Things I Wish I’d Known About Potty Training (& Why I Should’ve Gotten Pull-Ups Sooner)

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When my very busy toddler showed signs that she was ready to start potty training, I bought a potty and relied on my years as a nanny to start the potty training process. I’d seen two main approaches to potty training and I tried them both: First, I toted the potty from room to room to subtly integrate its presence into our daily life and, I hoped, inspire my daughter to use it. She was not interested. Then we went the naked route, throwing out the diapers and spending days on end inside our home, with her on a potty, waiting for a miracle. Another fail. Pretty soon, I felt like a failure as a mom. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t. It was just that my daughter needed a more thoughtful approach to potty training.

Determined to help my child use the potty with less stress and more success, I began to search for a better approach and I found it: a revolutionary potty training system developed by Pull-Ups, in partnership with Heather Wittenberg, PysD, a child psychiatrist who’s also the mom of four children. Their method starts with a quiz that tells you the best potty training approach for your child based on factors such as her personality and age. (My daughter is an Owl, determined and busy, but predictable). After I took the quiz, I received helpful advice, targeted lesson plans, and customized tips and charts. With Pull-Ups, it’s a team effort between parent and child, instead of a parent-mandated approach or a system based entirely on the whims of a toddler. If only I had discovered this unique approach to potty training sooner! Here’s what else I wish I’d known before we started the process:

1. Getting rid of the diapers is a great first step. Like a lot of moms, I felt that moving from diapers straight to underpants would be disastrous. With Pull-Ups, however, my toddler can get used to the look and feel of “big-kid” undies, while benefitting from a pant that offers ultra-absorbent protection against accidents. I’m also reassured that once she’s ready for real underwear, we’ll both know it, and the process of putting them on won’t feel unfamiliar or scary to her.

2. Potty training doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and while some of my friends’ kids got the hang of it in a few days, that isn’t the case for every child. My own daughter didn’t magically take to the potty once I placed one beside the grown-up toilet, and I quickly grew discouraged from the messages of “instant” potty training success stories cropping up all over my social media feed. Now I’ve learned to relax and take it a day at a time. Every child learns to go to the potty at a different pace!

3. Different kids require different techniques. Thanks to Pull-Ups, I now know that there are many more variables than gender and age when it comes to potty training. With this insight, things have gotten a lot easier in our household. For example, my daughter does best if I put her on the potty at certain times of day, like 15 minutes after she chugs her morning bottle of water or between lunch and her afternoon nap. Also, having potties in different areas of the home — one in our living room where we spend a great deal of time, and one in the bathroom in case she’s inspired to go when I’m using the potty – makes using the potty convenient (and stress-free) for my daughter.

4. Candy isn’t the only thing that motivates tots to use the potty. I knew parents gave candy to their children for using the potty successfully, but I wasn’t aware that other rewards could work just as well. However, I learned through the Pull-Ups partnership with Dr. Wittenberg that potty charts, stickers, and awesome Disney rewards may work just as well as a sweet treat, even for young potty users, like mine. This is great news since my daughter is a monster on sugar!

5. Potty training is a team effort. I thought potty training was about extremes – with either me leading the charge or following my daughter’s lead; but, in fact, it’s all about teamwork. Now that I have a customized potty training plan that’s based on my child’s personality type (as well as several other factors), I can work with her to achieve success. Kids need to feel that we support them and are cheering them on, and they also will thrive when given some ownership in the process. As I learned thanks to Pull-Ups, using a training pant is a sign that you’re in this together, and I know my daughter loves that feeling. I do, too.

Photo: Courtesy of Pull-Ups