Potty training is a hot topic among parents of toddlers. It is natural to compare notes with other parents on whose baby is first to sit, then to walk, and eventually to being to potty trained. However, it is not a race or a competition and every child is unique and different.
Every parent’s definition of potty trained varies slightly as well. For example, some parents say their toddler is potty trained when their toddler successfully pees in the toilet without accidents, but he/she may still need a diaper for pooping or nighttime accidents. Other parents say they have their toddler trained, but they are taking them to the bathroom on a set schedule to avoid any accidents. However you define potty trained, here are some tips to get you started.
Helpful Tips for Potty Training
- Teach your toddler about his/her body parts including his/her penis/vagina and butt. We use the proper name for each body part, but I know many parents create special names. Whatever you choose, your child needs to know the purpose of each of these body parts, just like they know the mouth is for eating.
- Toddlers learn by intimation. They learn by seeing and watching. We always allowed our young children to come into the bathroom with us and ask questions about what we were doing. Our youngest two learned much quicker than our oldest, because they had siblings to watch as well. Our daughter couldn’t understand why she could not stand up like her brothers did when she peed.
- Allow your toddler to get comfortable with the potty. We put a potty chair in each bathroom from a very young age and allowed our children to explore the potty. They sat on it both with and without their clothing and looked at their favorite books. They brought their toys, dolls, and stuffed animals to pee. We also keep some of their books next to the toilet.
- Allow your toddler to be naked. This was most effective with our boys. Our daughter likes her clothes. She is a little fashionista (playing the mud). Summertime was the best time for us in our potty training journeys. We have a privacy fenced backyard and we allowed the kids to run around naked in the backyard all summer.
- Buy “cool” underwear. Toddlers love their favorite characters. For our oldest, it was Thomas the Train. He slept with the trains for months. Our youngest has changed from Minnie Mouse to Sophia to Frozen. She loves any opportunity to wear her favorite characters; underwear included. Keep in mind that your toddler has been wearing diapers from the day they were born and they may not want to give up something that has always been a part of them.
- Use books and DVDs to aid in teaching your toddler about the potty. Our two boys loved watching Sesame Street – Elmo’s Potty Time. All of our kids enjoyed reading I Have to Go (Sesame Street Toddler Books), My Potty Book: For Boys/My Potty Book for Girls (Potty Books), Once Upon a Potty — Boy/Once Upon a Potty — Girl. Our daughter still requests that we read these books to her over and over.
- Provide positive reinforcement. Reinforcing positive behavior makes children feel good about the choices they have made, motivating them to make those choices again for that reward. The reward can be many things including praise, a high-five, a sticker, a piece of candy, or a small toy.
- Make it fun, because isn’t everything better when it’s fun. Place their favorite books near the potty. Tint some water and put it into their potty. Put Cheerios into the potty for them to aim at. Do a reward/sticker chart.
- Celebrate their successes. Do a happy dance, clap your hands, shout hooray, whatever it takes.
- Encourage your toddlers to sit on the potty after each meal to help with bowel movements. This was something we struggled more with than any other aspect of training, especially with our first. He had problems with constipation and then associated pooping with how it felt when he was constipated and therefore withheld his bowel movements. It was the not the easiest thing for the other two kids either. Our pediatrician suggested having him sit on the toilet after each meal. Without getting too medical, he said that the colon is most active during that time.
- Don’t stress yourself out over it. Kids pick up on your stress. It may seem horrible and never-ending in the middle of it, but a few years down the road it will be a distant memory. Other memories will take its place like when they throw the remote control and shatter your big screen TV or when they decide to put the hose in their sandbox to make their sand wet and flood the backyard.
Just like other areas of development, potty training does not happen overnight. I know there are several methods out there for quick potty training in a day, weekend, or week. Many people have declared these quick training methods successful. I never tried them and cannot attest to their effectiveness.
What I do know is that babies and toddlers do not wake up one day and start talking. They start with sounds and then string sounds together eventually forming a word. Same thing with walking. They pull up, take a step along furniture, fall a few times, take steps on their own, fall a few more times, take a few steps on their own and eventually they are off and running.
As mentioned above that potty training starts with educating your toddler on their body parts and making them comfortable enough with the toilet to take the next step, which may take weeks or months. Practice makes perfect. Potty training is like any skill. The more you do it and practice, the better at it you will become.
Your potty training experience will likely be slightly different for each child. Each of your children has a different personality. Our oldest is laid back and easy going. The middle child is happy doing his own thing until someone makes him mad. The youngest is stubborn and strong willed. We needed to vary our approach slightly with each child to match his/her personality.
As I mentioned above, the exposure each toddler receives affects his/her potty training journey. Our oldest just had us to watch while our youngest learned from her two older brothers as well. Your lifestyle may be different with each child. Our youngest accomplished the peeing part of potty training on a month long road trip with her brothers and me. We stopped frequently and everyone went to the bathroom. I took a similar trip when our middle son was at that age, but had a baby with me. We did not stop unless the baby was crying or the van was out of gas.
I am able to say “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, because we are on the other side of potty training for the most part. We still have our struggles with pooping, but for the most part we are done. Our oldest is eight and his potty training days are a distant memory. Did we have our struggles with him, yes, but we learned from them and improved upon our tactics for the next two.
I am sorry and feel for you if you are currently struggling with potty training, but know that unless your child has a medical issue they will get there. They may not have walked or said their first word when you wanted them to, but they are walking and talking and they will be potty trained too.