Potty Training a Toddler : What Not to Do

Updated on April 29, 2016
ThePracticalMommy profile image

Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.

Potty Training a Child

Learn what not to do when potty training your child.
Learn what not to do when potty training your child. | Source

Don't Forget to Get a Great Potty Seat!

The Fisher Price Cheer for Me! Potty Seat
The Fisher Price Cheer for Me! Potty Seat | Source

At What Age Do You Potty Train?

At what age did you begin potty training your toddler?

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Potty Dance!

Never Leave Training Toddlers Alone with the Potty!

 The toilet paper mummy!
The toilet paper mummy! | Source
 You don't want to save that shoe now, do you?
You don't want to save that shoe now, do you? | Source
 This is NOT a lifesaving device.....
This is NOT a lifesaving device..... | Source

Problems with Toilet Training

There are many articles on the Internet about how to train your toddler to use the potty, but what about tips of what not to do when potty training your toddler? Here’s what I learned in the process of training my son to use the potty and other obvious tips.

Don’t start too early, but don’t start too late. There are some parents out there who have their two month old sitting over a potty, waiting for him/her to just let loose and go in the potty. Yes, they use the potty, but do they understand the concept of using the potty on their own? Um, my guess would be nope. Potty training is about independence, not about marking it as an achievement milestone so other parents can be envious of your rad parenting skills. On the other hand, you don’t want to start the training process too late either. Do you want to change a bombed out diaper created by an outlandishly active three year old? Trust me; you don’t. The average age to start potty training is around 18 months. Why? The toddler has the ability to move on his/her own, to pull pants up and down, to realize what’s happening in the body and to possibly verbalize the need to go.

Don’t make potty training a chore. If potty training is going to be like a harsh boot camp, the likelihood that a toddler will be successful is zero to none. Instead of being meanie drill sergeant barking orders, try being an enthusiastic coach instead. Make potty training something a toddler would want to do versus something he/she has to do. Learn the potty dance from Huggies and practice it with your toddler. Encourage her/him to do the business with a fun cheer: ‘Push it out, shove it out, waaaaayyyy out!’ (You’ll understand some day when your child refuses to go….A parent has to do what a parent has to do.)

Don’t forget to teach your toddler about the tools needed to go potty. This one may sound weird, but it’s necessary. Basically, you show how a potty lid goes up and down, how the flushing mechanism works, how much toilet paper should be used, and where to put the toilet paper. All of this you can start showing your toddler even before you start to train her/him so that when the time is right he/she is already familiar with the tools necessary to go potty.

Do not, under any circumstances, leave a toddler completely alone when using the potty. There are several reasons for this. I’ll start with the serious one: a child can drown in under an inch of water. If your toddler uses a small potty seat on top of the regular toilet, he/she might get curious (what kid doesn’t?) and try to peek inside the toilet bowl to see what’s going on. If he/she slips in while you are not there, it could be a serious matter, one I hope no parent ever encounters.

The next reason you should never leave a toddler completely alone when using the potty is this: an artistic rendering of bodily fluids and fecal matter. ‘Hmm. I’m totally alone’ thinks the toddler. ‘What can I do with this thing I have created in my potty? Ah, yes! An artistic masterpiece. That will surely make Mommy and Daddy very proud of me!’

I’m going to leave you alone with that thought. Enough said.

The last reason you should never leave a toddler alone while using the potty is this: the trail. Say your toddler goes, excuse me, number 2 but then gets up and goes exploring while not clean. Got that image in your head? Okay, good. Let’s move on.

Potty Training for Toddlers

Happy Potty Training!
Happy Potty Training! | Source

More of What Not to Do When Potty Training Your Toddler

Don’t try too many methods all at once. Imagine this: your boss has given you an assignment, and he/she wants it done the ABC way. The next day he/she changes his/her mind and now wants everything done the DEF way. The next day he/she decides the DEF way wasn’t too bad, but that you should mix in a little of the GHI way with the DEF way. Get it? Confused? I bet. That’s how your toddler would feel if you changed potty training methods too often. Give a method (i.e. not wearing any diapers out in the yard) a week or more to work. If it doesn’t, transition to a different method (i.e. potty training charts), but be consistent with whatever method you finally choose. Which brings be to my next point….

Don’t be inconsistent with potty training. Once you decide to start, consider it a no going back moment. Remind your toddler often about using the potty (in the morning upon awakening, after his/her cup of juice, after all meals, etc.). Stick with your methods as mentioned above. If you are out and about, remind your toddler that he/she can still use the potty. If you go on vacation, keep up the training. Any time you stop the training, the toddler takes a step back and might revert to going in his/her diaper again.

Don’t forget to be a positive role model. If you are already a parent of a toddler or have a few kids, you’ll completely understand this one. There inevitably will be times when you are not alone when you are using the potty…ahem…I mean toilet. Once kids are mobile, they follow you everywhere. Since they’re there, you might as well teach them how to properly wipe down the seat (GUYS!!!) or how to immediately wash your hands after flushing.

I wish you all the luck in the world when you and your toddler decide to tackle potty training. It can be a messy business, but if you’re consistent, you’ll have a potty trained pro in no time!


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.

Questions & Answers

    Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! Thanks!

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      • Maggie.L profile image


        4 years ago from UK

        I totally agree with you about not starting too early. It can make the whole potty training process take so much longer and cause a lot of stress in the meantime. A very useful hub.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


        6 years ago from United States

        Silver731, it will happen one day when you least expect it! It seems like you are on top of things but your little guy just isn't interested. I have heard of people who, while training, would stop mentioning the potty to their kids, and then after a few days the kids would decide on their own to want to use the potty. Perhaps give that a shot?

        I hope something works out for you and your son! He'll do it when he's ready.

        Thanks for stopping by again!

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Yes, I have tried charts with stickers, I have tried rewards along with it. He loves powered donuts so I keep a box at all times and any time he goes he gets one. Problem being if he doesn't get a donut he doesn't care. So rewards do not work. He actually tells me all the things he is not getting when he goes in his pull-ups. My son is a smart and stubborn one! He usually goes poop in the morning so I sit him down on the potty and he plays games on my phone, reads books, we talk about making splash noises when the poop comes out...we do it all...he doesn't go but no more than five minutes after being off the potty he goes in his pull ups! Currently I have a timer set for every 45 mins and he has to go when it goes off. He keeps a dry diaper most of the day but it's still me telling him to go. I figure it will come sooner or later, hopefully sooner as he is set to start school in August. Thanks for the encouraging words!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


        6 years ago from United States

        Hi Silver731!

        I can understand your frustration. Have you tried using a potty training incentive chart or any other incentives? With my son, I made a chart and filled it in with stickers every time he pooped in the potty(there are a ton of charts online to print!). For the first few times, he earned a prize (lollipop, fruit snacks) for each individual sticker. After that, he had to earn 5 stickers before he could get a prize. When he completely filled in the chart, he got an even bigger prize, which was a trip to the toy store where he could use a few dollars to buy anything he wanted (of course, within reason!).

        Does your son go only certain times of the day? Make note of when he tends to go, and then knowing that you can take him to the potty at those times. For instance, if he goes in the morning after breakfast, take him to the potty then and encourage him to go. Sit him on the potty and read a book or sing some silly songs to give him some time to feel like he has to go.

        If you're consistent--key word, consistent--with any incentive or method you choose, eventually your son will poop in the potty. It can be a long process, but hang in there! Keep on asking him if he has to go and making a big deal when he is a big boy and goes potty.

        Good luck!

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        My son will be 3 in June and I am having NO luck potty training him. He only goes per when I make him go and will never go poop on the potty. I feel like I have tried everything and nothing is working!! He knows he is supposed to go in the potty as he tells me after he goes in his pull-ups. Help!!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


        6 years ago from United States

        tillsontitan, that's awesome that all of your kids were potty trained before two! A bombed out diaper of a three year old is not something to mess with--why wait that long to train (unless of course there is a valid medical reason to wait that long)? It baffles me as well.

        Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        6 years ago from New York

        I remember this well. I was very fortunate, all four of my kids were potty trained before they were two. I see so many kids today at 3 and 4 who are not yet potty trained. It makes me scratch my head and I totally agree with not wanting to change the bombed out diaper of a three year old! I hope this hub helps lots of people, sometimes just a little knowledge goes a long way. Voted up and useful.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


        6 years ago from United States

        Brainy Bunny, your last sentence had me laughing! That's why I'm glad I don't have a carpet; hardwood floors are much easier to clean. :)

        My niece is training the same way as your son. She has a brand new potty chair but she'd rather use the toddler seat on the toilet. I'm sure your daughter was just adjusting to all of the new events in her life before she could concentrate on the potty. It's hard to think about going potty when there's so much excitement going on! ;)

        Thank you for sharing your experiences!

      • Brainy Bunny profile image

        Brainy Bunny 

        6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

        Potty-training my son (in kindergarten now) was not so bad, although he refused to use a potty and would only use a toddler seat on the toilet. Our daughter (just turned 9), on the other hand, was a real challenge. We started at around 18 months, but she wasn't completely trained until her third birthday. YUCK! Of course, during that time we moved and had another baby, so there was a fair amount of upheaval for her to assimilate. I'm just glad nobody pees on my carpet anymore. :-)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


        6 years ago from United States

        sunbun143, yep, we used the Huggies Pull-Ups. They're fun for the kids because they're like underwear with fun designs but they catch any accidents. I have used the Target brand as well, and they work well during the day but not so much at night. Good luck! :) Thanks for stopping by again!

      • sunbun143 profile image


        6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

        Great tips thank you! He is such a finicky eater that some meals are so small...I think I will try after dinner and go from there. We also have some pull-ups that we have been waiting to try, but maybe we'll just go for it. Btw...got the pull-ups for free from the huggies rewards program (I won their mini sweepstakes). Do you do those?

      • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


        6 years ago from United States

        sunbun143, the stealth bomber, eh? :D Does he go during a particular part of the day, i.e. after lunch? Your best bet is to sit him on the potty after any eating times, and after nap times to get him used to sitting on the potty, even if he doesn't go. Other times, watch out for a face he makes (scrunched up, like my daughter before she....) or if he suddenly walks off to be by himself. Catch him in the act and sit him right on the potty. Training for #2 takes longer than training for #1, so be patient. It'll happen when he's ready. Good luck! Thanks for reading! :)

      • sunbun143 profile image


        6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

        Haha...and ewww. So true about no more private bathroom time, at least not in my household. We've been modeling our potty time for our toddler for quite some time now (he's 28 mths old) but he does not let us know when he needs to go. He's like a stealth bomber...we only know after the fact! So how do we catch him in time to direct him to the potty seat?


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