12 Tips to Help You Potty Train Your Child

Our 2¾ year old Griffin is potty trained. YAY! And it only took us about 2 weeks. But, I have to be honest, there were moments during this process, that I was like “this is harder than getting him to sleep through the night!” So, I wanted to share some tips I learned through the process in hopes that it helps you and starts a dialogue.

Before you begin, be sure to see my earlier post, When To Potty Train Your Child, as it’s important that your little one is showing signs of readiness before you begin. This will make everyone else’s lives easier, gentler and happier.

Assuming your child is showing signs of readiness, let’s dive into some tips that can help you potty train your child.

Tip 1: Get your child and house ready

As I stated in first video, tell your child that you’re going to start potting training at least a week before you start. This will help prepare him emotionally for the big day. You can have him or her pick out their potty as this gets them more invested in process. I also recommend getting a couple potties so that you’ve got one in most areas of the house. We used this one by Bjorn and this other one by Bjorn. Yes, it costs a bit more than just one, but I found it was important to make it easy for the little one to find and use a toilet.

Get plenty of underwear and let the child pick out. I bought 20+ so that I wouldn’t have to do laundry everyday. I kinda thought of it like cloth diapers. Wanted a good stash so we could easily recover from accidents.

Take up any rugs in the house. I only really took up one rug where he played a lot. I didn’t do any of the rugs upstairs because I kept him in a contained area to make it easier on everyone. The key is to roll up any rugs where he/she might pee on. Some people put a tarp down.

Keep your schedule simple for the first week. I actually didn’t really follow this but it’s a good tip. We were looking at houses all the time so in and out of car, etc. But, you better believe that every chance I got, I made sure he was getting on the toilet. Also, dress them in easy toilet access clothes like skirts or elastic waist bottoms so it’s easy for them to get on potty fast and avoid accidents.

Photo of a baby girl toddler on a potty chairTip 2: Find out what motivates them

This is HUGE. While some more evolved souls may not use any form of encouragement or reward, I did. And it helped HUGE. I started with natural treats like fruit-flavored lolly pops and organic dark-chocolate covered goji berries, and so forth. I told Griffin that every time he went on potty, he would get a treat. Result? This was a total bomb. First few days, Griffin had like 2-4 accidents a day and I was getting frustrated. He wasn’t into it. And I wanted to quit. Then I realized that I wasn’t tapping into what motivates him. Now, food always motivates me, but not my child. I was viewing it through my eyes. For Griff? It’s all about toys. My son is a master collector. He has little animals, dinosaurs and literally walks around with 2-3 figurines at all times. Ah, this is what motivates him.

So, we went to toy store and picked out a few things he was totally excited about. I explained that this was for potty training. We got home and I put them in a basket. Every time he went pee or poo, I let him pick one toy out of basket. At the end of the day, we returned all the toys to the basket and started again the next day. Worked like a charm. He didn’t have any more accidents for the rest of the week.

Tip 3: Put them on the toilet often

As much as we’re trying to teach them to feel and honor the urge to go, we also want to work with them. So, I put Griffin on the toilet every 20 minutes at first, especially after meals! I would also kinda monitor liquids so that he wasn’t downing 2 cups of water first thing in the morning… unless he really wanted it and then I’d put him on the toilet every 15 minutes. After about a week, I put him on every 30 minutes. Soon, HE was telling me when he had to go. I still have to practice this today. If it’s been too long since he’s gone potty, I’ll still sit him down to encourage a pit stop.

Some parents get potty watches that cue regularly or they set timers. Whatever works to remind everyone for potty stop.

Tip 4: Praise them. But not too much :)

I found a simple “good job!” or “doesn’t that feel great?!” was the right way for me to honor any potty accomplishment. If I make too big of a deal, Griffin looked at me funny. LOL! He would also use it as a bargaining chip  because he knew that I was so attached to the outcome. The more relaxed and confident in my child’s abilities I was, the better things went.

Tip 5: Acknowledge accidents and move on

Most kiddos will have accidents. Even now, Griffin will have the occasional trip up, especially if we’re outside or playing with water, but accept that this can be a normal part of process. I do take a moment and acknowledge the accident, and we talk about where pee belongs… in the potty. Then we quickly change and move on.

Tip 6: Make it FUN!

Having the toy prizes was enough for Griffin but some found creating a potty song was a great motivator and made it fun. You can also put Cheerios in toilet and have child aim for them (if he’s a boy) as a little game. Some put food coloring in toilet water which excited some kids to go. Some make up a little potty party. Be creative.

Tip 7: Trouble with #2? Get creative.

Some kids do great with peeing on the potty but are terrified of number 2. If that’s the case, you’ll have to dig deeper and find a way to make it safe for them. Try talking to them in a cuddling moment about their fears and see if you can pinpoint. One mom said that her son felt that he was losing a part of himself by flushing poop down the toilet. So, she got an anatomy book and showed him how the process happens. This clicked with him and took way the fear.

Some children get too impatient. So give him/her a toy or read a book to them while they’re on the toilet. Another idea is to have a potty-trained friend come over. Peer pressure is powerful and if they see another little kid pooping on toilet, they will be more apt to imitate.

Lastly, consider having the other parent try if all else fails. Sometimes, it works as a fresh approach. Have daddy and child go take their poops together and see how it goes.

Tip 8: Consider a naked weekend

Many parents report success by letting child be naked for a weekend and the whole family has a stay cation at home. Kids are usually less apt to have accidents if they can actually see the pee or poo coming out of body. By letting them be au natural, they are more in tune with their bodies, rhythms and body cues.

Tip 9: Start teaching them about wiping and washing hands

Now, they won’t master these tasks till they’re older but starting the routine now will help the transition. Let child try to wipe first and then you finish. Get footstool so it’s easy for child to turn on faucets and start washing hands.

Tip 10: Make them comfortable in public

Some kids are afraid of the automatic flushing toilets in restrooms. They’re loud! You can put a post it in front of sensor to block this feature and then just take care of once child is done and out of stall. Some kids are afraid of big toilet seat so bring a portable potty or you can try disposable toilet covers with their favorite character on them.

Tip 11: Be flexible with naps and nighttime

Some moms fully potty train and don’t ever put on a diaper again. I decided to put one on him at nap and nighttime because frankly, I value my sleep immensely, and didn’t want his sleep times cut short because he had to go potty. Griffin isn’t the greatest sleeper naturally so we need as few distributions as possible. Having said that, I would say 90% of the time, his diaper is dry when he wakes up from nap and 80% after nighttime sleep. Sometimes, I keep his underwear on for naps and he does great. We’re getting close to dropping his nap and moving him to big boy bed so I will put him in underwear 100% then. This way he can get out of bed and go potty in middle of night if need be. Point is, you can potty train your child 90% of the time and enjoy the freedom and ease of not having to change dirty diapers. Don’t think it has to be all or nothing.

Tip 12: Be patient and try, try again

It can definitely be frustrating for both mom and child if there are lots of failed attempts but just remember your child will be potty trained. Whether it’s next week or next year, it will happen. Just keep at it and take breaks if necessary. Each child has their own pace.

How about you?

What tips and techniques helped you potty train your child? Share with us in the comments below so we can learn from each other!

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About Genevieve

After battling weight, digestive, and immune system issues for years, I know firsthand the harmful effects of conventional life. Through a long road of detox, I discovered the healing power of natural living. This transformation spread into every area of my life - physical, emotional & spiritual. Now I'm on a mission to help other mamas live happier, healthier lives.

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  1. jennifer April 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Potty training is hard, but it really helps to know where to start! I found this program when my daughter was having problems potty training. The No Sweat Potty Training program has a step by step process that’s super easy to follow! Here’s a site to help you see if your child is ready for potty training. http://www.sleepsense.net/share.html?w=nspt5myths&p=jensleeps

  2. Jennifer March 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Go to http://www.3daypottytraining.com by Lora Jensen. I have had numerous friends find success using it including my son. We started this program two weeks ago and he is doing well. He is 27 months. Best $27 I ever spent. Once those pullups and diapers were gone, that was it, we aren’t turning back. He had been able to pee on command when we put him on the toilet since 18 months old, but he would have a ton of accidents. As soon as we changed our vocabulary with him using this program, it was like magic. It has taken longer than the “three days” because he had been “programmed” by how we were working with him for months, but this is hands down the best way to do it. Even with stubborn and strong willed children like mine. It gives them a sense of control. Anyway, look at it.

    • Luna Fortwright @ PottyEducation.com April 8, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Jennifer, I heard that there are negative feedback regarding Lora Jensen’s personality (not her books). I hope that is not true because it’s just a rumor that hopefully does not exist.

      Genevieve, thanks for the tips. My son become potty trained at the age of 3 and I used 3-day potty training method on him. The first day was the hardest for me as I monitored him for around 25 to 30 minutes and looked for signals that he’s about to pee or poo. I’m glad my son is transitioning well from using the potty trainer into toilet bowl equipped with potty seat.

  3. Heather February 15, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    My daughter is almost 2 1/2 and she has No desire to use the potty. I take her all the time she sits for a minute and tells me she went but indeed she hasn’t, she is very hard headed. She will tell me to change her diaper sometimes and afterwards she tells us thanks . We have tired snacks and toys and even a sticker board none of those have worked. Her Dr. told me not to push the issue. So does anyone have any ideas that could help me.

  4. Moonweaver February 12, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Goodness, my son is 3.5 years old and is in no way interested in the potty or toilet (or number 1′s outside). Several times a day I ask him if he needs the potty or toilet he says “No!” and screams if I try to coax him onto it. I have nothing to bribe him with as I have exhausted the list. He just does not want to go there, yet he knows when he’s “going” in his nappy as he hides. I am at my wits end. I never had much trouble at all with potty training my other 4 kids. I keep focused and calm on the fact that one day he will go.

    • Jennifer March 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      I am going through the same thing you are with my 2 3/4 son! He hates the potty and tells me “NO!” too when I ask him if we wants to sit on the potty. He has all the tell-tale signs of being ready to potty train, holding his urine, knowing when he has to go, etc. There are 3 times a day I really insist he sits on the potty, just before bath time because he always goes first thing when he gets into the bath, at naptime and at bedtime. At these two junctures he has held his urine through lunch and always overfills his diaper and I was doing laundry each time he got up. For me, if I don’t really talk about the potty and just walk to it sometimes he will not put up a fuss. But as soon as I say, do you want to sit on the potty it’s an emphatic “NO!”. We have tried 3 pottys now; first the normal training chair, but he is tall and just didn’t fit. Now it is our step stool. Then we got the toilet seat with 2 different sized rings and I was having a lot of success, then something happened, I don’t know if it pinched him or what. So a few nights ago I took him to pick out a topper for the toilet. He chose it, but still has an aversion to the potty. The rewards were initially for if he went potty, then when he stopped wanting to sit on the potty I started giving him a reward to just sit. That quickly went down hill bc he would sit on it just long enough to get the reward and then move on, but that quickly turned into a “NO!” too. Potty training has been very frustrating for me. I know one day he will get it…so I am keeping my patience too, but it is good to know I’m not alone!

      • Hannah March 24, 2014 at 11:40 pm

        I started rewarding my 2.5 yr old daughter just for sitting on the potty, too.
        Not a lot- just one little chocolate chip for sitting; but now, just as you said, she sits for a minute and then says, “chocolate!” and that’s that.

        I’m starting to wonder if I should stop rewarding her for just sitting, but don’t know if taking that away at this point would stunt her desire to sit.

  5. Rachel December 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    This would be great but I work full time and my daughter goes to nursery :(. I can’t stay at home two weeks I need to earn a living.

  6. Sara Vartanian October 20, 2013 at 3:00 am

    A few months ago, we decided to tackle nighttime potty trained as our son told us he no longer wanted to wear a diaper. We limited his liquids in the evening and for the first few weeks we took him to the washroom before we went to bed-this was key to reducing accidents. We also introduced a nightlight into the bathroom which we found encouraged him to start using the toilet by himself in the night as he didn’t have to fumble with lights or worry about the dark.

  7. Vieve September 5, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Yay for potty training! One thing that has been super helpful and helps us train very quickly is a thin, breathable, flexible, nylon (not plastic) diaper cover called a Dappi. I put regular underwear on (no special training pants) and put the diaper cover over. We too, stay close to home and go to the potty often. When accidents happen, there is ZERO mess on the floor or couch or whatever. Into the tub we go, remove the diaper cover, underwear and have a quick rinse. The great thing is, they FEEL the wet and don’t like it! Nothing absorbing it. It’s been a sanity saver! I have all sizes, but the large and extra large are good for 2-ish year olds.

  8. Barbara September 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for finally posting this!

  9. Yoonjin September 4, 2013 at 2:05 am

    We are in the middle of potty learning with our 15 month old. She does great. We are letting her lead and decide what to do about the potty. We introduced a potty as a toy at 6 months. By 10 months she was pretending to go potty on it, by making pee and poop noises and wiping. At a year she was going on it with a diaper on, or if having naked time, would run to it and pee next to it. When she had to go really bad she physically could not get onto the potty, it was too urgent. I didn’t pressure but I did encourage, and say “Wow, you peed in/close to the potty!” She decided one day that she wanted to sit on the toilet, wipe and flush, and she still does this either before or after pooping or peeing. Nowadays she goes part time in her potty or the toilet. Even when she goes in her diaper she still wants to get on the toilet, wipe and flush. She’s a sucker for ritual! Some of my friends are also into child led potty learning, and their kids potty trained (with only an occasional accident) by 13 months, 22 months, 2.5 years, 3.5 years, and 4 years old. So every kid is different in when and how they learn so be patient mamas! Someday you’ll have no more (or significantly less) poopy diapers to clean

  10. Sara September 3, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I’m in the “thick of it” too with my two-year old twin boys! Tell me about potty training, bring it on! We’ve been at it 2 weeks, they’ve learned a lot, and I’ve learned a lot these past two weeks myself. I think the main thing I have learned is to stay the course. At first it seemed like it was a total failure and they were not going to do it. I just kept on encouraging them that they were going to do great and kept putting them on the potty, letting them flush their successes, etc., and now they are doing so much better. We have accidents still but more successes than accidents now. Also I’ve learned that my attitude is so important – not hovering and being nervous about accidents helps them relax and own the process more. They usually have more accidents when I am uptight about it – go figure. I really think that this is more about parental readiness than child readiness. There is something to be said for the child’s ability to understand at some level, but if you are 100% committed as the parent, they will get it, even with the bumps in the road. I think they can sense if you’re in all the way or if you’re unsure yourself, and that makes a huge difference.

    • Genevieve September 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Great points Sara! And you get extra Brownie points for doing 2 BOYS! Wow!

      Yes, I was just determined… like yes, we are going to do this. There were low days for sure… with multiple accidents… and doubting what I was doing but I kept at it.

      Griff was ready. I was ready. And it went well!

  11. Nick @ Livin' Lightly September 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the tips! We are in the thick of it this week with our 2-year old girl…this gave me some ammunition & motivation to keep on!



  12. Lisa September 3, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    i should first say we did EC starting the 1st week he was born, then cloth diapers until about 2 when he was potty trained. when going to the sitter’s, she would put him in a diaper during nap time. i found on days when he was home, that it was much easier to do naked naps instead. we have potty chairs in the living room (Prince Lionheart pottyPod… great for lil one’s for EC, positioned between my knees & held him over the bowl) & each bathroom (Ikea and a childs urinal) and a portable one (Potette Plus) i keep in the van. i also used an app on my phone to remind us when to take potty breaks, there are several available. good luck to all.

  13. stephanie September 3, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    neither of my two potty-trained girls were very comfortable going #2… I found that you may have to step up the bribes at that point. I mean really step it up:)
    also, I found it was much more of a process, no diapers during the day, then going #2, then throughout the night. It can take months and months, and relapses HAPPEN. I also found that the more I relaxed and just let them go at their own pace, and encourage, it made for a much more wonderful experience..

    • Genevieve September 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      It is indeed a process!

  14. Katy September 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    We love to sing Kimya Dawson’s song “Pee pee in the Potty”. It’s a short song so we sing it two times to give her body a chance to let go.

  15. Ashley September 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

    We also just did the potty training thing and took us about two weeks as well. We basically let her run around without pants downstairs (no carpet/rugs to worry about) for a week and a half. She was ready to potty train earlier than I thought so the trainers/underwear I ordered for her still hadn’t arrived when we started.

    One thing about motivation/praise, though: I hear ALL the time how too much praise is a bad thing, and while I do think in some cases it can be (and obviously over-praising for tasks that they should easily be able to do is not necessary), but our daughter thrives off of praise. She could care less about getting a chocolate or toy or anything like that, but when we’re really excited for her, she LOVED it. We did that in response to her first poop on the potty chair and she never pooped anywhere but the potty afterward. It took her a day or two to pee in the potty b/c we kept sitting her down and reading to her for half an hour but then she’d get up and pee somewhere else. Once we got her on the potty at the right time and cheered and clapped with her, she just tried to go on the potty all the time after that.

    Now four weeks after we started, I basically just make sure she sits on the potty every 1.5 – 2 hours, as sometimes she forgets to go and holds it too long and I’d rather avoid bladder issues if possible. She still goes on her own as well. But now that she does it well and all the time, we don’t really need to praise her anymore and she doesn’t look for praise and cheering. Although it’s cute, sometimes she’ll clap for us when we go to the bathroom. :) So, I would say if your child is motivated by cheering/praise, don’t be afraid to use it, and with lots of enthusiasm. If your child knows you love them for who they are the rest of the time, praising them for going on the potty isn’t going to make them think they have to pee on the potty just to get your affection. Every child is different, but it was nice to see that my daughter got to the point where she didn’t need it anymore.

    We also got the Potette Plus portable potty! We use it when we’re out and about with her and makes it easier to make sure she goes wherever we are without worrying about the giant adult seats (which my daughter does not like at all…) :)

    • Genevieve September 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks for sharing Ashley!


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