How to make potty training go as smoothly as possible

Erica van Blommestein

With tumultuous teething, a messy introduction to solids, and those teetering first steps behind you, you're probably pondering the next major milestone: potty training. While bidding adieu to dirty diapers is something most parents look forward to (and some actively long for), navigating the murky waters of potty training can be intimidating, nevertheless. Questions abound: When should you start? How long will it take? What do you do when your best efforts seem to be failing? And because no two children are the same, the answers are often unclear. With all the hype around potty training, it's easy to feel overwhelmed before you've even started. If you're dreading making the transition from diapers to toilet, take a look at our fuss-free potty training tips below.

Look for signs of potty training readiness

As much as you might like the idea of your kid "going potty" like a pro before the age of two, pushing the matter too early is unlikely to speed up the process. Rather than relying on age, take cues from your toddler to establish when the time is right. Good indicators that your child is ready to give potty training a try include:

Showing interest in others using the toilet

Communicating the fact that they're peeing or pooping

Asking to be changed

Staying dry through naps

Start when things are stable

Major life events like moving, starting school, or the arrival of a new baby can be a lot for little ones to process and often leave parents feeling a little scattered too. To make potty training less stressful for everyone, choose a time when your little one is safely ensconced in the steady rhythm of routine and you're relaxed and able to devote your attention to the task at hand.

Pull out the potty

From a child's point of view, the towering height, gaping bowl, and roaring noise of a full-sized toilet can be scary. Starting with a kid-friendly potty that allows little ones to keep their feet firmly planted on the floor is a great way to build confidence. A potty doesn't have to stay in the bathroom, either. Kids often don't realize that they need to go until the urge is overwhelming. Keeping a potty close by will give little ones a better chance of reaching it on time when nature has given up on calling and is pounding down the door.

Or make your toilet more accessible

While most little ones feel more comfortable starting out on a potty, some might actually prefer using a regular toilet like everyone else. If your toddler would rather try the toilet first, use a potty training seat to add security and ease anxiety about falling into the toilet. Remember to provide a step stool to make getting on and off the toilet a little easier and to give your child something to bear down on when the going gets tough.

Lead by example

Privacy-starved moms, rejoice - being shadowed by your toddler every minute of every day is finally about to pay off. Children are born copycats and seeing parents using the toilet can inspire them to do the same. Inviting your child to join you by taking a seat on their potty or having a turn on the toilet when you're done makes for an interactive experience that's less likely to be met with resistance.

Ditch the pull-ups during the day

There's no disputing that pull-up diapers can be a great help with potty training, but when toddlers get too comfortable with what was intended to be a safety net, progress can grind to a screeching halt. After all, why stop playing/eating/watching TV to go potty when there's really no need to? Save pull-ups for outings and nighttime use and have your toddler wear training pants or undies during the day. If your child isn't entirely sold on the idea, cute prints might help seal the deal.

Celebrate every success (and hold back on disappointment when accidents happen)

Praise your child every time they use the potty. Kids are born with an innate desire to please and giving them due recognition for a job well done will let them know they're on the right track. Applaud, hug, or do a victory dance with your toddler to punctuate the moment and give them a sense of pride in their achievement. When accidents happen - and there are bound to be at least a few - it's important that you remain calm. Criticism and disappointment can cause unnecessary anxiety and severely cripple progress. Don't make too much of a fuss over accidents, but DO let them know they can try again next time.

Take a break if necessary

It's not uncommon for potty training efforts to start out with a bang, only to fizzle out a short while later. This may happen for a number of reasons, ranging from control issues to insecurity. If your toddler stubbornly digs their heels in, don't allow yourself to be drawn into a potty training tug of war. Forcing the matter will only lead to frustration and countless clean-ups. Rather, take a two-week breather and try again once the dust has settled. Remember - potty training isn't a race. Despite the road blocks, you'll reach your destination sooner or later.

Erica van Blommestein is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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