Top 10 Effective Potty Training Tips
When you hear potty training, do you cower in fear? Does the idea of it make you want to down a bottle of wine? Potty training doesn’t have to be like trying to diffuse a ticking bomb and not knowing which wire to cut, even though in the beginning you WILL feel like you are carrying a ticking bomb that can go off any second during your mad dash to the bathroom with your toddler. However, before you know it you will have a potty-trained toddler who is capable of controlling his/her own bowel movements and wiping his/her own bottom. How do we get from diapers to underwear? Here are 10 helpful tips that will help make potty training less painful and maybe… dare I say it… fun!
1. Positivity is everything.
There is a constant debate going on in the parenthood world on whether to use positive reinforcement or negative punishment. While the jury is still out on which route is the right way to go in certain situations, there is no doubt that when it comes to potty training, positivity is EVERYTHING. You are taking away their literal “safety net,” aka the diaper, and leaving them vulnerable emotionally and physically to their bodily functions. The moment you introduce any negativity, they will want to run back to their diapers and you would have taken hundreds of steps backwards in potty training.
Therefore, bring on the praises! He tried to run for the bathroom but ended up peeing on the carpet? It’s okay, good job for trying! She felt some rumbling in her intestines but pooped on the dog instead of in the toilet? All good, mommy will clean up and we will try again next time! And of course, if they do successfully go in the toilet, you celebrate each time as if it’s their birthday!
2. Implement incentives.
What motivates your child? Sticker charts? Perhaps some sweet treats? Rewards are definitely the way to go when it comes to encouraging kids to get their little behinds on the potty. However, picking the correct reward system will be all up to you because you understand your child the best. Some kids may love getting a quarter in their piggy banks after they go the potty, while others could care less about the coins. As for my kids? I got lucky and sticker charts worked like magic for both – inexpensive and super easy.
3. Daddy’s turn!
As a mom, I am the one constantly chasing after my kid with food or getting them ready to go out or throwing them in the bath. In a nutshell, their perception of mom = anything but fun. And I hate to admit it, daddy really is the fun one. Therefore, if potty training is not working out with mom, let daddy have a turn. He may be able to think of some games or a fun way to make potty training exciting for the kids. If daddy is too busy and not up to the task, you can also try grandma, an older cousin… whoever you think may help motivate your kid to start potty training.
4. Get some cool undies.
Like I mentioned above, diapers are what makes our toddlers feel safe and secure. Therefore, taking diapers away may be a huge no-no for them. First, I recommend skipping the pull-ups. They are essentially diapers that you can put on while standing, and I don’t think toddlers really understand the difference between them and their regular diapers. Second, buy some awesome undies that will get them so excited that they forget about the diapers. For example, if your kid is into superheroes, then get some Marvel or DC Comic characters on the undies. My daughter loves pretty things in general, so we purchased undies with colorful flowers and stylish patterns. Cool undies could be motivation enough for them to continue wearing undies instead of diapers, making potty training a lot easier and faster.
5. Let him/her choose the potty.
You would think that an Elmo themed potty would be so appealing that your toddler wants to sit on it immediately. NOPE. Every kid has his/her own preference, so take your kid shopping for a potty that he/she would be excited to sit on. Some kids don’t want to go in the potty because they want to be like us and go on the regular toilet. In that case you may want to try out one of those seats that fits onto the toilet and prevents the child from falling in. If that fails, try just having your child on the toilet while holding on to him/her. Both of my kids refused to use a potty – they simply wanted to sit on the toilet like adults. I won’t lie, they have fallen in a couple of times when I was busy trying to get a piece of toilet paper to wipe their butts. So here is a tip if you are going to go directly for the toilet: FLUSH OFTEN, especially if you need to take your eyes or hands off your kid for even a second.
6. Timing is key.
One of the biggest questions I get asked is – when should I start potty training? The answer is up to each kid as well as up to you. Some kids start even before turning 1, while others start after their 3rd birthday. Starting to potty train before your kid is ready will make the process longer and a lot more painful. Thus, be patient and wait until your kid start showing signs of readiness, such as telling you when he/she has to go to the bathroom or showing interest in the bathroom. Also, make sure other circumstances in your life will allow you to potty train your toddler without causing too much stress. For example, if you are about to have a baby, or your toddler is about to start a new school, you may want to put off potty training until he/she has adjusted to the new environment.
7. Prepare for success.
While we want to follow our children’s lead, we also can start preparing their minds for potty training. Start incorporating books such as Potty (by Leslie Patricelli) or A Potty for Me! (by Karen Katz) into story time. Explain what’s going on when you are going to the bathroom – let’s face it, privacy is a privilege when you are a parent. Let them jump on the potty whenever they like to try, even if it’s just for fun. If you prepare their minds ahead of time, it will make potty training faster and easier when they are physically ready.
8. Be consistent.
Especially if you are a busy mom on the go like me, it’s tempting to just throw a diaper on your toddler whenever you are out and about. However, you need to be consistent so that your kid knows what to expect. You may want to go cold turkey and transition into wearing underwear all the time. As for my daughter, we chose to have her wear diapers only during nap time and night time so that she doesn’t have to wake up to go to the bathroom. If you keep switching back and forth between diaper and underwear, your kid may get confused and that leads to more accidents. Plus, it increases the chance of he/she reverting back to wanting to put on a diaper all the time. But how about when you go on long trips where bathrooms are not readily available? Instead of defaulting back to diapers, try bringing a travel potty so your kid can go anywhere, any time.
9. Make it fun!
Sitting on the toilet isn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the world, especially without an iPhone (ha…ha). To encourage using the potty, try and make the experience fun! Here are some ideas:
- Add food coloring to the potty! Add blue food coloring and the pee will turn the water green, or you can add red food coloring and the pee will turn it orange. Hey, what a good time to also teach them about mixing colors!
- For boys, throw a few Cheerios in the potty for target practice.
- Make potty time into story time. Let them pick their favorite books and off to the bathroom you go!
- Sing songs together, maybe even make up songs about going on the potty!
10. Don’t ask – just do.
If you have a kid like my son, going to the bathroom is for sure not on the top of his/her to-do list. Therefore, if you ask them whether they need to bathroom, most likely you will get a big fat NO even when they do need to go. What happens then is that they will tell you a minute later they need to go super urgently, and you will have to use leg muscles you haven’t used in ages to sprint to the nearest toilet before you get peed or pooped on. Therefore, instead of asking, make a simple statement such as “Let’s go to the potty now,” or “It’s time to go potty.” If your child needs more motivation, make it a race and see who can run to the bathroom first.
A lot of times potty training gets a bad rep. There are tons of horror stories out there, but you just have to learn to laugh at the messy situations. Have a bucket with stain remover, towels, and maybe a scrub brush ready. Monitor your child carefully throughout the process to avoid accidents. And before you know it, you will have a fully potty trained toddler and you will be thinking… how did he/she grow up so fast?