Raising 5 kids also means that I’ve potty trained 5 children over the past 15 years old so. Doing it once was bad enough… But 5 times? Yeah, I’ve seen a lot. That’s why I’m sharing some of my potty training tips and tricks here – they work with all (or almost all) personalities and types of kids.
Yes, even difficult ones.
No two kids are the same is absolutely true, but it’s especially obviously when you hit a milestone like potty training. One of my kids decided they were going to do it and that was that… Another one had to, quite literally, be bribed with a toy.
Whatever works, right?
My Different Potty Training Experiences With 5 Kids
Child 1: Started learning at 18 months, didn’t fully grasp it until 2.5 years old. We could have saved a lot of headache starting later. This child had a chronic issue that caused bed wetting, but it wasn’t diagnosed until age 8 which caused a great deal of frustration.
Child 2: Fully potty trained at 3rd birthday, did not night train until age 5. Had issues with wetting pants while distracted at an older age. See tips for how we dealt with that.
Child 3: Fully potty trained at 2.5 with almost no accidents, demanded to stop wearing pull ups at night shortly after and never wet the bed. Easiest child of all 5.
Child 4 and 5: The twins, they weren’t potty trained until after 3 due to a myriad of reasons. Night trained easily at age 4 with no bed wetting issues.
What Age Do You Start Potty Training?
With my first child I was a strong believer that early was better. Ah, first children… We started introducing the potty around 18 months but she didn’t fully catch on until 2 or 2 1/2 ish. I think this was too early in hindsight. Once it finally clicked she was ready but there was no need to push sooner.
I had equally positive or better results by introducing the potty at age 2 instead of earlier.
That being said, if you think your kid has interest and is ready definitely go for it – but in my experience it’s best to wait until age 2 to start.
My kids were fully day potty trained at either 2 or 3 years old. Night training varied, more on that later.
My Best Potty Training Tips for Difficult Kids
- Don’t push it too early, wait until they’re able to physically and mentally grasp the concept.
- Be extremely consistent.
- Don’t allow your child to be too distracted to listen to the their body – force them to get up and use the bathroom (a timer works well).
- Offer an incentive.
- Give them something to do if they’re refusing to sit on the potty. We did a lot of potty in front of the TV!
- Accept that this is temporary. No matter how difficult my kids were we always figured it out eventually.
- Get help if you really feel like you need it – some kids might have something else going on that is preventing potty learning success.
I found this one to be really tricky. Over time and experience I learned to just let things go and do things at our own pace, but I definitely didn’t want my kids to stay un potty-trained after age 3 either. The challenge as a parent is to decide when to trust the child and when to push, and that’s not so easy especially if it’s your first kid.
What About Nighttime Bed Wetting?
A lot of parents accept that you potty train days first then nights and I completely agree with this approach. My kids were always developmentally ready to use the potty during the day before they were able to stay dry all night or use the bathroom solo if they woke up.
We had a range of experiences with this one. One of my children had a medical condition that caused nighttime wetting almost into the teen years – but has completely outgrown it now.
My easiest child simply decided one day they weren’t going to wear a pull up to bed – I think around age 2.5. Rather than fight it I said “fine” and accepted that there might be a mess to clean up but she deserved to have some control over her body. She never wet… And has never wet the bed.
When Will You Know They’re Good at Night?
Typically kids will just start waking up dry – then it’s time to swap from diapers or pull ups to waterproof sheets. Some kids are fine right off the bat (the twins also just stopped wetting around age 4 and never had accidents) but some may have accidents.
If it turns out they’re not ready that’s ok!
Do Not Push It Too Hard
This is my biggest warning to parents: don’t make the mistake I did. I was young and didn’t know what I was doing. My oldest child struggled a lot with this issue and we tried all the tricks; withholding water, waking her up to go to the bathroom, etc. Nothing worked.
One night she woke me up screaming and crying during a nightmare repeating that she didn’t want to wet the bed. I was crushed and realized I was putting way too much pressure on the kid.
As it turned out there was an undiagnosed medical issue that made it impossible for her. All that time of incentives, punishments, tricks had been stressful for no reason.
Sometimes a Small Prod is Needed, Though
After that experience I did NOT push my next child in any way. While I do recommend trusting kids, you should also keep an eye on ones that take a long time to night train.
For example: at about age 4-5 I discovered my next child was making it through the night dry but wetting in the morning not wanting to get out of bed.
First, ew. Second, a prod was needed in this case – and it worked.
Just make sure you stay balanced and if you have any concerns I urge you to speak with a doctor. I wish I had.
Tips to Overcome Potty Training Challenges
These are the real-life challenges that we faced potty training in our house. If it makes you feel any better, all my kids now successfully use the bathroom just fine. That means that yes, we overcame these challenges, but also that they’re temporary (unless there’s a medical issue).
Help, My Kid Won’t Poop On the Potty and Poops Their Pants Instead
The child who did this one was one of my boys. While he was fairly easy to potty train overall, this was a terrible issue that lasted months. It was fine if he was going to wear diapers and wasn’t ready but he wanted to be potty trained and wear underwear, just wanted to poop his pants. Haha.
As we approached his 3rd birthday I said enough is enough. So what did I do?
I set up a rewards chart. Simple as this: poop in the potty instead of your pants for a whole week and I’ll buy you whatever toy you want.
Seriously, whatever toy.
I took him to walmart, we picked out a Thomas train track, and he never pooped his pants again.
Yes, I know that won’t work for everyone but if you’re at your wit’s end it’s worth a shot! (And for the record, this child is one of the nicest and unspoiled out of all of them, so you’re not ruining your kids by doing this.)
How Can I Motivate a Reluctant Child?
Some parents use rewards (like mine above), sticker charts, or even candy (not my favourite option) but there’s another way to incentivise a reluctant potty learner: preschool.
Most preschools won’t take children who aren’t using the potty on their own. This absolutely worked to help motivate my oldest two children!
Tour the preschool and tell your child they have to be potty trained to attend. Remind them often. For some kids this works!
My Older Child (Age 5 or 6) Wets Their Pants While Distracted… Help!
Sorry, I’m going to be the meanie here and say that this has to come with consequences. Keep in mind I’m saying this as a parent with kids that have ADHD so yes, that contributes to the issue but that doesn’t mean that it’s an excuse.
We gave the child a stern warning with the consequence: wet your pants playing video games and you’re done for awhile/the day. It only happened a few times to it to work.
Don’t make things unfair, though: make sure you remind the kid to take breaks and go to the bathroom to help with prevention and to teach good habits.
How the Heck do you Potty Train Twins?
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: potty training twin boys was hell. Not only do I find boys more challenging to potty train in general (a lot messier!) but two at once… Nightmare.
Here’s some tips that helped make it go smoother for us:
- Make sure they’re ready. A lot of twins have delays (mine were preemies for example) so they may not be ready for it quite as early as singleton kids.
- Get two potties for each bathroom. They will 100% want to go together, if nothing else just to not be left out. It’s cute at first…
- Try not to compare (but sometimes a little peer pressure can work). This is so hard as a twin parent but if one kid gets it and the other doesn’t try not to impress that on the child who needs extra time. Likewise, though, feel free to have them encourage each other!
- Expect it to take longer. While some twins catch on quickly I found that training two kids at once was just way harder, and therefore we took longer to fully train them.
- Be patient. Trust me, like all tough twin stages it’s temporary – so ride the storm and be as patient as you can even when it’s frustrating.
Are Cloth Diapered Babies Easier to Potty Train?
I’m not an expert in this but since 1/5 kids were cloth diapered (would have been the 4th kid too but… Twins…) that’s the only comparison I have.
My cloth diapered baby was by far the easiest to potty train. Hands down, no question. And no – I didn’t push it early because I wanted to be done with cloth diapers! In fact, she potty trained while the twins were babies through all that chaos.