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Potty training sucks. It’s stressful, it’s messy, and it’s anything but easy.
A month ago we started potty training our daughter. She just turned 3 1/2, and we had tried at least three other times before to get her to use the potty. I am (incredibly) happy to report that this time, it stuck! I am now the proud mama of two potty trained kids and only one in diapers! Hooray! (You can read all about the method we used here).
Along this long, winding journey to getting her here, I learned several things. If you’re planning on potty training your child soon, these 14 lessons might be helpful!
1. Every child is different. My son potty was 100% potty trained right before he turned three. I’ve heard of kids potty training at two, or even earlier. Some kids pick up potty training on the first try, others take four times before they figure it out. It’s frustrating, but it’s just part of the process. Don’t expect the same methods to work on all your kids, and don’t expect them to have the same level of excitement about potty training, either. Every child is going to be different, and they’ll potty train in different ways and at different times.
2. No gender is easier. Before we started potty training my daughter, I had heard that potty training girls was easier. Mamas, that is a lie. It really just depends on your kid. Some boys are going to be easy and some girls are going to be easy. And on the flip side, some boys are going to be hard and some girls are going to be hard. There really isn’t an easier gender to potty train. It’s hard no matter who you’re trying to train.
3. You have to COMMIT. This is one of the biggest things I learned potty training my daughter. If you just sort of work at it and you’re not fully committed, it’s not going to happen. You can’t just “try” to potty train your child. You have to really go all in. No more pull-ups, no more “taking a break,” no more giving in after a day of cleaning up accidents. You’ve got to be in it 100% or it’s not going to work.
4. Skip the pull-ups. When we first started potty training our daughter, we switched from diapers to pull-ups. I think she was probably wearing pull-ups for about a year, because they are basically glorified diapers. My daughter did not care at all that she was running around in a wet or poopy pull-up because it felt exactly the same as her wet or poopy diapers. So if you’re really going to try and potty train your child, just skip the pull-ups and go straight to undies.
5. Potty training at night will take longer. The one exception to the last rule is at nighttime. Little A still wears pull-ups at night because I’m not super keen on changing the sheets in the middle of the night. It’s okay if your child still wets the bed for a while. Just try to limit drinks after dinner and make them go to the bathroom before they go to bed! (And make sure you have a waterproof mattress pad when you do decide it’s time!)
6. It’s going to be messy. Last year we bought a new sofa and I really didn’t want our daughter to pee on it when we started potty training. I bought some puppy potty training pads for her to sit on when she was on the sofa, and it was the worst. She basically refused to sit on them, so my little perfect potty training dream of not having to clean up any accidents did not work. If you have hardwood floors in your house, make sure you’ve got a lot of Clorox wipes on hand, and if you have carpet, invest in a carpet cleaner like this one (it’s a miracle worker), because potty training is going to be messy and there’s nothing you can do about it.
7. Cleanup supplies are important. I just mentioned them in the last tip, but I definitely used cleanup supplies getting Little A to potty train. Accidents happen, and the tools you have on hand are going to make the difference between an easy cleanup and one that gets messy. We used our carpet cleaner both for wet accidents on the carpet and for cleaning up any poop that got on the carpet (because that happened once or twice). And then of course paper towels and Clorox wipes for hard floors!
8. Little potties are gross. Guys, these things are the worst. Yes, they are easy for little kids to sit on, but they are so gross to clean. I hated using one of these with my son so we skipped it with my daughter and went straight to a squishy seat that went right on top of the potty, paired with a stool in front so she could get up there. So much easier and so much better.
9. Stay kind and patient. This one is hard, and it’s also super important. I had a very hard time staying kind and patient when Little A was having so many accidents the first few times we tried to potty train her. Once I was able to relax a little and change my tone and my attitude, it made a big difference in how I felt about potty training (a nightmare v. a challenge we would get through) and in how I was able to help my daughter. It’s a lot easier to help and encourage when you’re not mad about another accident!
10. It’s okay if you have to try multiple times. SO okay. Sure there are stories of kids getting potty trained in one day and on the first try even before they’re two. But that is not what happens for most kids. So if you try and fail, try and fail, and then try and fail again, it’s okay. Little A tried at least three other times to learn how to use the potty and it never worked. Don’t stress if that happens to you, too!
11. Rewards don’t always work. Sometimes using a sticker chart isn’t going to work. Sometimes, promising a big awesome reward isn’t going to work. We tried promising a toy from the store, a princess dress, and even a trip to Disneyland (which we still went on, even though she wasn’t potty trained) and she could not have cared less. Some kids just aren’t motivated by things like that, and that’s okay.
12. Make sure you have lots of lotion for your child’s hands. When we first started potty training we made Little A sit on the potty every thirty minutes. That mean that every thirty minutes, she washed her hands. And in the dry Minnesota winter, her poor hands got SO DRY. Like, cracked and bleeding dry. So make sure you put lotion on your poor child’s hands often when they are learning how to use the potty!
13. Go with no pants, or pants your child can pull off and put on easily. The good thing about potty training a girl is that she can just wear a dress and not have to worry about messing with pants. Little A didn’t wear pants (and I still don’t usually put them on her unless we are leaving the house or she has a plain shirt on) while she was potty training so that she was able to make it to the potty and get on the toilet fast. Definitely don’t put any pants with buttons or zippers on your potty-training child. No bueno there, mama.
14. Shame and comparing don’t help. We tried pointing out to her that all her friends use the potty. We tried pointing out that Moana and Elena use the potty. We tried telling her that her friends at dance were going to find out she still wore pull-ups. All that did was make us feel bad for trying to bring her down. Try instead to focus on her and not the people or kids around her!
There’s no perfect time to start potty training, there’s no perfect method to potty train, and there’s no way potty training is going to be the same with every kid. These 14 things I learned potty training my daughter might not be things you learn potty training your daughter. Hopefully these tips can help you help your child learn how to use the potty, but if not, it’s okay. Just remember that everyone gets potty trained at some point, and your child won’t be in diapers forever!