Here’s a riddle for you: On the best of days, you never miss once. On the worst days, there are accidents galore. What am I?
Answer: Potty Training.
That lovely time where you take your beautiful little child and step them carefully out of the last part of babyhood and usher in the big-kid. For some, it goes super smooth. Diapers off, undies on. For others, it’s a trial of error-filled with tears, frustration, and accidents.
Either way, its a right of passage that all kids and parents must face.
Since I am in the middle of potty training my fourth child I thought I would list out a few of my best tips. Tips learned through trial and error, that can ease the process for you.
1. Is The Time Right?
Many years ago, as a new mom, I believed that I would determine the best time for potty training. What happened instead, was a miserable failure for all involved. There were tears, trials, accidents, and frustrations galore. Today, after fully potty training three kids, and currently working on number four, I am a firm believer in waiting until the child is ready.
Sometimes this means using diapers longer than you want to. Sometimes this means dealing with comments from strangers and well-meaning friends about the current situation.
I am here to tell you though, that it will be OK. Only you know what is best for you, your child, and your home.
Now I know that years ago kids potty trained earlier. This was primarily before disposable diapers though. Diapers these days do such a great job keeping our kids dry and comfortable for hours on end. So yes, kids are capable of training earlier. They just don’t always want to. And since toddlers are notorious for being stubborn, why add to that?
I’m not saying give in and let little Johnny get his way on every single thing. But look for cues that tell you they are ready. Do they know when they are wet? Can they stay dry for several hours at a time? Are they asking about the potty and other bathroom issues? If your child is in daycare or with a sitter, what is their take on the situation? Is your child able to get themselves dressed and undressed mostly on their own?
2. Are You Ready?
Yes, you read that right. Are you ready? It has been my experience that you need to be ready as well. Ready to deal with accidents. Ready to offer praise for things like staying dry. Ready to sing silly songs and sit in the bathroom for hours a day waiting for the tiniest success.
Do you have the necessary items? For us, that includes some brand new underwear picked out with far too much enthusiasm and a ring for the toilet. We don’t use Pull-Ups, rather we have found that going straight to underwear is faster, easier, and less confusing. With Pull-Ups, or something similar, we have found that it’s too confusing and too similar to a diaper. Better to deal with a few accidents on day one and stock up on some good floor cleaner.
The toilet ring, or a potty chair, is completely up to you and your child. We have had some who use a small potty chair, others who go straight to the big potty, and everything in between. For us, it’s easier to have the options and see what each individual child prefers. Ease of transition is always my main focus.
Finally, the last thing you need is some time. Can you find a few days you can devote to potty training? It’s been my experience that success occurs only after consistency, and for that consistency to occur we have to be able to do the same thing for a few days. For us, that has meant a period of at least three days home. No running errands, no going back and forth. Three days of diapers off and undies on. Three days of talking about what we do in the bathroom and why, and how, and when. For the littles, it’s all fun and new. For the older kids is silly, embarrassing, and everything in between.
3. I Am Not Above
Often praises and high-fives are not going to be enough to get them fully trained. I have found that
bribing rewarding them for success, especially early on, goes a long way. When we are sure we are all ready, we make a big deal of it. Picking up underwear that they will like is part of it. Talking about how they will be a “big girl” or “big boy” when they use the potty. And then offering them an incentive for doing well.
In our house, the actual reward is not that big of a deal. Our reward of choice is simply a few M&Ms. Tiny little pieces of candy we can use for successful trips to the bathroom. We don’t give much, a piece or two, and only for the first few days. But it tends to be the trick that cinches it.
You can choose whatever works for you. It’s not that M&Ms are magical little pieces of candy that have potty training powers. What they do have is enough of a draw that the kids are excited to earn a few pieces. Use what works for you, and lines up with your views on food. We don’t do a whole lot of candy around here, so candy is a great motivator.
Surviving The Chaos
I’m not going to lie – potty training can be chaotic. One minute life is fine and running smoothly, and the next your toddler says they have to go potty and it’s a mad dash to the bathroom hoping you make it in time. Hoping they were telling the truth. Hoping that this time everything lines up just right and there is that successful moment.
Because that’s all it takes. One successful moment that catalysts into another and another. I’m not saying there won’t be setbacks and accidents. But if you take that one successful moment and celebrate it like your child just did the best thing in the world you will motivate them to do it again and again. Downplay the accidents, but celebrate the successes.
Your child really just want to please you and potty training is no different. The hardest thing I have found with potty training is the fear they have of the unknown. It’s your job to assure them that it will be fine. To encourage them to grow up a little bit and step into the world of the “big kid” with this big step.
As with all plans, you cannot assume that immediate success will mean smooth sailing. Or that if it didn’t stick this time it never will. If I’ve learned only one thing after four kids it’s this: expect the unexpected. They are all different, and potty training was different for them all. Some were easier than others. Some were younger than others.
But they all got it. They all had success when they were ready, when I was prepared, and when I was able to motivate them in the right way. Today I am in the midst of potty training our youngest, and it’s going well. Each day gets better and easier. We’ve survived the biggest hurdles of staying dry for a whole day and staying dry out of the house. Yesterday we survived staying dry during an impromptu nap.
Celebrating these small victories though are what lead to success. Encouraging them to try new things motivates them to try other things. Building up their confidence in what seems like small things helps them to know they can count on you. Because even it this seems small to you, to them this is the biggest thing they have ever done.
What is your best potty training advice? Comment below!