Teaching another tiny human being how to go to the bathroom is a daunting task.
When that human doesn’t have the same peeing mechanics as you do, AND you’re on your own…
… oh boy.
It can be a seriously intimidating job.
I’m not a single dad, but I’ve spent long stretches alone with my daughter working through potty training issues, so below I’m going to share all of my top tips and learnings for how to potty train a girl (as a single dad).
You can do this, dudes!
1. Pick your method (Or just KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid)
There is not a whole lot of evidence that one method of toilet training works better than others.
Here are just a few different potty training methods you can look into:
- Brazelton method
- Two or three-day approach
- Child-driven approach
- One week method
- One day method (!)
If you’re not interested in anything complicated or doing a ton of research into this, here is a super basic approach that can get the job done:
- Wait for your daughter to start showing interest in the potty and awareness of when she needs to go — this should be somewhere around 2 years old
- Put her own potty and/or seat in the bathroom so she can get familiar with it
- Encourage her to go, or at least start sitting on the potty, and praise or reward her when she does
- Brace yourself for lots of accidents along the way
- Be extremely patient and don’t rush the process, she’ll get it down eventually!
That’s really it. There’s no magic sauce to this. Every kid is different and will figure it out at their own pace (though girls are notoriously faster than boys, which works in your favor here).
One big piece of advice? Just chill. Your daughter isn’t going to be 10 years old and not knowing how to use the potty.
Your job is to facilitate and encourage the process, but you can’t force it. She’ll get there.
2. Beware of complicated clothes and outfits
One thing you’re bound to run into sooner or later when potty training your daughter is a frantic “I need to potty!” emergency moment…
… only to find yourself fumbling trying to remove some complicated romper or overalls outfit in time.
Aaaaaand…. accident city.
This is a unique problem for girls. Certain kinds of dresses, rompers, overalls, etc. can slow things down substantially when trying to free her up to use the potty in an emergency.
(Or just in general.)
It’s a good practice to avoid anything she can’t easily do herself, especially during the early days when she’s just stopped wearing a diaper.
Go with lots of dresses (without built-in shorts or underwear), and simple, soft shorts that pull up and down easily.
Definitely say No to rompers and overalls, at least for the time being.
3. Don’t forget to wipe!
The idea of wiping thoroughly after a simple pee is kind of foreign to us guys. But it’s absolutely a must for little girls when potty training.
Yes, it’s awkward to wipe your daughter’s vagina. It’s also awkward to clean it thoroughly in the bath, but you have to do it.
When you don’t wipe well enough, and too much pee ends up sitting on there, you’ll find a pretty unpleasant odor starts to form later in the day.
Let’s avoid that, for everyone’s sake, and just get in there with a wet wipe.
(And always wipe front to back!)
4. Rewards work
This isn’t going to be everyone’s style, but damn if I haven’t found it to be pretty effective.
Find something your daughter likes and offer it as a reward for a successful trip to the potty. For my daughter, it’s often been M&Ms, Jelly Beans, and Marshmallows.
- Picking out special underwear
- Fun potties that sing or play music (we used something very similar to this Minnie Mouse Celebration Potty System on Amazon)
Some people say the downside of using rewards is that the child might start demanding a treat or prize every time they use the potty, and this can be a difficult cycle to eventually break. In my opinion, it’s not that big of a deal, and over time you can wean them off the need for this kind of reinforcement.
(We eventually moved to only getting a treat for pooping on the potty, and then to very rarely getting a treat at all.)
Besides, is it really the end of the world to give her a single Jelly Bean or M&M here and there? It’s not like you’re offering a trip to Disney Land 5 times a day!
5. Getting upset & frustrated doesn’t
You don’t want them to associate the potty with anger and negativity, so you have to keep your cool when things go wrong.
I know it’s hard!
One day my daughter woke up from her nap but told me she wasn’t ready to get out of bed yet (she has trouble shaking off the cobwebs like her old man). So I let her lay there for a few minutes.
I guess she had to pee but decided she didn’t feel like getting out of bed, so she just wet herself and soaked her mattress and all of her bedding.
I was really annoyed, obviously, because it meant I then had to wash everything.
But I did my best to reassure her, get everything cleaned up, and just move on. What would yelling have done?
There are going to be accidents! There are going to be tears!
This is just how it is, man. Get used to it and keep yourself together.
6. Have a plan for public spaces
Worse yet, sometimes you’ll go into the men’s room and find all the stalls occupied, leaving you in quite a bind.
My best advice is to avoid this whenever possible. If you’re going somewhere like a public park, concert, ball game, or anywhere where the bathroom situation is likely to, well, suck… try:
- The old “pee before you leave” trick
- Limiting water and other drinks
- Having her wear a diaper or pull up (it’s not the end of the world to use them if you’re in a pinch)
- Or just keep a diaper in your bag and slide it on her if you need to
(One thing to consider for particularly disgusting bathrooms is packing a travel potty system or toilet liner, like this one from Amazon pictured above)
7. Show her how it’s done
I’ve found that modeling ‘good potty behavior’ can actually work really well.
By that I mean, kids are stubborn as hell. Telling them they need to potty before leaving the house, even if they don’t have to go yet, is like arguing with a brick wall.
I’ll frequently tell my daughter that I need to pee before we leave, and that she really should, too. The fact that I’m doing it, too, seems to encourage her to give it a try.
And one of my favorite tricks when we’re stuck somewhere (like in the car) and she has to pee, is to tell her that I have to pee, too! That way, we can ‘hold it’ together and offer encouragement to each other.
Besides, it’s hilarious to have a 3 year old tell you, “Don’t have an accident, daddy!”
8. Don’t rush the overnight stuff
One definite mistake I made was trying to ditch the overnight diaper too soon, thinking it was the last step to full potty training.
And what happened? Lots of overnight accidents!
Our pediatrician later told me that holding pee overnight is just something that’s out of most toddlers’ control.
Eventually, you’ll have to rip this band-aid off and deal with being woken up in the night for potty (or for changing sheets), but don’t stress yourself out too much in the beginning.
If your daughter is around 3 or younger, it might be a little soon to ask her to hold it for 10+ hours while she sleeps.
9. There will be backslides (so be patient)
A lot of people will push this idea that you can potty train a kid in one day, or one week, with the right method. Maybe that’s true.
All I know is our daughter had it 100% figured out, then suddenly out of nowhere started having accidents again.
I remember kind of freaking out when that happened.
Did I do something wrong?! Did I ruin her? Is she broken?!
Having no other choice, we started more or less from scratch. Accidents. Praise and rewards for going on the potty. Lots and lots of patience.
And sure enough, a few weeks later she was back on her game and pottying like a pro.
Backslides and potty training regressions like this are very common and can be caused by an almost limitless number of things: Schedule changes, stress, sickness, etc.
Just know that they’re normal, and they are no cause for alarm. Just stick with the plan and be as consistent as possible in your approach, encourage, and sense of patience.
So that’s it, those are my best tips. Everything I’ve learned in my time helping a headstrong but brilliant toddler girl learn to use the potty.
If you’re a dad doing this on your own, just know that you can handle this.
When you set your expectations properly (knowing that it will take time and there will be plenty of accidents and regressions along the way), it won’t be a bad experience.
If you expect it to be easy and quick, well… you’ve got another thing coming most likely.
I hope this helps. Good luck, dads!