Potty training is a big step in the life of a child.
It marks a significant transition from babyhood into childhood, and can be fraught with pitfalls and tricky traps, so doing it right is hugely important to minimize fuss, mess and upset, and maximize confidence and smiles!
Of course, once you’re through to the other side, it’s easy to look back and see where you came unstuck. But for those of you just about to embark on the journey,
I’ve created this list of top tips for you, to smooth the ride!
1. Timing is everything!
Before you even consider potty training, your child needs to be ready. This goes beyond just having an awareness of what’s going on down there – they need to want to ditch the nappies for themselves.
If you’ve picked the moment because you think they’ve reached the right age, because you have a gap in your schedule, or because everybody around you seems to be potty training, then your attempt is probably not going to work. Potty training is a big step. If your child feels rushed, insecure in what’s expected of them, or is reaching other developmental milestones which are also using up a lot of emotional energy, then consider waiting. Put your plans on hold for a few more weeks or even a couple more months.
2. Bribery works!
You may not believe in bribing your child, preferring to let them make decisions for themselves and then reinforce good behavior. But, in this context, believe me, bribery really does works, and makes the process of potty training so much easier!
Whether you use sweets, lollies, a favorite meal, special trips to the park or any other tempting treat, having a stock of these waiting in the wings to tempt and reward is a must.
If you’ve got the timing right and physiologically, your child really can wee or poop on the potty, it becomes more about encouraging them to remember, and then go to the effort of actually choosing the potty. Bribery is what makes this choice worth it!
3. Get Dad Involved
This one is for the boys. Most often (but not always) potty training falls to mothers, as they tend to be the main caregivers. But when it comes to potty training little boys, it’s invaluable for them to see what daddy does and follow the example because let’s face it, it’s far more exciting to stand up and see what you’re capable of doing!
That’s not to say sitting-down- wees for boys are not to be encouraged – in a potty this can be the most comfortable (and mess-free!) option. But with the help of a little step leading up to the toilet, it can be a really big boost for little boys to be able to wee like Daddy does.
4. Have Patience (and lots of games to fill the time!)
You will be spending a lot of time with your child while they sit on the potty, waiting for something to appear. And while you do want them to get used to how it feels, to sit and to almost need a wee without it suddenly becoming an emergency, you don’t want them to get bored!
So before you begin potty training, take a trip to the library to stock up on new books and games, and make a mental note of any new word games and songs you can share too, to keep your little one entertained while they are needing to sit still.
Once you’re sure it’s the right time, and that both your child and you are ready to potty train, commit. Your child needs to know that this is the way it’s going to be done from now on, so make sure you have a drawer full of colourful pants, give away (or hide!) the nappies, and don’t make exceptions (except for at night-time, when your child may go on wearing ‘pull ups’ for as long as they need to).
I remember having to make a three-hour car trip to a family wedding when I was potty training my 2.5-year-old son. It was so tempting to put him back in a nappy for the journey, just to make it hassle free, especially considering we had a 6-month old by then too. But in the end, I covered the seats in plastic and told him to tell me before he needed to wee, so that I could stop the car. And you know what, he did!
He proved to me on that journey that he could do it, and he proved it to himself too, it was an enormous boost in confidence for us all!
Chopping and changing between nappies and pants will only confuse your child, and they have enough to remember already! So have one set of rules, and stick to them. Potty training can often be a bumpy road, but a fun one too! And every child does get through it eventually, so remember to smile, laugh and embrace the chaos, because you may as well enjoy the ride.