Potty Training Tips–How Our Daughter Potty Trained Herself

Hi! Thanks for visiting. We’d LOVE for you to hang around. Subscribe to email updates, like us on facebook. or follow us on pinterest to make sure you don’t miss an update!

Affiliate links included in this post.

Potty training tips


Our daughter has shown signs of potty training readiness since she was about eighteen months old. She had the verbal skills to tell us when she needed to go. She was aware of her bodily functions. She could follow simple instructions. She understood the purpose of the “pot pot” (her term, not ours!) Plus, she’s a girl; girls potty train early and quickly, right?

Yet not even a month ago, it seemed like my daughter was the only child her age (almost 2 1/2) who wasn’t interested in potty training. We have a little baby. I’m tired of all the diapers. I wanted our big girl potty trained, so I tried to force it. If only I had known then that one day, magically, our daughter would potty train herself.

Okay, okay, clearly the toddler doesn’t deserve all of the credit. We’ve been preparing her for almost a year.

Prep Work

We let her run around naked. Call us tacky. Call us uncivilized.  But when you use disposable diapers, wetness isn’t all that bothersome. (Or so I hear. It’s been awhile since I’ve worn diapers.) Take away the bottoms, and bam! It’s kind of impossible to ignore the pee.

We use (social) rewards. I don’t want to create any unhealthy food associations because we taught her from an early age that you should eat sweets as a reward. So we decided not to bribe her with candy or food. Thankfully, our child is very social. Her reward was to call a beloved (gracious, patient) family member so that they could cheer for her each and every time she went potty. (Oh, the awkwardness my college-age brother must have faced when he answered her phone calls while with his friends!) Her other reward: if she poops, she’s gets a coin for her piggy bank. Her poops are financing her college education one penny at a time.

Potty time = fun time. I’ve known this for a long time, but potty training has illustrated this in a whole new way: Nate is a patient man. He’s been known to sit in the bathroom with the tot for up to an hour. Now before you assume that this was a tortuous waiting game, let me assure you that the toddler had a blast. They’d sing. Daddy would read Elmo potty training books. The toddler would hop like a bunny and do squats. (Anything to get those bodily functions moving!)

Okay, so she had lots of practice, but no consistent success. At this point, when people asked me if she was potty trained, I’d have to say, “Not even close.” But then, slowly, a few other puzzle pieces fell into place.

Potty Training Tips

I’ve read that when kids start lining things up, they’re ready to potty train. (Even with Google’s help, I can’t find the original source of this idea. But I know I read it somewhere!) And guess what? A few months ago, our girl started lining things up. I believe it has to do with a child being ready for control and order.

signs of potty training readiness

Around this same time, our daughter developed an obsession with other people’s underwear and bathroom habits. In this way, positive peer pressure worked like magic. She wanted to be like her two neighbor friends who are both three, potty-trained, and big kids through and through.

We also gave up on the kiddie potty. It was a battle to get our kid to sit on it. So we went straight to the big toilet. No special seat. No special potty.

Okay, progress. Now what? Should we have the diaper fairy come and take away the diapers? (That requires serious commitment! There’s no going back once the diaper fairy comes!) Do we threaten to take away a big trip or activity if she doesn’t lose the diapers on her own? (Would I really follow through if she didn’t?) Should we devote a week to staying at home and toughing it out sans diapers? (We leave the house every day! I couldn’t possibly stay home an entire week!)

When the Usual Options Won’t Work 

I decided the usual options weren’t for us, but our two-year-old wasn’t a big fan of underwear. She wanted diapers. And there was still the tiny issue that she didn’t tell us when she needed to go! She didn’t even seem to recognize the urge.

And then, one day, she finally decided to wear the big girl underwear.

We played at home.
No accidents.
We ventured out for a walk.
No accidents.
I put a puppy pad under her bum and plopped her down in the stroller.
No accidents.
We made it to the grocery store.
No accidents.
And home again.
No accidents.
We ate lunch.
No accidents.

I put a diaper on her for nap (why risk it?), and then put underwear on again as soon as she woke up. (Side note: pre-kids, I thought a child was only “potty trained” if they NEVER wore diapers. Now I know that lots of toddlers wear diapers to bed and are still considered “potty trained.” That’s the definition of “potty trained” I’m using here. Check out this article for more info on child development as it relates to nighttime potty training.)

And so began a string of diaper-free, accident-free days. We ventured to playgroup, story time, dinner out, Walmart (Gross! Walmart toilets and toddlers shouldn’t mix!), church, and even a birthday party at a tumbling center.  If there ever was a time when a tot would be too excited to find a potty, it would have to be while swinging, jumping, and giggling with friends at the (as our daughter calls it) “gymnastics house.”

Every so often she’ll ask, “Mommy, I wearing diaper? Or underwear?” I take that as my cue to ask her if she needs to potty. The answer is almost always yes.

We went a week and a half without a single accident. Then she peed when we were out on a walk and couldn’t make it home. The next time she was just playing too much and forgot to go. I asked her if it felt yucky or bad to have peed in her underwear. Her response: “Nope, just cold.”

Even with everything going so well, I know there will be more accidents. I mean, come on! Sometimes even grown ups have accidents! {Moms, how was your bladder control right after you gave birth? And you’ve been potty trained for at least a decade or two!} Experts say that most children have accidents in the first six months after potty training. This is normal.

Are we ready to take away the diaper for sleep? Not really. But, as I type this, our daughter is taking her first diaper-free nap. (She insisted on the underwear.) With daytime potty training, diapers were her crutch. All she needed was to willingly give up the diaper crutch, and she was ready to go!

Now if only losing the paci could be so easy…

Tuesday Tots

Stress Free Sunday with Fun-A-Day!
hands on kids activities

We'd love to hear from you!

Loading Facebook Comments ...

38 thoughts on “Potty Training Tips–How Our Daughter Potty Trained Herself

  1. Amy

    We are right where you are? Our daughter is at the point where we need to give up the diaper crutch. She just doesn’t seem quite ready. I am just waiting for the day when it clicks!

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Amy! So glad to have you here! For your sake, I hope that magical day comes soon! :) I never actually believed people who told me it would be easy to train once they were ready. But I guess my experience supports that idea! I hope yours does, too!

      Reply
    2. Amy

      Thought I would give an update…our daughter is potty trained!!! No more diapers. In fact she tells us “i don’t wear diapers only roxy” Roxy is baby sister. The turning point for us was Hello Kitty under wear. All of a sudden she decided that these underwear were cooler than diapers.

      Reply
      1. Rachael Post author

        That’s AWESOME!! I’m so glad you came back to give and update! Congrats for only having ONE kid in diapers! Thank you, Hello Kitty! :)

        Reply
  2. Lisa

    I really needed to read this tonight! My almost 2.5 yr old daughter refuses undies! She says she wants a diaper. She has started pooing in the potty at bath time. We’ve been pooing in the run regularly since she was little. But during the day she says she wants her diaper. I feel like she is getting close to ready but not quite yet. I also have a 1 yr old so I totally get the diapers for 2 frustration!

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Aww, Lisa, thanks for commenting! I’m so glad to hear I could encourage you–I clearly FEEL YOUR PAIN! :) I hope what “they” say is true for you as well–kids will potty train when they’re ready! :)

      Reply
  3. lianne

    I’m so glad I read this! Feel much better about my 2.5 year old son who I would love to be potty trained. Best part was lining things up shows their ready, my son has started doing this and will pee on the potty before a bath. Only because I say he can’t get in the bath if he hasnt! I will keep persevering with this. Great blog x

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Lianne–thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Best of luck to you and your little one! I hope that magical day comes for you very soon, and the “lining things up” behavior means he’s oh-so-close! :)

      Reply
  4. Sam @ Thrive 360 Living

    Such a great post and you have several great one liners. My favorite being “Her poops are financing her college education one penny at a time.” I feel like we are pretty far off from potty training. My son who just turned 2 seems to have absolutely no interest. He doesn’t mind being in the bathroom with us but when I ask if he wants to try sitting on the toilet he immediately responds with “NO”. Which is funny because he usually likes to try out anything and everything. That’s so interesting about the lining up objects. I’ll have to keep a look out for that. And I absolutely love how you encourage your daughter’s love of planes, trains & automobiles. I loved playing with those toys when I was little and I’m excited that I get to do it all again with my son who is also a fan! Looking forward to connecting more!

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Aww, thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment! I have to admit, the coins for poops strategy is nice because it adds a bit of humor to an otherwise stinky/gross situation. :) I would love to hear later if your son lines things up pre-potty training! I’m loving your colorful, bright, and fun blog! So glad to “meet” you!

      Reply
  5. Mary Catherine

    Sorry about messing up my first comment! :) Thanks so much for linking up at Stress-Free Sunday! I love how you discuss all the groundwork you set for your daughter being ready to potty train. I have a boy, so he didn’t potty-train until a bit later than your little gal. And he had to do it in his own time, as well. Once he was ready, though, he was ready! Hope you’re having a great weekend.

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Congrats on the new link party! Thanks for hosting! (And for popping over to read and comment.) As “they” say, they’ll potty train when they’re good and ready! :)

      Reply
  6. Pingback: How Our Daughter Potty Trained Herself on hands on : as we grow

  7. Debrah

    My daughter is 2 tomorrow and she tells us while she is going to the bathroom. But she prefers to go number 2 on the potty most days. We tired pull-ups (the cool alert ones) but there was no change, it didn’t even bother her when she went pee.
    I noticed your comment on getting rid of her paci, have you ever heard of the Binky Fairy (or paci fairy) ? My daughter knows that when she is 2, there is no more binky. I created a letter from the Binky Fairy and gave it to my daughter on at her birthday party the other day. On her birthday we will put all her binkys in a box that I decorated and put it on the kitchen table. In the morning in place of the box will be a new toy and a sprinkle of “fairy dust” around it. We have be talking to her about the Binky Fairy for a couple months now, just trying to get her used to the idea, since she is still young.

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      I love how you have been preparing your little one for the day when she’ll lose her paci! I really need to do a better job prepping our girl for that, too! If I were to be really honest, I’m afraid that taking away her paci will result in her sleeping less. I honestly can’t think of a single time (beyond her first three days of life) where she fell asleep WITHOUT the paci! :/ I’m scared to take it away! (I’m hoping she gives it up on her own, but who am I kidding? She’s a paci addict!) Anyway, thanks for sharing your great tips. You’ve encouraged me to refocus on the losing the paci! :) Good luck with your potty training!

      Reply
  8. Kristen

    You are giving me so much hope! Our 2.5 year old just turned a corner with pooping on the potty about two weeks ago. I think she discovered that it’s much faster to go there than to go in a diaper and then have to get cleaned up (up until then, she would tell us she had to go, go, then asked to be changed and tell us “don’t get it on your fingers” – seriously, if you can tell us that, it’s time to go on the potty!) She asks to do it now and she’s so proud of herself when she goes (we went the treat route and got her a mini M&M’s dispenser that she can put a penny in and four M&M’s come out, but I love your feeding the piggy idea!) She knows when she has to poop but, similar to your daughter, she just doesn’t seem to know when she needs to pee. She can go accident-free all day at daycare, but they go every 30-45 minutes, so I don’t think her bladder ever really fills up to the point where she feels that sensation to go, which means we do have accidents at home.

    As for the paci, we got rid of ours at 18 months…right after her 18-month checkup. That night at bedtime, we told her that “Dr. Morris said no more pacis.” She handed it over and never asked for it again. If we had to battle that now that she has a stronger will about her, I don’t think it would be that easy. We also had some older ladies at church who swore by taking the paci away during a new moon. Purely a coincidence, but it was a new moon when we stopped it (we didn’t realize that until a couple of weeks later). Good luck and thanks for the article and great ideas!!

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      If the money and phone calls hadn’t worked, I would have tried the m&ms! :) As for you, there is hope! Don’t despair! As they say, (most) kids don’t go to college wearing diapers. :) I remind myself of that with the paci thing, too. Although you have encouraged me to try again at the next new moon! The doctor thing would probably work too for my little one. She takes authority figures very seriously. Those are awesome tips! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

      Reply
  9. Heather

    Each of my boys took their own unique path during the potty training process, but I have to agree that it is so very much easier when they are ready. My boys were all nearly 3 when they did it, but it was over within a week where we were to very few accidents. With our 18month old girl, I find myself hoping that everyone that said girls figure it out faster are right.

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Hi, Heather! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Any tips you want to add? It sounds like you’re the real expert! Good luck with your little girl! I hope she trains as easily, quickly, and early as the experts say! :)

      Reply
      1. Heather

        hahaha. No tips other than for me it was helpful to wait until they were good and ready. I find this aspect of parenting particularly challenging. :\

        Reply
  10. Lindsay Higgins

    Oh I needed to read this!! Benjamin will be three in August and I am done! We went the ENTIRE Disney vacation in March without one accident…not at night or in the park. Not even in the long car ride home. He would tell us and then hold it until we found a “potty”. When we got home he decided he was done….then at the Zoo he did it again. I think he is blackmailing us into more trips! HAHA. This next week is potty week and I am putting the underwear on and stocking up on the laundry detergent. Maybe I should call it potty and prayer week! Thanks for this post, I may read it again this week ;)

    Reply
  11. Angela

    Caden turned 2 in January. He’s peed in the potty a couple of times, and he’s been lining things up, and he follows me into the bathroom but he’d rather play in the bathroom than sit on the potty. :/ We just gave up the binky, so I’d say the diapers can stick around a little while longer if need be. No sense taking away ALL his security items at once. Summer will be here soon, and we’re gonna maybe let him run around naked a little bit. :)
    This was a great article, thanks!

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      I’d say that losing the binky is a huge victory! As they say, they’ll potty train when they’re ready, right?! :) And I hear that lots of kids potty train during naked time in the summer! Good luck to you! It’s sounds like you’re very close! :)

      Reply
  12. Christina

    Our daughters sound so similar with the exception that my 2 1/2yr old will use the potty to pee but not poop. When she wears the “big girl panties” she will not poop and has gone 3 days without doing so. It finally gets to the point where I put the pull-ups on her just so she can poop, otherwise she may go 4 days or more! If you have any suggestions about this I would greatly appreciate it! Also, you mentiond the paci… My daughter accidently flushed her paci a couple of weeks ago while celebrating a victory of using the potty. She went from utter joy to total despair within a matter of seconds. The first couple days after it happened she was pretty bummed but understood that it was gone forever. (Up until this point, she had a little baby death grip on the paci). Not that I recommend anyone to flush a paci, but because she was responsible for it being gone she seemed to get over it pretty quick!

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Flushing the paci! That’s the first time I’ve heard that tip! :) It might come to that. We’ve made no progress in the paci arena. :(

      Reply
  13. Melissa Yeaton

    My daughter Jaedyn will be 3 next month, she is the baby of 4 & by far the most stubborn in everything she does…including potty training! As the weather has gotten warmer here in NH this past few weeks & she will only wear skirts & dresses I’ve decided to try again (she was willingly almost potty trained last summer but refused to put her panties on when we would leave the house for fear of accidents…she hates to be dirty in anyway!) She is wearing panties willingly today but is sadly on her 4th pair already & it’s not even lunch time yet. I’m not sure who is learning more today JJ or myself (I am always in need of a lesson on patience!) but I am determined to le her figure it out on her own over the summer :-)

    Now for binky war we thought we would have a problem there too but I did the same trick with all 4 kids & it worked like a dream! (& JJ was a true addict we ended up finding 46 stashed around the house, car & grandparents houses…she had them everywhere!) we gathered them all up one day & gave them away (some were new) & tossed the rest in the trash & that night when she went to find one we had written her a note & attached a little dolly (she’s a mommy type) & told her that the doctors needed all the binky’s for the new baby’s at the hospital & that they wanted to thank her by giving her a new baby to take care of. She never asked for it again. We did that for all 4 kids (2 boys & 2 girls) hope it helps!!! & thanks for the inspiration!!!

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Your paci trick sounds awesome! But what if it doesn’t work?! Am I ready for that battle? :( 46, huh? I think that’s a record! :)

      Reply
  14. Theresa

    My little guy gave up the binky at about 5 months old, after we flew to see family and back. We only used it to soothe him when all other resources were exhausted, never as a full time sleep aide, so I can’t help you there. We use cloth diapers and have been potty training since 6 months old. He’s now 16 months and goes number two 3 times a day regularly on the potty. Of course there are still accidents and he can’t tell me when he has to go, so the majority of pee is still in the diaper. My helpful hint is for those using the new potties that “flush” and sing…don’t. Kids need to do their business in a potty, not a toy. We literally searched for months to find an old-school type wooden potty with a tray so he would have to sit there and could play with his toys. Persistence and patience are a winning combo! :)

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Wow! You are on top of things with potty training! That’s awesome that your little one is doing so well already! Where did you end up finding a wooden potty? I haven’t seen those in ages!

      Reply
      1. Theresa

        Searched online. There’s a shop on etsy, but they wanted $90 (!!!???!!!) for a beautifully made one with tray. So I turned my search toward eBay. I would find one I liked and it would slip away out of our price range so fast because of the demand for trays! Luckily, I found one that didn’t have the chamber pot for cheap & snatched it up! You can find the plastic pots & pee guards easily on woodworking websites. All in all it ended up costing $40 shipped for a nice sturdy potty. :)

        Reply
  15. Vivienne

    My Grand-daughter will be 2 in October with her sister on the way in August. It would be nice to start the training now, otherwise thats going to be a lot of diapers. I had 2 sons, so it’s going to be different situation. I will give it a try & hope for the best. I just purchased a potty like this one. I am sure it will be a toy to play with first & then ease it into where it belongs to get down to business.

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      It sounds like your granddaughters are spaced similarly to my girls (22 months). And yes, it’s definitely a lot of diapers in the beginning! But they all eventually get the hang of the potty, right? I hope potty training is easy and quick for your family! :)

      Reply
  16. Jessika

    Thank you for this! It is encouraging to hear about successful potty training without the “usual options.” Im a full time working mom and weekends are busy, no way do we have time to stay home all day for 3+ days with a naked toddler, just not for us. I am in the “prepping stage” with my 2 year old and this posts gives me hope for future success with the potty.

    Reply
    1. Rachael Post author

      Jessika–I’m so glad to encourage you! As the experts say, sometimes it just clicks! I hope that’s the case for you as well! :)

      Reply
  17. Jen

    You sound like me with the paci. i think i was more attached than our son was. Our dentist said cold turkey is best and get rid of it as soon after two as possible to avoid damage to the mouth. We did cold turkey and it was really rough the first night falling sleep but after 3 days it was completely fine.

    Reply

Leave a note. We love hearing from you!