What is the most stressful time in your parenting journey? Sleep deprivation as newborns? Tantrum-throwing with toddlers? Attitudes with school-aged children?
One of the most stressful times in my journey as a mom has been potty training. I have successfully potty trained two children in my lifetime and am on the cusp of attempting to potty train a third. Although this certainly doesn’t equate me with “expert” status in the toileting department, I have learned some potty training tips along the way that made life much easier when we were in the throes of it. And believe it or not, I didn’t completely lose my mind in the process. See! I am still able to form a complete thought. :)
When it comes to keeping your sanity, it is important to remind yourself that there is a 99% chance that your (healthy, developing) child will be potty trained by kindergarten without you even having to do anything. Obviously, we all want this milestone to come loooong before then, but if you remind yourself of this truth in the process, it takes a little bit of the pressure off.
How to Potty Train Your Child without Losing Your Mind :
1 – Wait until he/she is ready.
Only you know when your child is ready, but typically children under 2 years old are not developmentally ready to be potty-trained. My mom, who raised 5 children, and my dad, a family physician for 26+ years, both have said that when children start lining toys up in rows, this is a good indicator that they are ready to be potty-trained. This seems totally unrelated, but it turned out to be true with both boys–right around the time they were potty-trained was when they began lining their cars/toys in long, straight lines. Go figure!
Other readiness cues include: when your child begins telling you when he/she soils their diaper, when he/she begins showing an interest in the potty chair or watching parents or siblings potty, the ability for your child to follow simple 1 or 2-step instructions.
2 – Set a date and make a plan.
Pick a date and build up the excitement! For both of our boys, we set a specific day a few weeks ahead of time. This works particularly well when you can begin potty training immediately after a big event like a vacation, birthday, or holiday. When Little Brother was two-and-a-half, we told him that when we got home from vacation, “no more diapers”. Once we got home, we pulled the diaper off and potty training began right then and there.
3 – Let your older children potty train the younger ones.
Recruit older siblings (or even cousins, friends, and neighbors) to help in your potty training endeavor! This worked amazingly well to potty train Little Brother! We told Big Brother (who was 4 at the time) that he would get a treat whenever his little brother successfully went potty in the potty chair. He literally took it from there, reminding his brother regularly that he should try to use the potty. My husband and I are convinced that our son pretty much single-handedly potty trained his brother. :)
4 – Focus on daytime training.
Although all potty training is developmental, nighttime training is especially so. Children cannot control when they wet while they are sleeping. Focus on potty training during the day and don’t stress about putting a diaper on at night or during nap time. Eventually your child will start to wake up dry and when he/she does you can switch to undies full-time. If it has been longer than 6 months since your child began daytime training, you may want to talk to your pediatrician.
5 – Stay home.
When potty-training, it is really important that you are at home for the first few days. They need to be close to the potty at all times. Clear your schedule of all activities out of the home–it will only be temporary!
6 – Set a timer.
For the first week, set a timer for 25 minutes. Every 25 minutes, take your child to the potty. Whether or not they say they need to go, take them anyway. You’ll be training yourself for the first week or two, but eventually your child will catch on and start telling you when he needs to go.
7 – Use cloth training pants.
The cloth training pants have a thickened center, making accidents MUCH more manageable. Plus, they don’t have the super-tight elastic that leave marks on your child’s skin. Although we still use diapers at bedtime (including naps) throughout the potty training process, I am not a fan of pull-ups. They are too much like a diaper and the child can’t feel when he/she is wet.
8 – Reward, reward, reward.
Reward your child each time he uses the potty! Jump up and down in excitement, make a sticker chart, or give bits of candy. Whatever it takes to motivate! We use a single M&M for number one and a Yummy Earth lollipop for every successful poopy in the potty. Find something that motivates your child specifically. If you are opposed to rewarding with candy, try stickers or small toys instead.
9 – Fill ‘em with fluids.
You want your child to be as full of fluids as possible so that they will go to the bathroom more those first couple of days. Juice (even watered down) works well, as the sweetness will be something your child is excited about!
10 – Use a doll or bear to demonstrate.
Some parents have found it helpful to use a doll/bear to “act out” the process. Let the doll/bear pretend to drink from a cup, then pretend to go potty a few minutes later, and finally give the doll/bear a reward.
11 – Sit backwards on a big potty (for boys).
When you don’t have access to a child-sized potty chair, put the boys backwards on the regular potty. My friend Sarah told me about doing this with her boys when they were in public places and didn’t have a stand-alone potty chair. Basically, little boys just climb up on a regular toilet and sit backwards. This automatically points “it” into the potty, making virtually no messes. We have a stand-alone potty, but this is typically the way that Big Brother went to the bathroom until he is able to stand up and go. I know it sounds crazy, but it totally works (for us anyway)!
What is your #1 tip for potty training???