How to Potty Train the Simple Way

Simple Potty Training

Potty training can be anything but simple. It’s a messy yet exciting milestone at the same time. If it’s your first time, you will find that a quick Amazon search for “potty training” turns up 15,623 products.

These products range from sticker charts to an Elmo potty, training pants, pull-ups, plenty of cleaning supplies, board books. For good measure, throw a healthy dose of frustration into your cart.

I will pre-empt your Amazon search efforts and tell you that you only need one thing to potty train your child: a toilet. 

Maybe a few cleaning supplies too. 

I am a seasoned potty-trainer. Before having kids I did some professional potty-training. I worked with children who were particularly difficult to train (typically those with behavior challenges, developmental disorders, Autism, etc.).

I have seen and used a variety of methods. I am not going to reinvent the wheel by coming up with a new method–but what I am going to do is tell you about my favorites. According to Potty Training extraordinaire Jamie Glowacki, there are two general systems to choose from when potty training.

  1. Rewards
  2. Consistency and commitment

The first type, rewards, is what I used in my professional work. A rewards-type system involves the use of things like sticker charts and M&Ms for success. The 2-day method, 3-day method, the weekend method…those tend to be reward systems. These types of systems can work very well.

The second type of system, consistency and commitment, is what I have chosen for my own children. These types of systems are respectful, natural, and avoid all the potty products and clutter.

Two examples of the “consistency and commitment” systems include the Montessori toilet learning and Glowacki’s “Oh, Crap” method. Both of these methods recommend starting early, ideally between 20-30 months–so if you are near that range, tune in closely. 

I had heard legend that if you send your kid to Montessori school the potty training magic would happen there. I enrolled my oldest into daily Montessori school at 20-months. He went to school everyday in training pants. He peed in his pants every single day for 10 months.

Zero pee-pees and poo-poos in the potty for 10 months. 

Our parenting style and home life has been very positively influenced by Montessori. Therefore, I really loved the idea of this toilet learning method and wanted it to work for our family. It has been working for families for nearly 100 years, right?

But as a Mom, I had to pull the plug. Finally, at the tender age of 30 months, I told the teacher “we are going to move in a slightly different direction” for potty training.

That’s when we arrived at the “Oh, Crap” method. To me, it feels like the best of both worlds.

My favorite part? It’s simple. You don’t need training pants or singing-potty chairs.

I do recommend you start with a new toilet seat. I love these toilet seats that have a child size insert built it–that way you don’t have to worry about storing the extra toilet seat insert in your bathroom (they get kind of gross…). If you decide to skip the new toilet seat, an insert like this one is helpful because you can stand it up when it’s not in use.

I know what you are thinking. Don’t I need a potty chair? My answer is: maybe.

My oldest felt very unsteady on the big potty and didn’t like his feet dangling down. His comfort and security were very important, so we did choose to start with a very simple potty chair. If you find that your child is also more comfortable on the little potty–by all means buy one. However, if you can skip it you should–this can make the process and transition that much easier.

But please, I beg you–don’t let those potty chairs clutter up your house. They are big and awkward. Do not store that potty chair in your house for years until your next child comes along. When you are done with it, pass it on to another family to get it out of sight.

So there you have it. Get yourself a book and a toilet and you are in business.

Do you have any secrets for simple potty training?

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Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.