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Potty Training Tips from a Mom of Nine

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I have helped seven children graduate out of diapers and into undies. My first few kids were subjected to all kinds of nonsense, fueled by advice found in parenting manuals. Barrels of tears were cried as accidents mounted. Frustration and angst hung in the air as my main focus in life seemed to be the state of my little one’s innards. It took a long time to learn that bladders don’t know how to read anything, especially parenting manuals. Bladders don’t blow out birthday candles, either, so they aren’t aware they just turned two.

When I began thinking about potty training our fourth child, a thought occurred to me. My three oldest kids had terrible times mastering the numerous skills that need to come together. Kids need physical self-awareness, the ability to anticipate, savvy timing, communication skills, and muscle control. It’s a lot to piece together. If one or more of those elements are missing, all the candy and gold star stickers in the world won’t help. The kindest solution is one thing: Time.

In other words, back off—but be ready.

The potty training experience with our next four kids was profoundly more pleasant and easy-going. Why? Because I didn’t hound them about the potty. I didn’t spend our days with naked toddlers running amuck. When they ran amuck, they were mostly clothed. No peeing dolls were embarrassed, no charts filled with star stickers, no barrels of tiny candies were doled out as reward. Gee, potty training in our house sounds boring. But isn’t that what relieving oneself is, actually? Otherwise, I wouldn’t be typing this post while sitting on the toilet. Just kidding. But seriously, where are my M&Ms and my gold sticker?

My number one bit of potty training advice is this: Wait until your child announces he or she is done with diapers. As in, “I’m not going to wear diapers any more.” When it is the kid’s idea, they take the decision to heart. My first three kids had many accidents and tearful moments regarding the milestone. My next four kids were given these gifts:

~ A stack of clean, ready-to-go undies and the knowledge they belong to your child and can be used whenever they want. Put them in an accessible place.

~ No hounding or stalking their bowels. Reminders are okay. Constant reminders are highly unwelcome. Give them knowledge they can sit on the potty when they wish or feel the urge, but don’t make the bathroom your new living room OR a prison cell.

~ Willingness to steady them on the potty if they are small. Don’t bother with rings or potty chairs because what happens the first time they try to go in a public restroom? Where’s the chair? Where’s the Elmo potty ring? My purse isn’t that big and neither is yours. Most kids don’t care about switching things up, but the last place you want to risk a meltdown is a public toilet when they are desperate to go.

~ No overblown celebrations or promises of toys and candy. You don’t throw ticker tape parades over consuming the food to be digested, so why go overboard when the digested food exits? It’s a fact of life, like respiration or contemplating the cosmos. We clap and call daddy when the first successes occur, but we keep it all in perspective. Pride is very real and deserves to be shared, high fives are given, but frankly, I’m more thrilled about the hand washing part than knowing the poo looked like Ferb. Yes. Yes it does.

~ No overblown sadness or anger when accidents occur. It’s laundry, not a character flaw. Your toddler didn’t embezzle pension money to pay for gambling debts so don’t act like it. You say “uh-oh” and move on.

~ Time. The essential elements of potty training come together around age three. I have two little ones still in diapers. When I think about the future, I don’t have a toilet icon pinned over their heads until around their third birthdays. If it happens earlier, that’s awesome. If it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. I’ll have underwear ready, arms steady, and a promise I won’t make the elimination of bodily waste into something bigger than they—or I—can handle.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz March 26, 2013

    Sage advice, Gretchen! And though my purse was big during our toddler years, you’re right that it wasn’t big enough to hold a toilet seat.

  • comment avatar Jenny Ford March 26, 2013

    Seriously, you are the master!

  • comment avatar Catherine March 26, 2013

    This is precisely the course I plan to take with my youngest… when she is ready of course. I learned with my oldest that no matter how badly I want a potty trained child it won’t happen until said child is ready. I do not want to go down that road again.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson March 26, 2013

    Good gosh, my two almost killed me. OK, my first almost killed me, No. 2 was exponentially easier. Biggest mistake with No. 1: took away her diapers in an attempt to potty train her for preschool. Worst. Mistake. Ever. Set her back years (literally). Works for some kids but not the ultra-stubborn.

  • comment avatar KAthy March 26, 2013

    I wished I had read (and been open to) this approach last year. Age 2 I thought and was told to start potty training. A struggle almost all year. Close to age 3 “mommy I have to poo in potty” and he hasn’t looked back since he decided.

  • comment avatar Ratna getcluedIn March 26, 2013

    Thanks for the tips. I am so glad things went smooth (well, as smooth as potty training can be with 2 girls) but some of these tips would have helped then too!

  • comment avatar JoAnn March 26, 2013

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more! We had a relatively easy go of it, but it was all led by her. Coincidence? I think not.

    One piece of advice that I’d add (although you didn’t ask) that someone told me and was a LIFE SAVER was to bring a sticky-note to cover the pesky auto-flush on those public toilets. Worked like a charm!

    Nothing derails potty training quite like being startled by the auto-flush! 😉

  • comment avatar J March 27, 2013

    I am of the opposite mind. They hit a year we start potty training. We wake up I ask do you need to go potty. Within a week our two they always answer yes we go sit on the potty they go. It’s as simple as that. Then when we are home every 30-45 minutes they sit on the potty. They can get off when they want. It took my oldest, almost 4 now about two weeks to be going pee almost 100% on the potty and a few months for poop. My now 13 month old son often wakes up points to the bathroom then his diaper. No punishment for accidents, plenty of clapping for success. There are small fold up potties for on the go, I keep one in the car. As soon as they are going most of the time in the potty out of diapers and into trainers with a liner in the carseat. This lets them have control sooner something most kids crave. I have known too many kids who will either start holding poop because they don’t like being dirty (which can cause serious problems later) or try and remove their diaper or worst fish the poop out and spread it. All attempts for control. Why do people think potty training should take a day or two. How long does it take to roll, crawl, walk, talk, why should potty training be any different than other milestones. They take time.

  • comment avatar Rachael August 6, 2013

    Hello there I found your post very interesting. I have four children and potty training has never been as hard as it is with my last one who is almost two and a half. She went to the potty for the first time at 18 months she was early with most things like crawling at 5 months and walking at 10 months. my first child I was 17 so I had about 6 months to potty train her we started at 2 and she was completely done by two and a half.because there is a large age gap between my next two my oldest actually helped potty train them and they were done in about a week or two. so I guess you can say I really don’t have any potty training experience and my youngest is doing things like ripping off her diaper saying she doesn’t want to wear it she will poop in her diaper and then take it off and come hand it to you and tell you “yucky”. there are days that she will ask to go potty and I will gladly put her in there and she will go then there are days that I can’t even get her to go in the bathroom to take a bath much less pee! I am beyond frustrated and just need some different perspective 🙁

  • comment avatar Regan October 27, 2013

    I agree. My oldest potty trained around his third birthday because I waited until HE was ready. It was so much less stressful than the stories I had heard from other parents. My toddler is now going to be three next week and I think it will be a little longer for him. He is busy and seems to have better things to do but I am now getting things together for him (a potty, training pants, etc) so that we have them on hand for when he is ready.

  • comment avatar Michael January 6, 2014

    Good Tips! All children develop at different rates. Knowing your child and recognizing their readiness signals is key. Preparing yourself as a parent is also important – YOU need to be ready (mentally) as well…

  • comment avatar Sam Walker March 19, 2014

    We used these helpful tips at first but even after using them and many other resources we still had a hard time training my boys. I came across this site that showed my wife and I how to potty train our son within three days and it was even guaranteed. . . There were some great techniques and helpful information there that I felt compelled to share with others. We’ve been trying to potty train my son for the last six weeks with no luck, Googling potty training was turning up outdated techniques and some of them we believe were even harmful. Until we came across this site, that a friend of my wife’s told us about and within three days it worked. We followed the instructions and “eureka” we found a successful formula. I just felt that others might have been in the same place me and my wife were last week. So I hope this helps and good luck with your training…. O’ almost forgot here’s the site: http://www.ThreeDaysPottyTraining.com

  • comment avatar Joan March 25, 2014

    We got our twins potty trained thanks to a method we found an this site http://pottytrainingsolution.info/
    Can really recommend it to any parent struggling out there!

  • comment avatar Chloe Wasson June 13, 2014

    We all know this training is hard and needs much patience in parents. As in this generation children are too much naughty. Thanks for sharing these tips. My pleasure to get these tips from experienced mother.

  • comment avatar Tony Curtis June 16, 2014

    These potty training tips are very helpful to all the parents to understand that how to use the potty chair for kids and how to put their baby on potty chair

  • comment avatar Davidreves July 15, 2014

    Potty training is one of the another important and challenging tasks for parents.Its very necessary for them that they having a complete knowledge about the potty training process for their kids.

  • comment avatar Alessandra Lambert August 15, 2014

    Potty Training is one of the most rewarding stages of both a child and a parent’s life. True! It can be tough but with a little help – getting tips and helpful information – from people like Gretchen, you can turn the table around.

  • comment avatar Andrew Stewart September 5, 2014

    Found a website that has a method for both boys and girls. Worked really well for my twins! TrainMePotty (dot) com

  • comment avatar Tayra July 3, 2016

    Hey there!

    Great tips! Love it
    I’ve found what I believe is the BEST potty training method out there.
    This 3 day potty training program is HOT
    Try it out if you don’t believe me!

    pottytrainingregressionhelp.com/thesolution

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