Teaching your child to use the potty is a big challenge, but it also comes with big rewards. No more diapers, more independence for your little one, and maybe even a bit more sanity for you at the end of the day.
But where do you start? And when? These answers will vary from family to family because (as we’re sure you know by now, every child is different) what works for some kids may not work for everyone. But, as long as your child seems ready to start trying, (2.5 – 3 is an average age for kids to start, although some may be ready to start as early as 18 months) give some of the tips below a try. Before you know it, you’re little one will be a pro on the potty
Tip #1: Make sure they are ready.
Look for clues that your child is ready to start this process. Things like asking to be changed, showing an interest in bathroom habits (even yours!), and telling you when they have to go to the bathroom are good signs that they may be ready to start trying.
Tip #2: Get them comfortable.
Some kids have a fear of the toilet –them their own training potty that is just their size will not only make it feel more comfortable for them, they can practice sitting in it in other, more comfortable places your home to really make them feel at ease and prepare them for the next step – actually going!
Tip #3: Let them go naked.
Part of the problem with potty training in a pull-up is that it’s not that much different than a diaper. And kids are typically so used to going in their diaper they may not even remember or think to tell you when they have to use the potty. When they’re naked, they have no choice. Start by letting them be naked for a bit before or after bathtime and encourage them to try to use the potty. Then, when you’re feeling brave enough, let them go for longer, extended periods when you’re home. (But be sure to expect a few accidents along the way as they get used to knowing when they have to go.) Most kids don’t want to have an accident so after one or two, they’ll typically start telling you when they have to go.
Tip #4: Schedule regular potty time.
This can be a time consuming process, but scheduling potty time every 20-30 minutes can be really helpful in helping a child learn. It gives them plenty of practice using the restroom and helps set them up for success by instilling mandatory potty breaks in short intervals. The more they are able to successfully go on their own, the more likely they will be to continue.
Tip #5: Rewards.
We hate to say it, but bribes work. Giving your child a small reward each time they successfully use the potty can be a huge motivator for them. Some families choose sweet treats (M&M’s are a favorite), but you don’t have to resort to sugar to make this work. Fill a box with small inexpensive toys (stickers, erasers, etc.) and let your child choose from the box after a pre-defined number of successful potty trips. Get some cool “big-kid underwear” as an incentive for getting out of pull ups. Kids also love to see their progress so using something like a sticker chart where they can track their success over time can be a great motivator.
Tip #6: Read to them.
It can sometimes be hard to get kids to stay on the potty long enough for them to actually go. Reading can be a huge help. Pick out some favorite books, or some get a few new ones from the library, and read to your little one during their scheduled potty times. They’ll start to look forward to going, and you’ll be getting in some extra reading time at the same time! Win-win!
Tip #7: Praise their progress.
Kids, just like adults, love to hear that they’re doing a good job. Praise their accomplishments and their efforts to keep their momentum going, and to encourage them when they’re feeling frustrated.
Tip #8: All or nothing.
Try just putting them in underwear for a long weekend and see what happens. Some parents swear by this method, although it’s not for everyone. This usually works best if you have a dedicated few days where you can commit to staying at home (and are comfortable with cleaning up a few messes).
Tip #9: Be prepared for a possible regression.
Sometimes kids can be doing great with potty training, only to have a setback after a few months. This is normal and shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Be understanding with your child – showing your frustrations can only make them feel worse and may lead to more accidents. Try to figure out why the setbacks are occurring (is your family going through a transition in any way or does your child have any medical issues, like constipation, that could be causing the regression). Once things have settled down or you’ve identified and treated the problem, your child should return to potty training again.
Tip #10: Be patient.
Remember that potty training is a process, and, despite some programs that claim they will potty train in a short amount of time, it often takes several weeks to months for your child to become dry regularly. Be patient with them as they learn to master this and provide as much love and support as you can to help them along.
Have any of your own potty training tips to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!