Few periods in your child’s life are so filled with questions and self doubt as the potty training stage. There is great pressure from family, friends and society to get your baby potty trained sooner, rather than later. It’s easy to compare your child to others and stress about them developing later. But I always say, keep in mind that your child will not be in diapers when they are 15, so don’t worry. Potty training will happen, with or without your stressing about it. It’s just nicer NOT to have to stress. So here are some commonly asked questions and our response:
Q: When should I start potty training?
A: The most common question for sure! Experts put the potty training age around 18 months to three years. But rather than going by age, you should go by your child’s development. Can she physically walk to and get on the potty? Is he starting to communicate to you when he is going (even if it’s after he went)? Is your child staying dry for longer stretches of time? These are all signs that they are ready for the concept of potty training.
Q: Should we be using a potty or the toilet?
A: There are pro’s and con’s for using a potty instead of the toilet. The pro’s would be that a potty is smaller and easier for your child to get onto. They are often bright and colourful or have characters on them that the child is familiar with. Some even play songs! They are also portable and can be moved from the bathroom to the living room or the bedroom to keep it close and handy when needed. The con’s are that by getting your child used to the potty, you are adding an extra step in the potty training process. You will eventually have to get them to go on the toilet, so now you have an added obstacle to overcome in the process. It is your personal preference what works best for you and your family, just be aware of the pro’s and con’s of your choice.
Q: Should we go cold turkey or ease into it?
A: Potty training is best broken into sessions, it’s less stressful for both you and your child that way. Decide based on your schedule that you will have two training sessions per day, maybe one in the morning and one later in the day. During this time, let your child go to the bathroom (or on the potty) about every 10-15 minutes. Let them stay on the potty or toilet long enough for you to read them a quick story. If they go, acknowledge how great it was that the pee/poop went in the potty where it belongs. Talk about how we need to swoosh it down the drain to get cleaned away and let them watch the swirly water when they flush. If they don’t go, just continue with your day and try again in 10-15 minutes. Once you have an idea of how often they need to go, you can extend the period to the appropriate time. If they have an accident in between bathroom visits, don’t make a big deal about it. Just say “Oops! The pee came too quick this time, next time we’ll try to put it in the potty/toilet!” During these sessions it can help to let your child go naked or with just a shirt on. They usually feel better about “putting” their pee or poop somewhere (normally in the diaper) than to let it just come, and that might prompt them to want to go to the potty before it comes. In between your morning and afternoon sessions, let your child wear the diaper as usual, but pay attentions to clues your child might be giving you about needing to go and ask if they’d rather go put it in the toilet instead.
Q: Should I reward my child when they go on the potty?
A: There are really two camps here. One camp believes that people in general are more likely to do something if there is a positive reinforcement. Others say that by rewarding your child for something that should be a natural thing, we build unfair expectations (at some point the rewards will stop, once you expect him/her to always go to the bathroom) and that it makes too big of a deal over this natural progression. I’d say that there is probably a middle ground. Don’t use rewards so big that your child sees a chance to use potty training as a way to manipulate you, but at the same time, encouragement for the desired behaviour (in this case going on the potty) will increase the likelihood that your child will want to do it. Time with you works much better than toys or treats, so if you do want to incorporate an actual reward, make it a chart that will lead to a fun activity with you. Use a stamp or sticker that the child will feel proud to put on.
Q: What about consequences?
A: A lot of parenting is about rewards and consequences, understandably, we are trying to raise responsible, caring human beings. But potty training is not where you will want to use guilt or punishments, unless you want to prolong the process. If a child consistently goes in their diaper or underpants, and not on the potty, it could be a sign that they are just not ready yet. Put potty training on the back burner for a while and try later. To keep pushing it when your child is not ready will only lead to failure. And the feeling of failure will not help your child in the potty training process. If it’s an isolated accident, treat it as such, we don’t want to make potty training a big deal because then it becomes this point of stress, for us parents and for the kids. Like I mentioned above, your child will not want to go on their first date wearing a diaper. The desire to be a “big boy or girl” and go on the potty, or wear cool underwear, will come naturally.
As a final piece of advice, make sure that you keep your potty training consistent, regardless who might be caring for your child. If you use a toilet at home, but a potty at daycare, or you are keeping rewards to encouragements at home, but grandma gives gummy bears you are setting yourself up for failure. Explain to daycare, the sitter, grandparents or whoever is caring for your child, exactly how you are going about it and get their agreement to respect your wishes and do the same. Even if the child stays home most of the time, make sure you and your spouse is on the same page. It will ensure a much easier and faster potty training process.