Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. Well, that is us when it comes to potty training. When considering how and when to train my first child, I was pretty intimidated. I perused a few books but didn’t really know where to begin. My husband hated diapers and really dove right into potty training. At first, I he just followed his instincts but quickly realized, “Hey, this is working.” Since then, he has successfully and with little stress, trained two boys and is introducing our daughter right now.
The boys were trained at 22 months and 2.5 years old. I did not find that this was too early with either one. Our first son who was trained at 22 months, slept in a diaper for naps and overnight for another year. Once trained our 2.5 year old would not wet his diaper so we had about another 6 months of getting up occasionally in the middle of the night to take him to the potty. Once he was in a big boy bed, he was able to get up and go without us. We are in the process of training our 21 month old and hope to have her out of diapers by the time the new baby comes in July.
Here are some things that I have learned from watching Luke potty train our kids. He is very patient when it comes to potty training. He doesn’t rush them. He is happy to sit in the bathroom with them for long periods of time. His process is slow, usually over a couple of months and it’s proved anxiety free for us.
- Have the necessary props. Get a potty and/or a potty seat that fits right over the regular toilet. We’ve always gotten ours early so that the kids can “explore” them before we are actively trying to train them. These props are necessary because trying to hold your child on the big toilet for long periods of time is not comfortable for anyone.
- Let your child see you use the potty and talk to them about it. This is the easiest thing to accomplish. What parent gets to use the bathroom by themselves anyway?
- Use appropriate words for body parts. My grandmother was horrified that my mom said penis and vagina. She had grown up thinking that a penis was a “tallywacky.” If your children go to daycare or are with a babysitter or a grandparent, there is no mystery involved in penis and vagina, but tallywacky?
- Reward them when they use the potty. Some parents use M&M’s or jelly beans. We have always had “potty parties.” This is where we all go crazy singing “tee tee/poo poo in the potty party!” over and over again clapping our hands, laughing and making a huge deal about the whole thing. This has worked well for us. The first time you have a potty party, your child will stare at you like you have lost your mind. After that, they will join in the fun, as will any older siblings. Never make negative comments, even if you are frustrated and think they are “holding it” on purpose. Tell them “good job” even if they just sat on the potty.
- Put your child on the potty at predictable times of the day. For us that’s right when they wake up, before and after meals and before putting them down for naps/bedtime. My children always pee as soon as I put them in the tub. Sometimes I will dip them quickly to get them started and them pull them right out and put them on the potty to finish. Followed by a super crazy potty party.
- If and when possible, let your child go naked, especially in the early stages. (Side note: this also works great if you have a child with chronic diaper rash.) The goal here is to “catch” them going potty so that they can get familiar with their bodily functions. Also, sometimes diapers are so absorbent that they aren’t uncomfortable to continue wearing once wet.
- Be prepared with a basket of books and songs to sing while sitting on the potty.
- Plan and prepare for mess. My son once brought me a hand full of his poop when he was diaper free. Needless to say, we had a teachable moment followed by bath time!
- Don’t rush it. After several exposures and a few potty parties, they will start to get the hang of it. In the meantime, prepare to spend some time in the bathroom and know that it’s just one of the many fleeting seasons of parenting.
- Get creative, get ideas from your friends and figure out what works for you and your family. One of my favorite potty training stories is from a friend who, as a last resort, sat her daughter down on the kids potty in the kitchen (tile floor so accidents wouldn’t be a big deal) in front of the TV and let her eat all the popcorn (salty!) and drink all the juice she wanted. This worked for her because TV, popcorn and juice were things that she wasn’t normally allowed to have and so she gobbled them up. Eventually she had to go and with no diaper, the potty was her only option.
I’m not an expert or a doctor, I’m just a mom who’s been through this a few times. While all of these tips have worked great for us, they might not for you. Consult your doctor with any concerns.