How to Potty Train

How to Potty Train: a reverse method

Hallelujah! After 10 years with at least one kid in diapers, we are free. In fact, we just took our first road trip with no diaper bag and let me tell ya, it was glorious.

Rarely does a “method” of anything work for all four of our kids, I’ve realized. Our kids’ personalities are wired so differently and they see the world in very unique ways. While other transitions in parenting have been a struggle, I got really lucky with the potty training- as this reverse method worked all four times.

If you’re reading this, as a mom you’re probably already frustrated- and you’re not alone. Potty training can be one of the most exhausting and frustrating parenting experience. Pat yourself on the back, you’re doing a great job. Whether this goes horrible or smoothly- you’re still a good mom.

I potty trained my fourth kid the same as my first, second and third and I’m calling it a reverse method because it emphasizes “staying clean and dry” and not actually going in the potty. 99% of potty training articles and guides focus on rewarding the toddler for going potty. I did the opposite.


I chose to:

-Use the regular, adult toilet.

-Quit diapers cold turkey.

-Buy underwear together (parent and child) and in advance.

-Set aside 3 days to stay home and focus solely on potty training.

Here’s what I did:

Day 1:

I put underwear on my toddler (his name is Liam) and rewarded him for keeping his undies clean (no poop) and dry (no pee).

Every 30 minutes to an hour I’d check. “Liam, it’s time to check your undies. Oh good! They’re dry.” Reward. In another 30 minutes, “Yay! The undies are still clean. Great job.” Reward. (You get the idea.) In the next 30 minutes, check again.

On the first day this does mean the toddler has been rewarded a few times before potty has even made it to the potty. Stay consistent and don’t let this bother you.

Inevitably, he has to go on the potty in order for the underwear to stay clean and dry.

But, for me, if I rewarded going potty then our day would be obsessed with trying to guess when he has to go. It seemed to be madness because I have zero control over when he has to go. And I want him to recognize when he has to go because he wants to stay clean and dry.

I try to resist the temptation to put him on the potty and wait and nag and wait some more and say things like “let’s just sit here and try.” 9 times out of 10 that seems to end in, “Ugh, he didn’t go.” Cue mommy’s meltdown.

I stayed the course checking every 30 minutes for clean and dry- for 3 days. If it was wet or dirty and an accident happened, I’d say, “No treat. Lets try again.” And quickly put new underwear on.

I used a baby doll or a superhero to show how you have to go to the potty to keep undies clean and dry. I played and mimicked with the doll and explained how the body works. (I’ll share this more below.)

In preparation and to assess readiness:

About three months before I train I begin talking about it. We shop for underwear (always let them pick out underwear so they can be excited). I began to set him on the potty before bath time daily just to introduce the concept.

I explain how the body works (in toddler language). “You eat and drink food, right? It goes in your mouth travels down to your tummy and then your body decides what is good and what is bad. The bad, yucky stuff has to come out! So, then you go potty.”

That helps them to connect that after they drink orange juice with breakfast, some of that might have to come out soon after. I love making the anatomy connection knowing that it builds their awareness and keeps them in control of their own body.

With my girls I trained around 24-26 months old. For our son I waited until 36 months. You may find interest or readiness much sooner and if you do, go for it.

Now, of course there will be accidents. I never let those bother me too much. If I could catch them mid accident, I’d run them to the potty and have them finish there. Otherwise, I tried to keep my cool, clean it up and keep a “let’s try again” kindness about the whole thing.

If by the end of Day 2, it’s not clicking and you haven’t had any success- I’d quit. And I’d try again in two weeks or so. With my oldest, I quit and tried again on three occasions and on the fourth time- she got it that first day and we never looked back.

With my son by the end of Day 2, we had more successes than mishaps and he began communicating quite a bit when he had to go- this is huge! By Day 3, he got it down and we left the house. I would let him know there was a potty at almost every place we go and he could just tell me like at home. We arrived to our destination (Target) and I showed him he restroom. “Hey buddy, if you have to go potty- you can use this one, ok?”

I was sure to bring a change of clothes just in case. But I tried to train my brain not to ask him constantly if he had to go and let him tell me.

Sweet Mama, thanks for reading my potty training tips. In many ways this feels brief and overly simplistic when I know what it’s like to be a discouraged mom. If that’s you, I hope you know you’re making a difference every day in the mundane. You got this, ok? And if you see me around town, I’ve got Batman undies in my purse too. You’re not alone. Motherhood is hard but a privilege and I wish you the best!

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