13. How to Potty Train

Parents ask me all the time how to potty train and when’s the right time to start.

For my family, we take on potty training a little differently. We’d rather hold off and keep our little ones in diapers a bit longer, so we don’t have to ask them a million times a day, “Do you need to potty?” “Are you ready to potty?” “Is it time to go to the potty?” That way, they’re a little bit older and more self-aware of when it’s time to potty.

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This is just our way of doing things, but every family and every child is different. Some parents are champing at the bit to get their kids out of diapers, and others choose to wait until the kids are a little bit older. Likewise, some children are ready to potty train early and others take some time. I tend to think of it as a parent is ready, then child is ready kind of thing.

Most kids potty train around 2 or 3 years old, but don’t stress yourself out about the age. If there’s something coming up soon—swimming lessons, preschool, daycare—then go ahead and start potty training. However, if there’s a big life event on the horizon like starting a new job, expecting a new baby, or moving, save yourself the added stress and spring for a few more boxes of Pull-Ups until things settle down.

If you’re trying to figure out if it’s the right time to start potty training your little one, ask. When you’re ready to start trying to potty train, you can ask them, “Are you ready to use the potty?” and if they say no, wait a week and try again. There’s no sense in forcing it because when they’re ready, they’ll tell you.

When you’re ready to start, go to the store and get some valuable potty prizes. You can load up on little toys from the dollar section at Target, but we find that our children respond to more personalized prizes. For our three-year-old Dorothy, those prizes included hair clips, bracelets, and tiaras. If your child has a particular toy they have their eye on, let them know you’ve bought it, but that they can’t have it until they poop on the potty.

It’s also important to give them a little something when they sit on the potty, even if they don’t use it. We find that M&Ms work great.

So the system works where the child gets an M&M for sitting on the potty, a small prize for going pee, and a larger prize for going poop. Keep it simple and easy to understand.

Once your child seems okay with the idea of going on the potty, sit them there. Maybe they’ll go, maybe they won’t, but either is okay at this point. Let them wipe with some toilet paper, flush and wash their hands just to get the full experience.

Assuming this test-round went well, now the real training can begin. Pick a time to load your child up on fluids. This is a time for juice or another one of your child’s favorite drinks, in order to create many opportunities for success. Set a timer for every 15 minutes to put your child on the potty. Make this an exciting opportunity and have fun with it! Parents can even get on the potty, too. Show them that this is what you do every time the alarm goes off, and eventually they will go (because they’re sitting there and loaded up with fluids!) On those successful occasions, give your kids some mild praise and one of those little prizes. Leave them in pull-ups or underwear, it’s up to you! Accidents are no big deal during this time. We really want to highlight the triumphs.

Repeat this process every 15 minutes for one or two days, just to get your child used to the potty. After a day or two, ask them how they’re feeling! Do they want to keep going on the potty? If they respond with a “No,” respect their wishes. You may have to move on and try again in a few weeks or months, especially if they did not do well during the trial period. You may be able to gently nudge them into it. If the process went well, you’ll know if your kid is just being stubborn in the moment. If they give you and easy “Yes,” then congratulations! You can keep moving forward.

Kids will take to going on the potty at different ages. You can force it and let it be a struggle, but it will be hurtful for everyone. Usually, if you keep testing the every-fifteen-minute trick every couple of weeks, your child will eventually catch on.

Tune into this episode for a deep dive into all of this. You’ll come away from the show with a solid understanding of how to start the potty training journey with your little ones.


In This Episode:

[01:27] –  When to begin potty training.

[02:19] –  How to know when your child is ready to try potty training.

[03:53] –  How to pick the best potty prizes.

[05:41] –  How to start potty training.

[07:09] –  Nighttime potty training.

[07:46] –  Final thoughts on potty training.


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