This potty training advice is not that of a psychologist, but rather a mom who has trained five children, is getting ready to train a sixth, and has tried many, many methods over the years. Having lots of mommy friends both online and in my community has helped as well.
As with any milestone for your baby, your mileage may vary, but I’ve been able to turn my experience into a system and have gotten a very positive response to this advice in the past. I’ve even helped some fellow moms potty train their children one-on-one and have their feedback below on this system.
So let’s Jump In!
What Can You Expect From This Potty Training 101 Plan?
This plan involves setting aside a good chunk of time to really help your child focus on the skill of going potty.
First, your child will train a DOLL to go potty, then it will be their turn.
You’ll be taking your child to potty often. Setting a timer. Giving immediate positive reinforcement when they go in toilet. You’ll practice walking to the potty, cleaning up and changing clothes for every accident.
With his system some children won’t go in potty at all first couple days and you’ll just be changing quickly after every accident and practicing the skills.
With my last daughter to potty train, she would grab herself and say uh-oh when she went since the cloth makes the feelings wet and uncomfortable. On the third day she said uh-oh and had not gone in her panties so I took her to potty and she went.
We clapped, shouted, got a treat, called daddy! Over the next three days every day was less accidents and more successes. After a week she had it mostly down so I could take her out. I used vinyl pants over cloth to protect when out and about and overnight trainers at night.
She’s now fully trained for both day and nighttime at four years old.
Potty Training Child Readiness
I’ve never had the patience to try elimination communication, so when I begin potty training, my child has never gone in the potty — even though I sit them on it for several weeks before bath, when I go to the bathroom, etc. I’ll tell you more about that below when we get to step one.
Good readiness signs are being able to follow a simple command (pick up the ball), showing physical signs when they potty in diaper (holding themselves, doing a little dance, hiding for a BM), and staying dry an hour or more at a time.
My last daughter to potty train was between 21-24 months. I have found that 21-28 months is the window that I see that almost all kids are ready unless there is a medical, physical, or mental disability. I trained all five of my kids between this age range, with them being completed by, or just after their second birthday.
And I’ve helped dozens of moms train their children in this same age window.
Parent Potty Training 101 Readiness
You are right to wait until you are ready. When you know you can commit a couple weeks to it and be there to help with every accident very quickly. Look over your calendar and find a two week window when you can give this your full attention.
At about age 18 months I start pre-training. I have a potty video that we watch every day. I have potty books that we read every day. We start talking about potty.
BEFORE you start this stage you’ll want to:
- Buy 10-12 pairs of training pants.
- Buy three pairs of waterproof covers or bedwetting pants if your child is big enough for them.
- Read Toilet Training In Less Than a Day (Amazon link). It’s going to help you so much!
- Have my child watch a potty video each day. I personally still use a DVD called Potty Power (Amazon link) because it’s by FAR the best thing out there for potty training motivation, YouTube is always an option.
- Read a potty book to your child each day.
- Practice giving them verbal instructions (bring mama the ball).
- Get a potty seat or potty ring. Let the child see and sit on it.
- Get a potty doll that wets. Baby Born has some that work well (Amazon link) and you can get them in both boy and girl versions and different skin tones!
- Buy dollar tree treats for reward system. Stickers also work great.
- Get a timer if you don’t have one. Your phone likely has a good one, or a kitchen timer works great too!
While you’re gathering your supplies, you’ll also want to help your child start to feel when they wet.
If you’ve already been using cloth diapers, consider them as part of your pre-training! The studies show that kids in cloth diapers usually train sooner than kids who wear disposable diapers.
If you’ve been using disposable diapers until now, I don’t recommend going out and buying a set. A good hack is for a few weeks before potty training put cut pieces of flannel in your child’s disposable diaper to help them start to feel when they go.
If you are using cloth diapers, but with a with stay dry insert consider using cotton or other inserts that feel wet, for a few weeks before training.
Step Two: Set a Time to Start
Set a time to start when you are ready to focus and can stay home for most of the next two weeks, when your child is staying dry for an hour or two during the day and when your child can follow verbal cues (pick up the ball).
The optimal age is about 21-24 months in my opinion. (age 24+ months may take twice as long to train for some children because of will issues) I personally find training between 21-24 months easier than potty training between 24-36 months. At age two they love to say NO! Before age two most kids love to mimic what you are doing.
If your child is over 24 months expect it to take longer as you are in the MY WILL stage. They may fight you. You have to be the parent and firmly, lovingly, and with joy help them comply. Make it fun and exciting scoop them up and dance to the potty if you must.
START and do NOT STOP. Every time you put a pull-up or diaper on them after starting the training you may confuse them and cause the training to take longer. Diapers are no longer an option.
Now there may be times that you make a decision to stop the training for personal reasons. Everyone has seasons in their life. That is fine. Just know that the next time you start it may take twice as long from the mixed messages.
Step Three: Teaching Day
Step three is day one of potty training in earnest.
First you teach them how to have the doll go potty in the big toilet rewarding the child when the dolly goes potty.
I play this game off and on all day, making this the teaching day. If they aren’t quite getting it, or are particularly grumpy that day, consider making it a two day thing.
Step Four: Potty Party
The next day I tell them they are a big boy/girl like the dolly. Give them lots to drink and put them in CLOTH training pants.
No diapers or paper pull-ups ever — get them out of the house.
They may ask for them back, but just say the diapers are all gone since they’re a big kid. Have willpower because if you give them back the diapers they will usually regress and it will take longer next time. Pull-ups will delay the training process.
Every half hour check their underwear. If they’re dry take them to the potty. If they go in potty, reward them with candy or sticker and lots of praise.
Expect lots of accidents the first couple days until they get the uh-oh and are still dry.
For every accident help them run to the potty and say, “Uh-oh we must potty in the toilet.” then help them change into dry pants. Practice walking back and forth from the place of accident to potty.
The biggest challenge for me in the first few days is the child learning to turn ON the urine flow. Some kids get this faster than others. My last daughter to potty train got it the third day. Some kids get it the first day
Reward Every Success! This is the part that makes it a party after all. Stickers, treats, dancing, singing, make it a real celebration!
At home do not use a waterproof panty or outer cover. Use these sparingly only at nap, bed time or in the car to help contain accidents. The leak going down their leg gets their attention which is the goal.
Step Five: Keep Calm, and Potty On!
Continue for the next two weeks. Praise every success. Help change every accident quickly. At the end of two weeks you should be having more successes than accidents.
I find most kids really get it in this two week period.
Use your timer. At first I set it for 30 minutes. I take them into the bathroom every 30 minutes until we have a dry day.
Then I go to 45 minutes until we have a dry day.
Then I move to 1 hour. I stay at sending them to the potty every hour for several weeks. Then as they start asking to go potty you can move the timer to 1.5-2 hours.
Toilet teaching is just like teaching them to eat with a spoon, stay in their car seat, dress themselves, and obey their parents. You are the parent and treat it like other areas of obedience. Make it fun and encourage them but expect them to comply. Expect and want accidents. This is what teaches them the consequences and the need to potty in the toilet
When Should you Stop Potty Training?
If you do the training as instructed above and have NO successes in the potty in a week then the child is not ready. I suggest stopping for 30 days.
However in the mean time go back to pre-training list and still sit them on the potty a few times a day. After 30 days try again.
What About Bed Time?
For naps and bed put a sheet protector under the sheet. Put either two pairs of cloth training pants and vinyl pants over them OR use bedwetting pants if your child is old enough.
Change them into dry underwear immediately upon waking. Use vinyl pants over cloth training pants or overnight trainers only when out in public or in bed.
What about Regressions or Accidents After Training?
It is not uncommon to train a child and then in a few week start having accidents again.
Often the parent has stopped sending them to the potty regularly. The key is simply to start setting the timer again and remind them to go potty every hour or two. That will usually solve it.
Feedback From Moms Who Have Tried it
“I potty trained my 23 month old daughter using the Potty Training 101 method and strongly recommend it. The most important parts, in my opinion, are: the pre-training, using cloth and ONLY cloth, being consistent about having your child on the potty on a regular basis, and never giving in, even when the going is rough.
“This means a plastic cover over trainers ALWAYS. Don’t ever give your child ‘permission’ to pee in their pants by expecting that they won’t be able to hold it. Do whatever it takes to get to the bathroom so they can be successful. With these things in mind, you can be successful.”Deanna
“Potty training 101 worked for me 🙂 At age 20 months it took us 3 days and that was accident free. She NEVER had an accident (except at night) and has continued to NEVER have had an accident!!! Do it your way and potty training is a breeze.”Cassie
“Thank you for sharing Potty Training 101. I have successfully potty trained 2 children using Krystin’s method. My daughter was 22 months when we started and was accident free in a couple weeks. My son was 24 months when we started and also accident free in a couple weeks.
“Both of them had never gone potty on the toilet before we started ‘Potty Party Day.’ On that day, we threw away all diapers and bought underwear. It is not easy and takes time and dedication but that is why it’s called TRAINING! We stayed home for 2 weeks straight and read story after story while sitting on the toilet until they went. Put your schedule aside for a couple weeks and have fun with it. Thanks, Krystin! Looking forward to doing it again with my youngest in about 6 months. There is such a feeling of accomplishment for the child and parent, too!”Carolina
“Cloth diapers help with potty training. They raise a kids awareness about the sensory experience of being wet. Charlie Banana cloth diapers helped me potty train my autistic son in just under two months.”Tiffany
I am not the expert at all but do have five successes under my belt and have helped many other moms succeed as well with this potty training 101 system.
Remember that accidents are not to be avoided. Accidents are a teaching tool.
You cannot potty teach without accidents. The urine leak down the leg feels out of control to them. Most kids will say uh-oh the first time. Also the leaking accident prompts the parent to act quickly. The cloth training pants should not be waterproof outer. You want the to feel the leak!
Should Boys Sit or Stand When Potty Training?
Potty Teach boys sitting down. I do not let them stand up while training. We do this for several reasons: bathroom cleanliness and it encourages then to have their bowel movement in the toilet.
Some moms who train them standing up have issues getting them to have a BM. My hubby insisted that my sons learned sitting down. You know I never have pee on the toilet unless a visiting man is in our home!