Real Life Potty Training STories

About This Series

This is the fourth installment in our series of real-life stories about how real parents helped their children move from diapers to fully potty trained. We created it in recognition of the fact that all kids are unique and that no two potty training journeys are exactly the same. There truly is no better way to grasp what needs to be done (and to motivate yourself) than learning how other parents tackled this major milestone!

Introducing John and His Five Children

Our fourth story is from John and is proof positive that there are some dad's out there who are true potty training pros. Let's find out how he potty trained his FIVE children.

Question #1 - Please Tell Us About Yourself and Your Family!?

Hello, my name is John. My family and I are a military family and we are currently stationed in San Antonio, Texas. I am a proud husband and father of five children; three daughters aged 19, 18, and 9, and two five year old twin boys. Our potty training story will focus on our youngest daughter and twin boys.

Question #2 - When Did You Start Potty Training?

I started potty training my nine year old daughter when she was about 22 months old, and the twins when they were two-and-a-half years old. The motivation for Eva (my nine-old) came easy, she was noticeably eager to use the potty. I looked for all the signs that showed us she was ready; could she walk up a step stool and sit on a potty seat? Was she able to pull down her pants and pull them up again? Could she stay dry for up to two hours? Was she receptive to my directions? Was she able to communicate her need to go? Did she seem interested in using the toilet or was it merely curiosity? 

We used the same criteria as above when making the decision to start potty training the twins.  It was a little trickier with the twins though, as they were initially interested when we introduced their new potty chairs, BUT it took motivation to get them to actually use them. We made sure, of course, that the training was not forced. We had no timeline for training them and didn’t want them to feel any pressure - learning a new skill under pressure rarely yields positive results.

Question #3 - What Helped You The Most?

To be honest, we both had experience in our repertoire. Eva, at the time, was our third child, and the twins our fourth and fifth. I’m sure we may have glanced at a parenting book, or literature on potty training just out of curiosity at some point, pondering what might be the current or “new” thing to do. But at the end of the day, it was just good ole’ experience that led the way. Some credit also goes to Eva when training our twins since she motivated them, and they listened to her words of wisdom. With our oldest two, I’d have to chalk it up to trial and error. They are 18 and 19 now so truthfully, I don’t fully remember.

Boy Inspecting Potty Chair

Question #4 - How Long Did It Take to Click?

For Eva, it took just under a week of consistency for it to click. For the twins, it took about two weeks but I will admit we did not approach it as aggressively with them as we did for Eva.

Question #5 - When Were You Really Confident They Were Trained?

For Eva it was surprisingly quick - we were comfortable after maybe one month if that with very few accidents. The twins on the other hand took the “pick and choose” approach, which meant it took longer for us to get comfortable with their status as "potty trained." 

If you are wondering what I meant by "pick and choose" it's that they picked the days and times that they wanted to comply and chose when they wanted to be a little more difficult. The added dynamic of the “twin-ship” meant it could go twice as badly or twice as successfully depending on the prevalent mood  because most things are done in tandem since they follow each other's lead. We had a few accidents (and quite a few midday baths!) but after one of them got it down, the other followed suit. Twins can be competitive that way. All-in-all, the boys took about three to four months. It just comes to show how all children are different and will do things only when they are good and ready.

Question #6 - How Did You Tackle Poop?

Boy Inspecting Potty Chair

We made sure that the kids understood the moment their bottom gave them a “funny feeling,” it was time to go straight to the potty. This led to false alarms, but it prevented any poop accidents. We also wrote down their bowel movement habits for about a week so we could eventually predict when they might have to go. It was a bit of a process, but it was helpful.

One thing I’ll add is that toilet paper just doesn’t cut it when it comes to potty training and poop, especially when they start wiping themselves (for us it was just after four years old that we had them start trying). Just be sure to use truly "flushable" wipes and never regular baby wipes.

Question #7 - What About Training Outside Your Home?

As you can imagine, potty training outside of the house presented a challenge since you are now trying to make home-runs in an entirely different ballgame. My wife and I did all we could to avoid public restrooms. We made the kids go to the bathroom before heading out anywhere (even if they claimed they already went) and avoided giving too many liquids during regular errands. 

Of course, if we needed to use public restrooms we brought along disinfectant wipes and our own flushable wipes and I always had a small backpack with changes of clothes, emergency pull-ups, hand wipes, etc. We NEVER left home without that (and even now that the twins are 5 we keep all that in a car minus the pull-ups). The potty seat also came along on the road trips for sure.

Question #8 - How About Nighttime Training?

Yes, the training was more effective done together, at least for us. Overall, it went very well. Water intake was decreased with no liquids given at least two hours before bedtime. We had them try to use the potty right after brushing their teeth, and for a few weeks, we even woke them up in the middle of the night to try to potty again. That’s when the process was most successful. 

No one is perfect, and there were a few accidents, but mostly if WE (i.e. the adults) veered from the plan. We kept a waterproof pad under them and though Eva never wet the bed, the boys had accidents about once a week until slowly it turned into once every few weeks.

Question #9 - Any Potty Training Hacks You Can Share?

Boy Inspecting Potty Chair

Using a reward system, such as a calendar and/or chart with stickers so that they can visualize their own progress is a great method. We are big on positive reinforcement and used a treasure chest system where they could choose one item when they were successful. Always, ALWAYS praise them for trying, and when they use the potty successfully, make a HUGE deal of it. Make up a dance or sing a song - be creative and keep things fun!

Question #10 - Any Last Words For Parents Just About To Embark On Their Potty Training Journey?  

My advice would be for both parents to be actively involved; it makes a huge difference. In our case, I was the “enforcer” with my wife usually cheering from the sidelines. She claims to have done that because the kids followed my instructions better (right…) but when she was more involved the kids seemed to respond more enthusiastically.

Remember to be patient, be loving, be a trusting guide, and be committed to your child and to the schedule. Also, keep in mind that your child or children want to learn, and that they feed off of you and your energy. Never make a fuss when they have accidents or show any type of annoyance. Be gentle and empathetic. Reacting any other way will damage their confidence and set them back. Children learn new skills only when they are interested and ready. Never compare your child to anyone else’s and remember in the end they all figure it out. Hang in there!

More Interesting Reads

smiling toddler showing diaper bum happy

Real Potty Training STory No. 2

The second installment in our series showing how real parents potty trained their kids. If you think training one child is a challenge, imagine training two at the same time!

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Real Potty Training Story No. 3

The third installment in our series showing how real parents potty trained their kids. See how this family potty trained their son during the height of the pandemic in New York City!

toddler sitting on potty chair

Real Potty Training Story No. 4

The fifth installment in our series showing how real parents potty trained their kids. See how this actress in L.A potty trained her two year old son!