Potty Training FAQ
STOP! First make sure to read my GIANT POST on Potty Training. These are the FAQ about potty training that I hear a lot, and thought I’d share my answers for everyone.
Anyone else feel like they’ve spent as much time researching potty training as any paper you wrote in High School?
I can’t remember another aspect of parenting that I researched more than potty training, looking desperately for information about how to do it and how not to mess things up while I tried.
There’s a lot of questions we have with potty training and I wished I could have found a simple FAQ on potty training way back in my day.
So I made one. Here’s my “FAQ on Potty Training” – answers to questions that I get asked most often.
Remember: I’m not an expert. I’m just a mom with a web site, and I’ve potty trained three kids (all at age 23 months old). Everything written here is from my perspective and my experiences. Take me with a grain of salt and NEVER take my advice over an actual medical professional.
All I’m hoping to do here is start a conversation about potty training and help you start thinking about how this will look at your house.
Every child is different so a lot of this process has to do with tailoring potty training to your unique child and their specific needs.
How do you know when they’re ready?
I have a lot of answers for this one.
- Some kids might never show signs, and not all kids are going to be thrilled with potty training. But it is what it is and they need to learn – so once you believe they are capable, that’s a good time to start. Kids will be capable at different times.
- Are they able to hold their bladder and go long stretches without peeing? This is a sign that they might have the bladder control for potty training.
- Understanding cause and effect. Do they understand that they can control their pee? That they are the one in charge of pushing out the poo?
What do you do if your toddler isn’t getting it / is HATING the process?
Back off. Stop. Look at everything that’s going on.
Find the root of the issue: is it a power struggle? Is it the method your using? Are they truly ready / old enough?
My youngest son showed EVERY sign of being ready to potty train around 21 months old. So we tried it for a morning. It was a total bust. He wasn’t grasping the concept, his communication skills weren’t there to make things work, and things were going south.
I put the brakes on it ASAP.
And 2 months later, he walked up to me, took his own diaper off, handed it to me and said, “All done diapers.” And that was the last diaper he ever wore. He potty trained that day.
It’s ok to stop.
It’s ok to adjust course.
I mean this with all the love and in no way trying to panic you, but this is a high stakes venture that if done poorly, can have lasting consequences and health issues.
We have to get this right for our child and if that means walking away from it for a few months, that’s what it means.
When do they learn to poop?
Poop training takes longer. Be supportive. Be understanding.
We never want a child to be so scared of pooping that they hold it in, so be positive. Encourage them.
They might poop in their Pull-Up at naps – celebrate it!
They might poop their pants – that’s ok. We want them feeling comfortable going.
They will get it but it will take longer for all the parts to align.
Remember this is tough. Don’t shame them. Don’t yell. Be calm. Help them learn that pooping on the toilet is not scary, that their body can handle it, and that we will be there to support them along the way.
One way you can help the process is by setting them on the toilet for a few minutes after every meal. This can stimulate the “gastrocolic reflex” and lead to a bowel movement (the gastrocolic reflex is the reason that new babies eat and poop at the same time or immediately after).
My oldest son took 6 weeks to “poop train”. My daughter figured it out instantly. My third is three weeks into potty training and we have a long hall ahead of us. Every kid is different.
What if there isn’t a bathroom?
If it’s a boy peeing, they find a tree.
If it’s my daughter, she uses this (Amazon affiliate link) adorable portable potty that lives in my car.
If it’s a number two, you can add little bags to this same toilet for a quick and easy clean up.
What if they have to pee while I’m driving? How do I keep my car seat safe?
We pull over in a safe place and either pee along side the car or use the little toilet.
Road trips take longer – just normalize how easy and convenient it is to pull over (even if it isn’t) to help your child feel comfortable speaking up that they need to go.
Do you teach boys to stand or sit?
I taught both my boys in a sitting position. My oldest son naturally started standing on his own after he had been potty trained well over a year.
My thoughts were that it’s a lot of work learning to potty, let’s not add aim into the game.
Can you potty train a child who sleeps in a crib?
I suppose you could, but here’s why I didn’t: I wanted my child to be able to safely use the bathroom during the night or when they wake up, without risking climbing out of the crib.
I also didn’t want them consciously choosing to pee in their potty pant as an alternative to using the toilet.
We actually set a small toddler potty on a towel in their room so they could easily pee when they needed to, but without having to leave their room.
How do you night or nap train?
Honestly, I just let this one go for a while. It’ll take time and each kid is different – it can take 6-12 months for some kids and years for others.
Each kid is different and their bodies are wired differently. My daughter was a quick learn to potty train and poop train, but she took the longest of my three to be dry at naps and nights.
Eventually it just started happening for her (about 1.5 years after potty training). My best advice: be patient, don’t stress about it, and don’t force it. You’ll notice that one day, down the road, it’ll just start happening.
How do you potty train a toddler when you have a baby?
It’s not the easiest but you’ll make it.
I potty trained my oldest with a 3-month-old next to me.
I potty trained my middle with a 3.5-year-old and a 3-month-old.
I potty trained my youngest with a 5 and 3.5-year-old hanging around.
We made it work and you will too. When we would go out, I got really good at wiping kids while wearing a baby in an Ergo.
During times when I had to put the baby down for a nap, but was mid-potty training – I set my potty training kiddo on a towel, turned on the TV, and had them stay seated.
It wasn’t a perfect system but it did the trick. And for some reason, they were actually really great about holding it until I got back from being with baby.
How do you handle messes and accidents?
First, take a deep breath. You knew this was coming. This is par for the potty training course.
Keep a lot of carpet cleaning solution in your house and if you want to really go big: this is the (affiliate link) portable carpet cleaner that I have, love, and swear by. You’d never know in my house-of-carpet what all has gone on here…
What if my child starts regressing?
From what I understand, this can actually be a pretty normal occurrence (especially if a new baby has just come home…). My advice whenever kids regress – sleep, play, potty training – is to take a deep breath.
Remember this isn’t forever and they do have the ability to do this.
And steady the course. They’ll get back on track, but I would strongly recommend against going back into diapers. Just re-instill the potty training lessons in them and back track a little.
My child is terrified of public toilets. What do I do?
This is a hard one because public bathrooms are a way of life once we head back into the world – but they can look scary.
“Whoa! This does look different from home.”
Show how it works.
“Watch Mommy pee. See? Just the same as home. I’m here with you. It’s scary to do something new!”
If they are old enough to reason…
Remind them that there is no alternative. You can’t wet your pants in Target or pee on the floor of the toy aisle so we have to get through this.
Try making it a game: my daughter loves to see how “fast” she can pee on a public toiler (they TERRIFY her) and my son loves to “listen” to the sounds to see if the potty sound is different there.
We just do our best to push through it because, like I tell them, we don’t have a plan B here. We have to make this work – but I do understand the freight.
PRO TIP: Do NOT let the automatic toilet flush while your child is on it. Make sure to cover the sensor with your hand until they have had time to hop off the toilet, run to the door, and cover their ears. Validate their feelings.