You’re Doing it Wrong! 48 Tips From the Worst Potty Trainer Ever

Learn from my mistakes, people. These potty training tips are the foolproof method to getting that kid out of diapers. Or getting you into the looney bin. One of the two.

Did you know I am the Worst Potty Trainer In The World? With an average toilet training time of 22 months/child, I dare you to challenge my title. I’m a firm believer of learning from others’ mistakes, so as someone who has made every possible mistake in potty training, I thought I’d share them with you as a cautionary tale.

Follow closely. Each step is important.

  1. Read widely before you begin. Create a Pinterest board and title it Potty Training TipsKnowledge of the options is crucial for success.
  2. Start when they are infants – practice ‘elimination communication’, whereby you learn to read (and anticipate) your kid’s body cues. (I was dead in the water on this one, since I never even managed to tell the difference between a tired cry or a hungry cry. It all just sounded like crying to me.
  3. Start with they are 18 months: walking, communicating, and showing an interest in imitating you. Do not wait: it will be harder later.
  4. Start with they are 2 1/2, when they have better language and body awareness. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  5. Start with they are 3 1/2, when they can remove their own shorts and the threat of never being able to go to preschool forces you into panic. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  6. Take your cue from your child. They will tell you when they are ready.
  7. Post your decision on when to potty train on Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions.
  8. You can potty train in one day if you do it right (notice: it’s all on you.) Prepare for the day with books, training DVDs and lots of exaggerated facial movements about the thrills of going potty. Have them train their teddy bear first. Then, on one day: banish the underwear and hold potty boot camp. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the day…. if you did it right.
  9. Potty train in three days. Choose a weekend when you are not distracted and have your kiddo be nakey nakey all weekend. Involve all the stuffed animals and siblings in the Great Weekend of Potty Training. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the weekend… if you did it right.
  10. Potty train when they’re ready. You’ll know when they’re ready because it will work. This makes complete sense… if you read the literature right.
  11. Let them run wild and free while training.
  12. Have them wear pull-ups while training.
  13. Let the diapers continue while training.
  14. Big-kid underwear from the get-go! The pride of getting it right as a “big kid” is a powerful motivator!
  15. Don’t be afraid to let them go back into diapers: what’s another couple hundred of trees in the landfill?
  16. Be persistent! Once you’re doing this, you’re doing this! If you communicate that regression is an option, your kid will turn it into power play.
  17. Be flexible! If your kid isn’t ready, listen and try again later.
  18. Bribery is brilliant: offer a treat for each successful tinkle. If you’re feeling extra motivated, offer two treats for number twos. The logic is lost on kids, but makes total sense to the one who has to wash out soiled underwear.
  19. Avoid bribery: it will be hard to undo the sugar-reward habit later.
  20. Use stickers instead.
  21. Don’t use stickers – they stick them on furniture.
  22. Star charts are awesome motivators.
  23. Except when they aren’t. For us, this is about day 3.
  24. Do whatever it takes: read books or sing songs or let them play with the iPad to keep them on there long enough for a “win” while they’re busy.
  25. Beware: kids are smart. All of mine figured out how to turn “I need to go potty” into a gratuitous story-reading time, without ever producing the “deliverables”.
  26. Let them watch potty training DVD’s. This does not count as ‘screen time’ because #educational.
  27. Make up a potty cheer. “Happy pee on the potty to you” (to the tone of ‘Happy Birthday’) is good in a pinch.
  28. Be prepared to have to sing your cheer of choice, at volume, in public places. Prepare to have to sing it more than once.
  29. Post your decisions on how to potty train to Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions. 
  30. Start potty training in the summer, so they can practice outside.
  31. Start potty training in the winter, when you’re cooped up anyway.
  32. Important: start potty training when YOU are ready to tackle it.
  33. MOST important: start potty training when your CHILD is ready to tackle it.
  34. Invest in a potty chair, and think carefully about what kind of ceremonial ritual you will devise to celebrate its arrival into your house. If the literature is to be believed, the success of potty training is causally related to how much hoopla you can raise about a kid getting their VERY OWN mini-throne. If you get one with a built in DVD, all the more power to you (see #26).
  35. Don’t bother with a potty chair: invest in a step stool and have them sit on the main throne. They will feel more grown-up and it will make it easier to transition to public restrooms.
  36. Teach boys to pee sitting down: so much less mess.
  37. Teach boys to pee standing up: aiming for cheerios is such a great incentive.
  38. Figure out as a couple whether you are going for sitting-down or standing-up before you engage in Operation Potty Train. In my experience, those who have to clean the bathroom usually opt for #36. Dads usually opt for #37. (Because it’s so much fun to demo. And apparently some things never get old.)
  39. Make potty training fun! Hype it up as a coming of age thing!
  40. Make potty training just “one of the things you learn to do” – the less hype there is, the less pressure there is on the kid to perform, and the less power play leverage you give them.
  41. If things aren’t going well: keep reading widely and pinning madly to research other best methods. Pin this. You may need it if all the other advice from those who succeeded doesn’t pan out and you need to know that you weren’t the worst potty trainer in the world.
  42. If someone says their method worked for them, it must have some merit to it. Keep a tally of how guilty you feel each time there’s an accident: that accident probably means you were doing it wrong.
  43. Try not to feel guilty, though. It’s not about you.
  44. If your plan isn’t working: try something new, or try some other time.
  45. But WHATEVER YOU DO: be consistent!
  46. No matter what kind of diapers you chose, for potty training make sure you invest in 3-fold cloth diapers: they are by FAR the most absorbent cloths for cleaning up spills. There is no paper towel which is worthy for this trial. None. Bounty, be gone.
  47. Ask for hugs. For you, not your kid. Potty training is hard and demoralizing and sometimes makes you feel you have an angry, panicked, crazy person living in your head.

Ignore all this advice, except for #46 and #47.
Trust me.

And now, I’m going to print out my list and study it closely (see tip #1), because it seems to me my third kid is about ready to jump onto the potty training wagon, which means I’m bracing myself for another 22 months of insanity…

Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama, raising three littles with her husband in California. She is grateful for all God's good gifts: including grace, laughter, lattes, ice-cream, puns and sex. She blogs about life, faith and family at bronlea.com, and would love to connect with you on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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