toilet training | tips + tricks

this post is SO long overdue and y’all haven’t let me forget it!!
you guys have asked and asked and asked for some helpful hints in toilet training and i honestly think i’ve been promising this to a handful of you for like, 6 months….i’ll choose to look at it like i do wine…it just gets better with age. which is so not true because i’m totally cool with the 2017 box of cab off the target shelf.
m o v i n gggg on.

if you’re new around here, a quick recap:
my background is in early childhood, special education and behavior analysis… through all of my jobs pre ‘mama’ status, toilet training was one of my favorite parts because of the quick success rates. i’ve toilet trained too many kids to count and it all went out the window when i started thinking about training my own twins.
when i was…oh i don’t know, 28 weeks pregnant with miller, i told zach we had get the girls toilet trained before mills got here because i refused to have 3 babies in diapers. luckily i still have amazing friends who used to be co-workers who helped me get back into professional mode and we totally rocked it out… we got our 22 month old twin girls toilet trained in less than 3 days at 32 weeks pregnant!

you can read all about it here… i spelled every detail out and explained our every move, so it should hopefully be fairly easy to follow with the main emphasis being reinforcement.

i certainly learned a lot through the process because this was the first time toilet training my own kids which adds an entire level of emotion…as well as my first time being the only one who was ‘on site’ 24/7 for the entire 3 days. zach was AMAZING. you’ll never know how much someone loves you until you say, ‘oh hey, you get to toilet train toddlers with me and by the way, you’ll be in a bathroom for hours on end!’ but i tell ya… he was SUCH a good sport and is totally the reason these little gals are toilet trained!


a travel toilet
we bought this one to have in the car.. but trust me when i say this is the best $10 you’ll ever spend with kids. we have gotten more use out of this travel toilet than i ever thought was possible. keep it in the car along with a roll of toilet paper + clorox wipes {you can even throw a diaper open and put it in there to make cleanup SO EASY. if you have multiple kids… just use the toilet outside while playing rather than dragging all kids inside so you don’t have an accident trying to herd cats get all the kids inside. back to the car. we taught the girls that they would get candy if they told us when they had to go. don’t get me wrong, we made a couple stops {especially that first month} that were false alarm, and yes, frustrating…but the first time i didn’t stop when someone said they needed to, they tinkled in the car seat. which brings me to my next tip.

pet training potty pads
the second best $10 you’ll spend with toddlers. i’m not saying your child is a pet, but these things are PERFECT for protecting your car seat. i learned after the 3rd time washing a car seat cover in a week…those things are a GIANT pain so….cut one of these suckers in half and stick it under your child’s bum…make sure you wrap it up the front a bit because of the angle when they’re sitting…or you’ll wind up still washing the carseat…just learn from my mistakes!

have reinforcement readily available
whatever reinforcement is…for us it’s candy… have it readily available wherever you are and if possible in 1,000 different locations. it never fails that they go tinkle and i forgot the sweetish fish at home. the girls are far enough along that they can delay gratification, but those first few weeks need to really be immediate with reinforcement.

pull-ups/diapers at nap + night
it is developmentally appropriate for kids to need pull-ups/diapers at naps and night still until they’re much older, sometimes even 5-6. don’t stress. i typically save their ‘nighttime undies’ if they’re dry for a day or two so we’re not flying through them. the other thing we do is we put undies back on over the pull-ups for a couple reasons. first, we’re trying to drop them, so i don’t want them thinking it’s totally okay to tinkle in their night time undies so we say ‘you still have your big girl undies on’. second, it allows a little bit more independence and it’s one less step when they get up and go potty. they just pull the tabs and take it off, throw it in the trash can if it’s wet and on the counter if it’s dry. it took us awhile to get to that point but now they’re totally independent! **we do NOT make a big deal if they tinkle in their night time undies… we just say ok, throw it in the trash and move on with our day**

handling regression
i get asked this question all the time… i knew going into this that we were having a baby shortly after the girls were toilet trained, and just after they turned 2. i full anticipated a regression with the new changes in our house and i was actually shocked at what wound up happening. lila was a little slower in picking up toilet training and took a solid 3-4 weeks before she communicated that she had to go potty, but once she got it, she got it. she can complete the process totally independently {needing help to wipe after pooping}, but she’s got it. as soon as miller was born though, piper had a major regression. like 4-6 accidents per day. i think it started once she was off routine when staying at other people’s houses while we were in the hospital, but once we got home, she would have an accident 3-4x per day and it was exclusively while i was nursing miller. SO FRUSTRATING. i would take her potty literally minutes before sitting down to feed him and it still would happen. i so badly wanted to put her back in diapers because let’s be honest, it would have been easier to do that, but we hung tight and after a couple months, she’s back to normal. big life changes can totally alter behavior and for piper, it was an attention thing. if she had an accident, she got attention, regardless of whether it was positive or negative. patience is the name of the game and we had to go back and isolate a reinforcer…see below.

1 for dry undies, 1 for tinkles in the toilet
i’ll be honest, i was pulling at straws and one day this came out of my mouth ‘great job keeping your undies dry!! you get 2 candy corn! 1 for your undies being dry and 1 for tinkling on the potty!!’ and wah-lah. 6 days of zero accidents followed. ducky {piper} is a smart little chicky and for whatever reason this worked for her. it just made sense in her head and she was determined to earn those 2 candies. we stuck with that for awhile and really just in the last month or so have dropped the 2 candies every time.

special treat for poops
so poop is just hard for kiddos sometimes, mainly because unlike tinkles, poops usually only come once per day, meaning less time to practice. lila picked it up right away, piper had it and then with the whole regression thing, we needed something to change it up. so. along came the ‘chocolate bunny’. it was post easter and we had a ton of chocolate bunnies…so there it is. then halloween came and now we’re using mini chocolate bars that are still called ‘chocolate bunnies’.

space reinforcement as soon as possible
there are so many ways to do this, but basically, you don’t want them to be 6 years old getting candy every time they go potty. of us, the girls LOVE paw patrol and since we don’t have cable, it became a very special thing to watch it on the iPad randomly. piper was having a tough week and i finally said one morning, if you keep your undies dry all day, you get to watch paw patrol tonight. lila did it and piper didn’t…one night of devastation was all it took and here we are about a month later and without documentation, i’d say piper has missed a total of 3 nights, lila 1. they’re not in trouble if they don’t get it, but instead of watching paw patrol, they get to read books in their bed. easy peasy. 

target practice
this one’s for the boys…if you’re having problems with pee winding up literally alllll over, let them take a cheerio, throw it in the potty and try to sink it.

avoid the toilet paper excess
the girls have a rule, only 2 squares of tp per wipe. if you have to wipe poop, you may get two squares multiple times until the poop is gone!

the devil aka automatic flushers in public
i’ll never forget… 2 days into the potty party and both girls came down with horrendous strep throat. i was paranoid to take ducky out in public yet because it was such a far drive, but she was doing so well, i didn’t put her in a diaper. she made it to the toilet and the stupid automatic flusher happened and scared the living daylights out of her. bless her heart…absolute hysterics. i forgot what i had told a million parents before…grab a sticky note pad, keep it in your diaper bag and just pull one out, stick it on the sensor while they’re going potty then have them pull it off to flush!

i love hearing what tips other parents have learned along the way, so tell me, what is your #1 tip or trick for toilet training?? 

and, just because they’re cute… and to show they made it alive! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “toilet training | tips + tricks

  1. Such amazing information! I lived through the twins potty training and still learned new things on this blog! How come I didn’t know about the sticky note trick LOL???? This will be such help for new moms – nice job Linds!!

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