The Saturday Question: What are Your Potty Training Tips?

Since we often learn heaps from our wise readers, we’ve decided to ask a question each week and see how much information we can gather from our green parenting peers.  Thanks so much for contributing the wisdom you’ve gained from your time in the trenches with your little ones.   If you’d like to propose your own parenting question, we can feature it sometime soon for our Saturday question and you’ll get some great advice!

Joy’s Question: 

My son is 2 years and 3 months old and we’ve started casually potty training.  He goes to daycare during the week for partial days and spends the rest of his time with us, but he seems to only be alternately excited about sitting on the potty.  Sometimes he’s totally into it, and on other occasions he utterly refuses.  Many experts advise waiting until your child is really excited about potty-training, but I wonder if he’d do better if we actually invested more energy into his efforts.  Maybe if we were more consistent he’d do better.  So, should we wait or should we use a few time-tested tricks for piquing his interest in the potty?  


  1. I also keep hearing the advice to let the child lead in the potty training process. I’ve heard that if you wait until the child initiates everything, it will go much more smoothly–even if it’s at age 3 rather than 2.

    I did not use that approach. Instead, I waited until Audrey showed an interest and ability to potty train (i.e., she successfully peed on her little potty) and then trained her intensely for a few weeks until she was completely (day) potty trained. I figured that I was being more consistent with her that way.

    Of course, Roscoe is younger than Audrey was when she potty trained (she was 2.5 years), and he is a boy. The average boy doesn’t get potty trained until 39 months! So I’ll bet a lot of people will advise waiting a bit. I can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thoughts!

  2. My advice would be to commit to it fully. No more nappies except for sleeping. Of course it is completely up to you whether you do it now or wait for more signs from your child. In my experience putting them in nappies sometimes for convenience makes the process more drawn out and difficult.

  3. Ugh, I don’t know. I’m not good at potty-training. My philosophy has been to not make a big deal of it, but then my kids were slow to get it. I worried about giving them issues, but I think that being the last of their friends still in diapers can cause issues too. Now maybe my kids would have been slow to get it anyway.

  4. mamasimpson says

    My son was fully potty trained by 2 1/2 yrs. My daughter 23 months is potty trained during day time hours. I started early because I didn’t like buying diapers and both my kids were super sensitive to them. I used a potty seat that attached to the big potty. As soon as they could sit up well on their own I would set them on it with a book to read. I also kept them in undies while at home. Sure we had lots of accidents but that’s how they learn. Potty training is a full time job I found that using a potty timer helped. I would set it for 20 mins and have my child drink as much water as I could during that time.
    Good luck!

  5. My son was a late potty trainer… so my advice is don’t push it until they are really ready, and then do it intensively. We had a few weeks of accidents (mainly # 2 because he got #1 pretty quick). On the upside for me waiting so long meant he was night trained pretty much immediately. We’ve only had 2 wet beds so far since he was trained (very late 3 year old, now 5 yr old).

    Every kid is different and as a parent I think you learn to read their cues the best. My son has a thing about smells, and that was one of his problems with his training reluctance. I think he may have been better at it if he didn’t have such a sensitive nose. He still occasionally throws up at the smell of #2.

  6. When my daughter seemed ready to potty train (almost 3), I decided to commit to it until we got it whatever that meant. I am against those ridiculous pull-ups, because they are still diapers! We used a little peepee dolly (for demonstration) and I told her she would be wearing big-girl underwear from then on so she would have to let me know when she needed to go. After a few accidents with no fuss (wet undies are so uncomfortable!)and some gentle reminders (and lots of juice), she got the hang of it by the time the weekend was through. I was impressed with hoe quickly she learned, but I think the big-girl cloth undies and the fact that it did not contain her pee like a diaper made all the difference. We’ll see what happens with child #2!

  7. I have potty trained one boy now, and will have another one to do in a year or two. From my experience, and from watching my siblings train their kids, definitely don’t do it half-heartedly. It’s ok to encourage the potty to get him used to it, but don’t really believe you are actually potty training until you get real and get rid of the diapers. I agree with a previous poster that pull-ups are a waste of money. We used cloth trainers (this was before we cloth diapered, too), and kept him in diapers for naps and nighttime at first.

    The main reason I say stick to it (and this may be tough if he’s in daycare) is because my son would ask for a diaper when he was overwhelmed with the responsibility. If I gave him one, he would regress and we’d have to relearn a few things. It’s painful no matter what method you try, but try to remember that it’s going to be a whole lot more painful if you stop and start, stop and start, or try to do it part-time. Your child has to know you’re serious.

    We trained my oldest at about three years old. We tried to do it at 2 1/2 and he wasn’t ready. I could tell because after a day or two of successes, he regressed big time and started to fight us constantly. He’d pee right in front of us AFTER we had him sit on the potty. It wasn’t worth the battle. Six months later, when we tried again, he made real progress and never acted like that at all. So, I could tell he was ready. Was he asking for it, though? Nope. He would have stayed in diapers forever if we’d let him. That’s just the kind of kid he is. So, it’s not completely true you should wait for them to show interest. Sometimes, you just have to try it and gauge whether he is ready or not by how it goes.

  8. Thanks so much for all the information! Since I keep hearing so many of you say that we have to just go for it when he’s actually showing interest, we spent the weekend doing just that. He peed in his potty consistently but he is terrified of pooping on the potty. I’m sending him to daycare today with a batch of cloth trainers and hoping she doesn’t get too many poops in them. It’s much messier than diapers but I’m hoping that it’s worth it since it might make diapers a thing of the past. Do any of you have tips on getting your child to be comfortable with pooping on the potty? How long did it take all of you to potty train? I’m going to try my best to focus on consistency (without overwhelming my son) and then hope for the best!

  9. Has anyone tried potty training a child who isn’t speaking yet? My son is 30 months and doesn’t talk (but knows over 50 signs and does initiate communication that way–so we could certainly teach him a sign for “potty”). He is very curious about what we do on the toilet, so I’m interested in giving it a try but don’t know if his inability to verbalize would make the process harder.

  10. Oh, I’m hoping someone can answer Joy’s question about pooping. We’re totally there right now! My son (2) is totally daytime trained when it comes to peeing (even during naps), but has yet to poop in the potty. Luckily he only poops once a day, but I still have no idea how to ‘teach’ him how to do it in the potty.

  11. It took us a month to get our son to poop on the potty. In our case, we noticed that he’d just jump up when he was done peeing. He would never want to sit there long enough to poop. So, I bought him a LeapPad and a couple books that were about characters he was interested in. We kept it in the bathroom, and he was only allowed to use it when he was sitting on the potty. Also, we put up a homemade chart with six (you could use any number of times you wanted, of course) squares on it. I had him pick a toy he really wanted (it was Cranky the Crane), I put a picture of it on the chart, and he got a sticker for every successful poop. Using those two tactics solved our problems, and he even night trained himself a few weeks later.

  12. I’m going to be lurking around waiting for an answer to Larisa’s question. My 3yo son also isn’t really speaking (well, he speaks his own babbling language just not English) but can sign basic things. My MIL bought us a Baby Signs get-em-potty-trained-before-age-2 kit as a gift and has been suggesting we are ungrateful because we haven’t started using it. I just don’t see the point yet. Maybe with his sister tho…

  13. I agree with others to be consistent. It is hard work, but you have to stick with it.
    I have three boys and each potty trained fairly easily by 2 1/2 but I was home with them and that made a big difference. They LOVED to pee on cheerios. I would keep a cup of them on the toilet and they would throw one in and pee on it. Cute, huh?
    Also, with the pooping, I always showed them putting the poop in the toilet. So, if they went in their underwear (or floor, or wherever . . hee hee) I would have them come with me to the bathroom and SHOW them that the poop went in the potty. I think it’s am important connection for them to make.
    If possible, boys love to go pee outside, also, so if you can wait until warm weather, I put my boys in undies and took them outdoors for them “water” everything! They loved it! (We live on a farm, not practical for everyone, lol.)

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