Things I Wish I'd Known Before Potty Training

20 Things I Wish I’d Known BEFORE I Started Potty Training

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I’ve heard a lot of potty training horror stories in my (short) time as a parent.

I thought I’d heard it all, and I was ready to go when my first child started to show signs of being ready to potty train.

I was wrong.

So, so, unfortunately, dangerously… wrong.

If I’d only known…

Here it is- everything I didn’t know about potty training. Here’s hoping that this information will help some mom out there!

1. I Don’t Know Everything.

Yeah, I know this one is obvious to everyone else, but for some reason, this took me a while to get.

I’m kinda slow that way.

But it was refreshing to finally get over myself and start using my resources- asking for help from other moms, researching answers, and trusting my mom-gut.

2. My Child’s Choice

Before I toilet trained my child, I imagined that potty training was my job as a parent. I imagined deciding when to toilet train my child and that I would have all the control of the process.

Just…. No.

And this is a good thing! My daughter decided when she was ready, and she showed me that she was ready by asking to use the potty. She started holding her poop when she needed to go. She would say “poop!” before her diaper was even dirty, then go poop a few minutes later.

Every child shows different signs, but the choice to toilet train was very much her choice. And I’m really glad it went that way! It seemed to be perfect for her.

How did your children communicate to you that they were ready to toilet train? What toilet training methods did you use, and why? Comment below!

three toilet papers

3. Kids Like Water

I’ve always known this… But I never really thought about how kids’ interest in water affects potty training.

Because, if you take a second to stop and think about it (which I didn’t)…. There’s water in the toilet bowl.

And the water swirls around in a cool way. It’s really pretty exciting.

And kids think so too.

I guess the point here is, watch your little one’s hands, or right into the toilet they’ll go!

4. Splash Zone

I do get a tiny bit of credit for assuming that there would be a splash zone if I was potty training a boy. But I wasn’t. I have a daughter. So I’m good right??


Splash zone principles still apply.

Pee can and will spray past the toilet seat if you’re not careful! Watch out, mamas!

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5. Clean Up Time Is All The Time

I also get some credit because I came prepared knowing that I would be dealing with lots and lots and lots of accidents! Which I did.

But, for some reason, in all my preparation, I only prepared emotionally for the accidents. I did not have a plan for cleanup- as in what cleaners to use, what’s safe on carpet, or specific towels or rags that are ok to clean up urine and feces.

I did learn some great tips though- such as:

  • Pee leaves a bad smell. Certain chemicals combat the smell, so be careful what cleaner you use. If you use the wrong one, the smell will linger even though you’ve tried to clean it. I really liked using vinegar solution or dish washer liquid soap.
  • Carpet is quite a process to clean, and it is best to act fast. The longer the urine sits in the carpet, the more difficult it is to clean. Check out this great post for more information.
  • When I had my first accident, I used this one blue rag that I have. It’s not a nice one, so I figured it would be fine to use it to clean pee. Then later, I happened to grab that same blue rag to wipe down my counters… and I couldn’t do it. Too gross for me to know where it’s been… Next time I potty train, I’ll have specific rags set aside for cleaning toileting accidents.

6. Rejected

When I started toilet training, I thought it would be a fun and positive to give my child a treat for using the toilet- just to make it special for her.

My little girl loves chocolate, and candy, and sweets, but we don’t have them in our home often, so I thought she would be very excited!

To my surprise, I offered her some Reece’s Pieces and she said “No.”

Whaaaaaat the h*&#??? What happened to you??

I swear she’s never said “no” to candy before or since. Only right when it mattered.

So if you’re planning to give treats to your child to help them learn potty training, make sure beforehand that the child likes the treat!

closeup photo of cupcakes on round white ceramic plate

7. I’m Out of Butter….

I tried to be ready to toilet train by choosing a week or so that I didn’t need to run any errands. I didn’t have much on my calendar, and I moved around my schedule for the few remaining appointments to happen later.

So we got started!

And then I looked in the fridge…..

Uh oh.

So we had to pack up and go to the store. We stopped every 5-10 minutes or so to run to the bathroom, mostly false alarms, but it’s better than cleaning up urine in Walmart!

If you’re going to potty train, don’t forget to stock up the fridge!

8. Sick Day

After a few weeks or months (I have no idea how long it was- my potty training memories are a blur) my poor little girl got sick with a moderate fever and a cold.

I didn’t think it would affect her toileting because she didn’t have diarrhea or anything, but it totally did.

I had no idea!

She was being lethargic and seemed tired all day, and it carried over into going potty. It was difficult to get to the toilet fast enough because she just didn’t feel good.

Moms- be aware- sick children might have troubles using the potty.

9. Night Night, Sleep Tight

When I began toileting, I assumed that my child would learn to use the bathroom during the day and that skill would just sort of transpire into night time toileting.

Also wrong.

Unfortunately, I learned that sleep training is totally different than daytime potty training.

The urge to pee or poop doesn’t always wake children and they may go just because their bodies are relaxed in sleep. It’s unconscious. It’s not naughty behavior, it’s truly just an accident.

The child might be completely unaware until he wakes up and is all wet from peeing the bed.

In my daughter’s case, the best advice I’ve heard was to keep her in diapers or pull ups at night until she is consistently staying dry at night on her own. Then slowly switch to having her sleep in her underwear.

10. Connected At the Hip

I’ve always been connected at the hip with my daughter. We go everywhere together, we spend as much time as we can with each other, it’s amazing!

But during potty training time, it was literally EVERY second.

I couldn’t leave her side because she might have an accident in the few minutes or seconds that I stepped away- and she often did have accidents when I tried to step away.

Potty training was an important time for me to take time for myself since it is a long, stressful-at-times process.

I wish I had known that in advance because I could have arranged for more help from supportive neighbors, friends, and family if I had more time.

11. Waste Not, Want Not

There’s lots of extra skills children learn during potty training other than just pooping in the toilet.

Wiping their own butt is one of them.

For some reason, I just didn’t think about that until I was in it. Or more specifically, until half the roll of TP was in the toilet bowl.

Hmmm. Now what??

(For those of you who are interested- I scooped out wads of soggy toilet paper using a plastic fork into a double wrapped plastic Walmart bag. Then I tied it shut, tied those two bags in a third bag, and threw it all in the trash. Fork and all.)

gray wooden outdoor portable bathroom

12. Toileting Time Warp

At the beginning of toileting, I took my daughter potty every 10 minutes, and more often than that if she showed any signs of maybe needing to pee in between the 10 minute timer (like if she was touching her genitals, doing the “potty dance”, or squeezing her legs together).

But after a while, she was picking up the skill so I spread out our visits to the potty. 15 minutes, then 20 minutes, then every 30 minutes, every hour…

It’s a total time warp. Weeks passed without me realizing.

I wish I had soaked up that time with my child a little more. Although it was a lot of hard work, it was one-on-one time with my sweet little one. It’s not easy to get that kind of quality time. I wish I had appreciated it a little more.

13. Preparation

There are lots of times in daily life that a toilet is not conveniently nearby. For example, driving in the car.

My little girl didn’t have to go to the bathroom before we left, so I assumed that she could make it all the way until we reached our destination. That’s just not always true.

I learned to take my child to the potty before we ever got in the car.

baby beside green textile

14. What About the Pants?

My toddler did not know how to dress or undress herself at the time when we started toileting.


That meant that she was unable to go to the restroom without mom’s help. She needed me to help her pull down her pants and put them back on.

That was fine for a while, but after weeks of taking my child to the toilet dozens of times every day, I was excited for her to be able to go on her own. That meant teaching her some basic dressing skills.

I had no idea I’d be teaching that!


Click the Images Below!

  • Potty Time Watch

  • Potty Chair

  • Potty Seat with Ladder

  • Potty Training Reward Chart

  • Cotton Training Pants

  • The Potty Train


15. Vacation Time

Going on vacation is difficult with a child who is just learning to use the potty.

Our family went to visit Grandma. It takes four hours to drive there. We couldn’t leave until after dad got home from work at 5:30. I made sure the car was ready to go so that we could get started on the long drive as quickly as possible.

The drive to Grandma’s is a who lot of nothing. Just barren dessert. There’s only one gas station on the way.

So of course, I took my little girl in to the bathroom at the gas station.

But she had to go again only 15 minutes after we left the gas station.

Ugh. Now what??

In desperation, we pulled over and put her in the diaper. 

Traveling issues like this one contributed to some toileting regression for my little one.

16. Mom’s Routine

I never thought about how to help my toileting child when I had to shower. Our usual routine was to bring a few toys in to mom’s room, where she would play happily while mom took a quick shower.

But there’s no shower fast enough to guarantee that there won’t be a potty accident. After all, my daughter needed my help to pull down her pants to use the toilet.

Sure enough, one day, my daughter called in to me in the shower, “Poop!”

I had soap all in my hair. I thought maybe I had enough time to rinse and then rush out to help her.

That was wrong.

four Mad About Curl and Waves labeled bottles on wooden surface

17. Mom’s Hygiene

Between my shower issues and the time warp I was living in, I had no idea how fast my hygiene slipped.

I would randomly stop to take a look at myself and think…. “Ewww. Let’s get it together, self.”

Maybe half the reason we stay home during potty training isn’t just to avoid accidents in public. Maybe mom’s not fit to be in public. I know I wasn’t!

18. Verbal Praise All Around

I always tried to show my baby that I was proud of her. I told her things like, “You did it!” and “You’re learning how to go potty!” and “You didn’t have an accident today!”

My favorite potty training memory is sitting in the women’s room at Walmart (apparently Walmart is the only public place I ever go… Just realized that) and out of nowhere my little girl yells, “Mommy, you pooped on the potty! Yay!”


I was embarrassed at first, but I can’t help but look back on that moment with a little chuckle.

And then I got smart. I thought… “Hey, if she gets a treat for going potty…. Maybe I do too???”

Yep. Good choice.

19. No More Treats!

And then comes the day when I realized that my toddler really didn’t need to have a treat any more.

How are you supposed to stop that habit once it starts?

I learned all about fading away rewards in college and at work, but it was the first time I had to use it in my parenting.

It seemed like it had been a while.

If you choose to use treats, remember that they have to end sometime. And that’s a whole ‘nother story.

girl making hand gesture on her face

20. Never Ending

Toileting doesn’t stop once a child seems to “have it down.” Accidents happen forever more.

  • Lots of children get so excited about what they are playing that they don’t want to stop to go pee, and so they have an accident.
  • Lots of kids struggle to get sleep training down.
  • Lots of kids have accidents when they feel stressed or under pressure.

Potty training isn’t a “one and done” sort of deal. It’s just life.

So get cozy, keep a smile, on, and don’t stress too much.

It’s still your happy life, and it’s still your sweet baby. Make sure to enjoy it before life moves on and you’re left remembering how it was.


Mrs. S

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