Updated: Mar 18, 2019
The topic of potty training can spark horror in the hearts of even the most seasoned, confident parents.
The keys to successful potty training are patience, consistency, and knowing when your child is physically and emotionally ready.
How do you know your child is ready to begin the process of potty training?
One of the first signs is they take interest in you or an older sibling using the toilet. They may watch and ask questions. As awkward as it may be, tell them exactly what you're doing in language they will understand. Every household has their own bathroom lingo.
Another sign to look for is discomfort when their diaper is soiled. They will most likely take it off. They may even tell you when they are in the process of going. If they are not verbalizing this, you may also want to look for patterns of behavior. They may have a designated "pooping" area or a certain time of the day when it's "go time".
Each child progresses at their own pace - just because your first child was potty trained before 2 doesn't mean that your second child will follow suit. Girls tend to be ready a little bit earlier than boys.
Here are some strategies that worked for my daughter - we started the process shortly before her third birthday:
1. Reward system/Positive Reinforcement
We started slow with this. At first we would reward her for sitting on the potty for a designated amount of time. We eventually progressed to only giving a reward (we used M&Ms) when she actually used the potty. This was very effective for her because girlfriend loves sugar. The reward can be anything that motivates your child - a sticker, a special game, a book, a video, or an activity.
Make your child an active participant in choosing their reinforcer. If you're making a sticker chart let them pick out the color of the construction paper or decorate it with stickers and crayons. Get them excited for the process!
2. Story Book
Barnes & Noble has several age appropriate books on using the potty. I found a pink one called Princess of the Potty and read it with my daughter several times a day. You can also order it off Amazon for around $7.00.
There are several other options if your child isn't into princesses.
3. Reminders and prompts in scheduled intervals.
When we first began the process of potty training I would remind her every 25-30 minutes to go sit on the potty. I would stay with her in the bathroom while she attempted to go. Even if she was unsuccessful I still praised her for sitting on the potty and trying. You will most likely need to entertain your child or distract them in order to get them to remain seated on the toilet. Reading a story or playing a game are good ways to do this.
I found this Training Watch in the Dollar Spot section at Target! You can set it in 30, 60, or 90 minute intervals and it will remind your child that it's time to sit on the potty!
4. Establish a routine.
We always use the potty before we leave the house, go to bed or before she gets into the tub to establish a routine.
5. Paw Patrol Toddler Potty (or child's character of choice)
I know, I know. Those little toddler potties are so gross. I did try to avoid using one but my daughter just wasn't having the Minnie Mouse toilet seat insert. The little potty is much less intimidating and gives children a sense of "grounding" because they are lower to the floor. Also, if your child is sensitive to noise, using a toddler potty eliminates the sound of flushing and splashing.
If you opt for a regular sized toilet make sure you give your child a small stool to place their feet on. It is very difficult to "push" when the child's legs are dangling.
5. Expect and prepare for regression.
Most children will get the concept of using the potty quickly if they're at the stage of readiness - physically, emotionally and cognitively. With that being said, the novelty may quickly wear off and your child who hasn't had an accident in weeks, may start soiling their pants again. They tend to get so wrapped up in playing or doing a preferred activity that they ignore their body signaling them they need to use the toilet.
Many children benefit from visual schedules when it comes to a toileting routine. These can be posted right in the bathroom. Here is a sample I found from hangnthere.com
A quick Pinterest search for "Visual Toileting Schedule" will give you lots of options.
Boys can be more difficult to train. You can begin potty training by having them sitting on the potty, as you would a girl, however, if aiming becomes a problem a simple hack is to turn them toward the back of the toilet so that they are straddling it. This will help with keep your bathroom floor and toilet seat tidy.
If you feel your child is ready to stand to pee in the potty there is a plethora of fun "aiming tools" available.
This is called the "Toddler Target". It attaches to the toilet seat and uses a motion sensor to project an illuminated image of a target into the toilet water. It is available at Target and Amazon for about $30.00. The reviews also state that it helps teenagers keep the bathroom clean - do what you will with that information.
Here is the product link:
If you don't feel like spending $30.00 on something for your child to pee on, you could always toss something dissolvable into the toilet such as cereal (cheerios work well) for free!
If your toddler appears ready and you have tried several strategies without success, there may be an underlying sensory or organic issue. If you are concerned it is always best to check with your pediatrician.
Hang in there - potty training can be very frustrating and attempting the process before you toddler is physically and emotionally ready may only be setting them, and you, up for failure. Move at your child's pace, be consistent and try to make it fun. If your child appears frustrated, it is ok to stop and try a week or 2 later. Remember your child can read your energy, if you're anxious or upset they, too, will be anxious and upset.
Happy Potty Training!