16 Potty-Training Tricks That Really Work

16 Potty-Training Tricks That Really Work

Try these mom-tested techniques for getting a child out of diapers in no time.

By Leah Maxwell

Potty training is like the deep, dark forest standing between you and the magical land of unicorns and rainbows and no more diapers forever and ever. The path is unfamiliar and fraught with peril, but since the only way out is through, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with tools and techniques that will hopefully make the process as easy and painless as possible.

We don’t exactly have a roadmap to get you to the other side, but the next best thing is a list of pointers from others who have gone before you and been there, done that. Below, 16 moms share their best potty-training techniques, and we’re confident there’s something in there that will work for you and your kid.

1. “Put a potty out like a year before they actually are old enough to train, and let them use it or not as they wish. Show no emotion either way, other then gentle (not super-enthusiastic) praise if they use it. For my kids, letting them think it was their idea to use the potty or wear underwear was very effective. ‘Are you sure? We can wear a diaper if you want. I’m not sure you’re big enough for underwear...’ Ha ha. Totally worked.” -- Sarah S., mom of four in eastern Minnesota

2. “They’ll do it when they’re ready, not when you’re ready. [This is] true of many things, really.” -- Angela C., mom of one in Seattle, Washington

3. “Be ready to fail and try again.” -- Jackie M., mom of one in Brooklyn, New York

4. “We never used a kids’ potty, just started with the real thing (plus a kid seat) so there wouldn’t be a transition later on in the process. Also, once we switched to underwear during the daytime, we never went back to a diaper during the daytime (so there weren’t mixed messages).” -- Meredith S., mom of one in New York City

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5. “The best (and hardest) trick is not to care [how long it takes or when it happens]. Actually not care. People will ask you; people are nosy. Do it when YOUR CHILD wants to do it.” -- Amy W., mom of three in Bloomington, Illinois

6. “We used little candies (one for pee, two for poo) [as rewards] at first and then eased down to a sticker chart. I made one with princesses printed on cardstock with Velcro on the backs so that if she had an accident she had to remove a princess. (This was after she got to where accidents were because she wasn’t paying attention to her body and knew better.) Five princesses earned a candy, and if she lost a princess she had to earn her back by going in the potty next time. I was surprised by how well that method worked.” -- Erin K., mom of two in Leesburg, Virginia

7. “For boys, no pants and peeing outside.” -- Jessica S., mom of two in Florence, Colorado

8. “I’m a firm believer in every kid having a window of opportunity. But I also think people sometimes blow through the window [and wait too long]. And then you end up in a battle of wills.” -- Mona B., mom of three in Washington, D.C.

9. “I let day care take the lead, since the staff there had WAY more experience than I did as a first-time mom. I asked the director for tips about how we could reinforce her techniques at home, but she pretty much just took care of everything herself. It was magical.” -- Laurel M., mom of one in Alameda, California

10. “I’m a huge fan of waiting here. My daughter was almost 3 and my son was just over 3. Both trained in a weekend.” -- Elizabeth B., mom of two in Corpus Christi, Texas


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11. “My son trained with a cohort of kids his age at day care, and I think the peer pressure really worked. He got REALLY interested when one of the other boys started wearing underwear.” -- Jennifer J., mom of one in Oakland, California

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12. “Don’t make a big deal out of accidents. Encourage them to try to make it to the potty next time, but don’t make them feel bad about it.” -- Mara P., mom of three in Sandy, Utah

13. “Make sitting on the potty part of the daily routine [but] reward/praise for dry pants, NOT for action in the toilet.” -- Bekki L., mom of two in Bothell, Washington

14. “Sometimes it works to just keep cleaning them and saying, ‘When you can stay clean we can go to [some fun place].’” -- Celeste L., mom of one in Columbus, Ohio

15. “We bought my son a potty when he was 1 and 1/2 and just let it sit in the bathroom. He used it a few times, but mostly just as a push toy. I think the early exposure really helped him get used to the idea, though. We didn’t officially start potty training until he was 3 and had been waking up with dry diapers. At that point, we’d put him on the potty every morning and he caught on really quick. Like, he basically potty trained himself. I think letting him become familiar with the object and the concept for so long before we actually asked him to use the potty helped a lot.” -- Holly F., mom of one (with one on the way) in Los Angeles, California

16. “My potty-training trick that really works is to simply not try and just let it happen. Save everyone the frustration and mess.” -- Michele B., mom of three in New York City

What advice do you have for potty-training success?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/markcarper

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