The very FIRST thing you have to do when beginning the wonderful journey of Potty Training (from now on, referred to as PT) is throw your TIME-TABLE and EXPECTATIONS down the TOILET! I’m not saying there aren’t CERTAIN expectations that perhaps SHOULD exist, but they need to be the big milestones. For example, I feel a child should be done with PT by the time they enter school. (Roughly 4-5yrs) As to WHEN, it is up to them (and you) to figure out.
When a toddler first begins PT, if they have NEVER been introduced to the toilet, it can be quite SCARY. Not only can the SOUND be very loud, but the idea of the toilet sucking things down the drain can be scary as well! The best way to get your child COMFORTABLE with the toilet is to have them around it even before they begin PT. Allow your child to be in the bathroom when you are in it. Especially if you are going to the bathroom. I know a LOT of people would talk about PRIVACY here, BUT, really privacy doesn’t need to come into play until LATER, once, you know, they GET privacy. And, honestly, this is the BEST learning tool I know! Not only can it work with PARENTS, but with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles etc. And, if your child is the opposite SEX of you, it can be beneficial to have a trusted (by you AND your child) same-sex adult to set an example every so often. If you just CANNOT have your child in the bathroom with you WHILE using the toilet, have them in there as often as you can. Let them flush the toilet after you’re done or just flush it for fun, to get used to the sights and sounds. Let them sit on the CLOSED potty while you wash your hands or brush your hair. Anything sort of POSITIVE INTERACTION your child can have with the potty and/or bathroom will help with PT.
The first thing I want to address, however, are the SIGNS that your child is READY to begin PT. Some signs can be VERY OBVIOUS, but others can often be overlooked due to their subtlety. So, you have to be watchful and ready for when it comes.
The most obvious and probably most common sign is TAKING OFF THE DIAPER. Sometimes it’s right after ONE USE, sometimes it’s randomly after a FEW USES and sometimes it’s BEFORE USE. Either way, if your toddler begins removing their diaper, it’s usually a sign that they are ready for PT. At the very least it is a sign that they are uncomfortable with their own waste being on them, which means you can show them an alternative that will eliminate that situation! Many kids will respond positively!
Additional signs include being fussy when re-diapering, pointing to the potty, climbing onto the potty or saying “potty”, “peepee” and/or “poopoo”. Any sort of verbal or physical recognition of the potty should be accepted as a HINT.
Especially if they are verbally or physically cuing you to WHEN they need to go.
The MOST DIFFICULT aspect of potty training it getting your young child to know WHEN they need to go BEFORE they go! But there are certain things you can do to help with this. The first, is to begin LIMITING and SCHEDULING their intake of liquids. What this means is, you don’t allow them to sip on a drink throughout the day. Instead you schedule when they can have drinks and limit how much they drink.
LIMITING their drinking doesn’t necessarily mean not allowing them to drink to much EITHER. It means that when they do drink, they should drink the entirety of the drink in one session. (Not all at once! But within a time frame! lol) and the entirety of the drink should be no more than about 4oz. (Of course, each child is different). By doing this, you cause them to fill their bladder FULL at ONE TIME. And a SUDDENLY FULL bladder is easier to identify than a SLOWLY FILLED bladder. (Just be aware that it only takes 15-45 minutes for liquid to pass through, so BE READY!)
SCHEDULING their liquid intake is also, doubly, important. As your child is learning to FEEL when they have to go, it’s almost necessary to make sure YOU can try and predict when they will need to go, as well!
Best way to do that, start a SCHEDULE for pottying! Now, during potty training, I recommend a strict wake up time so you can get them on the potty FIRST THING. but as long as it’s the first thing the DO, you’re good! Then, just time it! Every 1-2 hours let them go try. As well as 15-25 minutes after drinking! Of course, always make them try to go before care rides and bedtime. While out, I usually try to take her as soon as we get to our location, as well. Also, try to stick to the schedule while you’re OUT as well. And anyone who babysits needs to stick to it too! 😉 Set alarms, leave reminders OR make a Potty Clock. (Check out my Arts and Crafts category for instructions on how to do that!)
If after about 5-7 minutes of trying your kiddo just CANNOT go, let them get up and return to whatever it was they were doing. Then try again in 10-15 minute intervals until the next hour.
Not only will limiting and scheduling liquids and bathroom breaks be good for their growth and learning of this habit (also make it easier on YOU!), it also helps to support a healthy urinary system. Getting them into the habit of going EVERY TIME they feel the urge. While being able to “hold it” is a lesson you’ll have to teach them, it should ONLY be if there isn’t ANY SINGLE OPTION. I mean not even the side of the road or in a cup! lol And getting them to stop “sipping” is really beneficial for their tooth health!
Now, the next step is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL you MUST, and I mean MUST, make a HUGE deal about EVERY SUCCESS!!
Easiest way to do this is to cheer and applaud! Encourage them to do so as well! But there are PLENTY of other things you can do to make each SUCCESS a big deal! You can give treats like small treasures like dollar store toys, stickers, temporary tattoos and stamps or small treats like ice cream, candy and cookies or you can make a board where they collect stickers or check marks for every SUCCESS and then when they have reached a certain number of marks, they get a LARGE treat or treasure!
But make sure not to allow these to become BRIBES! That doesn’t creates an unhealthy balance of power in your relationship with your child, meaning, THEY are in control, not you. You simply stick to the schedule, place them on the potty and if they SUCCEED they get the reward. If not, they just go back and play and try again later! Be strict about this.
Other ways to encourage PT are to allow your child to wear a costume or crown after every SUCCESS. Let them wear it until the next allotted potty time. Then,if they succeed AGAIN they can wear it or choose another. (Of course this requires buying/making/assembling costumes and/or crowns, but doing that with your kids can be fun!) However, if they do NOT succeed, they have to take it off, and try again later. If your child gets really upset, distract them with some other toy they have in another room. But if that doesn’t work, just let them cry it out. You HAVE to be STRICT and CONSISTENT with this as well!
Once your child has successfully managed to go potty ON THEIR OWN, you can begin only giving the treats for WHOLE DAYS of going potty. Of course, I feel you should make the treats bigger, as well. As your child succeeds at having whole days without accidents, you up the treats to once a WEEK. At this point, I like to make the week treat a trip to mcd’s or chuckecheese or the park. Something you don’t normally do. After a few weeks of that you can make it a month and eventually it will become habit. But, keep it up as long as they remember, at least until they reach school-age, in my opinion, lol
In addition, I think it’s always best to figure out your child’s PERSONAL POTTY CUE. This is their GO-to action when they need to GO! It can be obvious like HOLDING THEMSELVES, SAYING POTTY, “PEEPEE” and/or “POOPOO” or doing a POTTY DANCE. But it can also be subtle, like squeezing their legs together or rocking. You just have to keep an eye out! Once you learn it, then keep an eye out for that particular action. A small amount of attention can save you from a LARGE amount of MESS! 😉
Now, the other side to PT, and I do like to separate the two, is Bedtime PT (BPT). BPT is completely DIFFERENT from regular PT, because there are a few things you can do, but a LARGE MAJORITY of it relies on your kiddo! One thing you can do is RESTRICT liquid intake about 1 hour from bedtime. This allows them 1 hour to use the bathroom before bed, emptying their bladder and NOT REFILLING IT! I DO allow 3 sips of water, upon request, but that’s up to you. (and now that Boo is completely potty trained, she gets to have one glass of non-milk, non-sugar, non-caffeinated (excluding tea) liquid at night.) Another trick I picked up along my PT days was to put underwear on your child, UNDERNEATH the diaper. You can, of course, also buy the “alert” type PT diapers, but I find the underwear method works better! I think it’s because the wet material is just a little bit more UNCOMFORTABLE than the diaper “alert system”. But this CAN mean some ruined underwear, so buy cheaply! This also works for during the day with kids that struggle.
The only other piece of advice I have is for Mommy’s with kids that actually REFUSE to potty and not because they are SCARED. I got this idea from a friend who tried it and had success. All I ever had to do with Boo was threaten it. This friend of mine told her kid that if he refused to use the potty (or even TRY), she refused to clean his messes. Which meant HE had to clean them. And she wouldn’t allow him to use the shower, because he’d mess it up. He had to use the hose in the back yard. The COLD hose. To some, this may seem a bit much, but I think she was right. And like I said, I only ever had to THREATEN this consequence and Boo started TRYING. (Of course, this is ONLY for children who have an ATTITUDE issue with pottying)
Honestly, I was pretty lucky when it came to PT and Boo. She began removing her diaper around age 1. At first it was AFTER going, but then she began doing it BEFORE HAND! After SEVERAL, pretty disgusting, messes, I started limiting and scheduling her liquids and meals! It was too far into that when I started noticing her cues for needing to go and allowing her to go instead of following the schedule. Then, around 2.5yrs old she had 2 things happen. One, she had a few nights in a row without using her diaper during sleep and Two, she woke up twice because she needed to potty. So, I told her if she could go 2 days more without using her diaper at nighttime, she could wear BIG GIRL panties instead of her pull ups. After two dry nights, she had her first panty party! We made a BIG DEAL out of her wearing panties at night. We also agreed that in the she could either a. wake up in the middle of the night and use the bathroom, then sleep late or b. wake up early in the morning to use the bathroom. She wanted a. So Mommy woke up at 3am and she DID use the bathroom. Though my enthusiasm was LOST on sleepy ears at the time, the next morning she got a TREAT! We had maybe a dozen accidents after that point and ALWAYS the rule was that the following night she had to wear a diaper OVER her panties. But, by the time she was 3 she had already been sleeping through the night, clean and dry for a few weeks!
So, there IS proof that my methods CAN work. But the most IMPORTANT thing about ALL of this is picking the right method for you, your child and spouse, then being CONSISTENT! As long as you start with that, and throw in a little open-mindedness, you will get there. At your family’s own pace as well, which is ALSO important!
Join me FRIDAY as we continue with the MOMMY BLUES, discussing a DIFFERENT kind of POTTY… a potty MOUTH! I’ll give you tips and tricks on how to keep your infant from picking up BAD MOUTH habits!
Until Next Time,
Wild Mommy MC
P.S. On a side note, something, which after some deep thought seemed disturbing to me, is this thing that I have seen MANY parents do. Although I have NEVER understood it, sometimes parents will say the toilet wants to “Eat” their kids waste or attribute life-like characteristics to toilets and/or the process. But, in my mind that makes the toilet seem ALIVE. When I realized that, I asked myself, “How would I feel about going potty in some creatures mouth? Even if he DID like it?” Just a thought…
Picture via www.all4humor.com