Potty training, toilet training, whatever you want to call it, is a huge milestone to celebrate once it is reached. Getting there can be a challenge and people often wait too long and miss opportunities of training their little ones at a younger age.
So is there a direct path that will work for every child? Not necessarily, but there are certainly helpful tips that you can choose to adapt to your child’s needs.
You first have to take a deep breath and realize that all children grow and develop at different times. What works for your first, may not work for your second. The same goes with potty training.
I have two boys that were both trained very early. My first was 18 months when we started and he was completely trained (through the night) by 26 months. My second started showing interest at 16 months and was consistent (in underwear) by 22 months. He is now 25 months old and wears underwear during the day but still needs a diaper when he sleeps.
My friends and family look at me in disbelief and want to know all the secrets. Hmm, I have no secrets but would love to share what worked for us.
Potty Training Tips
- The Interest: Is your child showing any signs of interest? Do they follow you into the bathroom or talk/point at the potty? Do they know when they have gone or need to be changed? If there is any sign of interest, than I would encourage you to take advantage and go for it.
- Age: I can only say from my experience, that I think the earlier the better. When a child turns two, developmentally they are becoming more independent and want to control more things in their life. The two things that they typically control is what they eat and going to the bathroom. Again, remember that kids develop differently. So children who are on board at the age of two, may not have been interested at one. Kids also at the age of two may choose to use their favorite word, “No!” and make it a little bit more challenging than you had wished. This is why I chose to start earlier.
- Choice Making: Once you commit to it, than bring your child on board by giving them power and control through choices. Let them choose what underwear they want, potty seat, treats, anything that they can have a choice on, than offer it. Be careful not to promise things that you can’t fulfill (new toy, every time you go on the potty), yikes, that would be costly. But letting them choose what color M&M or sticker is both reasonable and encouraging.
- Play: Kids learn through play! Talking about going to the bathroom and playing it out, helps kids process this new experience. My first son got the Elmo potty doll. He would play with it and sometimes bring it to the potty with him. My second would just play with anything and pretend that they were going to the bathroom. So there is no need to splurge on all the “potty training toys”, what you have at home will probably work just as well.
- Books: Reading books about going to the potty continues to help them process all the steps. There are some great books out there, but the one that my boys loved the most was photos of other little boys using the potty, versus illustrations. They seemed to identify with them better and enjoyed the part about having accidents! They make the same type of book for girls.
- Pullups? I never used pull-ups on my kids. I feel like it is just another roadblock in reaching the milestone. I kept my first in diapers and would just take it on/off throughout the day to use the toilet. Looking back on it, I should have just taken the diaper completely off and put him in underwear. I did this with my second and it worked beautifully! I think by keeping a diaper or a pull-up on, it confuses them. It is like they are walking around with a portable toilet.
- Three day trick? I was a bit skeptical of the magical three day potty training experience. I tried it with my second and have to say that it probably helped push him into becoming independent quicker than I had expected. He was using the potty on/off and I finally thought this is crazy, I am just taking the diaper away and putting him in underwear. The first two days he had accidents throughout the house, but soon learned that he would stay dry in his cool superhero underwear if he goes on the potty. Within the first week he was having fewer accidents and able to verbalize when he needed to go. Sometimes he would pee just a little in his underwear and then hold it, to relieve himself fully in the toilet.
- Type of potty seats: I got a small potty for my kids and let them choose a character potty seat for the big toilet. This way they were able to choose which one they wanted to go on. Choices are always helpful! Sometimes the small potty seat helps them feel more grounded and have control while going poop. I also taught my boys to pee while sitting, this helped tremendously. Now they are both able to stand and reach, by using a step stool.
- Perfect Time to Train: When you have nothing on the calendar for a few days, than try to shoot for that time. It seems to be easier during the warmer months, so you aren’t having to go through layers of clothes (although I did it in the winter). Make sure that everyone is on board (parents, babysitters, etc). Have lots of underwear, cleaning supplies and reward treats ready. I would also encourage you to talk about it with your child. Make sure that they are fully prepared for what will happen.
- Traveling Must Haves: Now that they will be in underwear what do you do when you are out of the house? Pack lots of extra clothes and underwear (accidents will happen), get a portable potty seat, fold up potty seat and a carseat protector. These are the types that we use.
- Set Backs: Kids may regress when changes happen in their life. It could be as simple as becoming sick to a life changing event such as a birth of a sibling or death in the family. Keep calm and move forward. If at all possible try not to go back to diapers. Offering rewards, new potty book or a silly song can help them continue to have fun and achieve this life skill. It can be hard on our patience, but in the long run, it is worth it.
Stay confident and go for it!