When my partner and I began tossing around the idea of potty training our son, like many parents, we consulted Dr. Google for information on how to begin the process. We were bombarded by a mountain of information from experts and other parents on “the secrets” to potty training success, and now that my son is almost three and is finally potty trained, I’m going to share a secret of my own: there is no secret, and there are a lot of things you don’t have to do during potty training, even though everyone, including the internet, says you do.

There. I said it. The secret is out, you guys.

There is no special formula for potty training your kid. Sure, there are some rules you’ll want to follow during potty training, like being consistent and encouraging (duh), but potty training isn’t the same for everyone. Each kid and family and situation is unique, and there is no universal path or one-size-fits-all formula that will guarantee your kid will master the potty in a certain amount of time.

Something that is guaranteed when it comes to teaching your kid to pee independently, is that potty training is gross. It’s also frustrating and time consuming and, well, it’s just the worst. I can’t tell you the exact steps you should take for potty training success, because in reality, there aren’t any exact steps. What I can tell you is that you shouldn’t get down on your parenting skills if you’re toddler’s toilet time doesn’t resemble that of some “mom expert” on the internet, or doesn't look like the potty training fairy tale you had envisioned for yourself and your little. You and your toddler will figure out what works best and on your own timetable, so there's no need to panic or feel like you need to do the following things:

Start By A Certain Age


I had heard from both friends and family members that potty training should start and be completed before a kid's second birthday. While that specific timetable may work for some, it doesn't automatically work for everyone. Having a child completely potty trained by the time they’re two sounds like a dream, and for my son, that’s exactly what it was; not realistic at all. I tried to potty train him around his second birthday, but it just wasn’t working out, and neither of us were ready for it.

Start As Soon As Your Kid Shows Any Interest


There are some definite cues your child may be giving you that show they’re ready to try potty training, but simply showing one, maybe two, signs that they're interested doesn’t mean that they’re actually ready. I mistakenly got a little too excited while reading a list of signs a child is ready to potty train, and noticed that my not-even-two-year-old checked a couple of the boxes. Yes, he was showing interest, but checking two boxes out of 20 doesn’t mean a toddler is ready to conquer the commode.

Use A Little Potty


Using one of those cute little potties they sell for kids at the store is fine, but don’t feel like that’s a purchase you absolutely have to make. You don’t. Not unless you want to.

I bought one, and it just sat in a corner for months until my son realized that it sang him a song every time he flushed it. So basically, it was never used for anything more than entertainment. We bought one of the little seats that you put on top of your own toilet (so that little toddler butts wouldn’t fall in the water), and our son trained just fine with that. Again, this is completely up to you.

Don't Take A Break If It's Not Working Out


After trying and failing to get my son potty trained, I questioned whether or not we should just give it a break before we were both irrevocably damaged. A lot of the material I was reading was telling me not to give up though, so I was afraid that if we took a break, he’d never show interest in his potty again. I was wrong, and the break proved quite effective. My son started potty training when he was ready, and it was much, much easier that way.

Abandon Diapers Completely


Some parents use diaperless potty training, myself included, but that’s not something that you have to do if it’s not condusive to your situation. My best friend used Pull Ups for her son and had a lot of success, so again, it’s just finding which method works best for you and your child.

Have Your Kid Potty Trained In A Certain Amount Of Time


Some kids are potty trained in three days, others in three months, and others still aren’t competent after a year. Each and every child and parent and situation is different. Just because your friend had her daughter potty trained in three days, doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same luck. It might take more time than what you’d prefer, but it’s important that you remain patient with your child and continue to encourage them, even when they’re not getting the hang of it quite as quickly as you’d like.

Consult Experts


If reading books written by experts helps you, by all means, read them. Just know that your experience might not mirror an expert’s, and your child might be stubborn or hesitant to begin potty training.

Sometimes, it’s best to just kind of wing it and let your child find their own way. Give them the tools and support they need, and expose them to the potty, but let them come around to it in their own time, even if some expert said otherwise. Your child is your best gauge in figuring out whether or not they’re ready, and expert potty training tips can be extremely helpful, but they’re not always right for your situation.

Use Certain Rewards


Positive reinforcement is typically pretty effective when it comes to trying to teach your child anything, especially potty training. My partner and I have found particular success with rewarding our son with stickers of fruit popsicles when he successfully completes his business, but other parents don’t necessarily agree with our bribery. If you don’t want to reward your child with chocolate milk when they use the potty, don’t. However, finding an alternative reward for their hard work is definitely a good idea. It doesn’t have to be anything material, but letting them know that you’re proud of them and celebrating their victory somehow will help encourage them to continue their hard work.

Potty training is different for everyone, and there’s really no one way to do it. Figure out what works best for you and your child and practice patience. They’ll figure it out eventually (I promise).