrating Using The Potty

Giving a step-by-step process of what needs done when using the potty is also very helpful. Demonstrate for them before asking them to do it.

Let them see that they have to be able to pull their pants down before they sit. Go through each step. Tell them how you have to wipe after going and let them know that when they are ready, they will do the same. Then show them how they will have to pull up their pants before walking away from their potty.

These steps are so second-nature to us as adults that we often do not think to show the children ahead of time.

Waiting until they are actually using their own potty chair or potty seat can cause stress for both the parent and child. Showing them ahead of time helps them to understand the process and build interest.

Do not forget to show them that you wash your hands when you are finished pulling up your pants. The more they see it, the more they are likely to do it!

Go Shopping Together

Once they are starting to show some interest, it is time to go shopping for all of the necessities. Be sure to take your child with you. Being part of the process and making choices will help potty training go much more smoothly than if they are not included.

Have them choose a pack of underwear with a favorite character or a design they love. Just purchase one pack in case they change sizes before they will be able to use them.

It is not most beneficial to begin potty training wearing the underwear; however, trying them on to feel how nice they are compared to diapers may help them want to get out of the diapers.

Also, they may just love the pattern so much that they will want to wear them. Either way, it’s a win for you if it helps them get started with potty training.

Training Pants

Now that they have some awesome underwear ready to go, have them look at training pants with you. There are several kinds. There are absorbent training pants that can be pulled up and down.

These are fantastic because they closely mimic underwear and are easy to pull and down. The best part is that they are absorbent in the case of an accident. They are easy to change as well.

Some parents do not prefer these because they know their child is comfortable using them just like a diaper, so they may choose to let them go without any bottom coverage while they are training. This does limit you to staying at home, but it is definitely hard for the child to ignore an accident so it works well for some.

Some also choose to go straight to underwear and use a plastic cover. Because there is little absorbency, if they are not changed right away they will both likely leak and become very uncomfortable.

Potty Chair Or Training Seat

You and your child will also need to choose a potty chair or a training seat that attaches to the regular toilet.

If you choose the seat, be sure that your child can get on and off of it without any help.

If you have a chair height toilet, this may not be the best option. If you choose a potty chair, be sure it is a comfortable height for them.

When you get home, have them use either option with their clothes on for practice of simply get on and off of it. If they ask to try to use it, go ahead and let them try. If they do not, then just wait until they show signs of readiness. These will be discussed below.

Rewarding

You may decide that you would like to use a reward system with your child to help encourage them along the way.

For some kids, an enthusiastic reaction may be enough motivation for them.

For others, a tangible reward may be more motivating.

If you use tangible rewards for behavior or chores already, then it is likely that you will need tangible rewards for potty training because their brain is already trained to receive a tangible object for displaying the expected behavior. If you are going to use tangible rewards, have your child help pick out some small toys that they really want.

Then choose a system of how they will earn them.

This system may change as they progress. For example, in the beginning they may earn a sticker each time they tell you they have to go potty before they go. Maybe after 10 stickers they can choose a prize. After they have been training for awhile, you may change the goal to getting a prize if they go three days in a row without any daytime accidents. Be sure not to include nighttime because it will take much longer for them to go through the night without accidents.

How To Know If They Are Ready?

Many children will come right out and tell you that they are ready, but many others will not. Those who are fearful, as mentioned above, will not likely tell you they are ready.

There are signs for you to look for though.

  • Staying dry during a nap can indicate the beginning of their readiness.
  • Telling you that peed or pooped in their diaper without you asking them is another positive sign.
  • Children will also wet fewer diapers throughout the day when they are ready for potty training. This shows that they are able to hold it longer rather than going just a little bit many times throughout the day.

Congratulate them for needing fewer diapers and let them know that wetting fewer diapers means that they can use the potty soon. Their reaction to this talk will help you gauge how they feel about training.

  • Another sign that your child is nearly ready for potty training is more regular bowel movements. Some children will begin going around the same time each day. For others, they may begin going after each meal. Look for patterns.

Are they able to get onto their potty seat or sit down on their potty chair without any help? They should practice this before you really start the training process. Once they show that they can do it on their own, let them know what a big step that is for them. That will encourage them to want to sit on it more often.

Also, be sure it is in a place that they can access easily without help to get there. If you use baby gates, be sure they are not blocking the entrance to the bathroom.

  • The biggest indicator of your child’s readiness can be how they feel about potty training because if they are not ready, they will continue to go in their diaper.

Do not react negatively if they do not seem to be interested. Just continue to talk positively about using the potty. Let them know that you like the feeling of being dry all day and that you are excited for them to have that same great feeling.

Ready! Now What?

Children need to make the psychological connection between the feeling of having to go with the action of going. This helps them to know they are going to go.

Having them already on the potty when they start going will help them to make this connection. The best times for them to try using the potty is right after waking from a nap, about thirty minutes after a meal or when you see them display physical signs.

Physical signs can include crossing their legs, fidgeting, grunting or squatting. Make a habit of putting them on the potty at these times, but do not force them if they resist.

When they pee or poop while sitting on the potty, give them lots of praise. Try not to show negativity if they do not go. Just tell them that they can try again later.

Review your reward system with your child often so they know what goal they are striving for. Remind them to tell you each time they think they have to pee or poop and also to tell you if they already did.

Reinforce that accidents will happen and that they should not worry if they have an accident. Tell them that it is okay and to keep trying. Remind them that it could take awhile and that is okay too.

When they do use the potty, show them how to wipe and have them practice doing so by themselves. You may wish to have flushable wipes on hand for them to wipe with.

It is a good idea not to change over to toilet paper until they have mastered wiping. Also, they are used to wipes from when you changed their diaper. Too many changes at once can be confusing. They will need help when wiping after a bowel movement, possibly for even a few years.

It takes a lot of patience for them to get to the stage where they can wipe after a bowel movement without help. Be sure to use lots of praise along the way and redirect them with the correct way if they are doing it wrong.

Potty Songs

Consider having some potty songs to sing when then have a successful trip to their potty. You can do a search for them or make up your own. Using your child’s name in the song will make it more special for them. If you make up a song to a tune that they already know, then it will be something that they can relate to and will likely sing along with once they pick up on the new words.

This will encourage them to keep trying. Some potty chairs play music when a child uses it. Anything to make potty training an exciting and positive experience will certainly help motivate your child.

When To Try Underwear during The Day?

Once your child has stayed dry for several days in a row, you should consider trying underwear during the day. Continue using nighttime training pants until they no longer wet during bedtime.

The transition to underwear is awesome, but it does not mean that they are done training. Continue to use positive reinforcement until they really get the hang of it and are using the potty exclusively during the day. Once they have that down, you can decide with them when they are ready to try using the big potty.

They may want to keep using their little one for awhile. That is fine. If you would like them to try the big potty sooner, consider having them dump their waste from their potty into the big potty and cleaning it out each time.

After doing this several times, they will likely want to use the big potty. Be sure they are able to get up on it on their own though. If they cannot, then it will only lead to frustration.

What Are Some Possible Obstacles?

Clothing

One thing that may not come to mind right away is clothing. If your child has pants that buckle, be sure that they can undo and redo the buckle without help.

Belts can be a nuisance for a toddler who is trying to quickly pull down their pants.

Certain clothing types, such as overalls or rompers, may not be best for potty training because it requires them to remove the top in order to remove the bottom.

If you have a girl, consider not putting them in tights or close fitting leggings, unless they have demonstrated that they can easily get them up and down on their own.

If they are wearing a dress or long shirt, be sure to show them how to gather it up and hold it so they don’t accidentally sit on it and soil it. Anything that can take extra time or cause frustration is better left unworn.

Babysitter, Daycare and Preschool

If your child goes to a babysitter, daycare or preschool, be sure that you let them know when you are starting the potty training process.

Not doing so can lead to a frustrated and confused toddler. Let them know if you have a reward system and how to use it. Let them know the types of phrases you want them to use and what types not to use. Most will collaborate with you and follow your plan.

Some daycares and preschools have their own plans when it comes to potty training due to the size of the class and the amount of caregivers available. If that is the case, be sure to have a meeting to talk about how they do it so you can help explain to your child what to expect.

If you will be doing some things different at home, just explain to your child that some things may be different at school because there are so many children. Let them know that while they may not be able to sing the child’s favorite potty song for them at school, that you will sing it for them when you pick them up if the teacher lets you know that they used the potty. It is not always ideal to have to do this, but it is the best way to get around the obstacle of having other people have to be a part of your potty training process.

Weaning Off Rewards

Having a reward system, as we discussed earlier, usually motivates most children.

Typically, once the child is trained, they can be weaned off of any rewards. There may be some children, however, who tend to hold on to the notion that they should receive something each time they use the potty.

The best way to wean these children off of a tangible reward is to increase the amount of non-tangibles such as songs, cheers and positive talk while adjusting the tangible prize goal.

So the tangible prize goal should be adjusted to be a little harder to obtain. For example, if they have accomplished their current goal of getting prize if they stay dry for three days in a row, then change it to having to stay dry for five days in a row.

Continue to make the goal more difficult, but give more verbal praise. If they child asks why this is happening, just explain that as they get bigger the goal must get bigger. It is not a goal if it is super easy to obtain.

Dealing With Accidents

Accidents will definitely happen. This is often the most difficult obstacle for both the parents and the child. Drawing negativity to the situation will only make it worse, so be prepared so that you do not get too frustrated.

Always have an extra training pants near the potty chair or potty seat. When they do have an accident, encourage them to go to the bathroom to get cleaned up. You may need to help them, but perhaps not if it was just pee. Have them pull down the training pants on their own if there is not any poop. Then have them sit and wipe as usual.

This will help it seem less like an accident to them. Have them get new pants and let them know that they just need to keep practicing and it will get easier.

Always take several extra changes of clothes when you leave the house. Do not make a big deal about gathering the clothes in front of your child or they may think that you expect an accident to happen. Just keep a bag stocked with everything you need in case an accident happens. If they go to a babysitter, daycare or preschool, be sure to leave several extra changes of clothes there as well.

Potty training can be a truly rewarding time for you and your child. They get to feel like a big kid and wear big kid underwear. You will have some relief from changing diapers and that is a great feeling as well.

Be positive, be encouraging and show your child that you believe in them, and you will both have an overall positive experience.

Happy potting training!

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