Potty Training 101

“The words “potty training” can strike fear and anxiety into the heart of every one of us, but it doesn’t have to be that way. During my 6 years of teaching early childhood, I guided about 60 children and their families through the potty training process.  If anyone knows how you feel, it’s me!  First of all, BREATHE.  Secondly, you can do this.  Here is my potty training Top 10.

  1. Follow your child. Often times, children will show us that they are ready to begin the process before we are.   Signs might include tugging at the diaper when wet, expressing a desire or interest in sitting on the toilet, or perhaps toddling to the bathroom after a bowel movement.  Parents often ask me if they should follow these signs even if the child is very young.  The answer is a resounding YES!! The process is most effective when it is child led.  Don’t miss your opportunity.
  2. Create the environment.  Place a small potty in the bathrooms you use most often. My favorite is the Baby Bjorn potty.  Make sure you have plenty of wipes, underwear/diapers, and anti-bacterial spray or wipes on hand.  The space should be functional and efficient otherwise you are guaranteed to be frustrated.  Also, get comfortable.  You could be spending a lot of quality time in this space, so make sure it works for you and your child.
  3.  Implement a routine.  Routine, routine, routine!  Aim to take (never ask since the answer is always NO) your child to the bathroom about 1-1.5 hours. Connect it to events that are the same in their daily life i.e. after breakfast, before the morning walk, before snack, after lunch, etc.  Routine is the key.
  4. Pack your patience.  When I was teaching, I had a child who would sit dutifully on the toilet whenever it was time to do so.  She was showing signs of readiness, but for a long time nothing happened (think months).  Then one day, she stood up and noticed that she had actually gone to the bathroom.  “IT WORKS!” she exclaimed.  I will never forget that moment or her sweet little perspective on the whole process.
  5. Lose the diapers.  Children respond best to consistency.  It’s confusing for a child to alternate between diapers and underwear. This requires a big commitment from the adults, but it is well worth the sacrifice.  You can make an exception at nap time and bedtime.  Some people like to do it all at once, but I’ve found that these steps come a bit later.  However, if your child is waking up dry from naps and/or nighttime, then you should definitely stay with the underwear.  And congratulations-you are almost there! Here is my pick for underwear at this stage.  There are lots of patterns/colors to choose from, and they are super absorbent.
  6. Use the real words.  Name the body parts and what comes out of them. Cute names actually make things more difficult for your child when trying to communicate their needs to other adults who are not in on your lingo.
  7. Stay objective.  It’s not an “accident” or a “mess,” but rather “Oh, I see you went potty on the floor.  Let’s go put on some dry underwear.  Pee-pee goes in the potty.” Move on after that.  Your child is doing her best, especially at the early stages of the process.
  8. Stay close to home at the beginning.  Your child will benefit from the familiarity of home during what is certainly a big change in his little life.  Once you’ve established a good routine, then you can take the show on the road.  We still keep a Baby Bjorn potty in the car, and it makes all the difference! A roll of paper towels and some antibacterial wipes go a long way during an afternoon of errands.
  9. Adjust your expectations.  Will there be accidents? Yes.  Will there be messes? Yes. Will you be frustrated? Of course.  Can you do this?  100%.
  10. Ask for help!  Small Hands Big Steps is here to help you get started or to help troubleshoot a process that is already in progress.  Contact us here  to schedule a consultation in your home or over the phone.

As always, find the joy (even in this!)-