a young child is sitting on a potty


I Used to Potty Train Kids for a Living And I Know How To Reach Your Bowl Goals

Feb 15, 2019

Everybody poops. It’s just a fact of life. Changing a diaper is one of the first things we ever do for our children, and it quickly becomes second nature. But even with this acceptance of the inevitable, a lot of parents are overwhelmed at the thought of potty training. When should we start? How do we do it? What is normal?

It can be daunting to begin this journey with your child, especially when there seems to be contradictory information everywhere you turn.

As a daycare teacher in a toddler room, I saw parents agonize over this milestone regularly. To put their minds at ease, I shared some wisdom I learned during my days of potty training for a living, and now I will share the same tips with you.

There is no one right way to do it

You will find countless articles online claiming that this way or that is the “right” way to potty train. That simply isn’t true. What works best for one child might not be what works well for another, even within your own family. Read up on several methods, see which fits best for your family, and give it a try. Just make sure you stick to one method at a time.

There is no one right age to start

Unless your child is part of program, such as a daycare centre, which requires them to be potty trained by a certain age, there is no rush. Sarah Mann, and ECE and mom of two, says, “go into it with positivity and encouragement but don’t force it. And don’t get caught up on age, it’s just a number for them, too.”

It’s rare for kids to be truly ready before the age of two. Some kids are well into age three before the time is right. It’s OK to take your time.

Related Reading: 4 Things To Remember When Potty Training Drives You Nuts

Watch for signs of readiness, but don’t be surprised if there aren’t any

Some children make it very clear they are ready to ditch the diapers, and some do not. The best test I’ve seen is the dry diaper test. Start putting your child on the potty, just for fun, at regular intervals. You can start with once a day and increase it. Just make sure it’s at the same time each day — say, before naptime, or after meals. If they start peeing in the potty nearly every time they sit, and are staying dry between potty visits, they are showing a clear readiness for underwear.
Some children won’t stay dry as long they are wearing a diaper, even if they are ready for potty training. If you suspect this is the case, it’s worth trying out the underwear.

Consistency is key

Once you decide to go from diapers to underwear, stay in the underwear whenever they are awake. “Go all in,” says ECE and Montessori teacher Sarah Harrison. “Lose the diapers (for day time) and don’t go back.”

It’s tempting to switch back and forth between underwear and diapers when you first start potty training. Nobody enjoys hearing, “I need to go pee” after doing up the final snap on a full snowsuit.

"It’s best to just bite the bullet and make a full commitment to underwear during the day."

It’s much easier in the short run to do underwear around the house and diapers when it’s less convenient, but doing so is confusing and can make it difficult for your child to get the hang of things. They tend to forget if they are in underwear or a diaper, which makes accidents in underwear more likely to happen. It’s best to just bite the bullet and make a full commitment to underwear during the day.

The exception to this is in the car. It is okay to put a diaper on right before getting in the car and take it off as soon as you get out. Car seat safety trumps consistency and placing towels or other items meant to protect the car seat is not a safe option.

Set them up for success

When you first introduce the potty for practice, try to do it at a time they are likely to pee. My son peed every time we took his diaper off before a bath, so that is when I had him first sit on the potty. This helps them to understand what the potty is for and gives them a win right off the bat.

Don’t push if they are apprehensive. Reward the effort instead. If they are nervous about sitting, make a game of it. Allow them to hold a toy or book and encourage them to sit rather than insist. Praise them for sitting, but don’t admonish them if they don’t.

The same goes for doing their business on the potty. It’s fine to have treats like Smarties or stickers if they pee or poop on the potty, but there should be no punishment if they don’t.

Relevant Reading: 9 Potty Training Tricks That Worked for Me

Expect a lot of accidents

Have lots of spare clothes on hand, and just accept that you will probably need them. Don’t punish or shame your child for having an accident — it never helps the situation. Do have them change their own clothes as much as they are able. Accidents should never be a source of guilt, but they should be seen as more of an inconvenience to your child than using the potty.

Don’t worry about fancy products

The best potty I ever used for potty training children cost four dollars. It was all one piece, which made it very easy to clean and disinfect. It was lightweight and portable, and it was inexpensive enough to buy several to keep in various rooms of the house for potty emergencies (I even kept one in the car). It was infinitely better than the fancy forty dollar one I also had. No bells and whistles necessary.

I know this potty training business seems intimidating, and it feels like your child will never get there, but take heart – it will happen! Just remember to stay consistent, have patience and be encouraging. You will get through this important milestone just fine — together!

Article Author Heather M. Jones
Heather M. Jones

Read more from Heather here.

Heather M. Jones is a mom of two, wife of one and writer of humour, biting social commentary and everything in between. She lives in Toronto with her family, and two cats who are decidedly not friends.