Potty Training Myths & Real-Life Tips for Potty Training Toddlers
My three-year-old is fully potty trained. During the day. Oh, did you think night training happened with day training? That’s a potty training myth. There are lots of them. And they are everywhere. Making parents feel like they are missing some secret key to potty training success. Because it’s supposed to be easy, right?
The value in knowing the truth is you can be prepared for reality. And even more important, lose the feeling you are doing something wrong when your toddler isn’t potty training according to the script.
With that in mind, check out these 5 potty training myths. Plus tips for what works in real life when you’re potty training a toddler or preschooler.
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The Top 5 Potty Training Myths
Myth #1: Potty Training in One Day
Ha ha ha ha ha!
I was going to leave it at that, but I guess I should elaborate. You cannot potty train a kid in one day. Or three days, or a week, or whatever the catchy title of your potty training book is promising.
Or maybe YOU can. But I couldn’t and I think there are many toddler moms and preschooler moms still struggling with potty training well beyond the first three days without diapers. My kids took closer to six months. Even with the tried and true three-day intensive start method.
Often kids understand the concept of potty training after one intensive toilet training weekend. But they don’t feel like cooperating. Or they are too busy playing. And are possibly feeling stubborn. Or they still want to be a baby and the idea of big kid stuff holds no appeal. Or, or, or a million other reasons cooperation is not always to be had.
I even had a potty party to celebrate the completion of toilet training. Many people assured me this was foolproof. These people had not tried toilet training at my house. And potty training regressions followed. As they often will.
The Truth About Potty Training in a Few Days
Many books or articles promising a specific time frame for potty training have a lot of great ideas for getting started.
And you can definitely take a day or three to get an intense jump-start on your toddler’s toilet training. Just don’t expect at the end of the weekend you will be diaper and accident-free from then on. Major life transitions take more than a long weekend.
And that is OK. Potty training is intense! It’s stressful and messy. And it can feel like it’s never going to end. Which is why the idea of one weekend of potty training and then you’re done is so appealing. And I hope it happens like that for you.
But chances are there will be some accidents on your potty training journey and it’s helpful to know that when you start out.
Myth #2: Once and Done Toilet Training
You’ve done your three-day toilet training weekend. You’ve had a potty party. Your child has been regularly using the potty for weeks. You’re done!
Until they get diarrhea. Or have a scary experience with a self-flushing toilet.
Or a new baby sibling arrives. The one you wanted them to be completely potty trained before it came so you wouldn’t have two in diapers. That baby.
And your toddler or preschooler is back in diapers. Either that or you’re wiping up pee and poop fifty times a day, in between giving them baths for the times baby wipes won’t cut it on clean up.
The Truth About Once & Done Potty Training (and Potty Training Regression)
Potty training is rarely a once and done project. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who had a three-day intensive potty training weekend and then went days and weeks without accidents. Potty training regressions happen.
Sometimes after days or weeks (months!) of your child using the potty with minimal accidents, they will suddenly start having accidents all day or asking to be put back in diapers. This is a potty training regression.
If this happens with your child, don’t panic. You’re not exactly starting over from square one. You’ve done this before.
Do not punish your child for having accidents. This is almost guaranteed to backfire. Often a potty training regression is the result of your child feeling stressed. Don’t pile it on. It might worsen the situation or lead your child to hold in potty too long and make themselves sick.
Also, it’s a jerk move.
Instead, try positive reinforcement. Clean up accidents without making a scene. And encourage your child when they get it right and make it to the toilet.
For older toddlers or preschoolers, it can be useful to involve them in the cleanup process. Hand them a towel. Show them how to clean up their own pee puddle.
Not as a punishment. But just, letting them know we clean up our own messes. If they hate this part, it might motivate them back on the potty. If they don’t it’s a useful lesson in cleaning up after yourself.
How to Recover from a Potty Training Regression
If you’re in the midst of a potty training regression you’ll want to get back on track as quickly as possible. Start by bringing back the parts of toilet training that worked in the first place.
Did you take your child to the toilet at set times? Go back to a schedule! Did you remind them to go? Offer rewards? Obviously rewards in particular, but really all of these should be for a limited time. But it worked once and it can work again.
It can also be helpful to find the cause of a potty training regression. Is it because of a change in your child’s routine? A new sibling? A new school? A new daycare?
If you can solve the root cause of regression you can help your child resolve it faster. Or if it’s caused by a new situation you might just need to give it time.
Also, if your child has been potty trained for months and this comes up suddenly, or there is no obvious stressors, talk to your child’s doctor about checking for an infection that might be causing issues with pottying.
Myth #3: You Don’t Want Two in Diapers
Why do you not want two kids in diapers? You hear this so often when you have a toddler and are expecting your second child (or third, or whatever). And I don’t get it.
Actually, I bought into this myth at first and it made my first attempt at potty training an unmitigated disaster.
I will tell you what is worse than two kids in diapers. One kid in diapers and a second one pooping their pants twice a day.
If your toddler isn’t ready to potty train, having a new baby in the family is not going to inspire readiness. In fact, the opposite is much more likely.
And I would never let fear of having two in diapers determine when I was ready to expand my family. They all potty train eventually.
If you’re in your first trimester and your older child is ready to potty train, you can probably go for it with confidence. But if you’re nearing your due date, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself and your child to potty train with time limitations and imminent family changes.
If you’re determined not to have two in diapers, I wish you luck. But I will also tell you, that this will be the least of your concerns soon.
Also, potty training while pregnant is hell. I speak from experience. Wiping up pee puddles around a watermelon size stomach sucks.
The Truth About Having Two Kids in Diapers
It will be ok, mama! Having two kids in diapers is absolutely a non-problem. Sure, the diapers get expensive. And changing diapers for two kids is a lot of butt wiping (but you still wipe the butts of toddlers using the potty).
This just isn’t a big deal. And if you’re getting down to the wire with your new baby about to arrive and your older child isn’t potty trained yet, feel free to just table it for a while.
Potty training with a newborn will be worse (and an older child stressed by the disruption in the family) will be much harder than if you just wait a few months and try it when your child is ready.
You’ll have two in diapers. Many have done it. I did it. It was fine.
4. Putting Your Child on the Potty Will Train Them
If you’re setting a timer every 30 minutes to take your toddler to the potty, they are not the one who is trained, you are.
Using a timer for potty training can be a helpful way to start while your child is learning their body’s cues, but if weeks go by and you’re escorting your little one to the potty, pulling down their britches, setting them up there, waiting until they go or you give up every 30 minutes, they are not potty trained.
Potty training is about teaching kids to recognize when they need to go potty by their body’s cues. They should also be pretty good at pulling down their own pants, with no more than a small assist. If this isn’t your child, you may want to give it a little more time.
The Truth About Setting a Timer to Go Potty
Many parents swear by the timer method. And it’s definitely a great starting place. But if you’re still setting timers a few weeks in, it might be too soon for potty training.
At some point in the potty training process, your child should begin to recognize when they need to go to the toilet. Or at least know to answer “yes” when you ask them if they need to go.
This isn’t my favorite method of potty training long term because it is very parent-led. If you try this method and don’t see some signs of success within a week or so, consider whether your child is ready for potty training.
Also, a side note, it is so helpful if your child can pull their own pants and undies and up and down before you start potty training. It gets pretty labor intensive if you’re doing it for them every time.
It also makes it more likely they can take themselves to the potty sooner than later and it’s less likely you’ll get pee on your arm as you try to get pants off before they go.
5. Daycare Will Train Them
OK, daycare might HELP potty train your child. And most will be happy to assist in your efforts.
Most daycare providers, whether home or center-based, are dealing with multiple kids at a time. Which gives daycare the advantage of a little bit of peer pressure to learn sometimes.
But multiple kids having continuous accidents in a daycare quickly becomes a sanitation issue. And beyond the scope of what you can expect from your daycare provider in most situations.
Plus there is a real possibility your child will be potty trained at daycare (and ONLY at daycare) and refusing to use the potty at home (it’s common!).
The Truth About Having Daycare Potty Train Your Child
If your child’s daycare is willing to potty train, that is awesome. You should definitely take them up on that. And find out how they potty train. Chances are your daycare provider has tips and experience with potty training that can be useful to you at home.
Plus consistency at home and at daycare is important! But as the parents, the heavy lifting when it comes to potty training should come from you.
Plus, it’s super common for kids to potty train more easily at daycare and resist at home. Mom and Dad are not daycare. And it’s more fun to mess with your parents’ heads when you’re a kid.
I am not against potty training at daycare, honestly. But it needs to start and be consistent at home. It isn’t as if you’re going to drop your child off in diapers one day and pick them up in underwear fully trained to use the toilet.
Potty training is a major life transition. And needs to be worked on all day, every day wherever your child may be.
Potty Training is Hard
Potty training was much harder than I expected and it went on a lot longer than I anticipated. Many parents will tell you their potty training success strategies, and you should definitely listen. But don’t expect it to work the exact same way for you.
Every kid is different. Some kids respond to rewards or M&Ms. Others learn with a timer or set schedule for potty breaks.
For what it’s worth, my kids would eat the M&Ms or take whatever toy we promised and then go back to having accidents the rest of the day. Or a few days later once the motivating prize was removed.
And I gave up on the timer thing after a few days with no progress. I don’t know what your days are like, but taking a reluctant toddler to the toilet every 30 minutes all day was a little more of a time suck than I could accommodate.
So you need to try what works for you and your child. If you feel like your child is definitely ready to potty train but it isn’t quite catching on, try something else.
You don’t want to constantly stop and start, stop and start with potty training. Because it might teach your child that cooperating with potty training is optional.
If you have a failed attempt, take a break for a couple of weeks and then start fresh. Take what you learned into the next attempt.
Tips for Potty Training Success
Potty Training Tips & Gear
1. Gear Up for Potty Training!
Get your potty gear purchased before you plan to start toilet training. Set it up in the bathroom and let your child get used to it for a few days. They can try it out without any pressure.
Imagine trying to use the bathroom with your feet dangling and you’ll see the necessity. I love the squatty potty for kids, and adults too. I won’t go into details. It’s awesome. Look it up.
Take your toddler on a shopping trip for underwear and build up some excitement. I let my kids pick their undies out online. Better to teach them now the way we shop in our family.
2. Don’t Get Discouraged if Potty Training Takes Time
If potty training doesn’t work right away, it’s ok to back off and live to fight another day. I’ve read the books that say to use up your diapers and then be done. Go all in, don’t buy any more diapers. I say pfffttt!
If you’re lucky enough it actually goes down like that, you can always donate the extra diapers or give them to a friend.
But here in the real world, you’ve probably got some diaper days left. And many, many diaper nights. Night time toilet training is a whole separate project. And should be handled after day time training is well established.
3. Avoid Going Negative When Potty Training is Frustrating
Potty training is not the time for punishment. Be positive. Heap on the praise. Give prizes. Find something that works. I can pretty much guarantee punishment and shaming will not.
Treat your child with compassion when accidents happen. And try to keep potty training positive.
I think it’s a great idea to buy a couple of potty training books or videos. Or if you’re cheap like me, get them at the library. But you don’t need to buy a $300 potty training kit online.
Or the $50 potty seat as opposed to the $10 one. This isn’t a problem where throwing money at it will be a big help.
Don’t misunderstand. Buy what you need to make potty training successful. A potty seat for home. Maybe a fold up potty seat for when you leave the house. New kid’s underwear. A step stool. But get by with the cheaper stuff.
Potty training supplies are a temporary part of your life. It’s fine to get the cheap stuff if it’s functional.
5. Wait for the Right Time to Potty Train
I’ve heard it said your child will tell you when they’re ready to potty train. I heard this from a woman whose six-year-old still wore diapers. I don’t believe you need to wait for a verbal declaration. What you should wait for are genuine signs of readiness.
Signs of readiness include disliking the feel of a dirty diaper, fairly predictable bowel movements, and fewer wet diapers.
It’s a good sign if your toddler starts showing interest in the potty when other people go. It is also helpful if they can pull up and down their own pants.
Any signs of resistance to using the potty mean it’s probably a good idea to wait a bit. If you start before seeing signs of readiness there is a good chance you will encounter regression and the process as a whole will take longer.
Don’t feel pressured by what other parents are doing. Every child is different. You know your child and are the best person to determine when they are ready to potty train. Not a book, not a grandparent, not a friend, just you.
Forget the Myths, You’re Potty Training in Real Life!
I think we’ve all heard at least one parent brag, “my kid potty trained themselves!”. I think this person is lying. Or selectively forgetting. But maybe I’m wrong. There is probably some kid somewhere keeping these potty training myths alive with their speed and excellence at learning to use the toilet.
If that’s not your kid, you’re probably in the majority. And ignoring the potty training myths in favor of finding what works for you and your child is the best way to potty train with a minimum of frustration.
Potty training can be a long road. I wish you luck on the journey!
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