Parenting

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How to Potty Train Without Losing Your Sanity

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Potty training is one of those parenting milestones that’s unavoidable, like stepping onto a lone Lego piece in the dead of night (ouch!). You can count on the inevitability of both, but the difficulty and outcome are entirely up to you (case in point: slippers can greatly reduce the agony Legos can cause). True, these scenarios are not apples and oranges, but there’s something to be said for preparedness. If you’re embarking on the potty training train, here are some tips to get you and your toddler on the path to toilet trained bliss. Let’s get this potty started!

You’ve Got This

As a seasoned mom whose potty training days are long behind her, my first piece of advice is to let go of any self-imposed or societal pressures. There is no hard and fast rule that potty training should be done by a certain age or within a certain time frame. You must remember and embrace the fact that every child is wildly different from the next. What worked for baby #1 may not work for baby #2 or baby #3. You may find that your daughter trains more swiftly than your son or vice versa. Even a set of identical twins may take to potty training in surprisingly opposite ways. Expect the unexpected and go with the flow! You’ll find that releasing some of that unnecessary pressure (self-imposed or otherwise) will create a better experience for all.

Ready, Set, Go

You might be keen on saying goodbye to diapers forever, but potty training is not just about our comfort and readiness as parents. Kids are very receptive and will let you know when they’re ready, verbally or otherwise. Follow and respect their cues. If your child wakes up dry in the morning or from naps, he’s probably ready to be sans diaper. If he asks to sit on the toilet like mommy or big sister, by all means, let him! Whatever you do, though, DON’T force the issue. Per many pediatricians, toddlers can regress if the training process is started too early, sometimes suffering severe constipation as a result. There is no magic age to start potty training, but many kids show signs of readiness somewhere between the ages of two and three years. My own kids were trained closer to the three-year mark and took to it well, partly because they were not forced into the situation. There are lots of great books about potty training out there, so it could be beneficial to read a few together to reiterate the concept before starting, too.

FUNderwear for the Win

Don’t underestimate the power of underwear! Enlist your child’s help in selecting them or surprise her with undies featuring beloved characters or colors. Toddlers love feeling like grown-ups, and they’ll feel anything but babyish sporting fun new undies. As an added bonus, they’ll hate ruining their favorite pair. When you’ve deemed your child ready to start potty training, put him or her in underwear straight away (and clear your schedule for the day). Avoid pull-ups if you can! This might seem counterintuitive, but in reality, pull-ups are no different from diapers. They still provide the security and option for little ones to wet themselves if needed. When you start their day in underwear, they’ll quickly get used to the icky, sticky feeling of being wet, and try to avoid it at all costs. You can count on accidents on the first day (maybe even that entire first week!), but this is key. Lastly, understand that nighttime training is a whole other beast that can take a much longer time to master. Overnight pull-ups and waterproof mattress pads can be your best friend in those early days of potty training. No judgment whatsoever!

Relish Those Rewards

Toddlers are human, and it’s human nature to seek incentives for a job well done. M&Ms have become synonymous with potty training rewards, but other non-candy surprises can go a long way too. Have you ever found your child mesmerized by surprise eggs or watching unboxing videos on YouTube? Like many fellow moms, I don’t understand the appeal, but there’s something to be said for the element of surprise. The anticipation is half the fun! You can fill a decorative box with a variety of small knickknacks from Target or even the dollar store. They can even be wrapped for added intrigue. For edible rewards, I like healthier organic lollipops or gummies, but M&Ms work for a reason (they’re rarely, if ever, on the menu otherwise!). Sticker charts or stickers alone can also be very motivating. Just be sure to reward them only after they’ve done the deed.

The Path of Least Resistance

There are certain things you need to accept when jumping on the potty train. Accidents are inevitable. Patience is everything. And kindness is key. As difficult as it might be, you must steer clear of any negativity, punishments, shaming, or pushing throughout the potty training journey. Always choose the path of least resistance. First, bear in mind that kids generally don’t interrupt what they’re doing to rush off to the bathroom. There’s fun to be had! Give them gentle reminders to go every couple of hours instead of relying on them to trust their bodily cues. Asking if they need to go won’t cut it, because they almost always say no (isn’t that adorable?). In the beginning, watch for visual cues – squirming, holding their legs tight, walking slowly on tiptoes with their knees together, etc. As soon as you notice that they might be holding it in, pick them up and take them directly to the potty seat. Keeping them well hydrated helps reinforce the idea of peeing in the toilet. Water and juice are the usual suspects but don’t forget about the pee-inducing power of watermelon and cucumbers, too. Lastly, if your child is constantly wetting himself or not taking to the potty with ease, give yourself permission to take a break and try again in a few weeks. There’s no shame in that. At all. Acceptance – and the path of least resistance — is key.

Potty Training Must-Haves

Proper toilet training doesn’t require a whole arsenal of new gear, thank goodness. All you really need is a good potty seat and a step stool. The Arm & Hammer™ Multistage™ 3-in-1 Potty from Munchkin combines the best of all worlds, as it’s part potty chair, part removable trainer seat, and part sturdy step in one. It also features odor-absorbing superpowers, making it a true multitasking hero. Prefer training right on the big toilet from day one? You can choose between the contoured Grip™ Potty Seat or the Sturdy™ Potty Seat, which has handles for added support. Both will keep your little one securely in place while calming his irrational yet totally real fear of the toilet monster! Another great, compact option is the Arm & Hammer™ Trainer™ Potty, which includes a soft-touch, flexible splash guard to keep accidents at bay, along with those odor-fighting powers we mentioned before. Win, win.

Potty training is a gradual process, one that takes time and patience. Lots and lots and lots of patience. And Clorox wipes! Some kids will day train like champs, only to wet the bed every night. Other kids will demand diapers for doing #2 – even when they’re well past diaper age. Still others will refuse to go in public restrooms for what feels like years. No matter how long it takes your mini man or little lady to get the hang of it, remember that eventually, they will. And it’ll be well before grade school, too. You can definitely count on that.

Ani Morgan

Ani is an award-winning writer and content strategist who has been the voice of many brands for 15+ years. When she’s not busy crafting stories, she's baking healthy treats for her kids or finding her sanity on a spin bike. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two kids.