5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Potty Training

Oh the joys of potty training! Can you sense my sarcasm? I've potty trained three boys and don't miss a single day of it. But if you're in the midst of it right now (or are thinking about jumping in), here are five tips I wish I'd known the first time around.

1. Remove all the diapers from your house. Yes, even those back-up diapers you keep in the car or shoved in the back of the closet. It’s not because your child will ask for them (which he may), it’s because when the going gets tough, you’ll be reaching for them. With my first son, we kept diapers around and inevitably went back to them when it was inconvenient for us to have a potty training child, like when we were running errands or taking long car trips. It took us almost eight months to potty training him. With my other two sons, we sent the diapers to a neighbor's house, went cold turkey over a long weekend, and the boys were pretty good within a week. Yes, that weekend was painful (So. Much. Clean-up.), but it was short.


2. Bribes don’t need to be big.  Before I started potty training, I talked with girlfriends who were already immersed in it. One friend bought her child a Matchbox car for every poop. Another promised her daughter a bowl of ice cream for every accident-free day. So we started big with the rewards, too — fruit strips, coloring books, LEGOs. It wasn’t until my second child was potty training that we realized that bigger wasn’t always better, or even necessary. We found the most effective bribe to be a simple, homemade sticker chart adorned with those metallic stars that come 200 to a pack. My son loved putting on a star for every success, and we loved that the sticker system was easy, effective, and cheap.

3. Siblings can cause setbacks. Just because your child finally "gets" potty training doesn't mean that she's potty trained for good. One friend's daughter was doing great staying dry all day…until her little brother was born. Then it was back to accidentville. Changes such as a new sibling being born, moving, a divorce, or other life events can cause your child to revert to wetting herself. Help your child work through and adapted to the new situation and the accidents will likely disappear.

4. You can't train a child out of nighttime wetting. Just like my son learned to stay dry during the day through practice, I figured staying dry at night would go much the same way. Boy, was I wrong. We tried a lot of things. Bribes and prizes, cutting off evening liquids, not giving milk at dinner (I had read that milk made kids pee more at night than water), waking him up to pee before my husband and I went to bed. Despite all my efforts, my son still wet the bed at 4-years-old even though he had no problem staying dry during the day. The doctor repeatedly told me that kids just had to "outgrow" nighttime wetting. And he was right. Within a week of my son turning 5, it all stopped on its own.

5. Nighttime undies aren't enough protection. With my first child, I foolishly figured that putting a disposable nighttime undie (as we called them) would be sufficient to catch any wetness and keep his bed dry. Whoops. There are lots of reasons you shouldn't rely solely on nighttime diapers. Some brands are less absorbent than others. The breakaway sides may break away in the middle of the night. Certain body parts may not be positioned correctly in the diaper. Although I may be stating the obvious here, mattresses are not exactly washable which means as soon as you child moves off a plastic-wrapped crib mattress onto a twin, you’ll want to invest in a waterproof mattress cover and maybe even an additional absorbency pad. You may not be able to help you child outgrow nighttime wetting any faster, but at least you can protect your mattress in the meantime.


What do you wish you had known about potty training before you started?

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