No kid – and no potty – is the same.
Every child is different. No matter how many children you potty train, it will be different with each one. Trust me, I know. Boys, especially, seem to take longer to catch on than girls. As the parent, you can decide if you want to train the child or if you want the child to train you. My sister potty trained three girls and thought it was a piece of cake. Then she had a son – and discovered that some of her answers didn’t work as well with a boy. Don’t expect it to be the same with each child!
If you train the child, you set the parameters. If the child trains you, then his potty-going depends on you to make sure it happens. Don’t get caught up in a timeline on potty training. It’s not worth it!
We raised four boys and two girls, and I potty trained several foster kids. I still don’t have complete answers, but there are some things I know from my experience. I’m happy to share my ideas with you.
Before potty training
- Physically ready. A child is not ready to be potty trained until he can keep his balance standing on one foot for thirty seconds or more. If he doesn’t have that dexterity down, then potty training him will be much more difficult and will take more time. You can go ahead and train him, but it will take longer. Ask me how I know.
- Emotionally ready. Your child needs to be ready emotionally as well as physically. So do you. Seriously, it’s a smart move to wait until you feel you can handle this at this time in your life. If you wait until you as well as your child is “good and ready”, it won’t take as long. Seriously, it can mean a difference of taking months or just a few weeks. Ask me how I know!
- Distraction free zone. Choose a time when your life is not full of distractions and when your child has been dry after a nap for some time. Don’t try to potty train before a trip, a special event, or near the time for an addition to the family. Before you begin, plan a time when you will be at home for several days and can focus on training without being distracted. It doesn’t mean you can’t run to town or to Grandma’s; it just means the training will be easier and smoother if there are less interruptions and distractions. With one of our kids, I waited at least a month after I thought my child was ready. There was too much going on, and I had learned that waiting would speed up the process. Within a few days, she had the idea down flat. She still had accidents and that was okay. But the basic concept and ability to stay dry was there – because I waited until life was slower and I wasn’t frenzied. [Let me just say that after four kids, I was pretty pleased with how easy it was with number five – yes, I’m gloating just a little.]
- Comparison is out. Remember: it does not matter if someone else’s child or one of your own kids was trained at a different age than this toddler. DO NOT COMPARE your child to any other child’s potty training – mentally or verbally. This not only affects your child, it affects you.
Making potty training easier
- Praise and applause goes a long way. Showing excitement at an accomplishment breeds enthusiasm to keep on trying! Get everyone in the family involved in the excitement – both parents and all the siblings if they are in the house. The more applause, the merrier. Include grandparents and aunties and cousins when possible.
- Flushing. Make a big deal of flushing it down the toilet. Sometimes children want to look at their waste; this is a part of themselves and they are fascinated. Don’t rush this; allow some time and then tell it “bye bye” as it swishes away.
- Reward. A small reward – an M & M, raisins, or another treat helps give incentive
- Aim! Cheerios in the toilet – having a boy aim to dunk that cheerio makes it a fun game
- Stickers are a charm. You can buy a sticker board or just post stickers on a piece of construction paper. My kids still talk about the Elephant that got fed sticker peanuts when we were potty training our youngest – and that was over twenty years ago. Everybody was involved! Read more about how we used stickers here.
- Incentives. Big Boy and Big Girl undies can be an incentive. If a child stays dry for so long, he can wear “big boy” underwear. Cloth training pants give a child the sensation of discomfort when he is wet. Disposable diapers or pull ups help him feel comfortable. If he is uncomfortable because his clothes are wet, he will more likely be ready to try to make it to the bathroom.
- Toys. Provide a toy, a book, or a peg puzzle for your child to have only while on the potty. If it’s something he likes, he will look forward to sitting for a while just so he can have his toy.
- Stay in the room. Hang with your kid, but don’t rush him. Stay in the bathroom and give him time. Run some water – the sound of water does wonders to relax bladder muscles.
- Water stimulation. When the bathtub is filling with water, let your child swish his hands in the water, then put him on the potty. The feel of warm water and its sound often acts as a stimulus for urination. My kids often started peeing as soon as I stood them in the bathtub. A quick move to the potty brought the beginning of success and a lot of applause without scolding for peeing in the bathtub.
- Expect regression. Most children are able to make the transition of being potty trained without a lot of “accidents”. However, don’t feel badly or scold your child if he regresses to wetting himself, especially during naps or overnight. This can happen because of something emotionally going on in his world. This can be a change of setting (he spends a few days with someone else more than with you), there’s a new baby, daddy is gone on business, or you’ve moved to a new house. The less you fuss about it, the sooner he will adapt and get back into sync.
In the long run . . .
As parents, we make too big a deal out of getting ‘er done in short order. Will it really matter when he walks across the stage to receive his high school diploma if he was potty trained six months later than his cousin? When he interviews for his first job, will his employer ask him if he was potty trained by the time he was two? Then don’t sweat the small stuff. Relax, enjoy the ride, and make potty training a fun time instead of a ritual that must be completed in short order. Your kid will be happier, and so will you.