10 Lessons from a Potty Training Mom

lessons from a potty training mom

Potty Training is one of those tasks in parenthood that very few people are looking forward to tackling. When I made it through my first child, I knew I was just lucky that she was easy. Then I had twins. Let’s just say my luck has run out. We’re certainly in the thick of it now folks and we’re learning a few hard lessons along the way in this potty training game. Here are 10 Lessons thus far, although I’m sure there are more to come.

lessons on potty training different kids
Image via Nicole Hempeck

Lesson #1 – They're all different Each and every child you have will likely potty-train at their own pace and with their own special method of success. I have three girls and I have dealt with different potty training challenges for each of them. Training is not a cut and dry process. My oldest daughter was a cinch to train – she was in school all day while I worked, followed the pack, loved getting her sticker at home placed on the “potty chart” and was trained within 6 months of turning two. One of my twins however, started off full steam, regressed and now fights each and every visit to the toilet. My second twin loves to go, but has yet to actually “go” on the potty. This, my friends is not my happy place.

lesson on potty training bathroom mess
Image via iStock

Lesson #2 Toddlers are stealthy

Stepping away from your potty training toddler may result in a toilet bowl full of paper, or other foreign objects. I may or may not know this from multiple personal experiences. This may or may not be worse with twins.

potty training lessons pull ups
Image via Nicole Hempeck

Lesson #3 Pull-up “diapers” are in fact the devil

Don’t get me wrong, pull-ups can be useful to ensure you don’t have embarrassing issues while out and about with your training child, but if you choose to use them, you will have regression. I firmly believe one of the reasons we have a regression in our home right now is due to using these while she was sick. You see, the poo in the panties thing was no fun, so we opted for pull-ups and our sick toddler got used to the “diaper” again. And now, she fights going on the potty. Thank you flu season!


potty training lesson baby in diaper
Image via iStock

Lesson #4 They may regress

Even the best potty-trainers have periods of regression. When they get sick, a change of routine or just plain stubborn nature can lead to a set back. I went out of town for the weekend recently and the husband was on potty duty. Let’s just say, the “routine” was off and we’re now facing a bigger regression than we were facing before flu season pull-ups hit. But, she won’t go to Kindergarten in a diaper…I hope. So, I’m working hard to keep it in perspective. 

lesson potty training frustrated mom and baby
Image via iStock

Lesson #5 You may both cry

As a potty training parent, you just want this process to be a miracle – one day, you wake up and they’re out of diapers, in underpants and done deal. Not usually the case and quite frankly, there are many days of frustration and you may just cry because of it. Just let it out, you’ll feel much better. 

lesson potty training candy
Image via Ruth L, Flickr

Lesson #6 Bribery may be necessary

Stickers, jellybeans, m&m’s, prize jars – you’ve likely heard it all. Don’t let it be beneath you. Whatever works friends. I tried just doing the praise thing first – “high five! Mama is SO proud of you!” and it worked for a bit, now, we’ll be moving on to the jellybeans. A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s got to do people. I’ll be bribing myself with wine to make it through each day. We all need a reward system to survive this time in our lives. Just sayin’.


lessons on potty training ashamed woman
Image via iStock

Lesson #7 You may feel ashamed



You know those friends who love to brag their kids were “trained” right at two. I call bull. Maybe they were starting, but completely independent – doubtful, even with the most motivated child. So if you’re an overachiever in the potty-training-of-toddlers realm, then we don’t belong in the same playgroup, because my youngest girls are over three and we’re still in-progress. I battle each day with feeling like an utter potty-trainer failure. It’s no fun. 

lessons on potty training child underwear
Image via Flickr/AbbyBatchelder

Lesson #8 Buy the cheap undies so you can feel ok about tossing them

Telling your child not to pee or poo on Minnie Mouse or Dora is great in theory. It’s great until you get one of those messes that really is horrid to clean and results in a tossing straight into the trash. Perhaps I’m the only one that does this, but we started training during flu season – it wasn’t pretty. Do yourself a favor and use a different incentive or just buy the cheap underwear. 

lessons on potty training baby in diaper
Image via iStock

I never thought I would miss diapers, but I do. You just change and go. One-stop-shop. You don’t have to worry about fighting your kid onto the potty or whether they have just had an accident in the middle of Target. You think before you start training that it’s going to be this easy process. You think before you start about all the big bucks you’ll have freed up when you’re no longer buying those expensive diapers anymore. And then you get moving with training and reality sets in. All of the sudden, diapers don’t look so bad anymore. 

lessons on potty training calendar
Image via tanakawho, Flickr

But it doesn’t. And that’s the truth. Although, admittedly, training these twins is taking me so much longer than it did with my oldest girl. There are a variety of reasons why. Some of them my fault, but it’s really a challenging time in the toddler years. I just keep reminding myself they’ll get it, eventually?

{ MORE:  Perils of Potty Training: The Aftermath }


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10 Lessons from a Potty Training Mom

Nicole Hempeck is a mom, military spouse and full-time marketing manager. She spends her days working hard to raise three strong daughters and manage the many ups and downs of life as a military family while also working her marketing magic for amazing family brands. Occasionally, you can still find her writing at her little spaces in the online world – Moments That Define Life and Trending Parent. ... More

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  1. carrie says:

    im new to this site. but I have a couple questions. 1st I want to start potty training our 2 yr old but he don’t talk much. I ask if he pooped n he will tell me yes or no. how do I know when to potty train n how do I do it? 2nd is I have been trying to get him off the bottle and he refuses, I give him a sippy and he looks at it and throws it then I take the lid off and he will drink it but yet he gets mad that I try n help him cause im afraid he will spill it every where. I ordered those wow cups from tv to see if he will do those but haven’t received them yet. plz help…..

  2. LIZ says:

    good tips im gonna put this in practice really soon

  3. My son also has delays and issues due to a cord malfunction in utero and prematurity, and every kid develops differently. My son turned 3 in february and is in a regression ever since his friends moved away who were potty trained. He was interested in training when his friend was training and with them gone he has no interest in wanting to because he has no one to copy other than me but its not fun anymore to him and I dont think he can feel the sensation of needing to go yet either.

  4. Bethany says:

    It was great reading this. I, too, agree that pull-ups are the devil. I thought they would be the greatest thing since sliced bread until my daughter decided that she was only going to poop in the pull-up and never in the potty. We went through months of fighting. She would hide pull-ups and then find it, put it on, and poop. Just when we thought they were all gone, surprise, another one showed up. It got to the point where we just got tough. We pushed the fruit and fruit juices so she couldn’t hold her poop and eventually she started going on the potty. I was naive. When I saw how easy it was to train her to pee-pee on the potty I thought I was in the clear. Silly, silly me. Now I have a two year old who screams and sobs when I ask her to sit on the potty. Oh I am going to need a lot of patience!

  5. sondra says:

    great article, I have a 21/2 yr old and although this is not my first rodeo it is different than the other two but each child has been different but so has my situation with each and I believe that has a lot to do with it too.

  6. Kim says:

    with Anthony, we’re using stickers. Cars stickers to be precise. They work so well, but he plays so much that he just doesnt think about having to go potty. I can ask him if he has to go potty and even take him to the potty myself, but he’ll either say he doesnt have to go, or not go on the potty, and as SOON as i turn away from him, i hear "Oops" or a grunt coming from him. n by that time, its already too late to even think that Mater is the only brown thing on them undies.

    and he was doing so well for a good while there, but once my pregnancy caused me to not be able to move around as much, or where i was hoging the bathroom from either morning sickness or the little one kicking my bladder, we hit a big regression

  7. Nancy says:

    I am in it with you!! Have twins too!

  8. Nancy says:

    I love this lesson #3!! Pull ups are the devil!! Hilarious…they probably are they are so darn expensive!!!!

  9. Crystal says:

    So, I can say my first son like yours was easy but my son who is one month from turning 3 I am having such a hard time with him. He has regressed several times and I feel its due to him have a sensory deficit disorder and tactile functioning disability and also is delayed in adaptive skills due to a premature birth, however I would have thought this would be much easier being he is OCD over being clean with any sticky mushy matter but not so with his underwear or diaper. It seems he does not even realize he has to go yet…what do I do, anyone who might be in same boat or has had a child with the same type of disabilities???

  10. Nichole says:

    Try a few practice runs, if they like it or show interest then go for it. If not then try again in a couple of months. My great nephew was a micro premie and he did just fine. He took a little bit longer, but just be patient.

  11. Nichole says:

    I do inhome daycare and I have helped train over a dozen kids, and yes everyone is different. It isn’t impossible to have them completely trained by 2. I have had 2 of them that started at 18 mths. However, don’t push them. If they aren’t ready it’s ok. You have to go at their pace. I fully support bribes. They need a "good reason" to want to go potty. I also fully agree NOT using pull-UPS. To a toddler they don’t understand it, to them it’s just a nifty diaper.

  12. Suzanne says:

    I started potty training my boy when they were 2 1/2 years by taking them every hour to every and hour 1/2 to start out with during the day Then woke them up to go potty before I went to bed and then my husband would get them up went he came home from work cause was on second shift and then I get them up when I got up to go to work. It takes being consist and patient to make potty training work. Both of my boys were potty trained by their 3rd birthday without using any reward system. I worked as a CNA so I used the same method that we use to bowel and bladder train patients.

  13. Moneisha says:

    ohk my kids were premature should i still be able to teach them how to potty train them now at 2 or should i still wait

  14. MelanieCline says:

    So my mom told me not to potty train. She did not train us. She said a two and a half I just dropped my diaper and said I wanted big girl panties and never had an accident after that. My brother didn’t start til three and a half but did it himself and had occasional night time bed wetting til he was five. She said watching her friends do it was nightmarish and scared her off. My son is 28 months. He occasionally wants to go to the bathroom himself especially if he sees daddy do it. But I keep him in diapers. I am not ashamed. He’ll start doing it when he’s ready.

  15. As a mother of twins all I can say is thank you for this post. I have yet to potty train them as they are still under a year but I have been freaking out over how I’m going to make the attempt when the time comes.

  16. Member says:

    We started potty training the day my 1st daughter turned one. We used an old book made by pull ups and Elmo’s potty time DVD. We had huge parties in the bathroom every time she used the bathroom. Everyone who was in the house was present. And we took the potty with us everywhere. Shortly before she turned two i realized she wasn’t even using her diaper at night so I stopped buying them. Sure she had a few accidents over the course of the next year but never two days in a row. As long as we made sure she used the potty before bed things were fine. Other than that she would tell us when she had to go.
    Now i have A 17 month old daughter. And she is trying. I think it will take more than potty books, DVDs, and parties for her. Currently she grunts whenever anyone else uses the bathroom. But she rarely uses it herself. Hopefully we will get in the rhythm of things soon. If not, oh well, she’s already off to a good start IMO.

  17. Brenda says:

    My son &daughter in law had exactly the same experience. Their son is 3&1/2 also. It took awhile mostly because we all know to potty train you have to be diligent. They have a pretty busy life so I think that ended up being an issue. Also by the time your child is 3&1/2 they have their own opinions and if they don’t want something they aren’t going to do it. In the end he potty trained (every child does I promise.)they bribed him with m&m’s and the process became easier. It is so much harder for moms today with working, getting everyone to where they need go & how they have the energy to keep at it I don’t know. Everyone should no child has ever gone to kindergarten in diapers! Hang in there it will happen.

  18. sayhola says:

    Sorry to say, we had it easy, and I give him all the credit – he did it on his own. All I did was put him in undies one day "just to see," and he hated the feeling of wet pants so much that after only maybe 3-4 accidents the first day or two, that was it. He was pee trained well before he was 2. Poop training was a bit harder, but we got that tackled about a month later, and it took a few more weeks/month or so before I was ready to put him in undies for nap and then overnight. He’s 100% independent using the bathroom when we’re home and soon to be 27 mos. Stickers (with BALLS on them – his fave) and m&ms were definitely rewards of choice, but he really did the potty training on his own……

  19. April says:

    My daughter (now 8) took about 6 months. I put a chart on the fridge with boxes numbered 1-20, whenever she used the potty, she added 1 sticker, if she did #2, she got 2 stars. When she reached 20, I would take her to the dollar store and let her pick out a prize. Worked pretty well. The best thing that happened was when we got a camper, and the bathroom was her size (lower toilet & sink). After going up a couple time she turned and told me she didn’t want to wear her pull-ups, anymore (even at night). I was shocked, she did really well, literally only 4 or 5 nighttime accidents in the next year.

  20. Julie says:

    Thank you for writing this! I was starting to feel like I was all alone in potty training hell. My son is over 3 and will hopefully one day be fully potty trained. As of this week #2 is our challenge. We’ve tried it all…cars, candy, cash. You’ve given me some fresh new ideas and hope that next week is a new week.

  21. Aimee says:

    Great thoughts here!

  22. Brenda says:

    Our friends’ two year old boy is about 90% potty trained. Meaning he still has accidents but for the most part he is potty trained and has been for a while. Our 22 month son has absolutely NO interest in the potty. If I put him on the potty he flips out and screams at the top his lungs. I am not forcing it on him because I figure he will get there at some point.

  23. Valerie says:

    lol i give a big girl sticker everytime she goes i use to give her candy but thats not the best idea after dark 🙂

  24. Ashley says:

    I’m having the hardest time with my daughter. She started potty training at 2 1/2 and she is extremely stubborn. We had success and then we had regression. She is about to turn 3 and goes, mommy I pottied or Poopy change me. Its frustrating and as wonderfully as was put hair pulling. If anyone has any other great idea I’ll all ears.

  25. Carolyn says:

    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you for some great ideas. I like the sticker chart incentive idea. I’m going to have to try it on my daughter when she gets old enough to be potty trained.


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