It's time to ditch the diapers and start the exciting journey of potty training your kiddo (or kiddos if you're a parent or multiples.) The key to successful and stress free potty training is being prepared (even if that means just having realistic expectations.)
Follow these 3 simple steps and you'll find that not only will potty training your child be successful, you'll actually enjoy it too.
There are different ways of potty training and what works for one family doesn't necessarily work for others. Here's an overview of the different toilet training methods plus some great tips to help you prepare your potty training adventure!
Step 1. Make Sure Your Child Is Ready for Toilet Training
I'm assuming that your kiddo is showing signs of readiness, and that you've probably had your fill of poop: smelling it, seeing it, and washing it off your hands (and her hands, and the floor, and her clothes, and even the odd toy!)
Did I ever tell you about the time I found my baby sitting in a pile of his poop with a spoon in his hand? I won't dwell on the details!
Step 1B. Make Sure Your Child Isn't Constipated
Constipation is common in young kids (especially those picky kids who refuse to eat their vegetables!) Constipation will make potty training far more frustrating as the bunged up poop will press against the bladder, giving them the signal that they need to go even though their bladder isn't full. Constipation is a frequent cause of potty training regression and not being able to night time potty train.
Related: Help! My Toddler Won’t Eat
Step 2 Picky Your Potty Training Method
Now that you are both ready to go for it, you'll need to choose the right potty training method for you. There are a ton of different approaches, but don't let this overwhelm you. Really, they all fall into three main categories.
3 Different Potty Training Methods
- The Toddler-Led Potty Training Approach: This normally involves waiting for most signs of readiness and then gently training over the course of 1-2 weeks. Parents adopting this approach are led by their child's cues and tend to be happier waiting (even if this means training at 3 or even 4-years-old).
- The 3 Day Potty Training Approach: Parents going with this method trust that, even showing fewer readiness signs, with an intense potty "boot camp", their kiddo will successfully learn to use a potty. It is a method that is more time and goal orientated.
- Early Infant Toilet Training (aka Elimination Communication): This is one for the crunchy mammas. It starts early (4-months+) and involves no diapers at all! Basically Mom learns to tune into her baby's visual clues and therefore knows when "elimination" is about to occur.
Whatever works for you.
This article won't try to convince you that one method is better than another. As ever, in the world of parenting, each method divides opinion.
The truth, however, is that many parents have had success with each method. And, in reality, most parents aren't super strict. They will end up mix and matching, using the bits they like from each method. This is all fine!
That said... Regardless of the particular approach you settle on, there are some universal Dos and Don'ts that apply across the board. Get these right, and whichever potty training method choose, your experience should be a good one, both for you and your (more independent) little one.
Step 3 Parent Potty Training Preparation
Say what? You need to do some preparation? You sure do!
If you're tired out, stress and snap at your child, they'll scream, shout and cry. (You've met toddlers right?)
THE key to success is the way you behave towards your child.
If you can keep calm and happy in the face of mishaps, you're far more likely to potty train your child quickly.
There is no guarantee to how quickly your child potty trains but if you can keep it light hearted and stress free, it will be a much more enjoyable experience for everyone (regardless of how long it takes!)
Here's my big message: EXPECT ACCIDENTS. Poo on the carpet, wee on the floor. Most children don't potty train without any accidents.
Now multiply that number of accidents that you're expecting by about 10 and you're probably ready to go!
- Plan ahead. At the beginning, it's worth making sure that you clear your diary and don't plan a trip to the zoo. (Unless you want a wee stain on your front seat forever, where your child was playing whilst you breast fed the baby. In hind site, it's easy to see how foolish I was. At the time, I was just getting on with life!)
- Be patient. I know that this is SO much easier said than done. Especially when you find yourself out and about and your child starts doing the "wee wee dance". You really don't want to have to pop into that super posh restaurant. Or when your 5 year old has another "poo pants" because she's too busy doing something else. It IS super frustrating but getting angry will only make everyone upset. Breath! Feel the calm and remember that kids are guaranteed to act like kids!
- Model good bathroom habits. Tell your kids when you're off to the bathroom and that you're washing your hands. And that you always "go before you go". (Go to the toilet before you leave the house.) Why is it that kids are so resistant to doing the simplest things in life??
- Allow older siblings to help. This gives them a sense of responsibility and makes life easier for you. (As long as they don't start fighting!)
- Learn the signs that your child needs to eliminate.
- Encourage your child to tell you when she needs to potty.
- Allow your child to interact with the potty during play. (Just make sure it's clean!)
- Find some potty training stories to read to your child to get them excited. (We had a princess book and a pirate book.)
- Praise proper potty habits (except when using the Elimination Communication method);
- Acknowledge accidents without anger or shame. Again, difficult to do when you're feeling stressed and trying to do something else. If you're finding that you are getting frustrated all the time, it's time to have a think about looking after yourself too!
- Choose clothing that is easy to take off and put back on.
- Allow your child to be naked.
- Switch techniques if you need to.
Make Sure You Don't Do This When Potty Training
- Use shaming tactics or punishments.
- Refer to a urinary or bowel movement as “gross” or “disgusting” to your child (but feel free to think it to yourself).
- Withhold drinks. Your child needs to understand that their bladder is full and telling them to go to the toilet. Actually it's a good idea to encourage drinks in the first few days so that they learn those signals. Remember that water is the best drink for your kids and that both fruit juice and fizzy drinks contain a lot of sugar.
- Assume what worked for one child will work for another. All kids are different.
- Feel like you are on a potty-training deadline. Relax and enjoy teaching your kids this exciting new milestone.
- Feel like you need to adhere to one method and one method only. If it's not working, take a pause or switch your method.
- Expect immediate results.
- Turn the bathroom into a war of wills.
There you have it!
Whether it's regular or night time potty training keep in mind these general rules. They'll see you through while minimizing the stress and avoiding emotional blowbacks.
And, dare I say it, your potty training experience might just be an enjoyable and fun bonding experience for the whole family. It's possible and you can do it!