“Potty Training 101” – A Primer for Parents

Potty Training 101? Yes please! I think if they had a class like this when I was parenting my preschoolers I definitely would have signed up!

Regardless of where you are in the potty training process, there are always ups and downs. And if you have one or more children, potty training can wildly differ from child to child. My son didn’t ‘get’ pottying right up until the first day of his 3 year old preschool class and even afterward was in a pull up at night for more than a year. However, when my daughter woke up one morning when she was 2 years old and was dry, I thought she had a urinary tract problem and thought I needed to take her to the doctor. When she pointed to the toilet that morning and after confusedly putting her on a potty seat, I realized she had just potty trained herself.

Whether you’ve had either of these experiences or in between, or if you’re still working on the potty process with your child, don’t worry – your child will not go to high school in diapers. Here are a few tips to lessen some of the stress:

Wait until your child is developmentally ready. Many agree that between the ages of 2 and 3, your child will show signs of being ready.

    • Can your child walk to and sit on a toilet?
    • Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
    • Can your child stay dry for up to two hours?
    • Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
    • Can your child communicate when he or she needs to go?
    • Does your child seem interested in using the toilet?

Ready yourself for the process too. While waiting on your child to show signs of readiness, I felt that as a parent I had to be ready as well. The convenience of staying in diapers when I was about to give birth to my second was just too much of a temptation to have my son stay in diapers. But in the end, this delayed his process. It’s important to watch and strongly encourage your child towards this transition by getting a potty with him/her or picking out underwear that he/she chooses. Being prepared for the possibility of accidents and the allowance for more time to get places needed to happen as well.

Try a naked weekend. The weather these days has been amenable to this strategy. Many stay at home for a couple days and have their child roam free without any clothes. This develops an awareness of their bodies in a way that clothing can hinder. Without the encumbrance of clothes, they can be more in tune to when they need to go.

Take frequent potty breaks. When a child is asked ‘Do you want to use the potty?’ Their answer will usually be no, especially when they are in the midst of play. It’s important to be consistent and frequent when potty training, offering fluids whenever possible, and taking many trips to the toilet. At first it may be you who has to enforce the trips to the bathroom, and then you can transition into allowing your child to let you know when they need to go. There will be accidents, remember it is a transition and oftentimes potty training doesn’t occur overnight!

Empower your child as much as possible during the process. There are two things that children at this age have complete control over – eating and pottying. Offering choices within the parameters you set can give your child an amount of control that allows for a feeling of safety and structure. ‘Would you like mommy or daddy to take you to the toilet?’, ‘Should we jump or run to the toilet?’, ‘Which underwear do you want to wear today?’ Letting your child know that potty training IS happening, and allowing them choice within that structure will hopefully allow for a happier period of transition.

Stay in underwear as much as possible during the day. When we put our child in underwear consistently, we are showing them that we have confidence in their ability to do it. Many schools including here at TPK discourage the use of Pull-Ups because it impedes the process toward independence. However, using a Pull-Up at night may be what you need to keep from going crazy when you’re constantly changing bedding in the middle of the night. Your child might just not be ready to do a whole night Pull-Up free, due to their brain development. Most children can stay dry at night between the ages of 5 and 7.

Make the process as fun as possible. While outside motivators like rewards are discouraged by some, I found that a sticker chart or even M&M’s helped my son want to try to use the toilet. Target practice using Cheerios worked as well to help him with the transition from sitting to standing. Say it with me now: My child will be potty trained! My child CAN do it! Downloading a calm, positive, we-can-do-it attitude to your child will foster a strong connection during this oftentimes messy process.

While potty training can seem interminable while you’re in the middle of the process, don’t forget we have each other to lean into and talk to when things just seem hopeless! If you’re going through a tough time potty training your child, chances are the mom next to you in the dismissal line has as well. Take advantage of the community we have here at TPK to vent or to gain wisdom. We’re here for you too – stop by and see us if you have questions.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”- Jeremiah 29:11

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