Congratulations! Your child is about to enter a milestone time of development in his or her young life: the age of potty training. And congratulations to you too! You’ve made it through the years of dirty diapers, excessive laundry and lugging the diaper bag throughout town. Soon you will begin that carefree period of potty freedom.
Except…well, if we’re being honest, it takes a lot more time and work than you’re hoping for. Even after the diapers come off, you’ll still need to be there, running potty support for awhile. Here are the basics of potty training 101. With some patience, diligence, patience, prayer, patience, positive principles, patience (get the picture?) you’ll be living that diaper free life.
First thing’s first. When should you introduce potty training to your child? The truth is there is no magic date when a parent should start thinking about potty training. It will depend on your child and his or her level of interest and stage of development. The bottom (no pun intended) line is that if your child is interested, he or she will be much more receptive and successful in training.
If you’re looking for a “rule”, there really isn’t one. Having said that, anywhere between ages 2 and 3 is a good place to start. To decide if your child is ready to level up in the bathroom department, observe and ask yourself a few questions:
- Does he or she give you warning either verbally or through facial expressions or body language that they have to go?
- Can he or she follow a set of simple instructions yet?
- Has he or she expressed interest in the toilet and its function?
- Does your child have the strength and agility to begin learning to pull his or her pants up and down without assistance?
These are a few factors that indicate that your child could be ready to start potty training.
Once you’ve determined that the timing is right, how do you introduce the topic? One of the first things to do is to get a child-sized potty chair and place it in the loo. You can also get one with a removable lid that fits on top of the toilet, but it isn’t necessary in the beginning. Once you’ve got your equipment, get your child to sit on it. It doesn’t matter if he or she is wearing diapers during this stage; you’re simply beginning an association between the potty chair and the act of going to the bathroom. He or she needs to get comfortable with the idea first.
Continue by building up your child’s understanding of what the toilet is for. There are a few ways to do this. You can instruct your child on how to use the right language for going to the bathroom. You can dump the contents of a dirty diaper into the toilet to show him or her what it’s for. It’s also helpful to personally demonstrate how to use the toilet.
Now it’s go(no pun intended) time! Begin getting your child to start using the potty chair himself. The easiest way to do this is to schedule potty breaks in regular (no pun intended) increments throughout the day. These will be diaperless excursions. You should encourage your child to try to go to the bathroom during this time, but remember to call up your parental patience if he or she can’t. Encourage their efforts and try again later. Do not express disappointment with lack of results and keep this fun and pleasant for your child. During this delicate time of association, the last thing you want is for your child to begin associating bathroom trips to unhappiness.
When your child sends you signals that it’s time to go, such as squirming or holding their genitals, or—with our kids—it was the “poop face”, make a beeline for the bathroom. Teach your child to observe their own personal warning signs too so they can begin to build up that connection between them and going to the bathroom.
Start teaching and rewarding proper bathroom etiquette: flushing, washing hands and wiping the proper way. You can offer incentives such as stickers or treats to encourage this behavior. Be sure to reward “trying” as well as “going”.
After a few weeks of bathroom success, you can switch your child out of diapers and into training pants or pull-ups. Since this is an enormous change for your child, make sure to celebrate it properly. Be proud of your child for his or her progress. In general, daytime potty training is easier for children to master than nighttime potty training. Try using plastic mattress covers and pull-ups during sleep time until he or she gets the hang of it
Just as with any change in behaviors, it takes time to develop, but if you notice your child is heavily resisting, consider taking a break from potty training and trying again in a couple of months when he or she might be more ready.
There will be slip-ups along the way. Accidents will happen. Always repeat to yourself, “Progress, not perfection.” Every little step in the right direction is worth praise and celebration!