Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

5 potty training mistakes to avoid

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Don’t be scared to potty train. Your child won’t be in diapers forever! Here are 5 mistakes to avoid.

Everybody seems to potty train their kids at a certain age, but when is a child really ready? We’re breaking it down so you know when you’re ready and when your child is ready, what items you’ll need, and how to get prepared so you can be set up for success to have a smooth potty-training experience. Watch my YouTube video for the full breakdown of how my husband and I potty trained our son, and check out my resource library, which has my FREE Guide to No-Pressure Potty Learning handout!

Mistake #1 Potty training during a major change in routine.

I recommend not potty training within one month of a massive event like going to school for the first time, a baby coming, a vacation, a new house, guests staying over, or moving. Similar to most things we teach our children (including independent sleep training), we need consistency. 

We potty trained our son when he was 31 months old. The typical age is somewhere around 24 months. Some children will be ready a few months before, and some may not be ready until closer to 3. You could potty train your child before they’re ready, but it may take longer. Your child is more likely to be successful when they’re developmentally ready. It’s a good idea to be home or close to your home toilet for the first three days to establish a potty routine and consistency of the training. 

However, please don’t feel pressured to reach the end goals in three days. That pressure will backfire. We thought we would do the three-day method. When we realized that we were approaching the three days and pressure was building we let go of that expectation. 

Remember, YOU have to be mentally ready as well. 

Mistake #2 Forcing it before they’re ready or forcing the process when they resist

You don’t want to force this. Again, your child has to be ready. Below are some quick signs that your child might be ready to potty learn. If your child isn’t doing any of these, they may not be ready.

  • Your child is interested in the concept of the toilet and potty.
  • They squat or grunt in a corner to poop. 
  • They do not have bowel movements overnight. 
  • They have more prolonged periods of dry diapers during the day and show that they can hold their urine (ideal is two hours).
  • They are able to pull down loose-fitting clothing, which is an essential aspect of being able to use the toilet. 

Mistake #3 Not getting supplies or preparing

You’ll want to prepare! Below are some items I recommend getting before you start the process. 

  • A support system. It would help if you had a support system and the mindset that this is a time-intensive process, especially in the first few days. Remember there is no time goal, and there will be accidents.  
  • Potty learning books! I bought over 20, anticipating a lot of accidents. I bought ones with the characters my child loves – excavators, Thomas the Train, Blippi, etc. Let them help you pick them out so they have some control over this process.  
  • Underwear, of course! Check out my Amazon page for our favorites!
  • A step stool will be handy even if you use a toddler toilet seat on the floor. This will allow your child to get on the step stool to dump the contents of their toilet into the big toilet and flush and wash their hands.
  • A potty seat for the toilet and a toddler potty in both bathrooms. In our house, we had both because it allowed for the power of choice and autonomy. This is important so your child feels less pressure.
  • Chucks or puppy pads for your couch. Your child will be naked waist down to start potty training, and it’s helpful to have these puppy pads so that you can place them on the sofa in case of accidents.
  • Cleaning supplies for accidents, including a waterproof mattress cover. We didn’t use a cover, however some might find it helpful. We used towels to clean up any accidents.

Curious about my thoughts on a reward system for potty training? Check out my Youtube video

Mistake #4 Not offering consistency

Your child may start strong, and then reality sets in later that they must do something new. This is what we call a honeymoon period. It is so common in children! Consistency is key. Try to keep some resemblance of a routine of people and places in those early days. For example, when he had accidents, we would say things like, “Tell mommy if you need to use the potty. Keep your undies dry. Great job!” I would then show him what dry and wet felt like. We used verbal praise when he did go to the toilet. 

We prepped Ryaan for potty learning by reading books about what would happen and building excitement. We would use language such as, “Are you excited to use the potty? Mommy and daddy use the potty, too!” We kept an open door policy when we used the bathroom so he could see that adults do this, too. We also have a dog and would remind Ryaan that Shiloh (our dog) poops and pees outside and that Ryaan poops and pees in the toilet. 

We set the timer on our Google Home every hour to remind us to try to use the toilet and combined this with a self-initiation model. If he went, we would reset the timer. This got phased out as he initiated more. I like to avoid time voiding as much as possible as this can be stressful to them.  

If he had an accident, we had him help us clean it up without frustration. We did naked from the waist down and we used the bathroom before bedtime. 

Mistake #5 Stopping training while you travel or go out

Don’t avoid activities and don’t resort back to diapers! The first three days are ideal to stay home, but after that you can consider leaving (for your sanity too). Even some outings on Day 2 or Day 3 like walks in your neighborhood are possible. You can still venture out when potty training! It’s important to not stop the process. We still took Ryaan to swim classes, birthday parties, and outings while potty training. We had him use the travel potty, the OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty in the trunk of our SUV, or public restrooms. We continued the verbal praise for our outings. We took him commando with extra clothes for accidents. Once he had no accidents in loose shorts with no undies for two days, we added the undies. 

Potty learning is a process, and there will be some steps forward and some perceived steps backward, but it’s part of the process. Let go of the pressure for you and them and devise a strategy that works for your family. You got this!

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