Oh, the glorious day when you won’t have to buy diapers! Potty training can be a frustrating process for children and parents. The very earliest that children are ready is 18 months, but normally it is later than that. To be ready, a child must be able to sense that they need to use the bathroom, be able to communicate that… and actually want to go! Here are some things to keep in mind to make potty training a little easier:
In order to be able to use the bathroom independently, a child needs to be able to pull down and up their pants. This is something to practice as your toddler approaches preschooler status.
Make the potty a fun place. Getting a children’s potty before starting potty training will allow them to explore it (and even sit on it) without any pressure. When a child is on the potty, sing songs, play games, read special books - it may be a while before you see any “production.”
Make sure that any underlying constipation is well controlled. If it hurts to poop, a child will not want to poop on the potty.
For older toddlers and preschoolers, consider a sticker chart as a way to reward the behavior you want to see. Small rewards for getting to 5 or 10 stickers is a great way to reinforce the behavior you want to see.
Letting your child in the bathroom when you go is a good way to model how to use the toilet.
Be positive - there’s a reason they’re called accidents! Reward when your child uses the potty and reassure them if they have an accident that it’s okay. It’s also okay to have them help you clean up if they do have an accident.
Practice good hygiene from the beginning - wiping from front to back with girls and washing hands every time for boys and girls.
Young children who are fully potty trained during the day will often still have accidents at night. This is normal! It will get better with time.
Some children will not stop to use the potty if they are doing something fun. If this sounds like your child, make sure to have scheduled potty breaks.
If your child is very resistant to using the potty, take a break for a few weeks or months and then try again. Pushing too hard can have the opposite effect of what you’re hoping for!
Children will sometimes have regressions in potty training (or other recently learned abilities) after a change or stressor, like a new sibling, move to a new house, divorce or loss. This is normal and should resolve with time and patience.
After a meal is a great time to sit on the potty. When new food comes in, the stomach signals the colon to push the old food out to make room. You may have a surprise bowel movement during this time - if this happens, make sure to praise your child for using the potty.
Check out healthychildren.org for more information and tips about potty training.