Toilet Training 101

You asked, here it is. My guide to toilet training/potty training/whatever you want to call it…. how I taught my kids to poop and pee in the toilet at the age of two.

Let me set the stage real quick: my first child, I had no idea what I was doing. We were living with my lovely mother-in-law while we built a new house. E had just turned 2 and was now exactly 26 months old. He was doing to whole “poop in the corner” thing and one day I said out loud:

“He really knows when he’s going, maybe he’ll be ready to go in the toilet soon”.

My mother-law-replies “Oh he’s definitely ready. I potty trained all four of my children in one weekend right when they turned two.”


She told me how she did it and we proceeded to potty-train E that very weekend. I then used this very technique for my two other two children (all of them are boys) and feel like this is THE way to do it as it’s worked for us with all three kids who have VERY different personalities and strengths. Ok, here goes…

1. Readiness

The first most IMPORTANT thing is to look for cues that your child is ready. When they walk over to the same corner to poop, that’s a sign. H for example had his corner, then I noticed if i ever made a comment about what he was doing, he would go hide under the table or in the pantry to “finish his business”. He knew he was going.

At this point I would ask him (when I could tell he was “going”) if he wanted to sit on the toilet like a big boy. After all, he has two older brothers who he sees using the toilet. But the answer was always “no”. I still knew he was ready so either way, we decided to move forward with toilet training.

2. Timing

After you’ve established that your child is ready, you need to pick a time to do it. It is important that you pick a weekend (or longer if you have a few extra days at home during a holiday- I trained little E during March Break) where you are at HOME and have NO PLANS to go anywhere. This is very important. You must dedicate your weekend to this and not go anywhere- I know it sounds a bit intense, but it will be worth it in the end!

3. Go All In

Ok- so I believe when toilet training your little ones… you NEED to go all in. Say goodbye to diapers and put on those “big kid undies”. I don’t like “training underwear”; it’s basically a diaper. If you’re child pees or poops in them… it does the same thing as a diaper and won’t “bother” them. The only exception to this is sleep time which I’ll touch on at the end. Your child needs to be in real underwear so that they can FEEL what’s it’s like if they have an “accident”; it’s not a pleasant feeling and they will likely want to avoid it.

4. Practice Practice Practice

So, your child is ready, YOU are ready because you have dedicated your WHOLE weekend to this, and you realize you need to go “all in”. Learning any new skill takes practice; same goes for using the toilet. Depending on your child’s liquid intake, they may only pee a few times a day (and may only have one or two bowl movements, but we can’t control those). So in order to get as much pee practice in as possible… we need to up the fluid intake so they are peeing A LOT… the more they have to go pee, the more practice they get.

The “how” is up to you, but what I have done is used juice. Water is generally what we drink around here and juice is something for special occasion. So juice has worked perfectly for us as my kids chug that stuff. So basically I grabbed a fun cup with a lid and a straw, filled it with juice (you could dilute it with water) and have your child go crazy drinking it, filling up that little bladder so they can get as much “practice” as possible.

5. The “Pee Pee Timer”

This is super important! I know I’ve said every step is important so far.. and that’s because they really all are. So, your child’s liquid intake is much higher than average, this is good; this is what you want for them to be able to “practice”. What you are going to do now is grab your phone, watch, stopwatch, laptop, anything that has a countdown with an alarm. Let your child listen to the alarm and tell them that’s the pee music (I had a music “alarm” play on my phone). Set this alarm to go off every TEN minutes (yes- it’s going to be a long day). When the alarm goes off, you stop what you’re doing, take your child to the bathroom, and they sit on the toilet/potty. They won’t necessarily have to pee or poo every single time. Oh- and try to get excited when the alarm/music goes off- get into it! “There’s the pee music! Yay- let’s go sit on the toilet!!!!”.

5. Treats and Songs

The first few trips to the toilet are fun and exciting (hopefully). But after a few times of this alarm interrupting their play it can get slightly more difficult. This is where the bribes come in. Before you roll your eyes, just hear me out. Find something small that your child loves. For my first two, I opened a couple packs of fruit snacks, dumped them into a container and that was their reward. For my youngest it was mini marshmallows.

This is SUPER important (like everything else- I know); when the alarm goes off and they go sit on the toilet, but nothing comes out they get ONE treat. And show them you are proud that they are sitting on the toilet, for example “Great job!! you sat on the toilet, nothing came out but that’s OK, we’ll try again later. Here’s one treat for sitting on the toilet”. This whole practicing every 10 minutes thing is A LOT for them. While do-able, it interrupts their play and their routine for of the day. So a little reward goes a long way.

Now, when they sit on the toilet and they do a pee or a poo, they get TWO treats and a huge song and dance from you! I always made up some random song that I would sing, clapped my hands, while jumping up and down, and generally made a fool of myself; which was met with a huge smile. Then just help them wash their hands and you’re off to get TWO treats. So exciting. You’re going to do this ALL day; practice, practice, practice.

The next day looks a little different. Day one is very intensive, so for day two I like to return to their normal liquid intake. I would set your timer for every 20-30 minutes and do the same type of thing as the previous day.

I’ll be honest, each time I have done this with my child, I have wondered “Am I going to be giving them treats for peeing in the toilet now for years to come? How do I phase this out?”. Using the toilet just becomes the norm. By the third day (or you can do it whenever), I was only giving treats for when they did their business in the toilet, then they just kind of forgot about it. Or when your little container of treats is empty you can show them that the toilet treats are gone. OR, depending on their age, you can just tell them that the treats were because they were learning and are all done now. Luckily for us, it was never an issue.

Things to consider:

  • Bed time and nap time: you may choose to put your child in a pull-up. We did and call them “night time underwear” or “bed time underwear”.
  • If your child is very much fighting this process (crying and screaming), don’t fight it. It’s a sign that they may not be ready yet.
  • It may take 2 or 3 days for them to be fully trained, but it also may take 4 or 5 days (or a few more).
  • Please don’t get upset with or shame your child in any way for having an “accident” (they are likely to happen). Physically, they won’t like the way it feels on them so brush it off as no big deal ex “It’s ok- I can help get you cleaned off and we’ll just try again”.
  • It might take your child a little while to verbalize when they have to go. My middle child was trained, not having accidents… but rarely told me when he had to go for the first few weeks. I would ask him, he would say yes, and I would help him to the toilet. Eventually, he found the words.
  • Make sure you always have extra underwear and pants when you leave the house (leave a set in your car).
  • It’s not a race. It does’t matter whether your child is toilet trained at 23 months or 30 months, there’s no prize for getting your child toilet trained the fastest.

Best of luck! Remember, learning a new skill takes time and practice. Be patient with your child and celebrate their victories! No more diapers; woohoo!!!

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