Getting Started

Here are some things to consider if you are just getting started with potty training.


Read my blog for more information and subscribe so that you don’t miss future posts!



If you have a young child and are just starting to think about potty training, you are in the “Interest-Building” or “Readiness-Creation” stage. Child readiness isn’t something you should sit back passively and wait for. You can be doing things to help generate their interest. Read any readiness checklist and you’ll realize some of these things are learned behaviors. I have known parents who sit passively waiting for their child to seem ready for potty training, only to have a 4-year old child on their hands who still doesn’t want to give up diapers.

Examples: 1) Many children don’t start to help take their pants down on their own, you have to solicit their help. Teach a child how to loop their thumbs in the waistband and push down. 2) Children don’t have words for pee and poop and pottying unless you teach them those words. Figure out which words you want to use and make sure every time you’re doing a diaper change you’re using the appropriate words.

Talk about sisters, brothers, cousins and friends who use the potty. Explain that his/her favorite characters use the potty, too!  “Did you know Elmo puts his poop in the potty!  Dora too!  I’m so proud of them”

Explain to your child what you are doing when you’re on the toilet. Don’t be afraid to show the child.  Have him/her help you flush.

Bring out the potty with no pressure. You don’t need to make a child sit on it. Tell the child that one day they will use that potty for their pee and poop, and explain how excited you are that he/she is growing up.  Bringing the potty out before you plan to start using it also helps the novelty wear off.  Some kids like to take out the removable bowl, carry it around the house, and wear it like a hat.  This gets really frustrating when you are in the thick of potty training, so it’s best to get this over with early on.

I recommend while changing diapers ot specifically say things like, “oh, you’re wet, you peed, time to get a dry diaper”.  Work on teaching the concept of wet vs. dry when it comes to towels, washcloths, and laundry (during the normal course of your day).  Also, if you’re the type of person that makes diaper changes fun by singing songs and goofing off, you may need to start toning down the comedy show.  Diaper time is bonding time and some children love the attention they get at the changing table.  You soon need to make the potty the place where all of the fun and attention happens.  Diaper changes are boring!

Ready to Potty Train

Once you’ve decided that there are enough signals from your child to indicate it’s time to move forward with potty training, do you and your child a favor and proceed with a well-thought-out plan.

Introducing the Potty or Potty Seat

  • Well before you plan to start “active training” (2 weeks to 2 months) bring out the potty or potty seat and tell your child what it is for. Tell him/her that one day, he/she will put poop and pee in there, just like mommy and daddy (and their big sister or brother, if applicable). Tell the child that soon he/she will be a “big boy” or a “big girl”.
  • Start having your child sit there clothed so that they get comfortable with it. Then try diaper or naked sitting sessions if they are open to it. Some people transition to having a short sit before bath time and around the same time as diaper changes. Even if your child doesn’t use the potty, praise him/her for sitting there, flush the toilet, and wash hands afterwards. Don’t expect your child to just suddenly start peeing there. This learning takes time and direction.
    • Never force your child to sit if he/she is scared or puts up a fight. If the child seems scared, try having their favorite doll or bear also sit on the potty. “Look, I think bear needs to go potty!”
    • The length of time he/she sits isn’t important. 30 seconds is fine if that’s all you can get. Some kids will sit for 30 minutes if you let them. Personality plays a role here. Some kids just don’t want to stop to sit anywhere for very long.
  • Read books about the potty. There are lots of good options available if you search on Amazon or look at your local bookstore. There are also lots of DVDs and Apps that your child might find interesting.
  • Continue to teach your child to assist with undressing themselves if they don’t do this already. For example, say “help mommy take your pants down”, hook their thumbs under the pants waistband, and guide their hands.
  • If your child is in disposable diapers and has never seen what poop looks like, know that they may be scared of it when they first see it.  Before trying to get them to use the potty, it’s a good idea to show the child what poop looks like.  Start putting poop from the diaper into the toilet and having them flush it.  Tell the child “poop goes in the potty”.  It can also help to show them when you use the toilet and have the child help you flush.


The Countdown

  • Who else interacts with your child? Daycare, nannies and grandparents all have to be on the same page about potty training and for best results, use the same approach. You may have the least flexibility in a daycare center, so talk to them well in advance about their rules as well as advice
  • Make sure you are choosing a time when your child is relatively agreeable. This means no major teething episodes or viruses, and preferably a generally agreeable and open attitude. Moodiness comes and goes with toddlers so it’s hard to find a “sweet spot” sometimes.
  • Decide what method you are going to use. My recommended approach involves a “Potty Whiz Weekend” dedicated to active training (preferably 3 days), where you cancel other plans and distractions, put your child in underwear (or bare bum if you prefer), and stay very close to your child (arm’s length) so that you can teach them: 1) when they are peeing, 2) that they have the ability to stop it, and 3) that they also have the ability to prevent it before it happens and run to the potty in time to avoid an accident. You have to be ready to stick to your child like glue so that you can see an accident the second it starts to happen. Being able to provide that instant feedback is what will help him/her learn quickly.
    • A child in disposable diapers may literally not know when they are peeing. A child who is used to cloth diapers may have an advantage here.
  • Do a diaper countdown. If you are using disposables, for example, literally show the child that there are fewer and fewer diapers and when they are all gone (this coming Friday, for example), he/she will get underwear
  • If you are going this route, do you have enough underwear? Some kids will soil 20+ on their first training day of active training, and half that on the second day.



  • Do you have a plan? Healthy children over 22 or 24 months (depending on which study you read) are physically able to stay dry at night. Some children may be able to have bladder control and sleep through the full night, while others might require a potty visit or two. I recommend children under 24 months be trained for daytime first, while using cloth trainers, or disposable training pants at night. Read my blog on disposable training pants, which covers some of the downsides of using them. Please ensure that you call them “night underwear” or something and make sure your child views them differently than a diaper. Change your child standing up, don’t store them in the same place you did diapers (e.g. a bin under the changing table)
  • If your child starts to wake dry from naps 50% of the time, I recommend moving to cloth trainers or underwear for naps and then set the expectation that the child needs to stay dry. Healthy children at this age do not pee in their sleep, so if your child is wet when you get them up from a nap, know that they have peed during an awake time (e.g. mid-nap they woke up and peed, or they woke from their nap and you didn’t get to them quickly for a potty trip)



  • You have a lot of options for a reward system: sticker charts, hugs and high 5’s, family dance party, candy/treats, TV or phone/tablet time
  • At first you may want to reward actual use of the potty. Most children will get the concept and be able to void, even just a little bit of pee, whenever they or you prompt a trip to the potty.
    • Once this happens, you want to change up your reward system because it isn’t using the potty that will be an issue, it will be staying dry between potty trips that you need to work on. Do “dry checks”, where you check the child’s underwear and congratulate him/her for being dry, or give a treat. You will want to alternate potty prompts (“come and use the potty before bath time”), with dry checks (“good job, you’re dry. Don’t forget to listen to your body and tell me when you need to use the potty”)
    • During “Potty Whiz Weekend”, a mix of prompts and dry checks is appropriate, but relatively quickly you want to pass responsibility for staying dry to your child, and do less and less prompting. They need to learn to recognize their own bodily functions are about to happen and run to the potty themselves or ask you for help. They will not do this if you keep putting them on the potty on a schedule. Many children struggle with initiating on their own, and it’s usually because their potty training was a heavily scheduled ordeal.
    • Other changes to your reward system might be special treats for pooping in the potty, if that is a struggle, or rewards only if the child initiates use of the potty. Your “Potty Plan” needs to constantly evolve as your child learns and grows



  • Accidents are part of the learning process and you need to take a deep breath and react calmly. Having your own expectations in check is important. Read my blog about “diaper training“, which talks about how you have actually been potty training your child for a long time… you’ve been teaching them to go in their diaper! That can’t be undone without a little bit of work and a few messy days of learning.  Think about how hard it is to break a bad habit, and the replace it with a new habit.  Potty training is the same concept.
  • If your child gets upset, tell him/her that accidents happen, and next time they will try harder to get to the potty in time
  • Make sure any poop accidents end up in the toilet and have your child do the flushing.  Say “bye bye poop”.
  • It’s not necessarily the number of accidents that will determine if you’re making progress. Accidents should follow a predictable pattern.


I hope the tips above have been helpful.  A good plan, and lead-up to potty training will help set both you and your child up for success.  After the introduction period, I recommend setting aside a dedicated “Potty Whiz Weekend” to ditch diapers and teach your child a new normal.

I’d appreciate any comments or questions that you have and I will answer them all.


Skip to comment form

  1. Karen

    There are a lot of great tips here – thank you for sharing for ideas and experiences!

    Do you have any experience with transitioning to daycare, and ensuring things continue to go well once a dedicated training weekend is over? I’m really nervous about daycare. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. PW

      Thanks for visiting! I’m glad you found this site helpful.

      The transition to daycare is tricky. Is your child in a home-based daycare or a more structured center? Have you talked to the caregiver(s) yet about how they normally approach potty training?

      Centers are generally a little less flexible than a home care situation (because of the caregiver to child ratio, and more restrictions/rules), but that’s not always the case. Some centers will allow underwear only after the child is relatively accident free, while others will tell you to bring in 8-10 pairs of underwear and pants and they’ll deal with accidents if they happen in the learning/training process. Some centers will work with you on your potty training approach, and others will follow their own approach (e.g. put your child on the potty every hour).

      It is important to talk to the caregiver(s) up front and start to work out a plan. For example, if you do dry checks and want your child to initiate potty visits instead of being scheduled to go, this is an important topic to discuss with your daycare. If their approach is vastly different from yours, try to work out a compromise so the child isn’t completely confused of the expectations.

      Let me know if this helps or if you have any more specific questions.

      1. Karen

        My son goes to a licensed center. I will talk to them tomorrow and see what they say.
        A blog with daycare tips would be very helpful!

        1. PW

          Thanks for suggesting a blog related specifically to daycare tips. Adding other caregivers into the mix can be confusing for our little potty trainees. I will post with some tips and tricks that may help parents.

  2. Erin

    Hello- I am just over 2 weeks into training my daughter (19 months) and I wanted to give you an update. Last Thursday after I emailed you she had a GREAT day! It was the first day where it seemed like it clicked for her and she only had 3 accidents (better than her normal 12-15/day). She started initiating by saying, “uh-oh” and running to the potty or crying/pointing at her bottom.She hasn’t had a poop accident since week 1-those were a lot easier for her to get a hang of.
    This weekend we were out of town (9 hours away) and she didn’t have any accidents Friday. Saturday and Sunday she had 2 accidents each (and then an “accident” in her diaper on the trip home but she was sleeping/waking up a lot-it was late at night-and we haven’t night trained yet)
    I was worried about this morning since she got such little sleep last night from the trip and she’s had one accident but three successes. Last week this time I thought it was hopeless and now she seems to be getting it.
    Some things that I did change during that time was her reward from raisins to goldfish crackers (that she doesn’t even want anymore), I started saying “no-no pee goes in the potty” instead of “uh-oh pee goes in the potty” (not sure if that made a difference in her understanding) and I made her start cleaning up (which I was originally worried she would enjoy because she likes cleaning spills but she really doesn’t like going near her pee).
    We still have some major issues with outside time. She has yet to initiate to go to the bathroom while outside and she doesn’t get as upset about being soiled when she is outside. So I think that’s our next battle to tackle.
    Thanks for all your help.

    1. PW


      I was so happy to see this update from you. The fact that she has started initiating is great. She has connected the dots from the feeling she gets BEFORE she has to pee, and can notify you that it’s time for a potty visit.

      It’s great that she got a handle on poop so quickly! Some kids really struggle with that, for weeks or months after being essentially pee trained.

      For some kids, having to participate in clean-up causes a big step forward in training. Some kids find the clean-up process fun, so parents may need to be ready to change things up a bit.

      How have you been trying to tackle outside time?

  3. Erin

    Well, we’re still having the same number of accidents a day 2-3 usually (which I think is easier than diapers unless we’re out of the house). We haven’t had much time outside since the weather has been bad and I’m not really sure how I will change what I am currently doing to make her understand it more. I’m not sure if she sees the dog going pee outside so often that she’s confused or if she is enjoying her time too much to stop or if she’s too shy to go pee in the middle of our yard on the potty chair. I may bring a book outside with us and sit her on the potty every 15 minutes or so (unless there’s a tantrum because I don’t want to force it) and do that until she gets the hang of it…thoughts?
    She’s also started trying to go to the potty whenever she wants my attention (ie while I’m cleaning the kitchen) she will run up to me saying “uh-oh” and holding her bottom but when we get to the potty she will just point at books or sit happily (clearly not trying to go to the bathroom) It’s been making me really frustrated and I don’t know what to do about it. I have been taking her whenever she says she has to go, I’ll read one or two pages of a book or just sit next to her if she’s been doing it a lot and then go back to what I’m doing. She’ll literally walk from the potty to where I am and do the same thing again.
    Also, her two accidents she had today she had initiated with “uh-oh” and I asked “do you have to go potty” which she responded “NO!” so I didn’t bring her and she had an accident a minute later. I’m not sure how to change her initiation word (because she also says it if she drops something or if a cupboard door is left open, etc) or what to do if she initiates but then doesn’t want to go. Thanks for all your help!

    1. PW

      If she suggests that she has to go to the bottom by holding her bottom or saying uh-oh, I would stop ASKING her if she has to go, because with a lot of kids, the answer is “no” even when they truly have to go. I don’t think my youngest ever said “yes” to that question. The “uh-oh” was an instinct / immediate reaction to a feeling that she feels. If I heard uh-oh or saw her holding herself, I would immediately say “your body is telling you it’s time to pee, let’s go” and take her hand and lead her to the potty. After she pees, I would say ‘thank you for listening to your body”.

      With my youngest we changed the verbiage to “don’t wet your underwear, tell me when you have to visit the potty”. After a couple of days his initiation words became “don’t wet”, and he would grab himself. I realized he was telling himself “don’t wet your underwear” and would walk him to the potty any time I heard that.

      As for outside, you can try to get her comfortable with using a potty outside (books, bubbles, activities to entice her to sit), but I think trying to have her sit every 15 minutes is a bit too much and she might rebel from being told to “try”. You have a child who is initiating, and depending on temperament, trying to put a schedule in place for “trying” can undo her ability to initiate. The subconscious thought-process is “why should I listen to my body when mom is going to tell me when it’s time to pee”. Right after a successful potty visit inside, I’d move outside to play. Depending on how long she normally holds it, try to prompt her to potty outside (after 30 minutes or so) in a sneaky way with something like “sit here on the potty while mommy gets the bubbles so we can play bubbles!” If the outside potty isn’t working after a couple of days, abandon it and instead try to get her to understand that going inside to pee is okay, and she can come back outside after. You may have to model the behavior. “Mommy, has to pee, let’s run inside real quick. Can you help me? We’ll come right back outside after”. Some kids think going inside to pee might mean playtime is over. With a little encouragement and modeling, she might get comfortable.

      Good luck – keep me posted!

  4. Erin

    So, she is down to 1-2 accidents a day. She’s also had 2 accident free days (but some days with 3 accidents…average of 1 accident a day I’d say).
    Today has been really off. She’s been initiating a lot without actually going and has had 2 bowl movements before lunch which is very unusual. She used to get a sticker and a goldfish cracker every time she went and I’ve been trying to wean her off the goldfish cracker so I hope that today isn’t her rebelling against that.
    Her accidents are always right before bed or when we are outside or at a store. The right before bed ones I should just try to remind her because I know she is tired and I’m reading her stories (chapter books) and she is walking around/playing with stuffed animals and I should just make an effort to remind her.
    I haven’t been good about putting her on every 1/2 hour while outside…I just forget. I do try to put her on when we get to a park/store etc. She did initiate the first time while outside yesterday but she didn’t go until I had my husband run inside and grab a book to read to her (note to self-always bring a book).
    I ordered a collapsible potty chair/potty insert yesterday and it should be here on Saturday. I’m just trying to figure out what is going wrong when we are at the stores. She does initiate. I take her to the bathroom and it’s like she has no clue what we’re doing in there. We leave and get 100 feet from the bathroom and she’s initiating again. We’ll do that 5 or 6 time and then she’ll have an accident. I’ve been thinking it’s because we normally bring her potty insert to stores instead of her potty chair but we’ve brought the whole chair sometimes without luck also. It might also be the lack of book that is throwing her off because she really does love a book while doing her business. I’ll just have to try a few things and see what works for her. It also might just be the new bathroom-even in family bathrooms she is so distracted with all the new things to look at that I think she has a hard time concentrating on going.
    Every step of the journey I’ve felt like she’s at a stand still and I don’t know what to do to keep her progressing but she makes it through just fine. I feel like this is the last hump to get over-so hopefully I have a potty trained little one soon.

    1. PW

      Thanks for stopping by with an update, Erin!

      Accidents at the end of the day when a child is tired are nomal. That was the hardest part of the day for my youngest. I tried reminding him a couple of times in the evening that he had an amazing accident-free day… “yay, you’re such a big boy. You’re in the same underwear you put on this morning”! He seemed to find some motivation not to have an accident, and of course I had to remind myself to prompt him a little more “you’ve had NO accidents today, yay! Do you need to use the potty?”

      It’s funny how some kids just need something to distract or relax themselves on the potty. A book or toy, a parent’s phone… this is very common. We keep a couple of mini books in our bag and they go with us everywhere. Try keeping a few books with you to fight against the distraction of a new bathroom. Also try letting her explore the room a bit before you put her on the toilet. With my youngest, it started to help when we visited familiar predictable bathrooms because they stopped investigating the place after a few visits. E.g. the family restroom at our local mall, the restroom at our local grocery store, the family restroom at the indoor gym where we played once a week all winter, etc.

      Which collapsing potty chair / seat insert did you purchase? We have tried several different ones. We usually use a portable seat insert on a public toilet, but today we were glad we had our Potette with us as there wasn’t a clean bathroom nearby. I put up the gate on my SUV and my youngest peed in the back. We tied up the bag, tossed it, and went back to having fun. I know a lot of folks do this right before visiting a grocery store or restaurant, as it’s familiar and clean and the child “releases” quicker than when in an unfamiliar restroom. Maybe your daughter would be more familiar with this than with public restrooms, even in the short term?

      Good luck – your daughter has made so much progress. You’ll get through this last hurdle soon 🙂

      1. Erin

        We also have the potette which I tried to use in the freestand mode but she seems to prefer it as an insert when we are out….it will be nice when we travel to have the option to stop by the road though. It also folds up much smaller than my insert I got at Target with handles. Sadly we have just a standard compact car and over out last road trip she would NOT go with it sitting on the seat. She’s gone once or twice with it just next to the car but it is definitely preferred to find a bathroom. a minivan would be great.
        We have had some MAJOR regression in the past couple of days. She was down to 1 accident a day regularly (usually when we were outside or at a store) and it seems like she’s totally flipped! She now does fine at the stores (yay, potette) and somewhat fine outside but she is having MAJOR issues in the house. Today she’s had 7 accidents (all pee she still is a rockstar with her poop) . After lunch she drank a lot of water and just had 3 huge accidents almost right in a row. She also soaked through her diaper at nap time which has only happened a hand full of times. I have just noticed that she get’s really clingy and wants to be held before she has an accident but don’t want to start initiating for her. This is a new revelation and I’m thinking that I should just remind her to tell me if she has to use the potty??
        -is it normal to regress before/during progress in other areas like the going at the stores thing?
        -this morning she initiated when we were outside and I noticed two tiny drops in her underwear. I’ve read about them starting to test how long they can hold it and having more accidents at that stage. Could she be trying to figure out how long to hold it? I guess the reason I don’t really think this is the case is that it seems like when she does have an accident it’s a full blown thing….nothing left to put in the potty
        -I had totally weaned her off the goldfish cracker reward but started using it again with all these accidents….is that wise?
        -She seems like she just started her 2 yr molar teething and if it’s anything like her other teeth this will not be a short lived ordeal. We’re talking months of cranky, overtired kid. Is this going to affect her potty training the whole time? or will it be something that she learns how to live with?
        -Along the same lines, her dad also just left for the Army and will be gone for 6 weeks, we’ll be taking a 2 week vacation after that and then he’s gone for another 4 weeks… there a rule of thumb on how long change affects kids potty training for? I feel like change is just a part of our lives and if it’s constantly affecting her potty training then we will not ever be done with this!
        -and finally possibly a crazy question. We’re able to skype with her dad almost every night while he’s away and I’ve been keeping him updated on her progress and the last couple of nights he’s told her to “remember to go on the potty and tell mommy when you have to go.” Is her getting attention from him about the potty something that could make her regress?? Kind of along the lines of kids acting up to get their parents attention.
        I feel silly asking all these questions but I just want to get to the root of our apparent issue.
        Thanks for all your help. I love your advice and the fact that you give it freely.

        1. PW

          Hi Erin,

          Overall it seems to be going well. Keep reminding yourself that regressions are normal and all of these are just little hurdles on your journey.
          When she had the huge accidents right in a row, was there anything else going on (new distractions, or constipation – a full rectum can cause pee accidents because it presses on the bladder wall)?

          Use potty reminders but try to avoid telling her to use the potty or asking if she has to go. Try: “don’t forget… tell me if you need to pee”. You can also use more subtle reminders to avoid coming off as a nag, such as “mommy needs to pee… can you come help me flush?” See if she wants to go first or after once you’re in the bathroom together. Also, talking on the phone with someone in front of your daughter about the potty can be a trigger and also show her how proud you are, like “grandma, Susie has been using the potty like a big girl all day, I’m so proud”

          When a child is trying to test their bladder limits and has an accident, it tends to be a big one because the bladder is so full that it is hard to stop the flow. This “testing” phase usually only lasts a few days, and ultimately results in the child having stronger bladder control.

          With rewards, I wouldn’t use a reward-per-potty at this stage, because you know she can use the potty. Try a reward for staying dry /no accidents all morning, and another reward for staying dry / no accidents all afternoon. You can also reward dry checks, but not too frequently.

          The teething can absolutely affect her potty training, because it’s a distraction and it may impact her mood. Same goes for her dad being away for extended periods. But don’t assume things will go poorly. The potty is her “new normal” and she has done really well so far. Setbacks might be really short lived… there is no “rule of thumb”. Just remember to be extra patient and calm with her. If she’s having trouble listening to her body due to teething or missing her dad, tell her that you understand. Ask her to try harder next time to listen to her body and give her a big hug.

          Lastly, kids can absolutely have accidents if it results in more attention. Make sure to shower her with praise when she does well, and with accidents be very matter-of-fact and brief in your comments. Don’t drag it out, and don’t have other people address accidents with her if you already have.

          Best of luck! I hope you will continue to keep me posted 🙂

          1. Erin

            Okay-it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Things are going MUCH better the last week or so. She has had 2 accident free days (except she woke up wet from nap on Monday and she was wearing underwear). I think that her life was very upset from her Dad leaving and she was getting more attention (bad attention but still attention) from accidents than the potty. I noticed I was on the computer a lot more checking on how he was doing so I have tried to make an effort to initiate play with her more during the day. I do sometimes see her doing a potty dance and insist that she sit down if it’s been more than 2 hours since she’s gone. Sometimes she fights this but she almost always pees when this happens.
            Question: Should I stop these initiations? It’s once every couple of days at home and once(ish) a day when we are out in public and she is whiny. I read on the BBC board when we first started training that I should never initiate and let her learn that if she doesn’t tell me she’ll have an accident. I just worry that she gets distracted and/or thinks she won’t be able to come back to play/talking to her dad on the computer/etc.
            I’m still worried that she will regress like this with every change she sees in life and with her Dad being in the Army and in Grad school and a new baby coming there is change all the time.
            And another question: She still uses the potty for “fun” sometimes. When we’re out at stores she asks to go potty multiple times and when I’m doing housework or cooking it’s a constant “uh-oh” (which is her initiation word) I have been taking her once or twice and then telling her that if she has to go she’ll have to hold it since we’ve already tried a couple times and that I’ll take her when I’m finished. Is that okay? or should I keep taking her whenever she initiates. My husband is worried that it will make her feel like she has less control and that I don’t think her word matters. Thanks for all your help!

          2. PW

            Yay for accident-free days!!

            Initiating play with her and giving her your undivided attention several times during the day is critical given what she is going through with her dad leaving and a new baby on the way. This fills her “bucket” with love, support and helps build her self-esteem.

            When you notice that she’s dancing… What I say is “your body is telling you it’s time to pee. Let’s go put peepee in the potty, and then we can come back to play”. I try not to PUT him on the potty, but instead PROMPT him to go there. If my son is holding a small toy or book I let him bring it with him. If what he’s doing isn’t portable (big block tower) I reassure him that we’ll come right back to it. He tells the cat not to touch it while he’s gone! There is a Potty Time app by the folks who do Baby Signing Time. We did signing with my LO before he could talk. The Potty Time DVD, book and app are great. I mention the app because you may want to consider getting it, and then (I think for $1) buying 1 of the optional videos – it’s called “Stop & Go”. The entire song is about stopping what you’re doing and running to the potty. There are cartoon characters, a cute frog, and real kids who suddenly need to pee and run to the bathroom. I think this made a world of difference with my son’s ability to drop what he’s doing and go back to it afterwards. Especially for things like playing in the backyard. I think he thought that if he came in to pee, he wouldn’t be allowed to go back out.

            For the “fun” potty trips… If it’s possible that she needs to poop (e.g. always poops once a day and hasn’t pooped yet), know that a full rectum can place pressure on the bladder and cause lots of little pee accidents or false-starts (feeling like she needs to pee, but nothing comes out). I say this because my approach for the multiple annoying trips to the potty depends on whether this might be the cause. If my LO hasn’t pooped yet or might be constipated (daycare causes this for us sometimes), I allow more trips, and ask if he needs to poop. The other time when you need to trust the child and go multiple times if necessary is for a child in the early stages of potty training who is still learning to relax and release. If these two things are likely NOT part of the issue, I am more firm. If he’s not producing, we get off the pot and we don’t keep going back and forth. If we were just there and he didn’t produce, 5 minutes later we’re not going back. The same goes for bedtime. A lot of smart kids start to use potty visits to delay bedtime. We visit the potty and then get ready for bed. If he asks to go again, I say “okay, one more time, and then the potty needs a rest”. We use “needs a rest” for all kinds of things (when the tv or the iPad need to to go off for a little while, daddy after playing horsey for 20 minutes, the cat after being chased around for 20 minutes).

            Hope this helps 🙂

          3. Erin

            So, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated. She went 6 days straight accident free last week. Than she had 2 accidents Tuesday, 1 Thursday and she just had one today (Sunday). She also woke up dry one morning this week which she’s never done before-usually she’s totally soaked. Her naps have been fine. She wants to wear underwear during them and I let her but she has about 2-3 days a week where she wakes up with soiled sheets.
            I’ve gotten frustrated with her increased accidents this week but am trying not to make it a big deal. Hopefully she’s just testing her limits.
            This coming week we’re picking up her dad at the airport late on Friday and driving on a 20 hour road trip to a family reunion-driving straight through the night. I’m worried about the car ride. Not sure if I should put a diaper on her before we leave for the airport, which will already be after her bedtime?? (She goes to bed at 7 and we’re leaving for the airport at 8) We will be at the airport for over an hour and I don’t think she should be in a diaper the whole time, but it will be 3 hours past her bedtime by the time we leave. The actual car ride I’m worried since she’s been using potty breaks to get out of things (bedtime, waiting for others to finish meals) or when she’s bored (sitting in the stroller).
            We’ll be gone for 2 weeks, when we get home her dad goes back to a weekend training, than we’re home for 1 week, than we go on another road trip (24 hour drive) for a week and when we get home her dad will be gone for another 4 weeks of training, 4 weeks after he’s home (going to grad school full-time and working full-time) our 2nd baby is due. In there somewhere we are possibly moving. I really hope that she doesn’t regress with every change coming her way.
            I started giving her one chance to go to the bathroom in each store/place we are at unless we’re there for more than an hour. When she asks to go after that I tell her “We already tried, you’re just going to have to wait.” She’s still bothering me with potty trips just because she wants me to read to her. And speaking of the reading, I’m getting really (really) sick of having to read a book EVERY time she has to pee. Especially when we’re out an about. How/when do I start weaning her off of this. She literally won’t go unless I have a book open. If I don’t she’ll throw a fit-especially if she does have to pee.

          4. PW

            Erin – thanks for stopping by with an update!

            6-accident free days is amazing. Congrats to you and your daughter!

            For the naps, where intermittent accidents happen:
            -are they big/full accidents, or small releases?
            -do you get to her right when she wakes from her nap, or does she roll around a bit first? Most nap accidents happen during wakeful periods (sleep cycle changes, where a child is half awake and changes positions and goes back to sleep), or upon waking if left on their own for a little bit before you get them up for a potty trip.
            -do you have or can you purchase a cloth trainer that’s a bit thicker? Or use the plastic underpants that go over underwear? These are just to minimize messes and minimize your own frustration with soiled bedding, but she will still feel wet (which is critical).

            The Friday airport visit is a tough one. You could do this in a variety of ways. Do you think she’ll sleep on the way to the airport and at the airport? I would personally put her in underwear with plastic pants, a pullup, or a diaper over top. If she’s awake and has an accident, she feels wet which is important, so you would change her at the airport and treat it like any daytime accident (but with a lot of understanding because she is probably super tired from being past her bedtime). If she sleeps the whole time, fine. Then for the car ride you’re protected with the “backup” on top of the underwear, but if she wakes up she will feel wet.

            If you plan to use any “backup” during long day time car rides, I prefer plastic pants and/or piddle pads in the car seat instead of diapers and pullups. Potty trained / potty training children can sometimes reject having a diaper on (that’s for babies!) and get really angry or frustrated. The other possibility is she could realize, “okay fine, potties are optional, I can just use my diaper instead of telling you when I have to use the potty, this is way easier!”. And then you’ve got a HUGE regression on your hands.

            As for the fact that she needs a book every time she uses the bathroom, try to be understanding. Relaxation is tough and some children need the distraction for a little while. She’s still very new at this. Some moms would be so happy to have their child be trained to the point yours is! I say that because it’s important to keep things in perspective. That said, maybe what I did with my son will work for you: try to transition it from a distraction (before peeing) to a reward (after peeing). You want her to be able to relax and release without the book, eventually. With my son I told him he could have his book or my phone AFTER he peed. Then we would sit for a minute and I would follow through on my promise. He was frustrated the first few times I did it, but then started releasing quickly on his own because he knew that’s when he’d get what he wanted. Now he needs a distraction for pooping, once a day, which I don’t mind.

            Sorry for the long response but I hope something in here is helpful to you! Good luck with all of the adventures you have in front of you over the coming weeks and months.

  5. Tricia

    Hi! I found your blog off of a comment you made on the BBC potty training board and I need MAJOR help! Here is our background:

    We started potty training our daughter when she was 15 no the old. (July 2012) We did the bare bum method and at the end of day 2, she was in undies and I initiating trips to the potty for pees. She got poop down at 16 months. Her accidents averaged about once or twice a week and gradually reduced to about once a month or two at 18 months. After 18 months, I noticed her one accident every 2 months were followed with a few days of wet spots in her undies, but nothing more. I later realized these happened during growth spurts. It made sense. From day one, Erin was still in a diaper at night. In the beginning she would have dry nights for a week, then start calling for us to take her at night. Then, she got sick and started wettingher diaper. My night time plan was to wait for her to be dry all night for two weeks then switch to undies at night. After she was well, she went back to calling for us, then regressed again at night when we went on vacation. Upon our return, she never I itiated at night anymore nor did she keep her diaper dry. At Christmas time (20 months old) ibwas encouraged by the group owner on BBC to actively night train Erin. For 8 days, I layered her bed, put her in undies and woke up every 4 hours to take her potty. It was exhausting and started to really put a toll on me and her. I was also going through A LOT of emotional stress and the GO recommended to put a halt to night training as there were no signs of progression during that week. Since then, she did have a few weeks that she woke dry some nights. She would stay dry for 2-4 nights in a row, then soak for the next few nights. I was hopeful she was training herself. But, she decided soaking her diaper was better and we haven’t seen a dry night since February. all tthrough this time,she has been perfect duri g days. Erin is now 25.5 months old. For the past three weeks, she has began to have accidents. First, it was the ting wet spot on the undies, then a bigger wet spot with a few accidents mixed in. Her wetting is now to the point that she will wet her undies pretty well, but keep her pants dry and not initiate at all. Its almost like she is untraining herself! Its getting really frustrating and I’m getting so many different suggestions and tips on what to do. Moat people tell me,”she’s 2! She’s already way ahead of the game. Its normal for a newly lofty trained 2 yr old to have accidents like this.” But she’s NOT newly trained. She’s BEEN TRAINED FOR A YEAR! I’ve tried everything for ignoring, getting mad, timeouts, treating it as an accident, taking things away and bringing back potty treats. Nothing is working. I’ve also been given the tip to actively night train again and not to back off. The reason being that she is possibly so desentized now due to soaking her diaper over night, she’s now spilling it over into her days. I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready to do that and DH and I have not decided if actively night training is for us. I have started taki g her when I go to bed at 11pm, 3 hrs after she goes go sleep, but she’s still wet when I get her in the morning. She’s always been cloth diapered for nights, naps, were undies fro. The start since she woke dry from naps before training started. I’d love some help with this issue and to get back to one pair of undies a day!

    1. PW


      It sounds like a frustrating turn of events, after being on such a good path with early training! I’m going to ask a lot of questions…

      What does she say and do when she has an accident in the day time? What is your reaction? What are the consequences for it? How does she react to consequences?

      Is she having successes during the day too? Initiating? Do you notice anything different about times when she has successes, and times when she’s having an accident? What was your reward system when she was initially being trained, and when/how did that get phased out (if it did)?
      Does she have her two-year molars yet? Any other major milestones going on? Changes in her life or your family situation?

      I would recommend avoiding any time outs or negativity around the accidents. On the other hand, if she throws a tantrum and doesn’t help clean up a mess or change her clothes, then this may be a time-out-able offense. You are right to be frustrated but she’s at an age where independence and defining a sense of self and personal control are critical. The bigger a deal you make of potty training, the more she realizes you want this badly, and that she holds the cards. Make sure she’s not getting MORE attention for accidents than she gets for successes. Once you have talked to her about an accident, drop it. DH and others shouldn’t bring it up either. Rubbing her nose in it (figuratively speaking) isn’t going to help and in fact, due to increased attention (even if it’s negative attention) could have the opposite result.

      Are you currently using any rewards? If so, for what? For a regression, the change-up required in the reward system is critical. If you have ruled out any illness or major milestone in life that is throwing her off and making her sensitive or making it hard to listen to her body, then here’s my advice.
      For a child who clearly knows how to use the potty and is suddenly having accidents again, I would recommend a reward only for a total morning of dryness, or a total afternoon of dryness (so two possible rewards per day). And not a candy or a sticker – something she highly values. Example 1: If she stays dry all morning she can watch her favorite tv show before naptime. Example 2: If she stays dry all morning she can go to the park this afternoon. Example 3: her favorite toy gets put up on top of the fridge where she can see it but can’t have it. She earns it by staying dry.
      I would do random dry checks and even small spots of wetness are considered an accident, which require a change of clothing and the possible reward she was trying to earn is lost. She might be sad, or mad. Give her a hug. Tell her you know she’ll try harder next time, and she has another chance this afternoon to listen to her body and earn a reward.

      Let me know what you think. If you answer some of the questions above we can continue this dialogue and hopefully get you and Erin out of this rut!!

      1. Tricia

        Thanks for responding to me so quickly! I will try to answer all your questions as best as I can:

        – – What does she say and do when she has an accident in the day time? What is your reaction? What are the consequences for it? How does she react to consequences?

        Normally, she will say, “Uh oh!” and get really upset. Normally, I will say, “Pee goes in the potty.” take her to the potty, sit her on it. When she’s done, she Rinses her pants and undies and anything else that is wet or soiled in the sing, wrings it out and then uses a paper towel to clean up the floor. Anything else that is wet (sheets or blankets, loveys, etc.) along with pants and undies are put in the washer by her. In the beginning, the accidents were meltdowns for her and she didn’t want to clean up. She wanted to instead keep trying to pee or poop on the toilet to show me she knows where it goes. (We are both perfectionists and accidents made her really upset) NOW, she doesn’t say anything. And the fact they aren’t full releases, I don’t know unless i check her undies. Consequences in general (for other things): time outs were working WELL, then my parents watched her for 2 weeks in April, she never got time out or any discipline and was MAJORLY spoiled! Time outs are almost a joke now. Consequences with accidents now that we are a year after potty training: if it’s just a one time accidents, we clean it up and go about our day. If it’s a repeat, I take away the act she was doing when she had it. It usually helped, but now, she just finds something else to do.

        – – Is she having successes during the day too? Initiating? Do you notice anything different about times when she has successes, and times when she’s having an accident? What was your reward system when she was initially being trained, and when/how did that get phased out (if it did)?
        Does she have her two-year molars yet? Any other major milestones going on? Changes in her life or your family situation?

        She is having successes during the day. The consistent one is poop. She ALWAYS tells us for poop. ALWAYS initiates for poop. When this regression started, she WAS initiating 1/2 the time and the other 1/2 initiating AFTER she peed a little. Now, she doesn’t initiate at all. Yesterday though, she DID initiate everything (except before sleep and leaving the house), she ALWAYS initiates while out of the house. Accidents away from home are RARE and always have been. I can’t pinpoint a certain activity or something that is different from successes and accidents. She’s two, she’s always doing something and always something different. Rewards during training: she got a goldfish cracker (1 for pee, 2 for poop) It started with anything that went in the potty, then it was if she initiated and went in the potty, then if she iniated and stayed dry and used the potty. Phasing out was easy for us. Once she was consistent with staying dry and initiating, I just stopped offering them and only gave them if she asked. She rarely asked. I still did big praises for using the potty. Two year molars are appearing. But teething has never interrupted the potty for us. Everything is now “erin do it!” “no!” VERY must exerting independence. Things need to be HER idea. Major milestone? I’d say she is DEFINITELY TWO! Changes in life: nothing that I would think would affect her. I did open an Etsy shop about a week before this all started, but MOST of my sewing and work with it is done while she’s sleeping. I have only gotten one sale since opening so it’s not like I’m swamped. BUT, I do admit that I have been on the computer more checking my stats and making little changes here and there with it. I am feeling stressed that it’s not going as well and I expected. We also have started the process of looking at houses to buy. But that just happened in the past week or so and she loves looking at listings online with me.

        “Make sure she’s not getting MORE attention for accidents than she gets for successes.”
        This really caught me, because since the potty is so routine for us now, we’ve gotten into the habit of she tells us, we put her on and walk away and tell her “let me know when you’re done.” She does, we come back help her wipe and finish up then go about our day. She has an accident, she gets MUCH more face time than the success. But this was the norm WAY before this started and accidents were RARE.

        – – Are you currently using any rewards? If so, for what?
        I did bring back rewards 2 days ago. I didn’t have goldfish, so offered a chocolate chip instead. in order to get one, she MUST initiate AND keep her undies dry. It’s helped a tad. I also started doing dry checks again a few days ago too and doing some BIG praise for dry undies which she has seemed to enjoy. Yesterday, she had an accident during nap. This only ever happens if she doesn’t pee right before nap and these are rare. Yesterday, she didn’t nap at all. She played in her bed the whole time. After 45 minutes, I went in to remind her to sleep and she had peed her pants. I treated it as an accident and because of that, she did not get to go to the park in the afternoon. I took her for my jog (which passes by 3 playgrounds that we usually stop to play at halfway through my runs) and went straight home and played inside.

        I’m feeling a lot of pressure from someone to night train her. She believes that is THE cause for this regression. I just don’t know! The night dryness topic is SO controversial that I just don’t know which way to turn. Sleep deprivation is NOT fun for me and makes me a MONSTER during the day and with little sleep at night after a few nights, I become a MONSTER at night too when handling issues during sleeping hours

        1. PW


          You know yourself best. If you dread night training and aren’t ready to embrace it with the positivity, support and patience that it requires… don’t jump into that right now. Ignore whoever is pressuring you… she’s not Erin’s mother. All she, and I, and anyone else can do is give some advice based on our experiences. You get to decide whether you take it or leave it.

          I’m not convinced that NOT having tackled nights yet is the cause of your daytime issues. After 2.5 years old absolutely a day trained child needs to be night trained based on my experience. Given that she was waking some nights dry on her own, you might hit a point where that becomes the norm, without trying to hard to tackle it.

          Is she in a diaper at night? Are her bum changes done lying down? If so, I’d switch to a pullup-style one, ditch the change table and make sure all changes are done standing up. Everything in her routine needs to be “big girl” instead of “baby” oriented.

          Accidents are rare outside the home, which is interesting. Have you noticed that she can hold for longer periods of time?

          I would commit yourself to a week where the reward program is revised as we’ve talked about and then re-evaluate. Track/journal her initiations, her accidents (full/partial/ability to finish on the potty), her rewards, any tantrums / rebellions, etc.

          -regular dry checks with lots of praise
          -lots of praise for successful pottying w/ initiation “Good job, I’m so proud of you!”
          -rewards based on longer periods of dryness e.g. all morning, all afternoon. Make them meaninful. “Stay dry all morning and you can watch Mickey Mouse before naptime” (assuming Mickey Mouse is her favorite show). I provided a few examples in my prior comment. E.g. If she has an accident… “oh no, you chose to pee in your panties. No mickey mouse this morning. You get another chance to try to listen to your body and stay dry this afternoon” Ensure that you frame it that a privilege has been taken away… the privilege (tv time, park time) is just for big girls who stay dry.
          -for accidents, she still has to clean up but don’t get upset, don’t punish, and be very matter-of-fact with your statements and tone. Once you’ve talked to her about it, drop it (don’t keep rubbing her nose in it, figuratively). Tell her to try again next time and that you KNOW she can do it.

  6. Hody

    I just wanted to stop by and tell you that how much I appriciat what you do! I feel so lucky to find this site and the bbc group before i start training my 19 months old(turn 19 months today!). we started 3 days ago, i am following your advice here, i am seeing great results in just 3 days! she is initiating potty and we had a few success yesterday! I started a diary on the nuts and bolts bbc group to keep track of her progress! This site and the group has been a wonderful help!! I learned everything i need to prepare her as well as what to do and except during training, certainly cut down tons of frustration! Thank you thank you!! It is really generous you are doing this for free, being first time mom, I had absolutely no idea about potty training! What you do for us is truly kind and amazing! I will be passing your website to all my friends who will be potty training for sure!

    1. PW

      Thank you so much for visiting my site and providing some feedback. It makes such a difference to find supportive people with good advice BEFORE you start potty training. I’m sure you’ve seen on BBC, it’s much better to get off on the right foot at the beginning, and it hopefully reduces some frustration for both parent and child.
      I’m so glad to hear that she is initiating a little bit, after just a few short days of training. This is a great example for people who think that 19 months is too young to potty train. Keep up the good work!

  7. Kara

    Hi, I stumbled across your blog and am grateful to you for sharing advice! My daughter Rosie just turned two. I haven’t done anything to interest her in going potty, other than she usually comes in the bathroom with me. Sometimes I explain what I’m doing, but she couldn’t care less. Clearly I’m at the starting gate, and your interest building tips are exactly what I need.

    My question for now is about timing. I’m having #2, another girl, in about 7 weeks. In some ways, this is an ideal time for me to work with Rosie because I can give her my undivided attention. But I’m worried that we’ll undo any progress when the baby comes and have to start over, which I wouldn’t have time to focus on for a few months. What do you think?

    I apologize if you’ve already addressed this issue elsewhere on your site. I haven’t gone through it all yet! Thanks so much.

    1. PW

      Hi Kara,

      I apologize for the slow reply – I was away on vacation with my family. Maybe you have already chosen your path and moved forward by now.

      There can definitely be setbacks when baby #2 comes along, but if a good foundation is laid first, you can usually recover from it quite quickly (meaning it’s not really starting over from scratch). See how she responds to some more active “interest building” and go from there.

      It will be important to let Rosie know all of the awesome things that “big girls” can do that babies can’t do. Be creative, use her favorite things (certain toys, activities, foods)… point out that the baby doesn’t get to do those fun things. The baby can’t even walk yet! Keep in mind that she may start to get jealous of your time spent with the baby. Accidents are one way of ensuring you will spend time with her and a lot of kids have tricky regressions that are a result of jealousy. Always be sure she gets MORE attention for successes than accidents.

      The downside of waiting is that she won’t have a great level of undivided attention in the future, and (depending on her personality) may get more stubborn and independent in future months, which can make potty training more difficult. I have found that children between 20 and 26 months are the most malleable because they really want to please you.

      Let me know what you’ve decided to do!

Questions? Comments? Leave a Reply