The 9 Stages of Potty Training

So you’ve decided it’s time to start potty training. Congratulations! – and good luck. Because while the world may have tried to convince you that potty training may be an easy three day process, in our experience it hasn’t been so cut and dry. Well, definitely not dry. Wondering about the real stages of potty training? We’ve got all the real-talk take on the potty training progression in this hilarious post. What stage of potty training is YOUR child in?

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The Research Stage of Potty Training

As Mothers of the 21st century, no parenting endeavor should begin without thorough research. For many of you this may mean actual books.

You might be dreaming BIG with “Potty Training in 3 Days” or taking a more cross your fingers and pray approach with “Oh Crap! Potty Training Either way, you probably filled your Amazon cart and are reading up.

woman overwhelmed reading

We rely on Pinterest (check out our board FULL of potty training tips here!) and Google to solve our potty training problems.

The good news is there is a crap ton (pun intended) of information about potty training available. (And we’ve pulled a bunch of it together for you here!)

So sit back, relax, and don’t get overwhelmed as you read your way through the pros and cons of all the different potty training techniques available to you!

Related Post: The Best Potty Training Books for Kids

The “This is Going to Be EASY” Stage

Do you have an 18 month old that’s SUPER interested in the potty? Maybe he asks to sit on it every morning. Or maybe she knows all the signs for pee and poop and is so good at using them when she goes!

Maybe your child has older siblings, so this time it’s going to be a breeze. Obviously they’re going to want to be just like their big brother or sister.

Either way, it’s going to be easy and you’re going to FLY through the stages of potty training in no time!

I never fell into this trap with my first or my second child. Probably because they showed no interest for a loooong time. So you think by my third I’d have known better. I didn’t.

The good news is, it’s a good place to start. Big dreams and high hopes are how we start everything in this parenting journey right? And a good thing, or we’d probably never get through it!

Revel in this place for a while if you can, because the other stages of potty training are all downhill from here!

Get prepared with our Printable Potty Training Planner:

images of potty planner pages; water tracker, daily toilet tracking

Operation Amazon

My favorite part of any project, is getting everything ready to start it. It’s like how I feel more put together after buying a new lip gloss at Ulta.

And a successful day on Amazon can make you feel like you’re going to overcome any potty training problems your little ones will throw your way. Here are the essentials to grab during Operation Amazon.

  •  Potty Watch – Potty training kids need to go a lot. This watch helps keep track of when your kid needs to go, and helps them feel like a “big kid.” Win-win!

  •  Small Potty – You might think a small potty is a gross idea, but when you’re trying to bribe your kid to go by saying they can try while watching Paw Patrol? Well, you’ll be glad you grabbed it.
  •  Soft Potty Seat – Yes, you already have a small potty, but trust us. You want all the options for when you’re dealing with an opinionated toddler.
  •  TreatsGrab stickers, grab charts, grab lollipops. Whatever your kids treat love language is, buy THAT.

Optimism and M&Ms

Today is the day you start potty training. Or, your kid does at least. Whether you’re starting with an eager 18-month old or a reluctant 3 year old – you are going to take on potty training – and then the world!

bowl of M&Ms

You’ve done your research, you’ve bought all the things, your bowl of celebratory M&M’s is ready – what could possibly go wrong? (Famous last words, amIright??)

But not YOU! You’ve got this Mama! 

Related Post: Potty Training Humor & Tips for Mamas in the Trenches

This Is Happening!

You can’t believe it, but the optimism (and chocolate) are paying off! Sure, there are some potty training problems along the way.

You’ve got a designated pee towel now, which wasn’t really part of your life goals, but whatever. More pee is going into the potty than onto the floor, and that is a huge success. You’re remembering to remind your kid every 20 minutes and you’re ready to head out into the real world in undies!

Could it really be this simple? I mean, what have people been freaking out about this whole time anyway?

Recommended: Printable Potty Training Planner for Busy Moms


Congratulations! You’ve reached the next stage of the potty training progression, and your kid is MOSTLY potty trained!

Unless something cool is going on, in which case, it’s accident central. So hot spots for accidents include the park, school, the store, the backyard, your kitchen, in front of anyone you want to impress – you know what?

Maybe your kid isn’t potty trained after all. I mean, if it’s just the two of you at home and you’re not playing games or watching a show or eating a snack, then you’re golden.

Tweet: My kid turned the slide into a waterslide today. And not with water.

So pat yourself on the back, because you’re doing great. This is all part of the potty training progression. Potty training just happens to be a marathon, not a sprint.

This Was a Terrible Idea

Remember that marathon reference? So in a marathon, there’s a point in which the runner “hits the wall.” This happens around mile 18, when you’re so close, but there’s still a lot of ground to cover. (Full disclosure: This is what we’ve HEARD. I get winded running to my car when I hear the street sweeper coming and I forgot to move my car. But I digress.)

parents looking at a potty

The point is, you might be hitting the wall and considering giving up on the whole thing. But you’re SO close! We promise.

They’re Not Going to College in Diapers, Right?

Only a lucky few of us reach this phase. Symptoms include crying in the bathroom while you beg your child to just use the toilet and crying in the hallway where your child decided to pee instead. This demoralizing phase sucks.

I’ve potty trained three totally different kids and have only been through this phase with one of them, but it was enough to haunt me for a lifetime.

Over a solid year after being potty trained for pee, my middle child still wasn’t potty trained for, well, solids. Unsure if it was stubbornness, fear, anxiety or a fun combination of all three, I had basically given up.

She dutifully snuck into her room and put on a Pull-Up instead of pooping in her underwear, so I knew that it was something the was physically capable of doing.

Mom points at potty after successful potty training

Which, frankly, made it all the more frustrating.

And then one day, it just happened. She used the potty instead of a Pull Up and never looked back. So I promise you, they will get there. And it will be before Freshman Orientation.

Related Post: Can Your Child Ditch Night Diapers? Pro Tips for Night Time Toilet Training

Potty Training SUCCESS!

We all reach this stage at different times. For some of you it may happen after three Pinterest perfect days of potty training. For some of us it will be after years of toil and trouble.

But no matter when it comes, or how it comes, you and your child deserve to celebrate this huge milestone.


Looking for more potty training tips and humor? Head here next-

Do you have your Potty Training Planner yet?? Get yours here and make getting ready for potty training a breeze!