The two words many parents dread.
As I’m launching a brand new blog, my goal is to relieve some of the anxiety parents face towards issues such as the one I’m about to talk about. It seems like many parents are afraid of doing something wrong and developmentally delaying their child – or hurling them towards a milestone they aren’t ready for.
Potty training is different for every child. I knew some children who went straight from diapers to underwear in one day and had no problem with the transition. Other children took years before they were consistently going in the toilet. No matter which type of child yours is, here are a few tips to help make the transition easier for you and your child:
Make the potty a positive experience.
Many children experience anxiety towards potty training, from performance issues to fear of the flush. Try to calm their anxieties rather than getting frustrated with them. Keep toys or books they can only use when they’re on the potty, that way they will look forward to sitting on the toilet. Show them how the flush works, and explain what the water is doing.
Many parents use a reward system for potty training
I’ve seen this work, but try to keep the reward small. Once the child starts going potty multiple times a day, you don’t want to be handing out three or four ice cream bars. Try something like stickers, m&ms, or a reward sheet. A reward sheet works like this: They get a check mark (or smiley face, or whatever you want) every time they go potty. Then at the end of the week, they can have a nice reward. This only actually requires one prize per week, while still giving the child the same excitement and motivation.
Use the potty as an opportunity to help the children practice their numbers, alphabet, or sing a song
When children first start potty training, they may find it difficult to sit still long enough to actually go on the toilet. It can be helpful to read them a book, or count to a certain number, or any other activity you can think of to distract them so that they can sit a little longer. Even older children sometimes may tell you “I tried but nothing came out!” I’ve found that if you have them sit a little longer, they may find that they needed to go after all.
Dress children practically for potty training.
I’ve seen a lot of accidents happen because children were wearing clothes they couldn’t get off in time to get on the toilet. Make it easier for them by dressing them in clothes they can easily get on and off while they’re going through the stage of potty training. Elastic waist bands, short dresses and skirts, or easy snap pants are all great options children can get on and off by themselves. Things to avoid: Overalls, onesies, long dresses or dresses with ribbons hanging off of them, belts, difficult buttons, lots of layers. To get a full list of practical clothing for children, read my article 8 Types of Clothes You Should Stop Dressing Your Kids In.
It can feel exhausting sometimes, and potty training is a lot of effort. There will be accidents (I would suggest a waterproof mattress cover). Don’t give up and stop taking your child to the potty regularly, or revert from underwear back to pull-ups. Remember, children learn by watching what their parents do. If they see you giving up on potty training, that tells them it’s okay to give up on things. They may even feel less motivated to continue trying on the potty. Instead, be encouraging towards them. Tell them that they can do it.
Be encouraged by keeping in mind that every parent goes through the potty training ordeal, and they all come out just fine. Some children take longer than others, and that’s okay. It’s common for children who are 3 and 4 to still be having accidents. However, if you start to notice that your child has an accident during times when they get in trouble or are not getting their way, you may have a disciplinary problem on your hands rather than a potty training issue. This is a common power-leverage tactic children use, and they will grow out of it.
I personally enjoyed going through the potty training process with children. Even though it was challenging at times, I found it rewarding to see the progress they made from diapers to pull-ups to using the restroom with assistance – and finally, the moment when they can undress themselves, use the potty, and wash their hands all by themselves. You’ll be proud of them, and they will be proud of what they have accomplished.