Potty Training Secrets From the Pros

We asked novice parents to share their common potty training questions and then took those queries to experienced moms -- the potty training pros -- to get answers.
child throwing toilet paper

Potty training is not a science with one correct formula -- it's an art. Different tips and tricks work for different kids and families and, sometimes, completely contrary recommendations end up successful. So prepare for some trial and error as you discover what works for your tot. Here, we gathered the most pressing potty training questions from some panicked parents and then polled a small group of seasoned "pros" -- moms who have braved the potty training trenches and survived to offer must-know advice. Read on for tips from real parents that will help you triumph in toilet training.

Q: I'm potty training my toddler and I have a newborn. How do I survive?

Keep the Potty Close. "It's definitely not easy, but it is doable. I kept a small potty close by where my toddler could help herself more easily. I would bring it out of the bathroom and leave it on the tile between our kitchen and family room, which is all one big room." -- Jen S.

Offer Small Sibling Gifts. "One day, as my son was putting the finishing touches on his favorite ocean puzzle, he pulled down his pants and pooped on the puzzle! After a few similar episodes, I realized that he was more upset about the baby than about pooping in his pants. My solution: Each time he went potty like a big boy, he would get a small, wrapped gift -- like individually packed Lego characters -- from his new sister [to show she] was so proud of him and looked up to him. When he [went] a full week without accidents, he received the big puzzle he wanted. This helped him [complete] potty training and adapt to his new sister." -- Tara C.V.

Wait a Little While. "Don't do it when you have a newborn. Wait until the baby is around 3 months; this way, everyone is used to the new schedule and new person, and you don't rock your toddler's world too much." -- Gina P.

Solve Potty-Training Problems
Solve Potty-Training Problems

Q: My child is 2½ years old and has zero interest in the potty. How do I get him on board?

Interact With the Potty. "Buy a little potty and encourage him to check it out. Sit on it, decorate it, read to him on it. Anything to make the experience more fun." -- Jen S.

Buy Fun Underwear. "We got my daughter interested in potty training by buying her a Disney Princess underwear set. She loved wearing them over her Pull-Ups at first but then she graduated to using them on their own." -- Erin N.

Go Commando. "My son has a better time remembering he has to use the bathroom if I just let him run around in the buff." -- Anna M.

Q: I think the problem might be me! I'm not ready for the hassle of potty training. How can I prepare myself?

Accept the Responsibility. "I realized that I became a parent not because I wanted things to be perfect and easy all the time. Suck it up and make it happen." -- Lisa B.

"You have to come to terms that it is going to happen, and the sooner, the better!" -- Gina P.

Be Tough With Yourself. "Making sure you say 'no' to diapers is the best bet for quick results. You have to stick to your guns and be willing to disinfect your surroundings multiple times a day!" -- Christina B.

Q: My child is afraid of the toilet -- the flushing noise, the size, the way things disappear into it! What do I do?

Provide Protection. "I told my daughter to put on her 'ear muffs' -- hands over her ears." -- Alisa H.

Relay the Facts. "We read the book My Big Boy Potty by Joanna Cole that talks about how the toilet has pipes that takes the poo-poo away, so we would watch it get flushed down and say 'bye to it. Not as scary when you know where it goes." -- Stacey B.

Give a Nickname. "My daughter was terrified of automatic flush toilets, which made it impossible to go anywhere other than home. I started calling them 'magic toilets'. [I] covered the sensor with my hand and gave a wave with an 'abracadabra' when it was time to flush." -- Anna M.

Q: We're thinking about potty training over time with the help of Pull-Ups. Will this work?

No. "Only if you don't mind dragging it out. Buck up, rip off the bandage, and devote four days to potty training with undies, and [don't have] big adventures outside the house." -- Alisa H.

Maybe. "Pull-Ups are like training wheels: They're comforting to have but won't really teach you to ride a bike. That said, comfort is the key, especially for the parent! We realized after a while that the Pull-Up was never wet and it was time for us to give them up because our son already had!" -- Lisa B.

"Only at night. If you use them during the day, your child will become accustomed [to the idea] that he has a backup system if he doesn't make it to the potty." -- Stacey B.

Yes. "[Our daughter] thought of training pants as the next step to 'big girl' underwear. It gave her the encouragement she needed to not use the diaper anymore and she was very excited." -- Erin N.

"Training underwear is great in the beginning because sometimes a little pee starts before the child realizes she has to go. [Training pants] absorb the pee so you don't have to change the clothes. [They] helped my child know she was wearing underwear, not a diaper, they were more comfortable, and they wash just like underwear, which makes them better for the environment and a lot better for my budget." -- Christina B.

Q: We have number one down, but my daughter refuses to go number two on the potty. Suggestions?

Transform the Pull-Ups. "Even after he transitioned to wearing underwear, our son would only poop in a Pull-Up. So we started having him wear one on the potty. After three or four weeks, my husband had the brilliant idea to cut a large hole in the bottom of the Pull-Up before he put it on so the poop would fall into the potty. The first time it happened, my son was both elated and terrified; he burst into tears after first giggling with joy. We worried we'd traumatized him, but we told him it was a 'magic Pull-Up' and kept at it. After about 10 days, I said, 'You know you can do it with the magic Pull-Up, so why don't you try it without?' Success." -- Elizabeth J.

Change Potty Positions. "Turn them around on the potty to go number two. It worked for my three kids. It helps for them to see what's going on in the potty." -- Courtney G.

Make Diapers Disappear. "I said we were out of diapers and I endured the four-plus hours of on-and-off crying fits and tantrums until [my daughter] eventually grabbed her travel potty and went under the dining room table to do the deed." -- Alisa H.

Consider the Root Cause. "I think my daughter was afraid of pooping because she suffered from constipation. Once I limited her milk intake and increased her water consumption, her bowel movements became more regular and she transitioned to the potty quicker." -- Christina B.

Q: My son is completely potty trained during the day but he can't master nighttime. What do I do?

Trust the Process. "We found with both of our girls that night and naptime potty training was a process with its own timeline. Take a step back and breathe. Celebrate that your child has accomplished daytime dryness, and be patient." -- Cari S.

Don't Fight Nature. "My pediatrician told me that nighttime wetting is mostly involuntary and has everything to do with the bladder not being mature during the rapid time of growth. Be patient, put on 'nighttime undies,' and have a change of sheets ready until they grow out of it." -- Anna M.

Follow a Routine. "Wake them up to go potty before you go to sleep, don't give them drinks right before bed, and make sure they go straight to the potty in the morning." -- Courtney G.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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