How Do I Potty Train?

Updated on November 14, 2009
K.G. asks from Katy, TX
9 answers

There are a lot of posts about potty training. I didn't see any about how to actually start doing it. My son has a great interest in the potty, so I would like to get started. How do I go about starting? What do I do? Do I put him in pull ups? Do I put him in underwear? How do I train him overnight? What potty did you use? Thanks for all of your help!

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answers from Austin on

Lori H's post is spot on. All I can add is that I have gone through this with two boys and they both were veryyyyy different with their "readiness". My older one, he seemed ready at 2.5, but after several months of "accidents" we just went back to diapers. On almost his 3rd birthday he just decided he was ready and trained in two days. Never had an accident overnight or otherwise. My now 3 yr old wanted really bad to be like his brother and refused to use diapers anymore. He wasn't ready and I am still cleaning out underwear. Not fun.
I guess I'm just saying that it is useless to train unless they are really really ready.
Good luck!

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answers from Austin on

Hi K.!
I'm an early childhood development and education specialist and have been working with little ones, from newborn to elementary age for 25 years. Potty training or Potty learning as I prefer to call it, (we train dogs but teach children, right?)is SO different for every child. I can give you some good "rules" though that can help you decide the best approach for your child's personality and abilities.

One important thing to know, since 2 year olds are SO VERY particular about things in general, and since their developmental milestones are so many and so challenging, is that using the potty is one of the last "controls" they have over their lives at a time when becoming independent and in control is such a big deal to them. So much of potty learning is psychological rather than physical because of this. So it's REALLY important to let your child take the lead as far as when to start (he's already expressed interst so definitely time to have a potty chair sitting out and ready for him and books about potty learning to be read.....Once upon a potty is a good one. If he's into pretend yet, and likes to pretend with stuffed animals or dolls, having him teach the toy to potty is a great way to go to the next steps.....

Pull ups are not so great for potty learning as they feel just like diapers which makes it hard for child to remember that they're using the potty now....I use underwear that are special to the child (some of them have spider man or some design that your child may like or something....make a big deal of buying/choosing underwear and let him be involved in it. When you first begin, use underwear or nakedness at home to help him remember to use the potty and not go in his pants. Don't make a big deal about accidents, just matter-of-factly clean up, giving him part of the job of cleaning up, and remind him that we all have accidents when learning new things and it's no big deal. Make a couple of "rules" about using the potty once he's going pretty well when you're at home, like, "we always sit on the potty before we go bye bye and try to go even if we don't feel like it, just in case....and we always try to go before nap time. I'd leave him in pull-ups at naptime and overnight only until he wakes up dry a few times in a row, then use underwear consistently. During the day, when he's well supervised, check in with him once in awhile and ask him to stop what he's doing and listen to his body to see if he needs to use the potty.....if you do this in an animated and fun way, he'll actually like it and will sometimes realize that he DOES need to potty even if he said no at first.

Also, if there is a man around, you should decide if you want to teach him to potty standing up or sitting down and if standing, get the adult male more involved in modeling it for him.

Potty seats...there are different options and children vary on what they like. There are padded inserts that you can put in normal toilet seats to fit children and many like that best because they can sit on the big potty that way. Others prefer a separate potty chair, but the simple ones are all you need, no bells or whistles needed. Another abosolute MUST is a travel potty for when you start taking him out with no diaper. The best one I found has a handle and folds up to look like a little carrying box and has a plastic bag zip=lock size fitting so that you can use the potty anywhere, even in your vehicle and zip the bag and dispose of it. This is also great for when you're somewhere where the available bathrooms are too nasty for you to want to use.

Sometimes, even when little ones are into learning to potty, they need instant rewards for proper actions and stickers or stamps work great for that! NEVER use food or candy for this type of "reward" as it can very easily instill eating disorder tendencies in a little one....Often, pooping in the potty is a bigger issue than peeing and has to be given extra time or reward maybe if he's afraid to poop in the potty, even with the sticker incentive, you might have to give him a little "prize" from a poop-prize bag to make him face his fears. It's not unusual for a little one to either ONLY pee or ONLY poop in the potty at first, and to take some time in being able to do both.

Don't set a time limit on the process and, once you start, don't stop unless he gives you clear signals that he's not ready....he'll waiver sometimes even he WANTS to learn as it is a hard lesson, but you shouldn't give up in spite of his accidents or his begging you to put a diaper on him unless you think that he's just clearly not ready afterall. Physically, you can tell if he's ready if he wakes up from naps dry often, or if he knows when he has to go or is going, and emotionally you know by his expression of interest in it.

It's SO important that you are careful in the way that you go about the potty learning process just because of the developmental issues facing 2 year olds.....mishandled potty learning can result in regression at 3 or 4 or 5 (regressing to peeing in pants instead of potty, self-esteem issues (too much shaming with accidents rather than matter-of-fact, patient,approach) that can, in turn, affect cognitive and social emotional growth.

That's my story and if there's anything I can offer, please be in touch. Good luck!
L. Harvey
[email protected]

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Wish it was a clear cut. With my daughter (she's 38 months now) we just introduced her to it. We got some potty DVDs, they have cool ones like Elmo potty time and once upon a potty, both we have and used. More so than anything you just have to make sure to put him on the potty every hour like clock work. You may want to give more liquids to encourage the desire. If you're at home and able then start by putting him on every hour like clock work. The pull-ups/no pull-up is preference. My daughter learned quicker without them. Once she felt it run down her leg she was freaked out and didn't like that feeling at all. You may want to just let him not have anything on at all (if your comfortable with that) if not, just training undies are fine. They even sale the plastic protective underpants to wear on top of the training underwear.

Take him in the bathroom everytime you have to go and explain to him what your doing. Some kids learn by following others. It isn't going to happen over night either, be patient and when it seems like he's getting it, he may relapse which is completely normal too.

Hope this helps.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I have 3 boys and they have all trained on their own when they were ready much to the dismay of the rest of my family. They were all 31/2 to 4 when they did it. Yesterday my 4 year old spent his first day in underware (he turned 4 oct 17th) and didn't have a single accident. My pedi said when they are ready they are ready and if you go to soon you are just training yourself to take them when you remember. That being said- if he is interested just keep using the regular diapers and in the morning, at bathtime, and before bed ask him if he wants to sit on the potty. If he does and he goes then continue this until he starts going at those times on his own- then work on the rest. This is what my friends have done. Mine just said they wanted to wear big boy underware like their friends and I told them that was fine as long as they didn't pee or poop in them. We might have had 2-3 accidents but that was it. Don't stress over it and it will come when it needs to! Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I think I would like to know as well K. considering my daughter was very amused by the potty (she is 1 yrs old) and some woould say she is to young but I did not make her go she just started doing it on her own, so I thought that was a sign to start gradually attempting to use the potty. I'll start looking at tapes. But does that really help because she doesn't really look at television.



answers from Houston on

It is so comforting to read all the other posts, as this has been a huge issue for us latly. I was very ill for over a year, and whan my son was 3 and not potty trained yet,I felt so guilty and that I was a terrible mom because everyone else brags about having thier kids out of diapers by this age. I've tried it all, from rewards to putting him in his Cars underwear, but i just have one of those boys who is much too interested in doing other stuff than taking time out to actually sit on a potty, and he could care less if he walks around all day with poop in his pants ( and he woudl if I didn't smell him!. He's now at a point where he will pee as long as we let him run naked, but as soon as a pull up goes on, it's all over. As far as poop, his idea is to poop in his pants and then scrape it out into the toilet.Never in my life did I ever think i would spend so much time cleaning up human feces day after day after day!!!!!!!
I saw the Dr Phil idea where you let your son teach a doll to use the potty, and then throw a big "party" when he finally goes. It's supposed to work in one day, but WHATEVER!!
I guess kids have thier own time line with these things, and eventually they will get it. My kiddo was such a sweet and easy baby, so I guess this is payback!



answers from Houston on

I am in the same boat.

My daughter is 22 months and has expressed interest since she was 20 months.

I went and bought the baby bjorn potty.

I ask every 30 to 45 minutes (when she is home from school) if she would like to "tee tee in the potty." Sometimes it is yes and sometimes it is no.

But she sometimes comes and tells me "tee tee in potty." I go and put her on it and with in 20 minutes she has urinated in her little potty. We dump it in the big potty and flush. We wave good bye. I do not want her to be scared of the big potty.

I usually give her a book to read while she is sitting on her potty. If not, she will get up and down.

I am not pushing it right now. I read if you push it, it could have a negative effect and she may never want to go again until she is older.

I just found out I am pregnant, so I pray we get potty trained in the next 9 months.



answers from Mansfield on

Ok i've potty trained 3 kids and all were different so it is not a simple answer. The fact your son is interested is a plus for you. My son was over 3 and still had not interest.
How old is your son? The age often effects the way you can start training because rewards and stuff differ per age. Aprils suggestion on the dvds is good. Also books are great too. You can get a ton of books to read to him at the library. If your child is comfortable using your toliet then that is fine or you can get a little potty. My son liked the little potty... my daughter (middle) liked the potty seat on the toliet and my oldest wanted to just use the big potty. So we needed a stool for her. Also my son would go in anything... pull ups, underwear, etc. but knew he would be in trouble if he went on the floor or furniture so we potty trained in the summer and he basically stayed naked from the waist down.
Start taking him potty within a little bit of drinking, right after naps, etc. make sure it is fun and a bit of a game. Reward him just for sitting there for a little even if he doesn't go. Have something to entertain him for a while to keep him sitting there and just have fun. It may take a long time or it may happen about overnight. Any specific questions you can private message me and i will try to answer more specifically.



answers from San Antonio on

I used the little potty seat that sits on the toilet. He's really not ready to actually train until he's 3, usually. But, when they wake up dry from a nap or in the morning, immediately put them on the toilet to go. This gets them used to the idea and they will need to go at that time. Also, if you see he is starting to poop, drop his diaper down between his legs as he is standing to not make a mess (if he has already let some out) and then let him finish on the toilet. When he's closer to 3 and really ready to wear underwear, then start setting a timer. 15-20 minutes after drinking something, make him go try. Otherwise, set the timer for every hour (or a chiming clock) and make him go try. This will help prevent accidents. Always try before getting in the car or just when you enter a store. Then, he will get better at figuring it out on his own and not need the reminders. Don't punish him for accidents until he has been well trained and he's at least 3 years old.

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