The purpose of this article is to provide you with general guidance for how to potty train your child. We will talk about:
· When to start potty training
· Signs that your child is ready
· Potty Training Tips
· How to prepare yourself and your child
· How to potty train
· Differences in how to potty train boys vs. girls
· Points to keep in mind
When to start potty training
One of the most important potty training tips is to wait until your child is ready - both physically and emotionally. He or she must be able to physically control his/her bowel and bladder muscles, have the necessary motor skills to use the toilet (or training potty), be able to follow simple directions, and show personal interest and emotional preparedness for making the switch.
Trying to train a child who is not ready will not only be frustrating for all involved, but will also take much longer, and can even be harmful to the child. Forcing potty training too early can lead to anxiety, constipation and sometimes encopresis (involuntary passage of stool and soiling underwear).
Typically, a toddler is ready for potty training between 2 to 3 years of age, but it can be earlier or later depending on the child. Girls tend to be ready before boys, but the exact timing is going to vary significantly from one individual to another. Most children are physically ready before they are emotionally ready. So, be patient when watching for signs that your little one is ready for potty training. In addition to the signs listed below, also consider your child’s personality, your own readiness, and your current situation. If possible, try to avoid jumping into potty training at the same time that other major changes and stressors are taking place. For example, it is best to avoid starting potty training right after a move to a new house, after the birth of a sibling, or just before a weekend trip. Wait until your routine is more stable and predictable, if possible.
Here are some signs that your child is ready for potty training:
• Shows interest in wearing underwear, or “big girl/big boy” underpants.
• Can go a couple of hours during the day without a wet/dirty diaper.
• Requests a diaper change or complains about a dirty diaper.
• Tells you with words, facial expressions, or posture, that he/she needs to pee or poop.
• Can easily sit on the potty chair or climb onto the toilet (some help is okay).
• Enjoys sitting on the toilet or potty chair.
• Can pull up or down his/her own pants and underwear.
• Expresses interest in using the toilet/potty chair
Potty Training Tips - Getting Started
Even before diving into toilet training, you can take some steps to prepare your child. As you use the potty training tips below, watch for the previously mentioned signs that your child is ready to begin using the toilet.
Talk to your child about using the potty.
Talking to your child about using the potty and assessing his/her reaction will help you feel out your child’s readiness. You may find that your toddler is excited to use the potty like a big boy/girl. Some children decide on their own that they are ready to switch out of diapers while other children may need to warm up to the idea first. Many children (and caregivers!) enjoy reading potty-related books for motivation. The books Potty by Leslie Patricelli, Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi, Even Firefighters go to the Potty by Wendy Wax, and Even Princesses Go to the Potty also by Wendy Wax are highly recommended by experienced parents.
Also teach your child the vocabulary you will be using for potty training, for example, “pee” or “peepee”, “poop” or “poopoo,” “undies,” “potty,” “penis,” “bum,” etc. Be consistent!
Lead by example
If you feel comfortable, allow your child to accompany you to the bathroom. This helps him/her learn what using the toilet is all about. Your toddler will likely enjoy flushing the toilet and watching the water swirl down. Seeing urine and stool in the toilet will also help him/her associate the toilet with its intended use. Have your child watch as you empty diaper stool into the toilet, and have him/her flush it down. Wash your hands after and teach proper hygiene.
Enroll all caregivers
It is important that all of your child’s caregivers, including babysitters and grandparents are on-board to support your child’s transition to using the potty. Caregivers should be consistent with each other – follow the same routines and use the same language for talking about body parts and bathroom activities.
Set-up a potty chair or toilet seat adapter
Begin by providing a potty chair or toilet seat adapter for your child to get used to. Which one you choose is going to depend on your child’s personality and your own preferences.
Many children feel more comfortable starting out with their own special potty chair, rather than trying to climb onto the toilet. Even with a toilet seat adapter, some toddlers worry about falling in when sitting on the toilet. However, some toddlers prefer sitting on the toilet rather than the potty chair because it is what they’ve seen their parents/caregivers do. If using a toilet seat adapter, also provide a stool to help your child climb onto the toilet.
Have your child decorate and personalize the potty chair or seat adapter. Encourage your child to sit on the potty fully clothed. This will help him/her feel more comfortable. If you’re starting with a potty chair, place it in the bathroom or in a room that your child often frequents. Consider getting several potty chairs for around the house and outside. Read, chat, play, and sing songs while he/she is on the potty. Do not force you child to sit on the potty. Using the potty should be a pleasant, fun experience.
Be Positive, be patient
Begin with a positive attitude. Though potty training requires plenty of patience, it can also be fun. Children are very sensitive to caregivers’ attitudes. Maintaining a positive, patient attitude will encourage your child to do the same. While some children seem to potty train nearly instantly, most will take time.
Accidents are common and expected. Daytime potty training is often faster than nighttime training, especially for boys. Don’t get discouraged. If one approach does not seem to be working, try a different one. Let your child’s personality guide you. If your child meets potty training with resistance, he/she is not ready. In which case, take a step back, take a break, and try again at a later date.
Potty training tips - How to potty train
Ready to take the plunge? Now, how do you get started? Is there a difference between potty training boys and potty training girls? For the most part, potty training boys is the same as potty training girls, but we will touch on some differences in our potty training tips. The potty training tips below are based on several different methods. Most of these potty training tips are recommended by more than one method.
Once you’ve made the decision to begin potty training, it is a good idea to dedicate a block of time to get started – anywhere from a few hours to a long weekend. Dedicating a full day or weekend to start out can often make potty training go much faster overall.
Consider a fast-track method
Do “fast-track” potty training techniques work? Based on published research, yes they do. However, they require preparation, dedication, and discipline. In addition, the methods are not appropriate for some children and parents. If a child “pushes back” or resists a method, it is best to take a step back and either resume at another time or try a different approach. Most fast-track methods are based on the original method published by Drs. Azrin and Foxx in the 1970s. Azrin and Fox’s method is described in their book, Toilet Training in Less than a Day, which is still popular today.
Consider a gradual approach
Fast-track methods can feel too regimented for many parents and children. A gradual, more relaxed approach is sometimes more appropriate. Here is a summary of specific potty training methods. The potty training tips that follow are based on a combination of methods. Most are recommended by more than one.
Consider a bare-bottomed approach
Children generally do not like to wet or soil themselves. By allowing them to spend some time bare-bottomed they become acutely aware of their urges to void. Often this is enough to encourage them to seek the potty on their own. Many experienced parents report that a bare-bottomed day or weekend was sufficient to potty train their child.
This can be a great technique for a warmer day when you can stay home. The key is to make the day enjoyable while keeping the potty nearby. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, watch for potty cues, and be ready to assist and encourage your child during potty use.
Act on potty cues
Watch for cues, such as facial expressions, posture, or movements that signal that your child needs to go. When you see these cues, take him/her to the potty. Encourage (don’t force) your child to sit on the potty and try to pee or poop. Stay with your toddler as he/she sits on the potty with pants and underwear down or off. Leave the potty together when your child says he/she is ready. Reward peeing or pooping into the potty (see below).
Use positive reinforcement
Praising your child for using of the potty can go a long way. Many children will feel very proud of themselves and your acknowledgement will reinforce a positive association with potty training.
Match your praise with your child’s personality. While a very outgoing child may benefit from exuberant celebration of his/her victory, a more modest child may prefer calmer praise, and affection. Some parents and pediatricians report that balanced, gentle praise works best - treating successful potty use as a normal but positive action. Once again, only you can judge what works best for your child.
Use tangible rewards
In addition to praise, many parents use small, tangible rewards as a form of positive reinforcement. There are many ways to incorporate rewards into potty training. For example, you may reward your child with a food treat for each bowel movement into the potty. Some possible treats include M&Ms, raisins, grapes, chocolate chips, or another small, tasty snack. Another option is to keep a potty chart using stickers to track successful potty use, and rewarding after every 10 or so stickers. A reward might be a favorite food, trip to a favorite place, or buying a small toy of choice. The discipline of keeping a potty chart can provide an enjoyable routine that offers extra motivation. You (and your child) can make your own chart, or you can use a chart available online. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a printable chart, as well as several other tools available on their website.
Don’t use punishment
Accidents happen and are expected. Punishing accidents can create more anxiety about using the toilet, which is physically and emotionally counterproductive. Anxiety creates tension in the body that can make it a lot harder to have a bowel movement. When your child has an accident, simply acknowledge that it occurred and that it is time for an underwear or diaper change, and change it promptly. Encourage your child to help with clean-up.
Switch to underwear and/or training diapers
Expert advice varies about whether or not to use training diapers (aka. training pants or “pull-ups”), as well as when to transition to regular underwear. Many people feel that training diapers provide a nice intermediate between diapers and regular underwear. They can make clean-up easier, and are simple enough for a toddler to pull on or off themselves.
However, some parents and experts believe that training diapers prolong the potty training process because the child does not feel as wet and uncomfortable in soiled training pants and he/she would feel in regular underwear. A child who feels wet or soiled will feel uncomfortable and want a change, which helps the child learn to avoid accidents, the cause of the discomfort.
Some parents switch their children to regular underwear as soon as potty training begins, while others choose to use “big boy/girl” underpants as a reward – for example, after 10 successful voids into the toilet.
Whether or not you choose to use training diapers, it is important to change soiled diapers/clothing promptly. This is important not only for hygiene, but also because we want the child to continue preferring dry, clean clothes, rather than get used to feeling wet.
Potty Training Boys vs. Potty Training Girls
Is there a difference between potty training boys and potty training girls? For the most part, no. From a general perspective, how to potty train a boy is essentially the same as for a girl. Your child’s unique personality and maturity combined with your own needs are much better determinants of which techniques will be most helpful. However, there are a couple of points worth noting.
When potty training girls, it is especially important to teach them to wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. This prevents fecal bacteria from contaminating her vagina and urethra (urinary opening), which can lead to vaginal and urinary tract infections. After emptying her bladder, a gentle blot or front-to-back wipe is sufficient for drying.
When potty training boys, front-to-back wiping can also be more hygienic because it avoids spreading stool onto the boy’s scrotum. The major difference between potty training boys and potty training girls is that potty training boys includes the tricky component of teaching them how to pee standing up. It is typically easiest to begin potty training boys by teaching them to sit down to pee. Your little boy can practice his aim by holding his penis while sitting down to pee and aiming his stream into the potty. Once he’s mastered sitting on the potty to pee and has sufficient dexterity to control his aim, he is ready to learn to pee standing up. If possible, it is helpful for boys to learn this skill by watching a male role model who can show them exactly what to do.
We wish you and your child the best on your potty training adventures. We sincerely hope these potty training tips will be useful to you. Potty training your child can be a rewarding experience and we would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have other potty training tips to share? Which potty training techniques worked best for you? Please feel free to leave a comment below!