Young father teaching toddler how to use potty

Potty Training 101: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Learning to use the potty is a window to another level of development, not just for your toddler but for you as well. It's a significant step towards your baby's independence. 

But it can be a challenging thing to do.


Childhood development experts write thousands of books about potty training not because it's fun but because it's a challenging experience and parents need a guide. 


So what does it mean psychologically to be potty trained correctly and timely? Well, there are many theories (some old and some newer) that talk about the importance of potty training. For example, Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development states that potty training is essential for mastering Autonomy and overcoming Shame and Doubt. If the stage is unsuccessful, Erikson suggests that the child can experience psychological challenges and increased negative behavior.


We don't have to dive THIS deep into the psychology of potty training, though. The modern approach also suggests that children who are trained later in life have difficulty finishing the training and often continue soiling the bed, which can eventually lead to self-shame and low self-esteem. 


Don't worry! You can't mess this up. Children are different, and they have their cues. You'll notice when your baby's ready for potty training, and you can use this guide to start right and follow through until the end of training. 


Let's first dive into the types of potty training methods and later discuss the challenges parents often see. 


Types of Potty Training Methods for Toddlers


Brazelton Child-Oriented Potty Training

In the 1960s, Pediatrician T.Berry Brazelton developed a "Child-Oriented" potty training method to help toddlers overcome this change. He believed parents were pushing children, using rigid and harsh strategies, and argued that this wasn't good for the child. 

Brazelton came up with a gentle and gradual approach that we often use today. American Academy of Pediatrics also supports child-oriented potty training. 


This method involves waiting for your child to show interest in using the potty (usually around 18 months old). After they start potty training, you can give them encouragement and support. You can start by introducing your child to the potty, letting them sit on it (clothed) to get used to it, and then gradually encouraging them to try using it without a diaper. 


This method can take longer, but it tends to be less stressful for both parent and child.


Important points to keep in mind:


  • Don't forget to praise - Since potty training can be a shameful experience, Brazelton says that shaming and pushing are big no-nos. He encourages parents to praise their children and emphasize their independence;
  •  Hit pause if your child shows distress - This method considers the toddler's emotional state. If you notice that your baby's feeling uncomfortable or doesn't want to continue, just hit pause and reintroduce the potty at a later time; 
  • Borrow ideas from other training methods - You'll find hundreds of potty training methods (some of them we will list in this article). You can borrow techniques from them, like structure, schedule, etc. 


The "Scheduled" Method

The scheduled method is a bit technical approach. Studies found that this method is especially effective for kids with difficulty learning new habits. 


The scheduled method involves setting a schedule for your child to use the potty. You can start by visiting the potty every 1-2 hours and gradually increase the time between visits. 


Such an approach can help your child learn to recognize the feeling of needing to go and can also help establish a routine. You can add strategies from other methods and use rewards or praise to encourage your baby to use the potty.


Important points to keep in mind: 


  • It takes time - Potty training takes time, no matter the method, but the scheduled technique can be a little disheartening. Parents often lose motivation over some time;  
  • You'll need to readjust your schedule - If you're a working parent, the schedule method will be a challenge, but if you can rearrange your plans or work from home, you can easily potty train your baby with this method; 
  • It's a demanding and intensive method - Keep in mind that not every visit to the potty will go as planned. 


The "Gradual" Method

This method involves gradually transitioning your child from diapers to underwear and slowly increasing the amount of time they spend without a diaper or underwear. 

Most parents find the gradual method flexible. You will have lower expectations and mostly follow the flow. 


Important points to keep in mind: 


  • You can mix things up - Add techniques from other methods and use a combination of scheduled visits to the potty and encouragement to help your child; 
  • It can be confusing for certain personality types - Toddlers have different personality types, and some techniques don't work for certain personalities. The gradual method can be confusing and chaotic if you don't add a schedule; 
  • Accidents will happen - Gradual method includes spending time without a diaper which is a recipe for accidents. But don't worry your child will slowly learn to identify their needs to go potty. 


The "Fast-Track" Method 

This method is the most popular among parents since it can give quick results. The Fast-Track method, also known as, a 3-day potty training, involves letting your child go diaper-free for 3 days. 


This method involves intensive potty training over a shorter period. You can mix it up and train your baby for a week instead of 3 days or whatever works for you the best. 


Walking around without a diaper means you'll have to be attentive and quick with your child. You'll have to take them to the potty as soon as you notice the cues. You can use rewards and praise for successful trips to the potty.


Important points to keep in mind: 


  • It's not a walk on the beach - This method can be effective, but it can also be stressful for both parent and child;
  • Accidents will absolutely happen - This is a method where most accidents will happen, but it's a quick technique that some parents push through; 
  • Your baby will need constant attention - Just for 3 days, but you'll have to observe them closely and maybe even postpone or cancel your plans to train your toddler. 


How to Know My Toddler is Ready for Potty?


There are several ways to know your child is ready for potty training. You can follow the age guide or attune to your toddler's development. You'll notice that your baby is running, can reach higher objects and can stand up on their own (most of the time). Such developmental milestones can indicate their readiness to use the potty. Muscle and motor skills development is enough sign according to childhood development experts. 


Children also need to be mentally ready for potty training. It's not just a convenient thing but a huge behavioral change for your child. They have to be mentally ready to change from something they're used to, to a completely new thing.


If you're looking for the signs, observe your child as they can tell you they're ready for the potty with these behaviors:


  1. They stay dry longer; Which shows they have more control over their bladder;
  2. They express interest in using the potty or wearing underwear like older siblings or parents;
  3. They can follow simple instructions and understand basic concepts like "sit on the potty" and "go pee-pee;"
  4. They show discomfort or awareness when they have a wet or dirty diaper;
  5. They can communicate their needs and feelings to you either through words or gestures;
  6. They have a regular bowel movement schedule, which can make it easier to anticipate when they may need to use the potty.
  7. They show independence in other areas, like dressing themselves or feeding themselves.
  8. They show interest in what you're doing when you or their siblings to the bathroom; 
  9. They say things like "I can do it myself." 


Children are different and unique. That's why you can mix up the strategies, borrow ideas from other methods and create the most comfortable one for your baby. 


Remember to attune to their cues and independence level. Don't worry if it becomes more challenging than you expected it to be. Just go through the training and be happy that your baby is learning independence.