Potty training is a major milestone in the life of a toddler – and of their parent! While being potty trained provides a number of wonderful benefits to both parent and toddler, the act of potty training often seems to be lousy with pitfalls that block the road to success. So what are the keys to successful potty-training?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the number one requirement for toilet-training is patience. At a time when patience is at a premium because of the fact that your toddler has become so active and it taking his or her first steps towards independence, patience can be a commodity in short supply. Parents need to “psyche themselves up” to dredge up all possible reserves of patience before they take on the task of toilet-training.
Toilet-training hinges on physical and emotional readiness, not a specific age. I felt that I had to be toilet-training my oldest daughter by 18 months and the process was a disaster. Giving us six months to accomplish the process, I began toilet-training her at one year old. We were both continuously frustrated at the lack of process and the pressure only made it worse. She was not completely potty trained until two years old and we had problems with bed-wetting for a year after that. With my second daughter, I waited until she let me know what she was ready. By the time she was 18 months old, we had no soiled or wet clothes and dry sheets every night. Additionally, neither of us were stressed during the process. Your child will give you clear signs when they are ready to be toilet-trained. So how will you recognize them?
Every parent if familiar with the potty dance and the pulling on the crotch of clothing as signals that a child has to go to the bathroom. However, there are other clues to help you recognize when your child is ready for toilet-training. Is your child interested in “what goes on” in the bathroom? Do they follow you in and express curiosity about the toilet? Have you noticed particular words, facial expressions or postures that indicate they are about to soil their diaper? Do they complain about a soiled diaper? Do they stay dry for periods of two hours or longer? If the answer to the majority of these questions is “yes” then your child is probably ready to toilet-train.
In addition to patience, there are a few other elements that successful toilet-training requires. One of these is that all caregivers be on board. Your child has to know that the same expectations and methods are required in every location where they receive care. This includes not only the babysitter or day care center, but also at grandma’s house. Everyone must be on board. Also, get your child used to the bathroom and the various functions it serves. Move their potty chair into the bathroom. Encourage them to sit on the potty chair, with or without a diaper. Be sure their feet reach the floor or a stool (if you are using a potty seat adaptable to the regular toilet). Talk you to your child in simple, correct terms about bodily functions and the toilet. Dump the contents of a diaper in the toilet so they can see how it is used. Allow them to see family members using the toilet and perhaps have them sit on their potty while you are on the toilet.
Schedule potty breaks. Remind them periodically throughout the day that they need to stop and potty. Have them sit there a few minutes at a time, whether or not they go. It is okay to give them a toy to play with on the potty as long as it allows them to remain sitting. I have done a bit of research of toilet training “tools” and have found a variety of in stores including DVDs, alarms, targets, and storybooks. (On one site alone there were 26 DVDs and storybooks!) While I am very skeptical about alarms, I also doubt that a toddler’s attention span is long enough for them to learn this skill with the aid of a DVD or book. Targets may make the process more entertaining, especially for boys, but I doubt any of these surpass patience and persistence. When you notice your child’s particular signs for needing to potty, get to the potty quickly! Always be positive with your child, even if a trip is not successful. Ditch the diapers!! Pull-ups, training pants, or even toddler underwear are appropriate at this stage. I always preferred pull-ups or training pants because it is not necessary to change the child’s entire outfit if there is an accident. Not only do you save on laundry, but the child does not feel it is as big of a deal if they don’t have to change everything.
Sometimes you just have to know when to call it quits. If you see that your child is not making progress within a few weeks, take a break! It may only take a month or two before they are ready to try it again. Taking a break is not failure.
Regardless of how well they are doing with toilet-training, children will have accidents. Always remembers to place them in the proper perspective. Stay calm! They don’t do this on purpose and are often more upset about it than you are. Let them know that it everything is okay and that next time they will do better. Always be prepared for accidents by carrying extra training pants/underwear and clothing everywhere you go. Most importantly, remind them often. There is nothing wrong with asking every 30 minutes when out in public. Also, remember that toddlers have a lot going on in their lives! They hate taking a break from play to potty. Sometimes you may need to insist that they take that break, even if they think they don’t need to do so.
Bottom line: Take the pressure off – of your toddler and yourself. Toilet-training is a natural process, both physically and emotionally. Your job is to guide it along the path of success. Happy Training!