How To Get Your Kid Potty-Train Themselves

You think your kid is ready for potty training, so you buys the books, learn the songs, and try to teach them the “right” way. But then something happens. Or rather, nothing happens. Try as you might, your kid just isn’t feeling the whole "pee in a weird chair with a hole in it" thing. And, well, can you blame them? The concept is pretty odd, especially if it's new to you. So what do you do? Do you keep pressing the matter, or do you just kick back and let your kid potty-train themselves? While there's no one "right" answer, there's definitely an answer that's right for you and your toddler.

Personally, I went with the latter. I know some folks might disagree with the choice to allow my kid to wear diapers until he's 4, and, yes, diapers are expensive. In fact, the expense was one of the reasons why I bought him his first potty chair when he was 2, and then a second potty chair when he was 3. But you know what else diapers are? Easy. All the mess is contained in this easy-to-use, easy-to-remove receptacle. Do you know how much harder it is to clean poop off a carpet I don’t, because I kept my kid in diapers.

Plus, I’m a bit of a lazy parent who has no problems being hands-off. I did make a few attempts to potty train the kid early, but my son was just not into it. So, instead, my partner and I waited until our son was old enough to get really interested in the matter by himself. He called the shots and, in a roundabout way, trained himself to use a toilet. So if you’re a mom whose at her wits end trying to make this happen for your child, I have a few tips on how to get your kid to do the heavy lifting:

Don’t Make It A Big Deal

Training to use a toilet is a lot of pressure for one tiny person. The entire ordeal also puts a significant amount of undue stress on parents, or at least it seems that way. Go into the situation knowing it’ll happen someday, eventually, and don't make a big deal about a specific deadline or length of time you hope your kid accomplishes this goal. Potty training is a marathon, not a sprint.

Let Them Observe You As You “Go”

Kids are great at picking up lessons via careful observation. Odds are that once your kid is mobile, they won’t let you use the bathroom alone anyway. Just turn a potentially annoying situation into a learning one, and feel free to not lock or even close your bathroom doors for a long, long period of time. Hell, maybe you can even talk your kid through what's happening.

Read Books & Watch Shows That Highlight Toilet Use

You don’t have to bombard them with info, but show them the stuff you picked up — your potty training toolkit, if you will. They’ll usually get curious and want you to read the stories or explain what's going on with Elmo, and that definitely sparks their curiosity.

Buy Them A Potty & Simply Introduce Them To It

Your kid will need a potty (whether it’s an individual one or a seat on the toilet). I bought my kid two and, well, he had zero interest. But just knowing they were there did help, and eventually he grew curious enough to actually get interested in the whole "peeing in a potty" thing. So even if they sit in the bathroom collecting dust, it won't hurt to have a training potty around.

Casually Mention The Potty In Daily Conversation

Instead of telling them this is where they’ll do their business from now on, simply suggest they use the potty the way you use the toilet. If they want to, cool. If not, also cool.

Forget The Potty Exists

Some kids might start taking to it right away. Others (like mine) will simply forget all about it. Hey, at least you tried.

Change *A Lot* Of Diapers

Like a lot. Like a lot a lot. Change so many diapers, in fact, that even your baby gets sick and tired of the routine.

Talk About The Limitations Of Diapers

A few white lies are OK at this point. I mean, your kid isn't going to remember the time you told them the powers that be didn't make a diaper any bigger than the one he or she was wearing. But if you can successfully plant a seed in your kid’s mind, they'll slowly start navigating toward the potty.

Ask Your Kid If They Want To Use Big Kid Underwear

If you haven’t bought a pair of underwear, at least suggest it. Maybe they’ll want a special trip to the store to buy some new underwear with fun characters or designs on them. Whatever motivates them is a win in my book.


Your kid will let you know when they're ready. I assure you. “I have to go potty!” was music to my ears.

Make The Bathroom Easy For Them To Use On Their Own

If you don't want to hold your kid's hand during every single trip to the bathroom, set them up for independent success. For example, make sure there’s easy-to-reach soap by the sink, plenty of step stools, a night light (in case the main light is off), a towel they can reach, and a potty already set up for them. Think Montessori.

Be Encouraging

Not pushy. Not demanding. Just, you know, supportive.

People told me to use things like potty sticker charts to entice my kid, but he couldn't have cared less. What works for some kids won't work for others, so figure out the kind of encouragement and support your kid needs, then give it to them. I told my son he was doing a good job when just *thought* about using the potty, and that helped significantly.