So, you have decided your toddler is ready and you want to start the process of potty training. Ask 10 different grandmothers, and you will get 10 different answers on the best method. All suggested methods should emphasize patience, consistency, rewards for success, and preparation for setbacks. The best method is the one that works for your child and not the one that worked for mine. As the parent you will know what best motivates your child, so listen to your instincts.
Buy the Right Equipment
There are two basic types of potty chairs from which to choose. One is the stand alone potty chair with a bowl, and the other is a toddler adapter seat that attaches to the regular toilet. Either one is an acceptable choice. If you decide the adapter seat is best for your child and your situation, plan to get a stool. It is important so your child can easily get up on the toilet as well as to plant his/her feet securely for safety. Feet resting on a surface to give support allows for bearing down when it is time to have a bowel movement. If you decide on a potty chair, make sure if it has a urine guard that you can remove it. These guards tend to scrape a boy’s penis and may discourage his use of the potty chair. Figure out what type seems to work best for your situation before shopping. Once decided, ask your child to help pick out the potty chair from the type you have determined is the best. Once purchased, write your child’s name on the chair. This shows ownership and fosters that sense of self mastery in a toddler as discussed in Part 1.
Schedule Potty Breaks
After getting the potty you will use, start sitting your child on the it at least once a day. Select a time when you think it is likely he/she will have a bowel movement. After a meal or before a bath are examples of common times when people have bowel movements. At first allow your child to sit on the potty fully clothed. Surround him/her with special books or toys reserved for use during these special times. Choose books about toilet training that are age appropriate. These not only reinforce the concept, but also motivate your child to stay seated for a longer time. Modeling the behavior is also important, so you might go to the bathroom at the same time. If your child has a bowel movement in his/her diaper, empty the diaper into the toilet as the child watches allowing him/her to flush it down. If your child refuses to sit on the potty, never force the issue. Try again later, but continue to give gentle reminders and words of encouragement. Once your child shows interest and has some success, take their clothes off and start going more frequently. Respond quickly if you see signs of “the potty dance.” Establish a routine and ask all caregivers to follow the same routine. Consistency in the process is important for success.
Once your child shows interest, it is so important to reinforce this behavior with encouragement. Provide incentives that will motivate your child. Avoid giving sweets as a reward. Use other treats such as stars on a chart, extra trips to the park, or more time reading stories at night. You know your child best, so select what works for you. Expect and be prepared for accidents. Keeping an extra outfit handy will avoid your embarrassment (usually the child cares less about accidents than the parent) if the accident occurs in a public place. When mishaps occur, downplay it with words like, “You will do better next time.” Ask the child to help by cleaning up or by taking wet clothes and placing them in the washing machine. Remember to celebrate success and ignore the failures. Kids do not have accidents to punish their parents.
If your child seems fearful or unsteady sitting on the toilet seat, some people find some success by allowing the child to sit facing backwards. There is something to hold onto, and it is easier to see what’s going down. It is true that boys are messier and may take a bit longer to train than girls. It is often best for boys to learn in a sitting position and later transition to standing up. Traditionally, primary caregivers have been women so the children will model that bathroom style. If your son wants to try standing up from the beginning or if a male will be around to model the behavior, urinating in a standing position is perfectly fine. If boys do learn sitting down to urinate initially, the conversion to standing is usually easy once control is achieved. As an incentive to urinate in the toilet rather than on the wall, boys often respond to target practice. Some people have found sheets of toilet paper with bull’s eyes printed on them to float in the toilet. Putting several donut shaped cereal pieces to float in the water is often just as fun.
How Long Will It Take?
If you start toilet training when your child is ready, it usually takes about 6 weeks from sitting on the potty to using the restroom with regularity. However, occasional accidents will continue to occur after this time. Children are distracted during play or when friends are around. Offer frequent reminders to go to the bathroom during these times to avoid accidents. Even if your child is having great daytime success, it is not unusual for a child not to be completely dry throughout the night until the fifth birthday. If your child seems to be having more problems than the average child, is holding stool until constipation is a problem, or is not showing any interest well after their third birthday, speak to your pediatrician about the problems you are having. There is a saying about being able to take a horse to water, but not being able to make them drink. The same applies to toilet training. You can take a toddler to the pot, but you cannot make them pee.