All aboard for potty training

As our resident infant/toddler expert, our Family Support Specialist Lauren George talks the talk (but most, importantly, walks the walk). When she’s not busy corralling her active first-grader, she’s living the dream of toilet training her two-year old.

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO TOILET TRAIN?

There is not one “right” way or one “right” age to learn how to use the toilet. Finding a toilet training method that works for your family is the key. No matter how you do it, remember: this is a learning process that takes time, possibly with many hiccups and accidents along the way. Most children will transition to underwear between the ages of two and four, with nighttime dryness coming anywhere from two to seven years old.

HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN MY CHILD IS READY?

You should let your child decide when he/she is ready but also be aware of readiness signs; this helps you know when to encourage your child and build interest in using the toilet. There are often signs that let you know your child is ready to take the leap and transition to underwear.

Signs of Readiness

  • Follows simple directions
  • Stays dry for an hour or two at a stretch
  • Occasionally wakes up dry
  • Regular and predictable bowel movements
  • Walks easily, possibly runs
  • Can do basic dressing/undressing (pulling pants down, holding skirt up, attempt to pull pants back up)
  • Understands and is able to use your family’s words for bathroom functions and associated body parts
  • Seems uncomfortable with soiled or wet diapers; may remove or pull at diaper when wet
  • Communicates when wet/soiled (“I pooping now”)
  • Signals by hiding or grunting during BM
  • Shows interest in using the toilet or watching toileting
  • Has asked to wear or shows interest in underwear

WE’RE READY TO GET GOING. WHAT SHOULD I KEEP I MIND?

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you in your child’s potty journey.

Play up the pottying positives. Highlight the benefits of using the toilet and say things like “Wearing underwear is fun!”. Don’t knock diapers or call your child’s old habits babyish though — that could lead to resistance. Let your child practice flushing, watch you use the restroom, read books about toileting and watch the Daniel Tiger Potty episode. (The song is pretty catchy…you can thank me later!)

Watch closely.  At this point, you might be better at detecting his body’s signals than he is. Look for tell-tale signs (like fidgeting or straining), and gently ask when you suspect he has to go. Even if you’re too late and he’s already done the deed, have him sit on the potty anyway to reinforce the connection.

Offer gentle reminders. In the first few weeks, you may need to remind your child to use the potty. Setting timers (“Hey Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes”) may provide both of you the reminders needed to be successful. Start with sending your child every 30-90 minutes, and begin phasing back as she becomes successful. Trust when your child says she does not have to go, and offer to wait a few minutes instead.

Be patient. Even the most enthusiastic child can take several weeks to master potty training proficiency — often with as many steps backward as forward. If your expectations are unrealistic, you could diminish his self-confidence. Accidents happen – don’t scold, punish or shame.

Avoid a bathroom battle. Arguing over going to the potty actually prolongs the process. If you are met with total resistance, hold off for a few weeks and try again later. Be patient! As you wait for your child to come around, don’t bring up the subject or compare him to peers who are already in underwear.

OK, LAUREN, I FOLLOWED YOUR GREAT ADVICE AND AM STILL STRUGGLING. NOW WHAT?

You’ve come to the right place! Child Care Answers offers a number of FREE parenting resources to help out in just this sitution.

Attend a webinar

Join me for Ready, Set, Potty Time! on January 21, 1-2pm or February 27, 12-1pm. Register today! We will talk about this and so much more, like wiping (eek!), bedwetting, and handling power struggles. Come prepared with questions, too!

Meet with an expert

Want to meet one-on-one with a potty training expert and mom of two? Complete our Family Info Form to get connected.

Read up online

A number of fantastic resources are available online. I recommend ZERO TO THREE.

Potty Training is a big skill to learn. Be patient. Accidents are part of the learning process, but if your child is truly ready, accidents should be very minimal after just a few short weeks. Good luck!