48 Tips from the World’s Worst Potty Trainer (A Cautionary Tale)

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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 Tips”. Knowledge 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. As an Imgurian over 30 this is how I feel when I read
  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 in1B5548278-tdy-130116-ipotty-1.blocks_desktop_smallto 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 doesnt 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.
  48. 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…

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13 thoughts on “48 Tips from the World’s Worst Potty Trainer (A Cautionary Tale)”

  1. I read this, laughing, and thought, “Oh thank God, I’m through with that phase!!!!” Now onto the tween stage. (Want to trade kids?!) Seriously, good post; the conflicting advice on potty training (or all of parenting, really) is enough to make anyone cry. But we’ll get through it. Even Jesus the toddler had to be toilet trained (or whatever they did back then).

    1. My three year old once asked about Jesus pooping… I’ll admit we giggled a long time about that 🙂 and no on the trade (but thank you)… I am NOT ready for Tweens!

  2. Reading this I was laughing out loud . . . Loudly 😉
    While baby girl is not quite 8 months old now I am, alas, well on my way to failing according to #2! It’s always good to know someone out there says you’re doing it wrong *NO MATTER* when, how, or where you start. Ironically, I find there’s something freeing in that!! So (drum roll, please), I will be the first to proclaim that I am making mistakes as a mama and ____________ [insert issue here: potty training, transition to solid foods, sleep, etc., etc., etc.!] is not going as well as it did for those super star parents out there. I guess the rest of us will simply have to stick together and rely on God’s grace, trusting that all children (even mine!) will eventually go on the potty, eat solid foods, sleep sufficiently well, etc., etc., etc.! Hallelujah for peer pressure and the power of exhaustion 🙂
    I must say #36-38 were eye opening. Not to mention #38 had me in stitches! Cheerios will never be the same . . . 😉
    Best of luck to you and to your littlest man on the next leg of the great adventure ahead!!!!

  3. I’m so glad ours are long past that stage and a couple of them are on the other side of it: parents of little ones. You’re right about #38, though. Some things do never get old 🙂

  4. Hahaha. My first was three, we’d been trying for years. We were at our wits end, when he told my husband, “You know Dad, if you put me in a pull up, I’m going to pee in the pull up. If you put me in underwear, I’ll pee in the toilet.” So we went out, got him undies and were golden from there. (Except at night.) My middle one was 22 months old, desperately wanted to train. I let him go commando, he had it down in one day. I thought, well, NOW I have this figured out. Cue child three. Yeah. insert girl with a will here. But, at least by that time I had learned that it wasn’t really something to stress about. We finally found her motivator, (pay as you go ballet classes for toddlers) and we were golden.

    1. I don’t know that I ever found the motivator for my first two. Maybe third time lucky? Gosh, I really hope so! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

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