It official! My 2nd child is potty trained and I’m ready to shout it from the rooftops. What I hate to admit is the fact that I’ve made some pretty common mistakes along the way.  If you’re potty training efforts have gone down the toilet, you’re not alone. Here is a list of my top mistakes.

Mistake #1: Telling my children when to go

Mistake #2: Not allowing my children to make messes

Mistake #3: Using training pants as a safety net for an extended period

Mistake #4: Not being consistent away from home

For most parents, potty training is a subject that brings images of unrelenting hours of waiting in the bathroom or loo, and scrubbing pee-stained floors.  It makes perfect sense that so many of us make the mistakes above. We want to avoid the reality of messes at all costs!  As parents, we make huge strides in studying the numerous resources available on potty training. We check out every potty training book we can find from the library, call our “mom” and “mum” friends, and try every bell and whistle (from cheerio targets to sticker charts), but we are failing to consider the most basic element…the true definition of potty training.

What does it mean to be potty-trained?

Being potty-trained means a variety of things to a variety of people. All gimmicks aside, a potty-trained child must meet the following criteria:

  1. Visits the bathroom (loo) WITHOUT PROMPTING to empty bladder/bowels
  2. Sits, unaided, on the toilet at home AND away from home
  3. Wipes themselves, pulls clothing on/off, & washes hands with minimal to no assistance
  4. Wears regular underwear with minimal to no accidents

Here are my 6 P’s for successful potty training:

(Plan, Physical Sensations, Props, Positioning, Practice, and Prevention)

  1. PLAN backwards

Begin with the END in mind. You want your child to use the toilet at AND away from home, on their own, WITHOUT prompting and WITHOUT training pants. Period.


When we think of potty training, we assume that messes are a move in the wrong direction, but in actuality, messes trigger learning.   For even greater impact, consider having your child help clean up messes when they do happen.   Children need to know what it feels like when it’s time to go, but, in order to learn this, they need to first know what it feels like to be wet and dirty. They can’t feel these sensations in diapers, nappies, or training pants, which act as a safety net.  Making a true mess and realizing the need to run to the toilet are experiences that children need to have.  If you’re scared to pull the plug on training pants completely, try putting them on top of regular underwear first.   In the end, know that the training pants must go before your child is 100% ready.   To this day, if I run out of clean underwear and slap on training pants, my child will pee in them if I don’t remind her to use the bathroom (loo).   Had I not said “enough is enough” and forced her to wear regular underwear, she would still not be potty trained.

  1. Choose PROPS

There are many props or teaching aids that may or may not be beneficial in potty training.   Many of them can become a distraction.  The bottom line (no pun intended) is that you want your child to be motivated, and feel comfortable with the process of relieving themselves.   If we are truly “toilet” training, then we should start with our child on the toilet seat.   The best prop for this is a potty seat that sits on the toilet, rather than a potty chair, which sits on the floor.

Here are a couple links to soft potty seats that my kids have enjoyed using.  These seats come in a variety of designs and can be used with or without the splash guard (deflector).

[amazon_link asins=’B071ZK2VRY’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’thebabyspo0c9-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e3638ed3-78e0-11e8-a015-7f1802bfe981′]

[amazon_link asins=’B0161PORVU’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’thebabyspo0c9-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f4f319df-78e0-11e8-bdf2-fd794daec5f6′]


If you want something more compact for travel purposes, there are many foldable potty seats on the market like these.

[amazon_link asins=’B071YF2F22′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’thebabyspo0c9-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’09fce286-78e2-11e8-9e98-f1098ee33978′]


The only drawback to travel seats is that their compact, foldable design makes them feel flimsy.   I recommend placing the travel seat backwards on the toilet with your child facing the toilet lid.

To help your child reach the toilet at home, use a step stool of some sort. I wanted something small with a no-slip rubber surface that would not tip easily, so I purchased the style below.

[amazon_link asins=’B00VO65ZMM’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’thebabyspo0c9-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1a28bf88-78e2-11e8-8253-af6f9cb53361′]


  1. POSITIONING is important

For boys, this means start by having them sit to urinate. Once they are fully potty trained and seem tall enough, they can begin to stand.

For both boys and girls, consider having them sit backward on the toilet until they get a bit bigger.   Some children, including my own daughter, feel much more secure this way, especially in public restrooms (lavatories) as mentioned above.   The bonus to sitting backward is that they are able to hold onto the toilet lid or tank, without the need for a potty seat, making using the toilet away from home much less stressful.

  1. PRACTICE everywhere

We practice using the toilet at home with our children, but often fail to bring potty training on the go with us. The sooner you make your children use a public restroom, the sooner they will be potty trained.   I hate the very thought of all of the germs encountered in public restrooms, so I avoided them for a long time with my children. Unfortunately, I relied far too heavily on training pants, which delayed proper potty training.

You can use these either of these adhesive potty seat covers to help stay germ-free:

[amazon_link asins=’B075K79C7B’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’thebabyspo0c9-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4c648c15-78e2-11e8-b6f2-97c37c666ff8′]


  1. PREVENT obstacles

This last one is pretty simple. Don’t start too early. Wait! Your child must be able to communicate effectively in order to tell you when they need to go. They must also be able to dress and undress themselves. When they are ready, help your child be successful by buying pants or trousers without zippers, buttons, and snaps.   Consider starting in the spring/summer, when kids can wear lighter clothing like shorts and skirts. If, at any point, crying occurs, stop.   No one can learn when he or she is upset.   Encourage regular potty breaks, with privacy.   Staring down your child will not help them go faster. Give them time and space to feel the urge and make a FULL release. A rushed child will be more likely to have an accident a few minutes later. Schedule breaks for drinks, rather than sipping on fluids all day long, and limit fluids an hour before bedtime. Last, but not least, make sure your child maintains a healthy diet and gets regularly exercise to promote healthy bowel movements.   Constipation and dehydration are surefire ways to put a halt to potty training.

With a little bit of patience and persistence, and the “6 P’s,” hopefully you will save you and your child a lot of time, tears, and tantrums.