Potty training is looked at as the holy grail of parenting achievements. The minute your child has crossed the 6-month mark, there is a discussion about potty training. When to start potty training? What potty training method to follow? This blog post is my attempt to cover the most practical and effective potty training tips in one detailed post.
Let’s get into it:
INFANT POTTY TRAINING, IS IT REALLY NECESSARY?
Toilet training is a natural process that occurs with development. There is very little scientific information available on the subject of toilet training. Successful toilet training involves many factors like developmental readiness, certain cultural norms and other consistent messaging by parents to the child.
Should parents go for early potty training or not depends on the family and cultural norms around potty training. There is no scientific evidence that proves that early potty training offers the child any developmental advantage.
It is also confusing to call infant potty training as “potty training” because essentially it is the parent who is reading the signs of when a baby needs to go. Babies cannot be trained the way older kids can be. Potty training in toddler years relies on the toddler understanding the signs himself, communicating verbally through words, being able to pull pants up and down, washing his own hands etc.
For these reasons I personally felt no real need to start early potty training in the infant stage. There were other more important aspects of development I needed to focus on before potty training.
That said, with potty training do what suits your family, lifestyle and cultural environment. There is no special benefits or any harm going through early potty training or elimination communication either.
A very big aspect of toilet training that I don’t see discussed anywhere is that toilet training should be started when both child and parent are ready. There is no use forcing it. Period.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend a child-oriented approach. They advise starting when the child is 18 months of age and suggest that the child must be interested in the process. [Reference]
The child’s temperament, interest, and keenness to learn and follow through are of critical importance to successful toilet training.
SIGNS YOUR CHILD IS READY TO POTTY TRAIN AND CORRECT POTTY TRAINING AGE
So while there is no right age to start potty training, certain readiness skills develop between ages 18 months to 28 months. Parent’s can make the call taking cues from the child.
Depending on each child’s readiness cues, some signs that show your child is ready to potty train are;
- The child can imitate adult behavior
- The child can pull clothes up and down
- Indicates he is “going” when he does so in his diaper.
- Curiosity about the bathroom or toilet seat.
- Curiosity about underpants.
- Has regular bowel movements at a specific time of the day.
- Has dry periods of at least two hours between pees, indicates developed bladder muscles and bladder control.
- Dislikes the feeling of wet diapers.
- Understands and knows the words “pee-pee and poop”
- Most important, understand instructions for eg. “Bring me the toy.”
HOW TO START POTTY TRAINING YOUR TODDLER?
Here is a step by step potty training schedule;
- Awareness about the subject
Start with creating awareness about the subject. Sometimes the child may already have inquired about the potty or toilet in the house. Let him know, that is where the adults go to pee pee. You can start with potty training videos on the internet or read some potty training books as a part of your reading time.
You can even try and put him on the potty for practice. Let the child get used to seeing a potty chair. In fact, involve him in the purchase, help him personalize it with stickers and sharpies. Get the child excited about the potty chair.
Here are the potty training videos and books we used:
Potty training books
- Potty by Leslie Patricelli
- No more nappies by Marion Cocklico
- Potty time by Caroline Jayne Church
- Potty poo poo wee wee by Colin McNaughton
Potty training videos
2. Buying the correct equipment for potty training success
Purchase all the essentials needed to potty train beforehand. Potty training essentials you will need
- Potty chair/seat
- Fancy looking underwear or training pants
- Incentive/ Reward that will be used (eg. Stickers or a favorite fruit like strawberries, blueberries. I don’t recommend buying expensive toys because the child gets used to receiving a reward. Use the technique of incentive only for the first few days alongside hi-fives and other verbal encouragement)
- Books to talk about the potty and going to a toilet.
Make sure your child wears lose and easy to undress clothes during the potty training period.
Finding the right potty seat and chair is a little bit of trial and error. I had to change up the chair and seats to suit my son, taking comfort and height in consideration. Based on my experience I find the following styles best suited as per gender. Boys need an extra part at the front of the chair so that pee does not spill and spray everywhere. Girls can use the same chair/seat as a boy, so not making special recommendations there. If you are starting out in toddler years check that the seat/chair is larger in size. Most chairs available in the market were small for my toddler’s height.
We used the Littles potty chair, though the chair itself is easy to clean it was not suited to a taller boy, and pee would spray out at each attempt. I would recommend buying this chair if you have a girl or a smaller boy.
3. Block a weekend or three-day stretch
Start on a free weekend when you don’t need to leave the house and make necessary preparations for extra messes. I would recommend keeping cleaning equipment ready like a spray bottle to quickly wipe out messes, tissues and rag clothes for any misses on the way to the potty.
Also please note, that immediately after the child has learned potty training any new and sudden changes to the routine like the birth of a sibling, travel, new daycare or relocations can affect the potty training process. Try to find a time of year, like a good month where you know the regular routine won’t be affected in order for the potty training to be a long-lasting success.
The toddler is learning a new life skill he needs all the time to be able to adjust to his new routine involving the potty. Nothing rushed will do.
4. Just go for it
This is a big one. Start out with no diapers from day one. Yes, just go cold-turkey. I know there are other methods where the kid wears a training pant style diaper and you take them to the loo at 20-minute intervals. But I recommend going for it and directly moving on to underwear or a thinner training pants. He needs to experience the wetness in order to get the sense of urgency to go to the loo.
Use a designated spot for the potty, ideally inside the bathroom or close to the bathroom. Once in the training pants take him to the loo every 20 minutes and make pee pee sounds, ask if he feels like going. Sit on the potty seat and read some potty training books or give a favorite toy. Not every attempt at the chair will be successful, but the child starts to register the concept of going on a potty chair to pee. You may have to try one entire day of taking to sit on the potty chair and yet all the pees happening outside of the potty chair. It takes a while to get into a rhythm.
With boys its important to teach them to sit first, because pooping requires them to sit. So start with sitting position and once they are comfortable peeing and pooping in the sitting position you can gradually show them how to pee standing. He can watch daddy pee to get an idea how it’s done.
Tell your child to inform you he wants to ‘pee pee’. You will find him using the word soon enough to tell you he wants to pee. He may miss the mark on the way to potty but him telling you he wants to pee is also considered progress.
The first 3-4 days are crazy and full of messes. You will miss the signal, he will miss the signal. Personally, I felt my son was only getting the concept on day 5. So my biggest advice is don’t give up, you will have a breakthrough within a week. The famous 3-day potty training method is not realistic in the fact that every child is different. But most children do get the concept and train themselves within a week. So relax and give yourself some room to breathe.
5. Appropriate encouragement and motivation
The minute he pees even a drop into his potty you have to appreciate and say how you saw that he did in fact pee in his potty. Make a big deal out of it. Give him a hi-five. Say, “this is great darling, you are making so much progress”. Let him know that you saw the effort he took and appreciate that he follows along. Give a small reward for him doing it in his potty. We chose strawberries and blueberries in our home. You can even use stickers.
But the most important point is to phase out this reward as soon as possible because you want the child to use this as an incentive to start the learning on potty training and not consider it a part of the process of going to the loo.
He should know he has to pee to empty his stomach. I made sure to tell my son why it’s important he learns to pee on his own. How it’s nice when he empties his tummy of all that waste and now tummy will feel light etc.
6. Consistent messaging potty training basics
Continue with potty training even when he picks it up by day 4-5. Many of us get confident and stop asking if they need the loo. And before you know it there are accidents and some relearning to be done. By day 5 once he starts coming to you and saying he needs to pee/poo, you can start relying on him to tell you when to go. But continue asking about pee pee every 2 hours/or so when he has not gone for long time periods, just to make sure he is emptying his bladder.
Use reassuring words even when there are misses or accidents. You can say, “its okay, you missed this one time, we will try again later”. Do not give loud reactions like “Oh no! what have you done?” Such reactions will set you back by a few months easily.
Toilet training does not only mean peeing in a pot, you need to explain and reinforce the proper washroom protocol. Pulling pants down, peeing, flushing, wiping, pulling pants up, and washing hands. When all these steps are learned then can we say toilet training is complete.
Initially, you may wish to continue using diaper pants for naps, night time and going out of the house. You can slowly phase them out as you see progress. If you feel your child now wakes up from his nap with dry diapers switch to underwear to bed too. This entire process from the start of potty training to completely off diapers takes a few months.
Do not think the 3-day method or 5-day method is a quick fix. It’s not. Those days are only a start to the learning there will be consistent work even after that.
POTENTIAL POTTY TRAINING PROBLEMS
Every parent faces some challenges with potty training. Because no matter what guide you read on potty training and how so ever you follow it to the T, there will be a few problems and setbacks. Do not get frustrated. It only adds pressure on your child. Look at setbacks as a time to refocus attention on problem areas. These milestones are not quick fixes. They require time, attention, reinforcement and routine.
Resisting the change/not sitting on the potty?
Is your child resisting potty training? Have you gone through 5-7 days with absolutely no luck? Start by reassessing, Did you start too early? before 18 months of age? Are you giving appropriate encouragement? are you stressing around your child about the potty situation?
If the child is a 2-year-old it could be part of the developmental control issues? He knows you want him to say yes, so he says no. The same way he knows you want him to go on the potty so he won’t.
Take a step back. Go back to diapers. Start when both you and your child are ready to do try again. Waiting it out is always a better option compared to struggling every day. Start fresh a couple of weeks or a month later. Some children make the connection between potty and pee a little slower this is completely normal. There is no need to stress over this.
In the time period you are on break from potty training continue reading books about potty training with your child, talk about the potty, maybe do a little pretend to play with dolls, keep the conversation on, but don’t ask the child to use the potty. Then once a sufficient amount of time has passed try to introduce the potty into the routine. Each time referencing the stories and books you read about the potty during the break.
The Poop Solution
Is your child one that will pee in the potty seat but won’t poop there.
Once again, don’t pressurize. Start slow. Its all about building trust. Allow the use of diapers when he wants to poop. Ask him to sit on the pot with a diaper on and poop. If that is not working, take a break on the poop training while continuing pee training.
Gently bring it up again after a break. Include an incentive, I asked my son if he would like me to read one of his favorite books as he used the potty to poop, and that worked as a breakthrough moment in our potty training. Now the transition has been smooth, the key being he wanted mommy next to him.
Incentives can be as simple as a sticker for every successful attempt in the pot, to favorite fruit, to reading a favorite story, some favorite musical toy bought just for the potty. We have tried a combination of these and what worked best for us was reading a story everytime he wants to use the potty.
Focus on a diet high in fiber for ease in pooping. Sometimes, the child has hard stools, which makes it difficult for him to empty stomach which also adds to the feeling of failure on the potty.
Each child is different and you will need to figure out what works best for your child depending on his temperament and character.
Some children switch from potty trained back into diapers. It could be possible that potty training was started early when the child was not yet ready for it. In this situation too it’s important to slow down and try again at a later time when the child is developmentally ready.
Make sure that all support caregivers know of your potty training techniques, the language you use with your child, the kind of routine that is set up for their potty training. It’s important that the child is receiving consistent messaging from all support caregivers be it your spouse, grandparents or daycare. Sometimes when the messaging becomes inconsistent or completely opposite to your own, the child can regress back to avoiding the potty.
Using kind reassuring words is more important than comparison to peers, mocking or even being strict and frustrated with progress.
HOW TO POTTY TRAIN AT NIGHT?
After a few months of going diaper free, you can start with night time diaper free time.
In order for this to be successful, the child needs to wake up with dry diapers. That means he can now hold his pee in the night.
When you start going diaper free at night, make sure to take your child to the loo before bed. Also place a potty next to his bed, so that its easier if he feels like going in the night. Use a bed cover in order to protect the mattress. It is important to note that 10% of children still wet the bed until about 7 years of age as per the American Academy of Pediatrics. As long as these instances are few in number and not daily, you are making progress.
Other important points to note:
- Each child is different, so the pace of potty training will vary from one child to another.
- Parental modeling works in order to show correct toilet protocol. It helps boys to look at dad pee.
- Check how comfortable your child is, try different positions and spots, once again this is needed more for boys. They may not be comfortable peeing sitting down and may need to figure out a comfortable position to do so. Help him in a reassuring way always encouraging never showing disappointment.
TO SUM IT UP
Keep a set period from your schedule free for potty training,
Start by creating awareness on the topic, check for child’s interest in the subject,
Go direct to underwear,
Stay calm and consistent,
Make potty training fun,
It will happen. Every child will get out of diapers one day. Relax, potty training is not the end of the world.
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I hope these potty training tips help as you start potty training. Which tips worked for you? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.
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