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.
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 — 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! 🙌
If you want this to be, shall we say, a ~smooth move~, you have to prep ahead.
1. When the time comes, use your toddler's influencers to introduce the concept of going potty.
2. Get your kiddo pumped about wearing underwear.
3. Make sure your kid is nice and regular — so things are easier to predict.
4. Prepare the royal throne!
5. Have a plan — and make sure all the grownups agree on it.
6. But once you've agreed on a plan, know that you can deviate from it.
7. Save the date, because 💩 is about to go down.
Day 1: No diapers, no pants. 😬
Day 2: Pants only; no diapers or underwear. 👖
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!" — 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 — or (several) more. This is a lifelong skill. No judging!
Also, some final thoughts on those training days:
• 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.
• 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!
• 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.
• 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.