The “pee” Word: A Potty Training Survival Guide

So you’re ready to potty train? (Or even of you’re actually not …you’re terrified… and only completely motivated by the complete lack of desire to ever change diapers again)… either way, we all have to wear our big kid panties and face the flusher at some point. This is what worked for me. I’m not saying I’m some magical tinkle-bell fairy and won’t have a more difficult time with my next child; but I have helped train a few “wee” ones (couldn’t help myself) in my life.

STEP ONE: Assess if your child is also ready for potty training-

SO many times I hear this phrase “we are potty training this weekend… I am SO ready for my child to be out of diapers” etc. Although I will be praising a go-get-it attitude in further steps, I cannot stress enough that some children are just not ready when you are. According to , some signs you child is ready to potty train include:

1.Fewer wet diapers changed (he/she is now learning to hold it more/longer)

2.Predictable Bowel movements (HINT:” if your child is asking for alone time to play candy crush in the corner, he/she is VERY aware of what’s going down…yes pun intended)

3.He/She announces what function has just occurred (this is a fun one in Target :)

4.He/She dispenses of dirty diapers and can undress him/herself

STEP TWO: Assess if YOU are also Ready-

Are you ready to stay in your house all day for a minimum of one (preferably 2–3) day(s)? Are you ready to clean up several puddles of urine in various areas of your house with a smile on your face? And lastly, are you ready to let go of control? If you answered all three of these with “yes” (or even a hesitant “maybe”) then, you’re as ready as you’ll ever be. Now, the fun begins!


1.A few days before (or even day before) shop for undies! This part is super exciting for the child. Let him/her pick out whichever ones they want. (This is helpful later on when reinforcing holding it so you don’t have to “throw away Princess Anna”…her favorite pair. Get your child excited about what’s to come! You may also want to involve him/her in picking out the reinforcer (aka the treat… yes it’s necessary and no you won’t have to keep giving candy for weeks or months. We’ll go over the reinforcement thinning and extinction later).

2.IMPORTANT — -If your child has never sat on a toilet ever your first prep step may be potty familiarity. This could be anything from sitting him/her on it every night before bath to having an entire “potty party” one day. We used the Arm & Hammer 3-In-1 Potty Seat

to help ease the transition. She loved having her own potty at first but gradually wanted to sit on the big potty like a big girl.

*A potty party is exactly as it sounds (skip to next paragraph if child has experience urinating in potty at all)… your child goes and sits on the toilet first thing in the morning. Give him/her a portable device to watch, books to read, and LOTS AND LOTS of liquid. At the sound of the first time he/she goes in the potty you must celebrate!!! Balloons…songs..whatever you think will reinforce this event!! You can then move on to the actually potty training component from here or sit him/her down a few more sessions (with no more than 15 minutes of naked celebration time between each session).

STEP FOUR: Go Time (the schedule)-

The day you decide to start….START. From the minute your child wakes up, put his/her new panties on and go right to the potty.

1) Have her sit for a couple of minutes until she goes potty. (You know your child…you know if the time is long enough. (refer to potty party above if your child hasn’t yet gone on the toilet at all).

2A) If she does NOT go…. set a timer and go back in there every 5 minutes until success… then reward with chosen item (one M&M was our thing… she learned really quickly to pee for treats haha) Reinforcement must be C.I.A.C. (Consistent, Immediate, Appropriate, Contingent ) (So ONE m&m every time, right after, only when she goes).

2B) If she does go potty, reward with item


4) When timer goes off, repeat steps 1–3 until you consistently go without accidents and have 3–5 successes in potty. Then you can increase time to 45 min. 1 hour … etc.

BE PATIENT. BE CALM. BE READY TO DEAL WITH ACCIDENTS!! Just like tiny puppies, children cannot physically hold their bladders a long time. An accident is NOT a setback! Just make time increments shorter and work forward again!

5) Once your child begins to independently tell you he/she has to go potty, you can relax a little on the timer. I would seriously consider having it set for every hour on day two and three. Your child will begin to get used to holding it longer and letting you know!

DO NOT USE PULLUPS!!!!!!!!!!! These are diapers! They feel EXACTLY the same on your child’s bottom, so why would they not pee in it? At nighttime, do what’s comfortable for you. I put a diaper over my daughter’s underwear so she still felt the undies but had the support.

STEP FIVE: Thinning reinforcement (we don’t want our child at risk of diabetes by 4)

At some point, your smart child will force herself to use the potty just to get an M&M. This is when you can start thinning the reinforcement and slowly fading it out. First start doing it every other time. EX: Remind your little one, “now you get M&Ms after two times! You got one last time, so now this time you can’t” etc. I even began switching to craisins which she liked too… After this works for a few days, you can then start to get creative! Make a picture chart! I made one that had a like a board game look… we began using stickers for every time she went. Every 5 or so spaces had a picture of an M&M on it. The visuals help a ton!!! Before you know it, you’ll not need to give any sort of food reinforcer. Again, get creative. A chart that goes 20 spaces and once you have 20 days with no accidents, you go somewhere special :)


oh…. and poop??? That’s SO different for everyone. It takes a few times catching them right as they begin giving “the face”. Good luck with that one :)

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