Potty training is one of the most feared milestones for parents. It’s messy, it’s stinky and it’s downright disgusting. Although this is true, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. There are ways that you can assist the process and actually make it fun and enjoyable. I have been working in a nursery for 2 years with children aged 2 and 3. Perfect potty training age. It’s about time that I shared my knowledge with parents that may be struggling or afraid to even start. Here are some tips on how to potty train your child.
The very first thing you need to ask yourself before you even start to do anything is…is my child ready for potty training? If the answer is no, then save yourself some time and effort and don’t even begin to think about potty training. The worst thing that you can do for a child at this point is to force them to start, because you feel they are at the right age. Every child potty trains at different times, so don’t worry if your child is a little slower to show any interest. Starting too early can cause a fear of the potty, which will make the process so much harder.
Signs of readiness:
- Showing an interest in the potty
- Consistently dry nappies
- Holding in their urine
- Talking about ‘big boy pants’
How Do I Start?
The most important thing to remember as a parent is that your child is probably just as anxious about potty training as you are. It’s a scary process for a child. They have spent the first couple of years of their life doing their business in a nappy. Now suddenly they have to do some of the work themselves. It’s a lot for a child to process.
You need to make the concept of using a potty as exciting as possible. A way of doing this is to plan a fun shopping trip out to buy their first ever ‘special’ potty. Make the shopping trip ALL about this potty that you are going to buy. Let your child pick one themselves, so that it is more personal to them. You can buy plain potties that are relatively cheap. Or you can buy ones that are a little more expensive that are designed with children’s favourite characters.
Once you have bought a potty that your child likes, it’s time to choose where to put it. The most obvious choice would be the bathroom, although your child may not spend that much time in there, and may not know where to go. A good place to put it is in a play room. Somewhere that your child spends a lot of their time. It may not be the most hygienic option, but your child will not need to go far to access it.
Another good starting point is allowing your child to watch you sit on the toilet. There’s no need for stage fright. You don’t even need to actually do anything. Just allow them to watch you sit on, and see how it works. Children learn from imitation, and seeing you happily sit on will give them the confidence to do it themselves.
How To Potty Train
You’ve bought the potty. Your child is ready. It’s time to get down to business. Hold on tight. This could be a very bumpy ride.
The first thing you need to do is allow your child to become comfortable with the potty. Let me them sit on whenever they feel like it. Even when fully clothed. The action of sitting down and getting their bearings is important. The potty needs to be a place of comfort for them. When they are comfortable, start sitting them on with no pants on, so that they can feel the potty on their skin. Make sure that you are rewarding your child as you go along. Even just for sitting on. Stamps and stickers are a good option. Children crave rewards for achieving things.
It’s important to remember that if your child is refusing to sit on, or seems distressed, then it’s a good indication that they aren’t ready yet. Potty training needs to be child led, so if they don’t want to engage, then don’t force them. Go back in a few days time, or even weeks, to see if they feel more comfortable.
Cues Of Needing To Go
You will know your kids better than anyone. You know when they are about to drop a load in their nappy. They usually disappear behind a sofa or cross their legs and do a little dance. The key is to notice these cues, and direct them to the potty before they do anything. Ask them if they would like to sit on the potty to do their wee. If they do decide to go on, again make sure you reward them and make a huge fuss. Lots of praise and rewards will increase the likeliness of them doing it again next time.
Cues to look out for:
- Grabbing themselves
- Going very quiet
- Telling you they have weed/pooed
- Pulling at their nappy
Dressing A Child Who Is Potty Training
There are a few things to remember when potty training a child that may seem obvious. However from working in a nursery, it’s clear that sometimes the obvious is ignored. When dressing your child, make sure that they are in something that is easy to remove. This means, no dungarees as they are difficult for the average parent to unbutton, never mind a child. Avoid vests that restrict a child’s access to their nappy. They need to be able to pull their pants down and be ready to sit on instantly. Also avoid tight jeans. Joggers are a good shout as they can just be pulled straight down.
After a few weeks of successful attempts, you may feel like your child is ready to move into underpants. You should approach this in the same way as the potty buying process. An exciting shopping trip for your child to pick out their own underpants. Typical boys will be excited about wearing their new Spiderman pants. Girls similarly with their ‘Princess’ knickers. They will inevitably spend the first few days showing everyone in sight, even complete strangers. The excitement of wearing their new special grown up pants will encourage them to keep them dry and will be a constant reminder to them of the potty using process.
Communication Is Key
The most important word that you need to remember when potty training is CONSISTENCY. There’s no use in starting the process at home and then not telling anyone else. Communicate to everyone that is involved with your child exactly what is going on. If your child attends nursery then keep them updated every step of the way. Let them know what techniques you are trying at home, so that they can do the same at nursery. The worst thing you can do is to have one routine at home, and a different one at nursery. Your child will become confused and most likely take a backwards step.
Even when your child goes to spend the day at Grandparents, let them know exactly what to do. Stick to one routine and make sure everybody is on board.
Wee First, Poo Second
Once your child has mastered how to wee on a potty, it’s then time to master the poos. Don’t expect your child to be able to do a poo on the potty straight away. Some children can take months to find the confidence to do a number two. However, I have seen some children learn the opposite way round. Every child is different. Don’t be concerned if your child soils themselves a fair few times. Sometimes they can be too busy playing, or forget to tell someone before it’s too late.
The important thing is to never shout at a child who has wet or soiled themselves. You don’t want to be upsetting or embarrassing them. This can have a negative effect and make them even more scared to try anymore. Tell them that it’s okay and that they can try again next time. Just have wipes and spare underpants ready in most rooms of your house. You never know when it will happen or how bad it will be.
Things To Remember
- If you are going to start, you have to go for it! There’s no point in going in half-hearted. If you want to potty train, you need to fully commit to it.
- When the process gets tough, don’t give up!
- Be patient with them – don’t put too much pressure on them to get it straight away
- Never shout at a child for wetting/soiling themselves
- No vests, jeans or dungarees
- Make the idea of using a potty fun and exciting!
- Reward your child for every little milestone that they hit, no matter how small.
- Allow your child to take the lead
- Consistency is important. Consistency, consistency, consistency.
Advice From Real Parents On Twitter
Emily Rose @BuriedInBabies :
“Don’t put them in undies until they get the hang of it, just shorts and trackies. Underwear feels a bit like a nappy and they forget. My kid only ever had one poo accident. He hated the feeling of poo sliding down his leg so much that he never missed again.
Jenny @ArthurJenny :
“I waited until my son was ready. He was 3y 1m. I tried so hard from age 2 but he wasn’t ready & I felt pressure from people saying “Mine were done by 2 etc”. He did it within a few days when he was ready rather than when I wanted”.
Jessica @JessicaF628 :
“The hardest part is PATIENCE! If we aren’t patient with them we are putting pressure on them and stressing them out just as much as we stress ourselves. It’s not easy but is necessary”.
GirlFromtheNC @_girlfromthenc :
“Potty training a child who isn’t ready is the equivalent of trying to house-train a rabid raccoon. Wait until they are ready or you’re just wasting everyone’s time”.
Hopefully this information has been useful and you have a better understanding of how to potty train your child. If I have missed something and you have a question feel free to get in touch. You can find me on Twitter here or you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org