A Step-by-Step Guide to Potty Training Your Toddler

It’s a milestone in a child’s development that most parents dread: potty training.

You know your child is going to get there eventually, but the prospect of continuous laundry and running to the bathroom can seem daunting.

To make the situation less stressful for all involved, it’s best to face it head-on with a plan.

If you’re not sure where to begin, here is a step-by-step guide to potty training your toddler:

When Should I Start Potty Training My Toddler?

There’s no particular age at which a toddler should be potty trained. It can happen anywhere between 18 and 30 months with children typically potty trained before they start kindergarten.

Your child will let you know when they are ready to potty train! You can’t force it upon them until they are comfortable and showing you the signs:

  • Your child is staying dry for at least two hours during the day.
  • Your child is dry after naps.
  • Your child can follow simple instructions, such as removing their clothes and sitting on the toilet.
  • Your child is showing an interest in underwear.
  • Your child recognizes when their diaper is wet.
  • Your child shows signs of discomfort when their diaper is wet or soiled.

However, even if your child is showing the signs, it’s important to avoid potty training if your little one is experiencing transitional or stressful times such as moving to a new home or the arrival of a new sibling.

Your child will best potty train when they are relaxed, ready and on a regular routine.

Potty Training Myths

As you’re gearing up to potty train your toddler, you’re going to hear all kinds of advice and information – some of which is not true.

Before you jump into this guide, let’s bust-up some popular potty training myths:

  • Putting your child on the toilet at an early age will speed up potty training. Some parents believe that if they hold their babies over the toilet when they are peeing or pooping that their little ones will associate their bodily functions with toilet-use. Unfortunately, children that small aren’t able to make the connection between the urge to go and elimination – which is key to successful potty training.
  • Boys are harder to potty train than girls. There is no actual research to support the idea that girls potty train easier than boys. Don’t let this myth complicate your endeavors – the potty training experience and results are the same for both.
  • You can potty train your child in two days. Every child is different so no matter what fancy potty training method you find on the internet that guarantees results, it may not work for your little one. The important thing is that no matter how long it takes, you remain consistent.

No one can tell you what to expect when potty training. With some basic knowledge, you have to work around your child’s unique needs.

Essential Potty Training Gear

Deciding what items you need to potty train your toddler can be a crapshoot. While I did have a potty for my daughter, she trained on the toilet with a potty seat. It’s important to find a potty seat that can sit right on top of the toilet seat when in use.

However, potties are inexpensive and may be a good choice if your bathroom is on a separate level from your living space or bathroom.

Plus, having one around can be an encouraging reminder for your toddler to give it a try.

You definitely want to stock up on underwear – and lots of them! One good trick is to let your toddler pick out their own underwear so they feel involved in the process.

Make sure your little one is also wearing pants and clothing that are easy to remove. The last thing you want is to have your little one struggle with buttons and belts while trying to get on the toilet quickly.

Have a stool ready in the bathroom so your child can easily get onto the toilet.

If you plan on rewarding your little one with stickers or a chart, or a special activity, make sure you have that ready and handy as well.

To break it down, here are the essential items you should have for potty training:

  • Potty
  • Potty seat (also known as a ring reducer)
  • Stool
  • Underwear
  • Easy on and off pants
  • Progress chart
  • Mattress cover (for nighttime)
  • Extra bed sheets

How to Potty Train Your Toddler

Now that you’re ready, and your toddler is ready, it’s time to start the potty training process.

Step 1: Potty Introduction

Start by introducing your child to the potty and letting them get familiar with it. If you’re comfortable, you can also let your little one watch you go to the bathroom to get a sense of what the whole thing is about.

Some children may be gung-ho to try it out while others may be nervous. Allow your child to sit on the potty with their clothes on, extending the length of time they spend there by reading to them or entertaining them.

Once they seem pretty comfortable sitting with their clothes on, start having them sit with a bare bum. At this point, don’t worry about whether or not they go – you just want them to feel safe and secure sitting there.

To further help your little one understand what the potty is for, you can start shaking dirty diapers into the toilet.

Hold off on flushing, though, if your child is scared of loud noises.

Step 2: Pants Off!

One of the most crucial steps in potty training is getting your child to make the connection between the urge to go and actually going.

While modern diapers are designed to wick away moisture and keep your little one comfortable, they don’t help indicate to your child that they have eliminated.

The best way to do this (and don’t hate me for this) is to let your child run around bottomless during the day.

When they do pee or poo, they will be able to see the immediate results. Eventually, they’ll tie those results to the urge to go.

Once your child starts recognizing that this is happening, it’s time to encourage potty use.

Step 3: Rewards, Encouragement and Praise

Some people will tell you that rewarding potty-use is a bad idea but, hey, if it helps your kid use the potty then go for it!

Just be sure to remember two things:

One, don’t get over-excited when they do go in the potty. A sudden outburst can make them feel nervous and anxious.

Two, the rewards don’t have to be magnificent. A simple sticker on a chart or a quick video on your phone is motivating and exciting enough for a toddler.

Be sure, however, that you give them praise every time they go to the potty – even if an accident happens. You want to make sure it’s a positive experience every time no matter what happens.

Step 4: Be Flexible

Potty training doesn’t happen in a linear progression. You will have days where your toddler rocks it and other days where they have accidents galore.

If you find your child pushing back against potty training, take a step back for a while. Keep going with the current step your child was one and wait a day or two before reintroducing the next one.

Be prepared to tweak your potty training methods as well. What works for a few days, such as stickers, for example, may not work through the entire process. You may have to get creative and find other ways to motivate your little one.

It’s common for children to regress during potty training, so don’t feel discouraged if they seem like they’re going backward instead of forwards.

Good Luck!

It may seem like a frustrating and stressful ordeal but once your toddler is potty trained, you’ll never look back!

How did you potty train your little one? Share your tips in the comments!

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