Q & A Day: It’s Potty Training Time

Dear Jill,

We have twin boys. They are having trouble going to the bathroom doing the “number 2” way. I’m looking for advice!


Dear Lisa,

Oh the joys of potty training.  Do you know at our house…because of the ages of our kids…at one point we were potty training and driver training at the same time?  I remember that season well! But I digress.

Let me start by saying that even my most stubborn potty training kiddos did not enter high school in diapers. No matter what challenges you are facing, it’s important to keep that kind of perspective in front of you. 🙂

I will answer your question by sharing with you general potty-training wisdom from moms who have gone before you.  For those of you reading, please feel free to add to the wisdom I share today—that’s the beauty of Q & A Day. I get the conversation going and you can add to it!

For this particular post I started with my wisdom from training 5 children, but I also consulted my daughter Anne who just successfully potty-trained their almost 3-year-old daughter who also struggled going “#2” in the potty.

1)      The key to potty training is to wait until your child is ready. Don’t compare your nearly 3 year old not-yet-potty-trained child to your neighbor’s almost 2 year old that is already potty-trained.  Each child is different (and with twins…you might find that even though they are the same age, they may potty train weeks or months apart) .

2)      Give potty-training a try for a couple of days. If they are not picking it up, put the underwear away and try again in 3 or 4 weeks. When they are ready, they will pick it up rather quickly.  When they are not ready, you will wear yourself out trying to make something happen that they are not ready for yet.

3)      When you are teaching them to go potty, let the timer do the “reminding.”  Set a timer for about every 30 minutes. When it goes off, that is the time to head to the potty.

4)      Keep books by the potty. This is a great time to read to your preschooler.

5)      Reward immediately. Praise and clapping goes a long way to reward a successful potty stop. Stickers work well as do small candies like M&M’s.

6)      Train little boys to sit to go potty (their wife will thank you some day).  As they get taller they can learn to stand and go potty (if you throw  a Cheerio in the toilet and tell them to aim at the Cheerio, it works wonders to improve their aim.)  By teaching them to go #1 and #2 in the sitting position, it also helps #2 to sometimes come on its own because they are in the right position.

7)      If you’re really having trouble with them going #2 on the potty, let them run around without underwear.  It takes away the option for something else (their diaper or underwear) to “catch it.”  Most kids don’t like the idea of it not having somewhere to go so they learn the potty is the only option.

8)      Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.

9)      Resist the reaction of anger when they have an accident.  You want going to the bathroom to be a positive experience for your little one.

Finally, #10 is to take care of yourself in the process. Potty training requires a lot of patience on your part so you can handle the accidents when they happen.  If you are tired and they have an accident and you react in anger, it makes pottying “unsafe.” This raises their anxiety and doesn’t produce the results you’re looking for.  Get the sleep you need and make sure your emotional fuel tank isn’t on empty so you can provide them the leadership they need.

What about you? What wisdom would you add about potty-training? 


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7 thoughts on “Q & A Day: It’s Potty Training Time

  1. Two other comments which can help; make sure they are drinking plenty of water, and eating foods with fiber. Nothing slows potty training more than one attempt with constipation! My son loved the sweetness of pitted prunes, so we made sure he got at least one as a snack every day.

  2. So timely! praise the Lord! we are on day 3 and we are doing well! I have a question about night time and nap time-diaper or no diaper? most of what I read says no diaper after you start. Last night we woke him up too early to take him potty because he wasnt wearing a diaper and it was too early he was so sleepy he just got frustrated and could not put himself back to sleep-any advice would be welcomed!

    • I put diapers on my children at night while potty training. You’ll know when they are ready to get out of them because they will wake up dry. I always think it’s best to let sleeping children stay asleep.

  3. Remember that most learning is caught. So lead by example. I realize most will consider this a “lack of privacy” but children definitely learn quicker when they can imitate.

  4. My son was very “late” and frustrating in terms of #2. For us, bribery worked. He really wanted a Mac truck (from the movie Cars). So we bought one for him but put it up high on the towel rack where he could see it but not reach it. Then I made a chart. To get a sticker, he had to go all day and poop in the potty and not in his underwear. After a week, he earned the truck and he seemed to have figured it out and the accidents stopped. Incidentally, when it all clicked and he figured out how to go #2 in the potty, he also learned how to stay dry while sleeping. It all happened at the same time.

  5. My second little girl had trouble with #2 in the potty after learning #1. Maybe because it was my second, I appreciated the fact that it was #2 instead of #1 as #2 is a much easier clean-up process than if they are going #1. So, I did not make a big deal about it and just took her to the bathroom to clean her up. I think this helped because she didn’t get any attention.