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How to Potty Train Your Toddler Without Losing Your Mind

June 23, 2017

I recently took on the challenge of potty training my youngest, and to my surprise, things went pretty smoothly.  I’m definitely no expert in the field of potty training, considering I’ve only had to do it twice, but I thought I’d share what worked for us in hopes that it might possibly help out someone else who is struggling!

Wait until the child is ready
This seems pretty obvious, but I know there are some parents out there who have a certain age in mind to get their kiddos out of diapers.  Don’t get hung up on that.  I actually waited until Beckham was over 3 to even attempt potty training.  Some over-achiever parents might judge, but let them judge away.  If waiting a few more months will save you power struggle arguments and temper tantrums, then JUST WAIT!   Kids will show you signs that they are ready: becoming more independent, hiding to dirty their diaper privately, showing interest in you using the toilet, and being bothered by wearing a dirty diaper are a few of the common ones.  Believe me, I get it…after changing diapers for 2+ years you are anxious to move on, but waiting until they are ready will serve everyone well in the long run.  Now, I’m definitely not saying every child should be 3 years old, because there are lots of kids out there who are ready a whole heck of a lot earlier.  I am just advising to pay attention to signals from your child instead of getting hung up on a certain age.
Dedicate at least 3 days of your life to nothing but potty training
I realize this isn’t feasible for some of you who work out of the home, but I feel that after 3 days, the kids usually have a good grip on their new life without diapers.  Try and attempt it over the weekend and plan on being home-bound for the time which you are training.  It’s so much easier and less stressful to run to your own bathroom every 10 minutes vs sprinting through Target with a cart full of frozen food in hopes of making it before an accident happens.  
Push the fluids
Their entire lives, they have been able to use the bathroom whenever, wherever.  So, you have to retrain their little brains to pay attention and stop subconsciously peeing.  This is a new concept for them, so it takes a lot of practice to change the old habit.
The more they drink, the more they pee, and the more they pee, the quicker they will get the hang of using the toilet instead of the diaper.   We don’t drink a lot of soft drinks, but for those first few days, I let him have Sprite, orange juice, apple juice…basically all of the things that are usually considered treats.  He will drink a sip or two of water when I hand him his canteen, but if I give him a cup of juice, it’s gone in a flash!  You could always water down the juice if you are concerned about sugar intake.  Again, the more they drink, the more they pee…and peeing a LOT is the goal the first few days!
If possible, let them be naked, at least for the first few days
With my first born, I quickly learned that if anything was down there around his bottom, he became very confused and just assumed it was a diaper that he could pee in.  After a few days of accidents, we decided to just let him run around naked (at home of course) and it totally worked!  If nothing is down there to catch the pee (or poop), then he was more easily able to recognize that he had the urge to use the restroom and he needed to locate the toilet.  When it came time to potty train my youngest, I planned to wait until the weather was warm enough that he could just be naked for a few days.  We stayed home for 3-4 days…no errands, no parks, no playdates.  Our only exception to the rule was dropping off and picking up big brother from school.

Reward the positive and let the accidents slide
Remember that their entire life has been peeing/pooping in a diaper, so try not to get too upset when accidents happen.  They WILL happen.  Try to focus on rewarding the times when he/she uses the potty the right way.  We used a sticker chart to track his progress.  Each time he peed, he got to put a sticker on the chart (He earned 2 stickers for pooping in the potty), and when the chart was full, he got to choose a prize from the prize basket.  Our chart only had 12 stickers on each page to complete it, so he was able to earn prizes fairly quickly, which then motivated him to continue doing what it takes to earn more stickers!  Get cheap little prizes from the Dollar Store, or since my little guy was into tractors, I ordered some little ones from Amazon and wrapped them up individually.

Some helpful tools:
Puppy pee pads–These come in handy in the car.  When we had to go pick big brother up from school, I didn’t want to put a diaper on to confuse him, but I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t have an accident.  If you put a pee pad down under their bottom then it saves you from having to wash the carseat should an accident happen!  
Potty books–We like this one and this one.  I started reading them to him a few months before I was ready to attempt potty training.  Once we started training, I kept the books in the bathroom and we would read them while we were waiting for something to happen…because sometimes you just have to be patient.  😉
Reward chart–The charts I used for Beckham were leftover from when Chase was potty training, so they aren’t available anymore.  But, here is a similar one!
Rewards–Get whatever you think will motivate your child.  I found that the instant gratification of opening a physical gift worked better than “we can go to the movies next week”.   I purchased these and these
Little Urinal–We inherited a similar one as a hand me down from a cousin.  My older son was a little on the short side and had to use a stool to reach the toilet, so he loved this pint sized urinal!  But, my younger son wasn’t really interested in peeing in it.  He could reach the toilet and preferred to use it, I think because he wanted to be like Daddy.  Like most things in life, they have very different interests!
Built in Potty Seat–This is super handy because you don’t have a separate child potty seat to take on and off…just lift the seat for yourself, and lower it for the child!
Potty stool–to help them reach!

Look at this proud boy!  He should be proud!  He earned each and every one of those stickers!

I keep my kids in a crib longer then most people do…Chase was 4 before we converted him to a big bed.  Because of that, I do still put pull-ups on Beckham at nighttime.  Considering he can’t get out to use the restroom, I haven’t even attempted nighttime potty training yet!   But whenever we do, I’ll let you know if I have any groundbreaking revelations regarding the subject!  😉

***Some of the links are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission.  This does not affect the price you pay, but it does help me maintain my blog, so thank you!

Niki French

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I'm Niki, founder of Midwestern Mama. This lifestyle blog is a place where I get to share things I am passionate about with people like you! I love fashion, home decor, DIY's and easy meals, among other things. I'm so glad you're here! Read More


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