My Top Tips for Potty Training (while beating Quarantine boredom)

It can be so easy in this season to be ungrateful. So, on day #437 of quarantine (exaggeration, but it FEELS like that long!), I was racking my brain to come up with a thanksgiving and realized I had overlooked an obvious one: I AM THANKFUL ALL MY CHILDREN ARE POTTY TRAINED!

This is not to “rub it in” for those who are facing this challenge. But, potty training is like boot camp for moms. Unless you’ve had to go through it, you cannot sympathize with those of us who have. I was feeling so grateful, I thought, “What can I give to other moms who are in this season of potty training?” And I had an epiphany: I will give you, right here, for NO CHARGE at all, my top best tips for potty training! As an added bonus, I will include a few tips I found especially helpful while living as a missionary in Panama in a 500 square foot house with a family of seven.

For those of you not potty training, I hope this brings back good (and possibly traumatic) memories of your days potty-training and will cause you to feel as grateful as I do right now.

Hoping this chases away some of your boredom today and encourages anyone trying to tackle this challenging stage of life.

#1. The potty chair becomes the new “Easy Chair.” Think La-Z-boy, people. Your potty trainee will now have his/her own chair. Make sure it is child-sized, and fun and attractive to your child. Also, don’t sequester the potty chair away from your family and daily goings-on. I actually put my kids’ chair in the middle of the house, directly where all the activity of the day is happening. Your potty trainee will spend possibly hours on this chair, so he is going to want to feel he is still part of the family. I made Joey a mini library/toy basket right next to his chair. He could look at books, play with toys, and in general, get used to the feel of unrelenting plastic on the tender backside. IMPORTANT: pair tip #2 with tip #1:

Potty chair + juice= The first step!

#2. Give that kid some juice! (At least for as long as you are home and near the potty chair.) This shouldn’t be difficult for all you in quarantine out there. Home is where it’s happening these days! The reason we juice up the kid is basic science: we are creating more opportunities for your child to NEED to use the potty, and thus hopefully LEARN to use the potty.

#3. Stay home, strip down. The reason for this is clear: the less clothing your child has to wrestle to use the potty, the easier it will be for him. Also, it will feel strange for him to potty without a diaper on, and that may be all the trigger they need to try to potty in a toilet. This worked especially well for us in Panama because we had concrete floors. Accidents were a quick mop-up. We put Joey in a longer t-shirt so he had some privacy while doing life commando. Just to note: no progress will be made on potty training if this advice is misconstrued to mean the parents. But, you COULD have another potty trainee in a couple of years!

#4. Have a reward system that works for your child. A friend of mine bought her child a bag full of cool dollar-store toys that he was rewarded with each time he used the potty properly. (No potty, no toy.) One thing my kids really liked were Pez dispensers. Not only do they get a little treat (but not so big that I am creating a sugar addiction along with the potty training), but it was also like a magic trick: They had to pull back the head on the pez dispenser to get their reward. Kids love this! Another great thing to build into your reward system is for everyone to dance, clap and sing when your child is successful. Take care your celebrating doesn’t interrupt your trainee’s concentration. Clap, dance and sing AFTER the magic has happened.

#5. This is less of a tip and more of a rule: After hours of dryness sitting on the potty chair, your trainee will at some point release an entire morning’s worth of juice into their brand new “big boy underwear.” If your child does not do this, HE IS NOT NORMAL. So, when this dreaded moment happens, celebrate the fact that your child is healthy and normal. This leads me to tip #6:

#6. Have a bath bucket ready in the shower for quick clean-ups. (This is probably only helpful for missionaries who don’t have access to a bath tub.) But, sometimes the mess is easier to deal with by stripping the small one down and letting water wash away the shame. Meanwhile, mom can employ deep breathing and relaxation exercises to keep from losing her cool. You may think I am joking, here. But, in all honesty, potty training can make you want to pull out your hair. Especially if there have been multiple “oopsies” in a short amount of time. So, listen to your favorite worship song, quote a Bible verse, look at old photos of your baby and reminisce, etc. In general, remind yourself that this is a season and IT WILL PASS. All this can be done while your little one splashes around in the tub, which is a great way for HIM to de-stress, too!

If you only have a shower, a bucket bath will work!

#7. IMMEDIATELY after waking, place your child on the potty. One of the indicators your child is ready to potty train is when he/she wakes up dry. Remember, one of the first things YOU do when you get up is eliminate everything that was “storing up” while you slept. Your child hasn’t created the habit of immediately going to the bathroom when he wakes, so he won’t think to do it. Also, if you notice he starts waking up wet, try waking him 20-30 min earlier than his usual time and immediately put him on the potty. A lot of accidents happen as your child is waking up, and you can help prevent this by getting him to the bathroom sooner.

#8. When dad snuggles with your potty trainee, make them use DAD’s fleece blanket, not yours. Something about snuggles just invites a potty accident. You are less emotionally involved (and find it funnier) if your husband’s blanket gets soaked in the process, not yours.

This tip comes from personal experience. This is MY blanket in the photo, not daddy’s. So, you can imagine how this scene ends.

#9. Get some “Big boy” or “Big girl” underwear your child can get excited about. I have done this with each of my five children. Some of mine were apparently more vain than others, and were greatly motivated by their cartoon underwear. Joey tried really hard not to pee or poop on “Marshall and Chase” from Paw Patrol. Others of my kids could care less. I remember one morning after I made a big deal over Isaac’s big boy underwear. He looked at me, trotted into his room and came back out, handing me a diaper. The message was clear: “Mom, you are the only one who thinks these whitey tighties are cool. Give me back my diapers!” (Isaac is 16 now and it’s important to note that this story did NOT happen recently.)

#10. When using a latrine/outhouse: don’t let your child fall in. (You’re welcome for that handy tip!) Another helpful tip when using a latrine: DON’T LOOK when he shines daddy’s flashlight into the latrine. There are things in the bowels of a latrine that are best left unknown. Let’s just say I know this because I MIGHT have looked once…and wished I hadn’t. This tip is very helpful on the mission field, but if you find yourself in a camping situation, it also applies.

DO NOT LOOK IN THE LATRINE! Especially with a flashlight at night.

#11. Always remember: THIS TOO WILL PASS. When you feel you will never make it, remind yourself that one of these days you will look back and remember these days with fondness. And if you are having a series of failures and feel your child is making NO PROGRESS, don’t rule out the possibility of buying another month’s supply of diapers, kissing your little one on the face, and trying again next month. He (or you) just may not be ready, and that’s ok!

Potty training can be exhausting… we decided to try another day.

My five children are all happily potty trained today, for which I am extremely grateful. I had NO potty training geniuses: Of my five children, none of them figured this out in a day. Each of them caught on at their own speed and over time. But, we did it, and we did it together. Now, if I could only figure out how to house train my dog….?

We did it!

P.S. Those of you who have any further advice or tips, feel free to add in the comments below! Though I blended these tips with humor, they really do work, and hopefully someone out there can put these tips to good use!


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