Potty training is one of those developmental milestones that parents dream about after the first box of diapers is empty. While it may feel like an Olympic sport at times, find comfort in the fact that all parents go through this. Ditching the diapers takes work, but if you know the “ABP’s” of potty training, that gold medal in the potty training Olympics can be yours. You first have to know how to potty train and find potty training tips that work for you and your child.
When to Start Potty Training
While you may be ready to start potty training your child, she may not be ready to enter the toilet trenches. Lee Beers, MD, and Medical Director for Municipal and Regional Affairs at the Children’s National Health System, says, “It is important to be patient, and not feel like you have to rush it. Feeling pressured to toilet train makes it a more negative experience for both the child and the parent.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids are physiologically ready to start potty training at 18 months. This is because their digestive system and bladder are mature enough to know when to “hold it” long enough to get to the potty. Typically, kids are ready for potty training on all fronts around or shortly after their second birthday. Nina Nsilo-Swai, mother of two and creator of the pee-kaboo reusable potty training sticker, says, “It is important to look at the whole child, their physical, cognitive and emotional development, in order to determine whether they are ready to potty train.”
Signs Your Child Is Ready to Potty Train
If you’re not sure if your child is ready to be BFFs with the potty, look out for these signs your child is ready to potty train.
- Pulling at a wet or dirty diaper. There comes a point when kids don’t like to sit in dirty diapers. When they start the diaper tug-of-war, that could be their way of telling you they’re ready to learn how to potty train.
- Interest in other people going to the bathroom. We all know kids mimic what they see and hear. An interest in other people’s potty habits could be a sign they’re ready to start forming their own.
- Your child stays dry for two hours or more. When you start noticing dry diapers after a nap or a couple of hours around the house, this is another sign your child is ready to potty train.
- Your child can dress and undress themselves. Part of being potty trained is being able to pull your pants up and down. If your child can do this, she could soon have a date with the potty.
- Your child can understand and follow basic directions. If you notice your child can understand and follow your direction, then you may want to start potty training.
It’s important to note that children do not have to be verbal in order to start potty training. “As long as your child can communicate the need to go potty with sign language, a picture board or another communicative device, then potty training is possible,” says Nsilo-Swai.
How to Potty Train Your Child
Potty training is not as easy as pointing to the potty and telling your child to go. Potty training takes some parenting skills and plenty of patience! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it can take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks for a child to master the potty process. “If you are potty training with a deadline in mind and become anxious about it, kids sense that and absorb that tension,” says says Nsilo-Swai. “This can derail the process.” Here are some potty training tips to get them on the toilet train.
- Get Them Comfortable. When you’re ready to start potty training and are trying to figure out how to potty train your child, the first step is to buy a potty chair. They’re comfy and just the right size for toddlers to get down to business. Once they master the mini-throne routine, you can move them to the regular toilet.
- Ditch the Diapers. When it comes to potty training tips, many experts say to ditch the diapers and go straight for the big kid underwear when you’re potty training. They say leaving your toddler in diapers sends the wrong message. Getting kids excited by letting them pick out their own character underwear sometimes helps to get them on board.
- Potty Is Part of the Daily Routine. After you get the gear, show your child that going to the bathroom is part of the normal daily routine. You can do this by telling them you’re going to the bathroom. You can also read board books about potty training that show everyone goes to the potty.
- Encourage Your Child. Whenever she feels like they need to go “No. 1” or “No. 2,” encourage them to sit on the toilet. They might get discouraged at first, but soon enough they’ll learn the drill. Remember: Patience is everything when you’re figuring out how to potty train your child. And be prepared for accidents, because they’ll be plenty of them.
- Give Potty Incentives. When your child uses the potty successfully, you may want to consider a small reward. This doesn’t mean you’re buying a new bike every time your child goes potty, but a small reward of an ice cream cone or some stickers can go a long way.
- Bathroom Before Bed. Nighttime potty training can take a little longer, so expect more accidents in this department. To minimize the number of sheet changes, have your child go to the bathroom right before they hit the sack. Do the same at nap time.
- Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Keep repeating the process until they’re ready to “potty” all the time. Kids will eventually learn the potty drill.
Potty Training Tips for Boys
You may have heard people say potty training boys is harder than potty training girls. While there are no hard facts to support that claim, the University of Michigan says girls are usually ready to train at 29 months old, while boys are ready at 31 months old. One of the most popular potty training tips for boys is to let them learn to pee while sitting down. It can be difficult for them to control starting and stopping while standing. Another method parents of boys tend to use is to let them be naked while potty training. Nsilo-Swai says this potty training tip may lead to success because boys become engorged when they need to urinate, so there are visual signs of when to take them to the bathroom.
Potty Training Tips for Girls
When it comes to potty training for girls, one of the most important potty training tips has to do with the wipe. Girls should always wipe from front to back to avoid bacterial infections. Some kids may take a while to get the hang of it, so you may be on wiping duty in the beginning. When trying to figure out how to potty train a girl, some moms try the “naked” method, which can make it easier for the child to get to the bathroom without having an accident. But accidents are still very possible, so be prepared.
Potty Training Regression
You may think you’re ready to cross the finish line and grab the gold, when suddenly your child starts having accidents all of the time or wants to go back to wearing diapers. Whether you’re potty training a boy or a girl, potty training regression is something you may have to deal with at one point or another. Once a pediatrician has ruled out a medical reason for the regression the most common reasons for potty training regression include:
- Change in routine. Kids get used to a routine. When you break it with the start of a new daycare of school, kids may react by regressing.
- A death in the family or major illness affecting a family member. Again, this can be traumatic for kids and regressing can be their coping mechanism.
- Divorce or a new home. Both of these signal a major change in a tot’s life. Add the pressure of potty training and it may be too much for junior to handle.
“The best way to avoid more significant regression is to be patient and not force toilet training sooner than your child is ready,” says Beers. “Try to maintain as much of your usual routine as possible so that your child feels stable and secure.” So when accidents happen, get back on the potty track by starting up the old potty training routine again and remembering those potty training tips. You may also want to introduce a reward chart if you haven’t already. Anything you can do to give the potty back its good name will help in the process.
Three-Day Potty Training
Some call it the boot camp of potty training. The three-day potty training method is just that…a hard-core three days of potty training. When parents are looking for how to potty train their kids many start with this method. Make sure you have plenty of snacks in the house and have Netflix cued up because you’re not leaving for three days. Once you’ve cleared your schedule, it’s time to get down to business and become one with the 3-day potty training method.
- Toss the diapers & bring on the undies. Once you’ve ditched the diapers and have shown your child you have done so, dress her in “big-kid” undies and a T-shirt, no pants.
- Potty talk. Have a potty talk and explain to your child that she needs to tell you when she has to go potty. Don’t repeatedly ask your child if they have to go. Advocates of the 3-day potty training method say by having your child tell you when they have to go, you’re giving them a sense of control which helps with potty training.
- Be prepared for accidents. Accidents are going to happen while you’re potty training. During these three days you need to focus on your child and be able to get them to the bathroom so they can finish if they’re having an accident.
- Be potty positive. As with any method of potty training you need to be patient and positive. When your child has an accident, don’t yell. Take a deep breath, clean up the mess and calmly explain to your child that pee and poop go in the toilet, not on the floor. When they are successful, some parents do a potty dance in celebration to make the potty training process more fun. “Don’t dwell on things that don’t go well,” says Beers. “Make it fun to sit on the toilet with books or music to keep kids entertained.”
- Be consistent. During all three days, be consistent and follow the same rules. Advocates of this method say it gets better each day!
While some parents give potty praise to the three-day method, others remind us that it’s not for everyone. “The 3-day potty training boot camp method can actually be very stressful and cause children and parents a lot of anxiety,” says Nsilo-Swai. Bottom line: Find the method that works best for you and your kids.
Potty Training Advice From Real Moms
If you haven’t been in the toilet trenches with your kids just yet, sometimes it’s best to hear from real moms who have become “potty animals” and have lived to tell a few toilet tales. Check out what moms of The Bump Buzz Club are saying when it comes to potty training.
“Be consistent! It is not a start-and-stop endeavor. You really have to commit to training, or else you will confuse your child. Get every caretaker on board, make a list of expectations and ‘potty rules’ for everyone to follow. You want your child to understand exactly what is expected and never deviate.”
“Be patient, do what works best for your child—there is no single solution. Each child is different in how they respond.”
“Be patient. Make a chart with mini goals leading up to the main goal. For my daughter, she got to put a sticker on her chart anytime she would pee, and also got one jelly bean. We filled up the chart with stickers until she no longer needed to wear a diaper at naptimes and night time. We had a separate poop chart because that was harder for her to accomplish and we didn't want to overwhelm her, but it was the same idea.”
“Don't make the bathroom or going potty a weird thing to talk about! Our son got very interested in the potty around 15 months old, so we used that interest to go through the motions of going to the bathroom (sit him on the toilet, talk about going pee or poo, have him close the lid, flush the toilet, then wash his hands). Once he was able to recognize the urge to go, the rest was a breeze!”
“Don't use pull ups. They feel too much like a diaper and won't allow your child to understand his/her bodily function.”
“Have an endless supply of patience and just when you think they're getting it, be prepared for them to have some more accidents.”
“If you have hardwood floor, let your child wander around the house naked. After one day they never had an accident. I've done this with my two older children and my 4-month-old will learn this way as well.”
“Let your child lead. I've heard of too many stories of parents pushing their child to potty train, and they get so much resistance. Your child will tell you when they're ready, and it will be a lot easier letting them initiate it!”
“We followed a 3-day potty training program and within three days, our son was pretty much potty trained. We have him use our regular toilet, he stands up and goes (just like dad) and we did a reward chart for that first week to reward him each time he went No. 1 and No. 2.”
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