Let’s Talk Potty Training

As a mom of 5, potty training is one of the topics other parents ask me about most. After all, I have successfully potty trained 4 of my 5 children, (the youngest is only 11 months old, so we’ll give him some time), and I worked for many years in the 2 year old classroom of a daycare center where the children had to be completely potty trained before they could move up to the 3 year old class.

Obviously, I have worked with many, many children through the years, and not one of them was wearing diapers to kindergarten! (Even though I was certain that some of them just might!)

I’d like to share some of the tips and tricks that I have learned over the years for potty training even the most stubborn child.

First, the child will let you know when they are ready to potty train. Every time my kids were actually successful with potty training, it was when they told me they were ready, or all of the signs were there. I had a mom recently tell me one that she was potty training her 1 year old. WHAT? The mom has 3 kids and is tired of changing diapers all the time, so she wants her youngest potty trained now. I kept from rolling my eyes and busting out laughing. I asked if her little one is showing any interest in the potty yet. (After all, Parker is almost 1, and the only interest he is showing in the potty is trying to see how many GI Joes he can get in there before I catch him. Definitely not ready for potty training!) Her response to me was, “Well, no, she doesn’t really get it, but she will. I’ll just make her get it.” Good Lord, woman. You can’t make a 1 year old get potty training. Geez. Point Number 1: Wait until the child is ready. They may not be ready until they are 3, and that’s ok. Really! Can they potty train early? Of course they can. My oldest was completely potty trained – day and night – before she was 18 months old. It can happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to. Ashley was in a daycare class (mine) with 11 potty training 2 year olds and she wanted to do what they did. I got lucky. My other kids were all 3 or almost 3 before we had any success with them.

Second, once you commit to big girl or big boy undies, stick with them. No going to diapers at night or during nap time. And, I’m just going to say it: Pull-ups are diapers. They are NOT underwear and should not be treated as such. Worried about night-time or nap-time accidents? Invest in some thick potty training underwear and plastic covers. Yes, accidents can be frustrating, but in the long run, potty training will go much faster if you stick with underwear and lose the diapers completely. Get the diapers out of the house and don’t look back.

Third, don’t put your child in clothes that are impossible to get out of. Overalls, onesies, snap-crotch shirts, and belts should all be outlawed while potty training. You need to make it as easy as possible for your child to pull down their underwear and go, because I promise you, they will wait until the very last second before they tell you they have to go.

Fourth, rewards are wonderful, but they can become a major problem. If you promise your child an M & M every time they pee on the potty, they are going to start expecting rewards for other things they do. And there will be fights, screaming fits, and temper tantrums when you decide to take the rewards away. A great way to avoid this problem is to implement a different kind of reward system, or maybe not even use one at all! If you feel that your child would do better with tangible rewards, try using a sticker chart. Then, once they fill up their sticker chart (after 1 week, 2 weeks, etc), allow them to pick out a small toy at the store. This tactic worked great with my our oldest. She was thrilled just to put the stickers on the sticker chart. Or, if there’s a larger item that they’ve got their heart set on, consider a bargain – “If you go 3 weeks without an accident, you can get that toy.” We did this with my second child. He had his heart set on a Spiderman blanket. After 3 weeks of no accidents, we surprised him with that blanket. It’s been 3 years, and he’s still never had an accident and still sleeps with that same blanket every single night. In all honesty, though, kids really don’t need rewards. Praise, cheering, and admiration by their parents, peers, and teachers, are enough to make them want to go on the potty.

Last, be patient, expect accidents, and don’t give up. As frustrating as potty training may be, you have to stick to your guns once you really decide to start. Always keep an extra outfit (or two… or three) with you when you go out. Plan your day around bathroom visits. Don’t attempt to go to stores that don’t have a public restroom if you’ve got a potty training child with you. Don’t let it keep you from going out, but don’t attempt to take a 14 hour drive with a potty training child, either.

Potty training is tough stuff – for both the child and the parents. But, with some time, patience, and a whole lot of laundry, your child will get it down and you will be thrilled with the result.

Good luck!
Angie Vinez (2893 Posts)

Angie is a wife and mother to 8. Her life revolves around cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other household duties. She is passionate about her life in Christ and wants to encourage other mothers in their own walk of faith. Angie is active on many social media networks, loves technology, photography, and graphic design, and loves creating blog designs for other mom bloggers.


  1. 1
    blessedwithseven says:

    Great Post Angie…After potty training 7 myself I could not agree more!! you hit the nail on the head with all these points. All wonderful advice for rookie and seasoned mommies 🙂

  2. 2

    I was not looking forward to potty training my son (and did not have a clue). My friend (thank you Debbie!) kept talking about a free site with a great method. I worked it, and it worked! OMG- I could not believe my ears when my son said "I gotta go potty" Highly recommended! It is http://www.bye-bye-diapers.com I am also would like to hear what others have to say. Thanks, Amber

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