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    I Just Potty Trained My 3-Year-Old; Here's Everything I Wish I'd Known Beforehand

    You'll have to deal with some *stuff* first.

    The 3-Day Guide To Potty Training Your Toddler
    Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

    So! You're gearing up to potty train your kid.

    This is a huge milestone for your kiddo, but also for you as a parent. No more diapers β€” it's like a dream! But also? It's a little intimidating.

    I recently potty trained my 3-year-old son, so I know how you feel. In this guide, you'll find useful tips and tricks for going into the process; my family's experience using the popular three-day potty training method; and advice for keeping maintenance mode going afterwards. Here we go! πŸ™Œ

    Potty Prep: Tips & Tricks

    If you want this to be, shall we say, a ~smooth move~, you have to prep ahead.

    First things first: Is your child ready for potty training? Talk to your pediatrician about it at the next checkup. But also, use the magical powers you have as your child's parent to make the call. *You* are the expert when it comes to your kid.

    My family had a couple false starts with potty training and that is totally normal! The first time, despite checking every box on the readiness lists, our son just wasn't ready. So we gave it some time. He had a lot of big changes between his second and third birthdays (like adding a baby sister to the mix!), so we waited until he was 3 and there were no major changes on the horizon.

    The second time we tried to potty train was on us β€” we didn't follow the advice literally everyone gives to clear the calendar for three days. But the third time? Oh, we got it DONE. More on that in a bit.

    1. When the time comes, use your toddler's influencers to introduce the concept of going potty.

    View this video on YouTube

    We began talking about going to the potty with our little man using one of his personal heroes: Daniel Tiger. Season 2, Episode 1 of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is ALL about going to the potty. (You can download the full season on Amazon Prime, or just stream the potty song on YouTube.)

    For us, singing the song was very helpful β€” and we made the phrase, β€œIf you have to go potty, stop and go right away” a frequently repeated refrain in our home. We also bought this Daniel Tiger potty book just to reinforce everything. Many toddler faves have potty training episodes and/or books available. Find the one that you know your child will connect with the most!

    Get a Daniel Tiger potty book from Amazon for $8.

    2. Get your kiddo pumped about wearing underwear.

    Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed,

    It's the little things, right? Picking out training underwear is a really big deal! Plus, toddlers LOVE to make decisions for themselves. The good news: You'll be able to find underwear for whatever your kid is into. (And yes, you guessed it, we have Daniel Tiger underwear.)

    Pro tip: Choose underwear that has a distinct front and back to help your child learn how to put them on all by his or herself. It's much easier if you can say "Elmo goes on the front" when giving directions.

    Get a 7-pack of Daniel Tiger toddler underwear for $14.49+, or a 7-pack of Sesame Street toddler underwear for $13.99+, both on Amazon.

    3. Make sure your kid is nice and regular β€” so things are easier to predict.

    A box of Culturelle probiotics for kids.

    The toddler brain is truly fascinating. They're just trying to make sense of the world and figure out what they can control and what they can’t. And sometimes they realize they can control when they poop β€” and when they can't. Since you don’t want any negative associations with going to the bathroom when gearing up to potty train, we knew this was something we needed to address.

    One thing that helped us, shall we say, get things moving? Culturelle Kids Probiotic + Fiber packets. It's a tasteless powder that's easily mixed into a cup of water, a serving of applesauce, or an afternoon berry smoothie. (But, if after some dietary changes your child is still struggling to go, talk to your pediatrician before you start potty training.)

    Get a 24-pack of Culturelle Probiotics for Kids on Amazon for $18.52.

    4. Prepare the royal throne!,,

    The goal here is to set up your bathroom for efficiency, because things will happen quickly. You need to be like a NASCAR pit crew. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!

    You'll have several options when it comes to toddler-fitting your bathroom for training. The first is a free-standing toddler potty, which is pretty self-explanatory if you want to work them up to a real potty. Alternatively, you can also start your toddler on a real potty β€” either with a removable toddler seat that fits over your existing toilet; or with a built-in seat (with a toddler-sized option) that you can install on your toilet as well.

    With two little kids, we know we're going to need training seats for at least another three years, so we chose to replace our seat β€” and went with the installable option. (We also decided to skip the free-standing potty so we could have one less thing to clean!) Whatever you choose, I'd also highly recommend a toddler step-stool like this one.

    Get a free-standing toddler potty for $17.89; a removable toddler seat for $22.99; an installable toilet seat (with toddler-sized option) for $41.99; or a toddler step-stool for $9.99; all on Amazon.

    5. Have a plan β€” and make sure all the grownups agree on it.

    A screenshot of Amazon's potty training book selection.

    Whether it's sitting down with your partner or talking to your childcare provider, make sure all the grownups agree on a potty training plan or method that they like. If you don't, you might send mixed messages to your child and you may need to start over. You will have some *moments* during this process, so you want to reduce any potential pain points ahead of time.

    6. But once you've agreed on a plan, know that you can deviate from it.


    We read Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right to get the conversation started. Real talk: We didn't follow every rule in the book, but it gave us some basic guidelines to agree upon. There is no shortage of potty training books and guides β€” like the one you're reading right now! β€” so take your pick and choose what works for your family.

    7. Save the date, because πŸ’© is about to go down.


    Make sure you have a three- or four-day weekend on the books to get things started. Everyone says clear your calendar, and that's good advice. We had to start over because the long weekend we chose included a visit from grandparents. Our original thought was, "wonderful, more sets of hands!" But what actually happened was that our son didn't want to stop having fun and refused to use the potty at all. Lesson learned.

    Don't forget to keep talking to your toddler about potty training and wearing underwear in the days leading up to it. Springing it on them that morning might not go well.

    The 3-Day Potty Training Method

    An important thing to know about the 3-day method is that it's not a magical, snap-your-fingers fix β€” as the name might imply. Most kids won't be flawlessly trained at the end of the 72 hours. Instead, think of the three days as the intro period or test-drive in which your toddler is trying their best to get acquaninted with All Things Potty.

    If the three days don't go perfectly, try not to rush or get frustrated. You may need more than one 3-day weekend to really roll everything out successfully. For us, the third time (below) was the charm!

    Day 1: No diapers, no pants. 😬

    A toddler plays at his toy grill during the first day of potty training.
    Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

    Even though we had been talking about it in the days leading up to the big day, our little man was still upset when we told him he wouldn't be wearing a diaper or pants. Fortunately, he adjusted pretty quickly.

    We actually found this to be the hardest of the three days, but not for the reason you'd expect. In fact, he didn't have any accidents on this day. What made it so difficult was making sure we took him to the bathroom every 30–45 minutes or so in addition to the times we could tell he actually needed to go. It is super important to look for your child's "tell" β€” aka the indicator that they need to go potty. We always knew it was time when our sweet little chatterbox would get very, very quiet and stare off into space.

    Some people will recommend giving extra liquids to ensure your child needs to go, but we wouldn't do that to ourselves, so we didn't want to do that to him, either! Instead, we had "potty books" β€” a few fun books that we only read when he was on the potty to help incentivize him to leave his toys and imaginative play for a few minutes.

    Day 2: Pants only; no diapers or underwear. πŸ‘–

    Remember how there were no accidents for us on Day 1? Yeah, not the case on Day 2. They happened mostly in the morning. But toward the end of the day "I went potty" started to turn into "I have to go potty!" β€” and things were starting to really click.

    We didn't do the 'every 30 minutes' thing on this day. Instead, we opted to take him to the bathroom whenever he alerted us *and* every time we had a transition in the day: first thing in the morning, after breakfast, before going outside, when we came back in, before naptime, etc.

    Pro tip: Opt for pants with an elastic waistband so you or your toddler can pull the pants up and down easily. Time is of the essence when it's time to go!

    Day 3: Brand-new undies! ✨

    Things had been going well, so we decided to try out some fresh underwear with pants. We got a little silly when talking about underwear, pretending to say things as the characters adorning the front. We'd ask him, "What does Cookie Monster say?" and then respond, "Keep me dry!" (obviously in our best Cookie Monster voice). Our son was definitely in on the joke and laughed at how absurd we were, but it worked. I also won't be surprised if he casually mentions all this to a therapist later in life. You can take this idea or leave it.

    Was there an accident on this day? Yes. But he was trying to get to the bathroom on time and just didn't make it. To me, the point is that he knew he had to go!

    If you think your little one needs another day of pants only (or no pants at all), just add a day β€” or (several) more. This is a lifelong skill. No judging!

    Also, some final thoughts on those training days:

    β€’ Rewards: We didn't use sticker charts or M&Ms during the three days. No real reason why, we just figured that he didn't need them. And he didn't! But like I said before, *you* are the expert on your child, so you know what's likely to work (or not work) best here.

    β€’ Post-potty celebrations: There's a school of thought that you shouldn't celebrate each time your child goes in the potty because, ya know, real life. But we celebrated excessively with song and dance in the beginning because it felt like a really big deal. And it made things just a little more fun for us. Maybe we're weirdos. You do you!

    β€’ For the boys: We found our son was having trouble distinguishing when he needed to go number 1 and number 2. My amazing mother-in-law, a former preschool teacher with plenty of experience around this, told me to just have him stand to pee. I had it in my head that he needed to master sitting down first, but this worked like a charm. We put some Cheerios in the toilet bowl to help him practice his aim, and he had everything figured out within a day.

    β€’ Strategic pull-ups: We opted for pull-ups at naptime, just to take some of the pressure off and because we will protect the nap AT ALL COSTS. Same thing goes for bedtime. Once we find that he isn't wetting his pull-ups, then we'll just stop using them and see how it goes. He understands this, so it works for us.

    After Training: Tips & Tricks

    You did it! Now it's time for maintenance mode.


    So your little one *gets* it. High-fives all around! But here's the thing β€” you still have to oversee and initiate frequent trips to the potty. Hopefully your kiddo will tell you when it's time, but I'd recommend sticking with an abbreviated version of checking between transitions during the day.

    Once the excitement has worn off, you'll find there are a lot of things that are more interesting to a toddler than going potty. (Talking about going potty though? Hours and hours and hours of conversation.) It might not always be top of mind for them and you'll still need to prompt them from time to time. Try not to simply ask, "do you need to go potty?" because if they aren't interested in it they'll just say no, even if the answer is yes. Instead, I'm a big fan of offering the false choice for toddlers to get them to do what you want them to do. "Do you want to use the upstairs or downstairs potty?" or "do you want to put your shoes on before or after you go potty?"

    And there will still be the occasional accident...

    Daniel Tiger sitting on the potty.

    I hate to break it to you, but you will *still* have to do some extra clean up and laundry every now and then. It's really important not to shame your kid when this happens, no matter how tired or cranky or frustrated you may be. My go-to line is "It's OK, you're still learning! We all make mistakes when we're learning." Also, you're learning how to potty train. It's OK if you make a mistake, too. Just apologize and move forward.

    Also? Any time I come really close to losing my *you know what*, I go back to what my influencer Mom Tiger told me. "When you feel so mad, that you want to roar, just take a deep breath, and count to four."

    GOOD LUCK! You've got this, grownups! πŸ™Œ

    What worked (or didn't work) for you and your family when it came time to potty train? I'd love to hear your experience in the comments!