One of the things that parents look forward to is the day they will no longer have to deal with diapers. There are endless reasons why we look forward to this important milestone. Certainly, we are excited for our child to reach this level of independence but if we are honest, most of the reasons are kind of selfish. No more buying diapers! No more looking for changing tables when out in public! No more lugging around a diaper bag everywhere you go! Some days it seems like you will be changing diapers your entire life but there are some things that will make this journey much easier.
- Wait until they are ready. Your eagerness to have your child start using the toilet can result in failure if you start too soon. Children may start potty training around age 2 but if your child is not showing any signs of interest in the toilet, is not very independent or is still using a bottle then they are probably not ready. No need to frustrate yourself and your child by forcing them to try when they are not ready. There is no wrong time to start this process. The usual time is between the ages of 2 and 4. Be patient and wait to start when they are ready and the process will go much more smoothly.
- Keep a positive attitude. Your little one will get the hang of using the potty so just keep encouraging them and keep your energy happy and positive. Kids love to please people so knowing that it makes you happy when they are able to use the bathroom will motivate them to do it. Kids can feel our energy and they will do much better if they feel positive vibes coming from their parents.
- Do not yell at your child. There is a lot of trial and error when you are potty training. Your child will have accidents, often in the night, but also during the day. This is perfectly normal and you cannot get angry at them. Not only will this make them feel bad about themselves but it can actually make the learning process take longer. If a child is feeling anxious and afraid that they might have an accident, it can make it happen more often. You would never knowingly hurt your child’s feelings or make them feel bad about themselves so you need to keep this in mind during the potty training process too. Yes, even if they ruin numerous pair of underwear and sheets. You can replace anything but you cannot take back negative things you have said to your child. Never scold them for accidents during potty training.
- Inexpensive rewards work. One of the great things about young children is the ability to please them in fairly inexpensive ways. No need for a laptop for every poop in the toilet! I found that my children responded really well to stickers so I made potty sticker books. I bought a cheap little notebook with their favorite character on it and then packs of stickers. Every time they used the toilet, I would let them pick out one of the stickers to put in their book. You cannot believe how much this motivated them. As they were running to the bathroom, I would run right behind them yelling, “I can’t wait to see which sticker you are going to pick!”
- Celebrate! I am not ashamed to tell you that I had a “Potty Dance”. Every time my child used the toilet, I would dance like a fool and tell them that it was the potty dance. I am not even sure if the first few tinkles in the toilet were because they had to go or from laughing so hard at me. It really did work on my kids. They were asking for the potty dance as soon as they hit the bathroom door. And I saved that sacred dance for the successes on the toilet. I would NEVER do the potty dance at any other time because then it would lose its magic.
- Keep asking. Kids get easily distracted and they will forget to use the bathroom when they are first learning. It is up to parents to ask them over and over again throughout the day if they need to go. Sometimes kids will not tell the truth because they want to keep playing or watching something on t.v. so you can ask them but you may have to just take them if it has been a while.
- Set a routine. Although you will need to check with your child all day long to see if they need to go, there are certain times you should set where it is a given. As soon as your child gets up in the morning, have them try to use the toilet. After meals and snacks, especially when they have had something to drink with their food, take them to the bathroom. Before your child lays down for a nap, make sure to take them to the bathroom. Of course, lastly, they need to try to use the toilet right before they go to bed at night.
- Listen to your kids. Take your child to the toilet EVERY time they say they need to go. This can be a frustrating task because many kids will say they need to go when they really do not need to go. They could be testing you but they may not understand when they really need to go. Regardless, make sure you take them every time they say they need to go. You never know when it will be a false alarm or the real deal and you don’t want to take a chance. Don’t assume they are crying wolf, just take them and make sure to praise them for telling you even if they don’t go. Give them extra praise if they go after telling you.
- Stay home. You don’t need to be chained to the sofa for a year while you potty train but you may need to stay home more often than usual. It is harder for a child to remember to tell you that they need to go when they are distracted out in public. If they are having fun at the park, movies, restaurants, etc. then they may forget or not want to tell you they need to go. There is also the struggle of finding an appropriate and clean facility for your child to use the bathroom. It makes it easier on both mom and child if you stick around your home for especially the first few weeks of potty training.
- Make it easier for them. When your child is going through potty training, they need all the help they can get. Make sure it is as easy for them as possible. Have them wear bottoms with elastic so they can easily pull them up and down. Snaps and zippers are too hard to master and can leave toddlers having accidents that could have been avoided. Make sure the bathroom they use is kid friendly. If you use a child’s potty chair then make sure they can reach it or if they are using the regular toilet, make sure they have a stool.
- Model the proper behavior. Children definitely learn by what they see and young girls will learn from mom and a lot of boys learn from dad. That does not mean that parents of the opposite sex cannot potty train a child, it just might make it a little easier to model the same sex parent if you have that option. Be sure your child knows how to sit on the toilet, how to properly wipe (you will be helping with this for quite a while but they should see the general idea) and how to wash their hands. Kids want to be just like their parents so showing them what to do is helpful.
The products that you use for potty training are a personal choice. Some brave people will go straight to standard underwear and some will use pull up type products. There are advantages to both and there is no right or wrong choice. If you go straight to underwear, then there will be a lot more work for the parents because you have to wash a lot of clothes in between accidents but if you think your child would be more accepting of that method then go for it. Pull ups offer the idea of standard underwear and keep things cleaner because they can be thrown away. There is more cost involved in using these products so you have to decide which method is best for your family. You can also use both. Kids can wear regular underwear during the day when you can get them to a toilet easier and then have them wear pull ups at night.
Potty training is a tiring and exciting time for kids and parents. You will go through the frustration of accidents and running to the bathroom many times a day. You will have to get up in the night with your child every time they wake up and say they need to use the bathroom. You will have the possibility and embarrassment of accidents out in public. But you are not the only parent going through this process and you have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. For every success story, there are 100 embarrassing (and funny) potty stories. When my daughter was in process of potty training, I did not listen to one of my own rules and we went out to eat and then shopping at a store. While we were in the store, my daughter told me her tummy hurt and she had to go to the bathroom. There was a single, small unisex bathroom in this store with only one toilet. Before I could get her underwear pulled down, this sweet little girl had the most explosive diarrhea I have ever seen and it went on the floor and walls of this bathroom. I came out of shock long enough to see a bottle of cleaning solution on the back of the toilet and I used every last paper towel in the dispenser to clean this bathroom as best I could but it was not enough. I threw her underwear away and snuck out of that store, leaving behind a crime scene in their bathroom and I have never been to that store again. Was I more embarrassed than I have ever been? Yes. Did I think it was funny at the time? No. Do I think it is funny to tell this story to my daughter who is now 18? Yes.
Much like we forget the pain of giving birth as the years go by, we forget the pain associated with potty training. It is really a milestone for your child and the start of their independence. Your child will feel very proud when they use can use the toilet on their own and you will be twice as proud. The first time you go on vacation without a case of diapers and a 20-pound diaper bag over your shoulder, you will be even more happy.