Potty Talk: Potty Training Tips from the Trenches

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Potty Training

There are about a million and one things that I LOVE about being a mama. And then there are a select few things that I just dread. Potty training is one of them (“Pooh” on the potty anyone?  I know, I know…but it had to be said!)

So with my son’s third birthday approaching shortly, I knew it wouldn’t be long before potty training began with my little man.

So, after “watching for the signs” like so many books and blogs say to do to determine potty “readiness,” (and digging out the Elmo potty DVD from a storage box) my munchkin was (very sweetly) against it.

The Dreaded Perky Potty Talk

So I went into the perky potty talk mode, but no amount of positive potty talk and introducing him to the potty seemed to change his mind.

“Honey, let’s go pee pee in the potty!  You are such a big boy!  Let’s go check out the potty! Let’s go see what big boy under pants look like!  Let’s pick out a little potty together at Target! Look – little (insert his buddy’s name) can go pee pee on the potty!  (and on and on and on with whatever other perky potty talk I could muster).”

His response?  “No thank you mama.  I like my diapers. No potty please.”

Well, I’ll give him this.  At least he was polite about it.

Seeing that my potty enthusiasm wasn’t convincing him, my hubby and I had several “discussions” about this subject.  My feeling? Let’s keep waiting until he tells me he is ready.

Because guess what? I potty trained my first on MY timetable, not hers. And guess how successful we both were with THAT strategy? I’ll give you a hint…it took a long time for it to click.

My hubby’s take?

“He doesn’t like broccoli.  But, it is our job to keep introducing it to him and making him eat it…or other vegetables…to be a healthy, happy kid.  Just because he doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be encouraged to eat it.”  And he related this to potty training.

Well, humph. So we eyed each other down. And then decided to compromise as best as possible.

Operation Potty Time: Choosing Our Strategy

We came to the decision we would pick a potty training method together (not the easiest decision since everyone seems to have the answer…or an opinion on why a method does not work) and agreed on the following:

1. He would be an active participant (we picked a long weekend so work wasn’t much of an issue).
2. We would deal with the messes together (i.e. he had to clean up just as many stinkers as I did).
3. We would stop and take a break from training if our little man was terrified/traumatized/etc.

I was convinced that my little guy wasn’t ready.  I was convinced that this was going to be a disaster.  And, you know what?

He was ready.

To my delighted surprise (and to his daddy’s triumphant, but very sweet, “I told you so”), he actually was ready and responded to the training method we chose.

We also went through about four packages of M&Ms in the process (but hey, I didn’t say I was above positive praise…and flat out bribes.)

Potty Training

Four days – completely housebound.  Four packages of M&Ms (so much for broccoli!). Twenty-one new pairs of Cars and Thomas the Train underpants.  About 1,651 times of saying, ‘Tell mama when you need to go potty!”  Eight loads of laundry.  One special Thomas the Train toy set for the first time he was completely dry and clean for one full day (no accidents).

THEN NO MORE DIAPERS – well worth every second!  Not to mention a confident, happy, proud little boy who now loved the potty – again, well worth every second!

I would love to take credit for my fabulous potty training skills. Boast about how I developed this insanely wonderful, fabulous way to convince your child that pee pee in the potty is the best.thing.ever.

Nope, it wasn’t me.  I have to give major props to the woman, Lora Jensen, who wrote “Three Day Potty Training.” (for us, it took a solid four days).  Note:  we followed most of the method…but we still tailored it to my son’s specific needs.

Bottom (no pun intended) line: every kid is different. And every kid is motivated by different things. And every parent has to do what works for them.  When I mention this method, some people love it…others, not so much.  But for us, this method worked.  And, I am completely grateful.  Four days…and it’s DONE.  And, we have only had one daytime accident in three weeks!

My Potty Training Advice

So, my advice for deciding when to potty train your little one?  Do your research. Pick your method in advance. Prepare everything you will need in advance (undies, sheet savers, bribes, laundry detergent, snacks, sticker charts, DVDs, books – whatever you decide you want to use). Talk to your partner and make sure both of you are on the same page. Then, pick a time block that you can devote to your munchkin.

And remember – breathe!  Do your best to stay positive and encouraging and patient (and excited to your child!).  Your little one will mirror your behaviors.

That’s all for now on this stinky subject.  Next, I’m going to have to write a blog on taking your newly potty trained kiddo a to public restroom (because I am now remembering how difficult this actually is…my little guy accidentally peed on my shoes…while sitting on the potty in a Target bathroom yesterday…but that story is for another time).

What potty training secrets do you have?  Any “potty whisperers” out there?  Please share – we want to hear what worked for you and your kids!


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  1. 1
    Wendy says:

    We’re blocking off our “4 days” and getting our tools together, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish us luck 🙂

  2. 2
    Genise says:

    This post came at the perfect time- we are just about to start potty training with our son. I don’t have any tips to add yet, but will let you know. I think we will try the 4 day method. Thanks for sharing! Love your pics!

  3. 3
    christy says:

    Thanks so much girls!! Good luck with potty training – sending you positive vibes 🙂 And, don’t forget to post any success stories or tips!

  4. 4
    Jen says:

    I love this post because it is one every mom can relate to.

    It is also great to hear a personal story of someone who has had success with the 3 (or 4!) day method.

    My biggest piece of advice from potty training my two girls, is once you make the jump to undies, don’t switch back and forth between pull ups.

    Even though I was tempted to consider putting them back in pull ups for certain outings, I think it is confusing to kids to have to think of when they can go in their pants and when they can’t, so once we went undies, we never looked back.

    Oh, and always bring an extra change of clothes and plastic baggies in the car / purse!

    Good luck mamas!

  5. 5
    Kerry says:

    Yes, this is on my calendar for spring break time with my little girl. She too has been very polite in saying she prefers diapers. I think I’m just going to need to take the diapers away and go for it. I have two older boys and thought my daughter would train the easiest, but she seems quite content to stay the baby. Thanks for the motivation to tackle this task. She is my final kid to potty train and then we’re done with diapers for good. Yeah!

  6. 6
    Stephy says:

    Any suggestions on teaching my child to wipe themselves after they go #1 & #2? They are potty trained but I have been assisting my son and daughter after they are done with their business. My son will be starting Kinder in August and this summer I’m planning on getting him to be 100% on his own in that department. Would appreciate any tips or advice.

  7. 7
    christy says:

    Thanks Jen! I absolutely agree with your advice on Pull-ups – once you commit to undies, I say stick with the undies! I switched back and forth with my daughter when I was training her, and it ended up just confusing her and prolonging the process. With my son (who is my inspiration for this blog), we completely eliminated all diapers and Pull-ups during the day.

    Kerry – good luck, mama! Sending you positive vibes!! Just keep thinking…you’re so close to no more diapers!! My little guy was very content in being the baby too…until I found his motivation for being a “big boy” (a super fun, new Thomas the Train set) 🙂

    Stephy – this has been a challenge for me, too. When I trained my daughter a couple of years ago, this wasn’t as much of an issue because she hated being dirty. So she was extra careful. With my son, he is eager to “help.” Wiping with #1 seems to be fine, but #2 is still a work in progress. I keep showing him…and let him wipe the first go around…then have him call for me to double check his bum. I think just consistency and continually reminding him is working for us. I’m noticing an improvement, so fingers crossed that he completely “gets it” soon and I don’t have to check. Good luck, mama!! We’re all in this together 🙂

    And, for any other mamas out there…if you’ve had better success with a different method, please share with the group! Thank you!

  8. 8
    Eve says:

    Any advice on night time training? My daughter is 4 and we still put the diaper on when she sleeps at night. We are waking her up once in the middle of the night to go potty and she wakes up upset and cries…I worry about disrupting her sleep pattern…

  9. 9
    christy says:

    Eve – I completely agree…night time training is tricky (and I think a little more difficult to accomplish since they are asleep and not as aware).

    I’ve heard varying advice from my fellow mama friends – some say to just keep the undies on, keep changing sheets and eventually the child will learn to hold their bladders while sleeping. Others use night Pull-Ups.

    If you decide to follow the “Three Day Potty Training” method I referenced in my blog, the author has a section dedicated to night and nap training.

    For my little boy, we DID use night time Pull-Ups for the first few nights (we called them his night time undies) – this was not exactly consistent with the “Three Day Potty Training” method, but like I said, we tailored the plan to my son’s specific needs. I got the ones that looked as much like undies as possible (and called them night undies, since we had told him no more diapers).

    To my surprise, he kept them dry for four straight nights in a row, Of course, the first night I put regular undies on him, he wet the bed. Such as it goes! Now, my daughter was completely day trained, but still used night Pull-Ups for a few months at night (when she was newly potty trained). We found that she eventually could hold her bladder and switched her to underwear when she was dry five nights in a row.

    It really depends on what works for you and your child!

    If you decide to keep regular undies on at night, I’ve found these two pieces of advice (from fellow mama friends) helpful:

    1. Stop giving you kiddo cups of liquid about an hour before bed (obviously, I give my kids sips of water if they’re thirsty – I just don’t hand them a full cup).

    2. On their beds – place a sheet saver, then a regular sheet, then a sheet saver, then a regular sheet – layer them. That way if they have an accident in the middle of the night, you just strip the first layer and you don’t have to change the bed at 2 am – brilliant!

    Whatever you decide, good luck, mama!!

  10. 10
    jen says:

    With both of my girls, they potty trained really early, like a little over 2 years old, so we had them in undies during the day, but in diapers for nap and nighttime for a while.

    Eventually when they were ready, I would notice the diaper would consistently be dry after nap or in the morning.

    But I waited until they both asked to sleep in undies before transitioning.

    This happened for both a little over 3 years old, when they had been potty trained for awhile.

    In my opinion, they both sort of knew they own bodies and told me when they were ready.

    And personally, I preferred keeping them in diapers at night vs. changing sheets at 3am.

    My 3 1/2 year old will have accidents still every once in awhile at night, but I am sure she will outgrow it.

    The main thing is making SURE she pees right before getting into bed. The nights she has had accidents have typically been times when she hasn’t “made any” on the potty. If she doesn’t make any pee before she goes to bed, I will put her in a pull up.

    Hope this helps!!!

  11. 11
    Rafie says:

    Wow, you made it! Congratulations 🙂

    I remember when I was a kid, we don’t have potty seats and all. Since in my country we have the squatting toilet and the sitting toilet, I think I learn from the squatting technique after watching some cartoons.

    Kids nowadays, they have all the fancy stuff 🙂

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