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5 Tips for Effective Potty Training

Amanda has worked in a daycare setting in various roles for over 11 years and has educated parents on child-raising strategies and tips!

Potty training takes time, and you need to be ready for anything.

Potty training takes time, and you need to be ready for anything.

1. Take Your Time With Potty Training

Before you skim the headers for quick reading, read this section in its entirety. Potty training is not easy, and there is no guaranteed quick method. It's extremely important to remember that what works for some kids may not work for others, and taking your time and exploring all the available options is pivotal to successful training.

Regardless of the length of time or how many accidents your child has, it is important to remain enthusiastic and positive during this time. Your child may regress, and that's okay! Some kids may take a few months to completely potty train, while others may take a few years. They'll get there, and the experience will be better for them if they have a support system alongside them.

Potty-Training Methods


Potty Chair

Training Pants

"Naked Weekend"

Potty Insert


Child-Led Training (looking for indicators)

Regualr Toilet (no insert)


Setting a Timer

2. Find Out What Methods Work for Your Child and Family

There are so many potty-training methods that it can be hard to figure out what method works best for your child.

Potty Seat or Potty Insert?

This may not seem like a major decision, but deciding if you want to use a chair or an insert is a big one. Sometimes children may be more afraid of one or the other, and sometimes children just take to one more.

My daughter started out on a potty seat but would always have accidents. When I finally switched to a potty insert, she took to it right away and preferred it because she felt like a big girl.

Tip: Take your child to the store with you to let them pick out their own. It may help encourage your child to use it more.

Training Pants or Underwear?

Sometimes using one of these over the other can yield better results. If your child seems to know when they go and it bothers them in their diaper, training pants may be better for your child (and a lot less messy for you). But, if your child doesn't seem bothered by the mess in their diaper, underwear may be a better option. Also, don't be afraid to try a combination of both. Have your child wear underwear under their training pants to get the uncomfortable feeling or underwear over their training pants to still feel like a big kid and encourage them to use the potty.

Naked Weekend

The naked weekend has a lot of different names, but it is essentially the same potty training technique. This technique requires you to devote a set amount of time (usually a weekend) to let your child run around naked the whole time and give them free access to a potty chair. You load your child up on fluids to encourage them to pee a lot to get them used to the chair. This technique requires you to 100% dedicate your time to potty training. It requires you to stay home the whole time and not make any plans that may distract you.

Child-Led Potty Training

Child-led potty training is quite the opposite of the aggressive technique. This technique allows your child to be in charge of the pace of training. Encouraging your child is, well, encouraged, but child-led potty training is all about going at your child's comfort level.

Setting a Timer

Setting a timer is a middle-of-the-road method that allows the timer to mostly be in control of when they use the bathroom. This technique allows flexibility in schedules and can be done anywhere there is a toilet. Basically, you set a timer, and every time that timer goes off you put the child on the toilet. By setting a timer, you're hopefully timing it just right so your child goes in the toilet and you can praise them.

For more about the usefulness of timers in potty training, keep reading the next tip.

3. Use a Timer to Help Reduce Potty Accidents

Life happens and remembering to put your child on the potty can be difficult sometimes. It can be helpful to set a timer so you can concentrate on other stuff. While using your phone or smart device to set a timer can be helpful, having a kitchen timer that you can carry around (like an egg timer) can help encourage your child to stop what they are doing and go. Let your child set the timer and carry it around with them.

While I haven't tried them, they have potty watches that essentially do just that—and that your child can wear. I have heard great things about them, but haven't actually tried them myself.

Change the Timer Duration as Needed

When you are setting timers, when you are first starting out, set the timer for a shorter duration. I generally start at 30 minutes and if you know your child has to go and they don't after 30 minutes, I re-set the timer for a shorter duration until they go in the potty. Keep your child on the potty for a few minutes to ensure that they actually try and go completely before taking them off.

Once your child starts getting the hang of using the bathroom, set the timer further apart and encourage your child to learn when they have to go on their own.

Using incentives is a great way to encourage your children to use the bathroom.

Using incentives is a great way to encourage your children to use the bathroom.

4. Use Incentives to Encourage Your Child to Use the Potty

A huge motivator for kids to do anything is offering an incentive to do the thing. They behave so they don't lose privileges, eat all their dinner so they can have dessert, and they can get different prizes for using the bathroom.

  • To start, it is a good idea to give your child a small treat every time they go to the bathroom. I've used M&Ms, Skittles, and stickers with good results here. You want to use something that can be easily purchased that you don't mind them having a lot of.
  • Get some bigger ticket items like a toy car, special treat, or a special outing for when they actually go in the potty.
  • Once they start going in the potty more often, extend the time it takes for them to get a treat. Make a chart and once they fill the chart they get a special reward. Eventually, you won't need treats and incentives anymore.
Make sure that you stay encouraging and positive during this process.  It will keep your children willing to learn and grow.

Make sure that you stay encouraging and positive during this process. It will keep your children willing to learn and grow.

5. Don't Sweat the Mistakes and Accidents

My child would sit on her potty seat for a while and then immediately get up and pee everywhere. It was extremely frustrating, but I learned if I got annoyed or angry at her, she would just refuse to use the bathroom.

When you are learning something new, it is quite easy to make mistakes, especially at first. Remember that while we are rejoicing at the fact that we are in the clear to never have to buy diapers again, they are learning something extremely foreign to them. Stay as patient as you can and if the child has an accident or makes a mistake, use positive reinforcement and tones to encourage your child to try again later.

By giving your child a safe environment to make mistakes and regress at times, you are allowing them to feel comfortable to try new things and explore these new adventures that have been given to them.

If you feel like you are about to lose it, which we all do sometimes, try to wait until your child is in the other room or have someone else help take over for a little bit so you can calm down.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Amanda Brumbelow