It’s Potty Time: How to Get the Job Done


“Do you need to potty?”
“No.”
“Are you sure?”
“Uh-huh.”
“You don’t want to go try?”
“No.”
“You don’t want a sticker on your potty chart?”
“Nooo. I wanna play!”
“Okay. Are you going to tell me when you have to?”
“Mhm.”
A few minutes later...
“Uh-oh! I tee-tee, Mommy.”

Has potty training ever felt or sounded so draining that you consider keeping your child in diapers forever? Persuading a toddler to use the potty is no small task. Some get scared, some get frustrated, and others are just not interested. If you want to minimize the stress and step closer towards success, take these tips into consideration.

Rushing to the Flush Will Only Leave You Both Crushed
Do not rush the process or start potty training too early. Just because your first child or your sibling’s child trained quickly, it does not mean your little one will be the same way. Each child develops at his or her own rate. Marcia Cox, LCSW, advises parents to not be discouraged if a child does not show interest until 2 1/2-3 years of age. She shares that male children are typically older when they are interested.

“When to begin potty training depends upon the stage of maturity and the level of awareness that the child exhibits about the process of elimination. If the child is attending a childcare facility that sets aside a certain amount of time for visiting the potty, his/her awareness may be sooner than if in an environment of being the only child,” says Cox.

Waiting for signs is also important. Simone O’Connor, LCSW, states, “Parents should wait until their child shows signs of potty training readiness.” Here are signs to look for:

  • They are interested in learning to use the potty and wanting to be more independent.
  • They can follow simple instructions and like to copy your behavior.
  • They can understand and verbalize words about using the potty. They might say, “My diaper is dirty,” or “I need to go pee-pee.” For instance, Gabrielle Settoon, a mother of two, says, “I knew my oldest daughter was ready when she started telling me she had a dirty diaper and didn’t want to sit in it.”
  • They can make the connection between having the urge to pee or poop.
  • They can pull down their own diapers or Pull-Ups.

Defeat the Fear of the Seat
Children often perceive toilets as being monsters who will swallow them whole. Letting them use a potty seat or potty chair helps alleviate this fear, and since your child would have to sit on the actual toilet when she uses a potty seat, she will adapt to the toilet more quickly. 

Although there is more cleaning involved when your child uses a potty chair, potty chairs are more convenient than potty seats. Children can quickly sit on their potty chair when they need to go, as opposed to having to grab a step stool so they can reach a toilet seat. Potty chairs are portable, and you can place them anywhere, even in the car. You could always line it with coffee filters for a quick cleanup, too.

Pick out the potty chair or potty seat together. It will get your child more excited about starting training. The goal is to make the potty as welcoming as possible.

Time to Potty
Once your child is familiar with her potty chair, demonstrate what happens on the potty. You can use one of her dolls or toys. You can even ask your child to show you how the doll/toy goes to potty to reinforce the lesson. Once she is sitting on the potty chair by herself without being prompted, get her to sit there with her underwear or Pull-Up off for a few minutes. If your child needs to feel more secure, try to sit her backwards. Even if she does not end up going, get her used to the habit of wiping and handwashing.

Consistency Leads to Independency
Keeping your child’s bathroom routine as consistent as possible will make the training go smoother. Diapers do not need consistency: when they are dirty, you change them. Here are a few methods to help your child gain more independence:

The Timer Method: This method focuses on the repetition that will help your child learn to associate the sensation of having to pee with sitting on the potty. Give your child fluids and set a timer for every 30 minutes over the course of two or three days. When the timer ticks, take her to the potty.

The Naked Method: Kids love being naked, so why not let your little one run around the house naked (from the waist down) for a few days? Try it over a long weekend. The principle of this method is that your child will naturally want to hold it in until she is sitting on a potty because nothing is touching her bottom.

Three Day Potty Training Method: Instead of asking your child if she needs to go potty, you instruct her to. There is no forcing her to sit on the potty or visit the potty in regular intervals. You are putting her directly in underwear and throwing away all the diapers. Stay-at-home-mom of three boys, Lora Jensen, created this method. She advises parents to let the child throw all the diapers away as a way of removing the child’s “way out” or “crutch.”

Pull-Ups: Crutch or Not?
Many parents develop mixed feelings about using Pull-Ups. Although Pull-Ups might diminish motivation and might be costly, they could be a good option to use in the beginning. Pull-Ups do not only give your child a “big kid” feel, they also prevent messes, especially at night.

Cox explains, “Pull-Ups can be helpful for all children to not feel embarrassed when they are not consistent with potty training. It is a process and has nothing to do with intelligence. The main focus is on the emotional and social maturity of the child. Some children may need to continue the use of Pull-Ups at nighttime for a while because of bladder issues or because the child is a heavy sleeper.”

Even if a child becomes potty trained during waking hours, the nighttime urges are harder to quash. Washing bed sheets constantly can become more annoying than buying more Pull-Ups. So, take advantage of the convenience while you can.

Impress Them with Their Own Success
Without a doubt, you and your little trainee possess different goals: your goal is to get her out of diapers whereas her goal is to get rewards. A jar of jellybeans or M&Ms goes a long way. Lauren Brickman, a mother of two, shares that it was chocolate that motivated her son to thrive. She says, “We gave our son one M&M after every time he went pee-pee and two M&Ms after every time he went poo-poo, eventually, he realized he would get rewarded if he went.” Meagan Dykes, mother of a three-year-old, states her daughter gets stickers/suckers for using the potty and a new toy for when she is consistent with it. Beware of manipulation though. Your child can pretend to go to get the goods. Only reward when she actually goes. Many children respond better when they see their progression, too. A sticker chart that tracks how well they are doing offers the inspiration they need to push themselves.

Be As Expressive As An Emoji
Your children value your opinion more than you think. Smile and celebrate when they use the loo. Frown when their underwear fills up with poo. If you are disappointed in them, they work to amend the situation. Express your disappointment, but keep your temper in check. Added pressure will not help them learn any faster. You do not want to scare them into constipation either.

If your child is refusing to go on the potty, ask her why. The problem could be quite simple to fix. Give your child an audience she can relate to: stuffed animals, dolls, or the family dog if your encouragement is not enough to entice her to go. Make up silly songs and read books about using the potty. If you have a boy, allow him to aim at something like a Fruit Loop, a Cheerio, or a Goldfish Cracker.

If there are more tears than pee-pee, consider putting potty training on hold for a few days or weeks. It should not matter how long it takes because your child will always succeed.

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24 Mar 2021


By Brooke Smith

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