Learning to use the potty is a big step for kids. Potty training naturally comes at a time when a child’s independence is burgeoning and she’s ready to tackle new challenges. Here are some tips for knowing when to start toilet training and how to make it a successful and stress-free endeavor.
Kids need to be ready. Children need to be ready both physically and emotionally to successfully potty train. If you try to train before that, it will be a frustrating process for both you and your child and may cause problems over the long haul. Most children are ready between 2 ½ and 3 years of age, but remember every child is different so there’s no “right” age to beginning the process.
Watch for physical signs of readiness. If the child is aware that she needs to go the bathroom, urinates a lot at one time rather than a little throughout the day, has the ability to stay dry for two or more hours, has fairly predictable bowel movements, and has the coordination to pull her pants up and down, she may be ready to use the potty.
Also watch for emotional signs of readiness. If the child is able to sit and engage in an activity for several minutes without becoming fidgety or irritated, she’s interested in your potty habits (e.g. she wants to follow you to the bathroom), doesn’t like being in a wet or dirty diaper, and is excited about the milestone (e.g. she wants big girl underwear), she may be ready to use the potty.
You don’t have to wait for all of these signs to be present before tackling potty training, but waiting until your child shows a majority of the signs will ensure you are successful.
Communicate with your nanny. As in all things child-related, consistency is key. Getting on the same page with your nanny, and making sure what’s happening during the week is also what’s happening on the weekends, will make the process go faster and smoother.
Your nanny may have past experience with potty training and be a wealth of information about what works, what doesn’t work, and what to try if you get stuck. While every child and situation is different, experienced nannies often have a bag of tricks that work in a variety of situations.
Have reasonable expectations. Potty training can be really frustrating for adults. Do yourself a favor and embrace the idea that training will take as long as it takes, there will be good days and bad days, it might be messy, and you can’t control the process. Kids sense when the adults around them are tense so if you’re feeling really frustrated about potty training, it will impact the way your child feels about the whole process.
Make it a shame-free process. Your child is learning a new skill. One that is exciting to her but can also be scary, overwhelming, and difficult to master. It’s important that you genuinely support your child through both her successes and failures and see mistakes as simply part of the learning process.
Stay regular. Having your child sit on the potty at regular intervals during the day is essential to potty training. There will be many times when nothing happens, but when she does go it helps her make the connection between the potty and what’s happening with her body. It’s often hard to remember to ask your child to use the potty throughout the day. A great tool that is fun for kids is the Potty Watch. It reminds kids to visit the potty with blinking lights and a song.
Have fun with charts. Kids (and most nannies!) love charts. They’re a tangible way for children to see what their goal is and to track the progress that they’re making. The website Potty Training Concepts has an amazing array of downloadable potty training charts including ones with children’s favorite characters from Disney and Nick, Jr. Add some favorite stickers and you have a great tool to motivate your child.
Get creative with incentives. Even for parents who don’t normally use incentives, potty training can be one of those times when they can be used to celebrate your child’s potty training victories and motivate her to keep up the good work. These small rewards can be anything you want: a small toy, a special treat, or an outing to a favorite place. Use something your child can get excited about and that still fits into your overall parenting philosophy.
Use books to make it easier. There are lots of tools that can help your child master potty training. Books are a great way to introduce the idea of the potty and start a conversation about exactly what happens in the bathroom. Everyone Poops reassures kids that what’s happening with their body is something that every creature, human and otherwise, experiences too. Once Upon a Potty, available in a boy and girl version, explains in kid-friendly terms how the body actually works.
Potty training doesn’t have to be a stressful time for you or your child. With a positive attitude and a lot of patience, your toddler will be diaper free in no time.