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The moment has come. You’ve decided to end the diaper subscription, stock up on treats (get some for yourself!), and go shopping for some big kid underwear. It’s potty training time.

But wait, is your child really ready? Do you have a plan in place? Are you going to have to convince a stubborn toddler to cooperate every 20 minutes?

Before you decide to give away all the diapers and recycle your diaper bag, read on to make sure that you’ve done the prep to set yourself up for a (mostly) painless potty training experience.

Before you start planning out your potty training schedule, it’s important to take a second to consider if your child is really ready to be potty trained.Indicators that your child might be ready to give up diapers include:

  • Expressing an interest in using the toilet. (Is your child talking about going to the bathroom and wanting to go to the bathroom with you?)
  • Wanting a clean diaper when soiled. (Does your child notify you when they’ve gone to the bathroom in their diaper?)
  • Ability to hold bladder for longer periods. (Is your child’s diaper staying dry for a long period and then going from dry to full in a brief window?)
  • Ability to pull their pants up and down without assistance.
  • Ability to follow multi-step directions.

Most children are ready to start working on potty training between 18 months and 24 months of age, while others aren’t ready until 3 years old. The average age of potty training is 27 months.

If you do decide to start potty training your child sooner rather than later, it’s important that you’re seeing some readiness signs. You’ll save a lot of frustration if you’re sure that it’s the right time for everyone — including your little one.

Once you’re confident that you and your child are physically and emotionally ready to begin the potty training process, it’s time to pick a method.

Some of the more common methods include the three-day method, a time-based method, or a schedule-based method. There isn’t evidence to suggest that one method is better than another, so it’s best to choose the style that fits your child and your lifestyle.

The three-day method

Though there are various ways to do this, the three-day method necessitates that you abandon your normal schedule for three days to focus entirely on your child’s potty training.

You’ll spend the three days right next to your child as you learn to watch for all the cues that they may need to use the bathroom. You’ll need to get your child to a toilet immediately if they have not already asked to go when they begin peeing, so you can never be far away.

Diapers are exchanged for underwear at the beginning of the three days, so a fair share of accidents during the training time is to be expected during this speedy potty training method.

Time-based method

Some parents choose to potty train over a slightly longer period than the three-day method. This allows the family to maintain a more regular schedule of activities while potty training.

To use a time interval based approach to potty training have your child sit down on the toilet for at least a few minutes every hour or two from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep. Consider setting a timer for regular reminders.

You can abandon diapers or go for an in-between option, like pull-up training pants.

Schedule-based method

A third alternative some parents choose is a schedule-based approach to potty training. Instead of scheduling bathroom breaks around a timer, a child’s bathroom visits are based on their usual daily routine.

This might include an attempt to use the bathroom upon waking, before/after meals, before/after being outside, and in between different playtime activities. Parents may also arrange for trips to the bathroom during windows of time their child frequently pees or poops in their diaper.

Since the goal is for a child to learn to recognize their body’s signals, a child should always be praised and brought to the bathroom if they request to do so under any of these potty training methods.

Once you’ve decided that your child is ready to begin potty training and you have an idea of the process that makes the most sense for you and your child, it’s time to get started. To help encourage your child and start potty training on a positive note:

  • Stop by the local library or bookstore to pick up a few books about potty training to read together.
  • Take a trip to the store with your child to go shopping for a kid potty or underwear that they’re excited to wear.
  • If you plan to use rewards, talk with your child about things that they may like to try to earn in the potty training process.

Supplies

To keep things easy for you and your potty trainee, make sure that you have all the equipment you’ll need. Consider whether you would like to use a toilet ring or a mini potty for your child, and if using a step stool or timer makes sense. Stock up on plenty of underwear, so that you’ll have enough for accidents.

If you intend to use a reward system, you may want to also invest in a chart and some stickers/small prizes.

If you are using one of the long-term methods, it may help to have a visual reminder of their schedule. Being able to mark off successful potty visits can help them see their goals and celebrate their wins. You can read up on some suggestions for creating a behavior chart.

First days

Regardless of the potty training method you decide upon, you can expect to plan for frequent bathroom breaks in the beginning.

Though you’ve judged potty-training readiness based on your child’s cues, resistance to giving up diapers may appear. If the pushback is great, and either one of you is getting frustrated, back off and try again a few weeks — or even months — later.

It’s important to remain calm and make potty training a pleasant experience for your child. At first, any praise or rewards should be for sitting on the potty rather than actually going in the potty — baby steps!

If your child does have an accident, they should be encouraged to keep trying and not punished. Keeping things positive and upbeat is key.

Heading out and about

If you intend to head around town while potty training, try to start with short outings (with known bathrooms along your route!) Keep in mind that your child may not feel the most comfortable in public restrooms and auto-flush toilets can scare some children.

Make sure to still bring a diaper bag with you fully stocked with several sets of spare clothing, wipes, diapers, and even spare shoes if possible.

Other considerations

Now that you have a potty training plan in mind, it’s important to consider a few other things.

First, you may not want to get rid of those overnight diapers just yet. Many children will need to continue wearing a diaper at night long after they stop having accidents during the day.

Continuing to use a nighttime diaper can help to minimize the wet bedsheets you end up washing and allow your child to get a good night’s sleep free from worrying about getting to the bathroom in time.

Several nights in a row of dry nighttime diapers is a good indicator that your child may be ready for this final step. Your child will have the best chance of success if you encourage them to go to the bathroom right before going to bed and minimize liquids right before bedtime.

It’s not uncommon to experience regressions or refusals to go to the bathroom even after you think you have completed the potty training process. When this occurs, it’s important to remain calm.

Potty training shouldn’t be a punitive process, so avoid scolding or disciplining your child. Instead, encourage your child and remain consistent in offering the opportunity to use the bathroom.

Don’t forget the potty training also provides a great opportunity to teach proper hygiene skills. Once they are agreeable to sitting on the potty, incorporating hand washing into the steps taught and as a requirement for any potty training rewards will help to ensure that your child grows up with healthy habits.

You’ve considered how ready for potty training your child is, chosen a potty training method, and stocked the house with the appropriate supplies. You’re set for success and ready to help your child master this important life skill. Now, the moment has really arrived. You’ve got this!