Whether you’re excited about it, or you’re dreading it, your child will need to be potty trained. This milestone in your child’s life is just another step toward her gaining more independence and security as she learns how to navigate the world on her own. It can be frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time, and these ten tips may help to put you in the right mindset to breeze through these potty training days.
Before you attempt to potty train your child, assess his environment and routine, and make sure that he is well adjusted. If you are moving homes, switching daycares, or if he has a new caretaker or another new person in his life that he is adjusting to, it may not be the right time. Change is difficult for children, so if you introduce the change from diapers to underwear while he is still adjusting to something else, it may not go over too well. Try to keep his routine, the people he is around, and everything else normal while you are potty training.
If your child isn’t aware of her bodily functions at all, you may have a hard time teaching her to use the potty. When you catch her in the act, let her know kindly that she is pooping, and bring up the word “potty.” She may be ready when she asks to be changed immediately after going, when she lets you know before/during, or when she shows interest in the potty. Be sure your child is ready. You don’t want to enter into a power struggle and force her to sit on the potty against her will. Hype her up about it, and turn it into a positive experience.
When you feel the diaper is ready to come off, crank up the heat in your house, close off carpeted areas, and let your toddler hang out in his birthday suit. It’s a lot easier for him to quickly hop on the potty when he is not encumbered by buttons, zippers, or underwear. If he does have an accident, he’ll be more aware that it is happening— because he’s naked—and he’ll pay closer attention to the warning signs so that he can make it to the potty the next time he has to go.
It’s also a lot easier to clean up, and doesn’t require as much laundry if he has an accident while naked.
There are plenty of fun potty-training books and videos out there for your child to enjoy before she is introduced to the potty and during potty-time. You may even set aside a special book or show for potty-time. Make sure your child is comfortable, and that she can get on and off the potty easily by herself. Each time she goes on the potty, show your excitement and praise her for being a big kid.
You can choose to bribe with whatever you want—just know that bribes really do work! Whether it’s a chocolate chip or M&M, 5 minutes of iPad time, a coin in the piggy bank, or a small prize, your child will be excited to go potty if he knows that there is a reward waiting for him. This will also help him to form a positive association with the potty, which is key to successful training without setbacks.
Until now, your child has been going around with a cushioned toilet wrapped snugly around her body. No wonder going potty slips her mind. Children can become so focused on a game or a toy that they may miss the signs; by the time they realize they have to go, it’s too late. A child who is far along in the potty-training process can become upset and disheartened by an accident, which can lead to a setback. In the first few days of potty training, set a timer for every 15 minutes to ask your child if she has to go potty. Even if she says no, take her hand and bring her to the potty every half hour. When she goes, let the praises and prizes ensue. As time goes by and she becomes more comfortable going, you can extend the time between reminders until she remembers on her own.
If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. If you tried again and again, and you still don’t succeed, it’s time to figure out if there is something else going on. Many children have fears associated with going potty. There’s the fear of falling into the toilet, which may be remedied by a small, low-to-the-ground potty. Also, there's the fear of accidentally being flushed down the toilet, too. There’s also a fear of flushing away a “part of your body,” which is what many children think ‘number 2’ is.
The first step is to identify the fear. The next is to address it. It also helps if you remind yourself how small and vulnerable your child is now, and that this fear will not last forever.
If you have a hard time, your child will also have a hard time. Expressing frustration or annoyance when your child has an accident will make potty training into a negative experience for your child. Instead, show understanding and empathy when he misses, and reassure him that next time he will make it to the potty.
Every child is different. If your first child potty-trained early on and was out of diapers after only a few days of training, don’t expect the same with your next child. Don’t compare your child to your friends’ children, or other children in her daycare. Some toddlers are ready at 18 months, other at 3 years—and each one is perfectly ok. She won’t walk down the aisle in diapers— really. Certainly avoid verbalizing any comparisons between children, because they do pick up on that.
Once your child has graduated to a full-time underwear wearer, it’s time to celebrate! Bake a cake, hang some decorations and wave goodbye to the diapers. Congratulate your child and make a big deal out of this accomplishment. This may help to prevent setbacks because you can remind your child that he said goodbye to his diapers if he asks for one.
The most important thing to keep in mind while potty training is that every child is different. You may try the same method with 5 different children, and get 5 different results. Read your child carefully to assess what the best method is for her. Potty on the ground, or adjustable toilet seat? Diapers off—cold turkey style—or underwear during waking hours only? Chocolate or a toy car as a reward? These are all decisions you need to make based on your child’s personality.
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