Let me start this by saying I am by no means an expert. I’m not a pediatrician or a urologist and I do not have a degree in child psychology. What I am is a mother who has 5 children age 7 and under, of both genders, that have all been potty trained by age 2. So while I’m not an expert, this is fresh in my skill set and I’ve been around the block a few times!
Every child is different. All 5 of mine have had very different potty training needs. This is not a list of hard and fast rules, this is a list of what has worked collectively for all of my kids so may be helpful to others.
1. Know when your child is physically ready. No matter what you do your kiddo will never be potty trained if their brain and bladder are not physically ready. Potty training requires the bladder to wait to void. Usually around 18m is when I notice that my kids are waking up in a dry diaper meaning their bladder is capable of holding it for 10+ hours. They also need to understand the feeling of needing to void.
2. Know when your child is mentally ready. This one is a little trickier than the physical signs of readiness. Does your toddler know when they have a dirty diaper? Do they tell you they want you to change their diaper? Can your toddler communicate with you enough to at least say pee pee or potty or some word to let you know they need to go? When my youngest 2 were about 18-20m and I knew they were physically ready I tried both of them on a little potty and they were completely against it, just cried and wouldn’t even sit down. They weren’t mentally ready yet so I shelved potty training for a few months and revisited it later.
3. Skip Pull-Ups. No Pull-ups, ever! Don’t come for me with pitch forks but this one actually is a hard and fast rule. Pull-ups are a crutch. Toddlers don’t understand the difference between pull ups and a diaper. It’s confusing and they will likely go in a pull up just like a diaper. I had been told this before and had read not to use pull-ups but I still tried them anyway with my first and that was just a bad idea. I never used pull-ups again and the rest of my kids were way easier.
4. Figure out how your child wants to potty. This is more for girls than boys because boys are pretty easy and can whip it out basically anywhere. 2 of my girls were complete opposites from each other. One of them was terrified of the big toilet and would only use a little potty chair when she first started. The other hated the potty chair and refused to sit on it, she only wanted to sit on the big toilet. The latter was much easier because cleaning those little potty chairs is such a pain.
5. Spend a weekend at home and ditch the diapers for good. This is my best piece of advice and has helped me the most with all my kids. Once I know they are “ready” I take away the diapers and don’t look back. For all 5 of my kids this has been around 22-26 months old. We spend about 3 days not leaving the house and only focusing on going potty. You will probably have to clean up some accidents especially the first day but this is the quickest way. I seriously mean ditch the diapers. Take them away the day you start and do not give them back, not even for naps or bedtime. This should not be an issue if your child’s already been sleeping with dry diapers. I don’t do underwear or panties until we get past these first several days because I’ve found they treat underwear like diapers too and will just go in them. We just stay home for a couple days and they figure it out. You will need to ask the child every 30 minutes or so if they need to go potty but it really only takes a couple days before they’re rockstars at it! This method has REALLY worked well for us. For example with #4 I took her diapers away and 5 days later we went to Disney World for a week and she didn’t have one single accident. With #5 I took his diapers away & we spent all day at church 4 days later where he went on the big toilets there multiple times with no accidents.
You know your child & your family’s needs best! Only you can decide what works or doesn’t work for you! Feel free to ask questions or leave tips that have worked for you in the comments!